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For my mad lab haunt this year, I wanted to find a way to record better video. In years past, my cell phone and Flip camera didn't record well because of the dim lighting. So this year I turned to the forum for some help. Thankfully DexterSinister steered me down a path I wasn't familiar with - which involves modifying a webcam for night vision.

So, the scope of this tutorial is how to modify a simple inexpensive webcam and convert it to use infrared lighting so you can have night vision. This tutorial applies to almost every webcam except those that are already night vision capable (which I understand have very bad image quality). Why a webcam? Because I want to be able to stream my haunt online for others to watch and because an HD webcam is cheaper than a point and shoot camera.

I chose a manual focus camera because it's an easy modification. Cameras that have auto focus require de-soldering, and re-soldering the auto focus electronics. It's not impossible, but it was more work effort than I wanted to do. Plus certain auto focus webcams won't focus correctly once the IR filter is gone. This is due to the distance from the lens to the sensor has changed and the focus is off. With manual focus, you can control the lens and as a result re-focus it correctly.

Quick background: Every digital photo capturing device (from a webcam to an expensive DSLR) comes with an IR filter in front of the sensor. Some have the IR filters on the back of the lens, others have it attached right above the sensor. This is to block out unnecessary IR light, resulting in images that are "true to life" in terms of colors. Without the IR filter, everything would be kind of redish/yellowish/weird. Removing the IR filter allows you to use IR lighting as your "flashlight" at night. Which results in a webcam that has weird real-life colors, but allows you to have night vision. With this in mind, I don't recommend modifying your "daily" webcam! Perform this modification on a separate webcam!

  • Warning! Doing this modification will more than likely void your warranty. By reading my instructions to perform this modification you accept the fact that you could break your webcam. I cannot offer you support should you break your webcam. I am not responsible for your actions. PERFORM AT YOUR OWN RISK!

So with that out of the way, let’s get started! I modified a Logitech Quickcam c510. I found it locally at Walmart and it was about $40 at time of writing.

Tools required:
  • Webcam with manual focus ("Always Focused" works too)
  • Eyeglass screwdriver set
  • Razor blade
  • Hot glue
  • Safety glasses (since we're breaking glass)
  • Patience! Do not rush, or you'll risk damaging the camera!


Step 1:
Remove the cover off the webcam. This is a little tricky and requires a razor blade for cleanest removal. I slid the razor blade under the left corner coming up from the bottom and started wiggling it around until it slid under even further. From there I carefully peeled upwards.

Once the cover is off it'll reveal 4 screws holding the camera together. Unscrew the 4 screws and pull on the back of the camera to open the case to get to the circuit board.



Step 2:
Unscrew these 2 screws to remove the circuit board from the case.



Step 3:
Remove these 2 inner screws which will remove the lens assembly.



Step 4:
Once the lens assembly is off, you'll clearly see the image sensor and the IR filter laying above it. The IR filter has the magenta hue to it.



This is where the fun and nerves begin! I inspected the filter and found that it was separate from the imaging sensor and glued on, so I knew I could break it off. I also saw that it wasn't 100% flush against its housing, so using the razor blade I snuck it into the top part of the housing and tried to get under the filter very carefully. Once I saw that I had broken some glue, I then use an outward force, to break the glass (and move my blade) AWAY from the sensor. You don't want to touch the imaging sensor doing so will pretty much break your camera!

My filter broke into 3 pieces - yours may break differently. From here, do whatever you can to get the rest of it off without touching the sensor.





Step 5:
Once you have the IR filter off and you know you didn't touch the sensor, you're almost in the clear. We now need to focus the camera. Put the lens assembly back on and plug the webcam into your computer and open the software so you can see your camera.

Chances are your image is out of focus. The "Always Focused" cameras have glue holding the lens focus ring in place. Simply twist the lens to break the glue, and use the image on your screen to adjust focus. Once it's focused use a small dab of hot glue to hold it in place. Essentially mocking what the manufacturer did.

Once you've done that, follow the directions backwards to reassemble the camera.

To do a quick test, plug in your webcam, turn off all the lights and grab your TV remote control. Press and hold a button on the remote (I prefer the volume up (with the TV off)). This will emit the remote control's IR light. You should be able to see it on your screen and use it as a flash light, lighting up all kinds of objects in the room that you can't see with your eye since the lights are off.

The Logitech c510 webcam will record images in a purple tint. To fix this, you can either edit the photo/video and change it to the well-known green night vision tint, or just make it black and white like I did :)


(Objects are lit with a TV remote control. Guess my camera is slightly out of focus. Gotta fix that!)

If you don't have an IR light, I suggest you grab yourself this one from Amazon. It has 36 IR leds and can light objects up to 50' away!


(A little gaffers tape and you're good to go. If you're feeling really ambitious, you could screw it onto the bracket)

That's it, you're done! Now it's time to start recording and live streaming your haunt! :)
 

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Wow...that's impressive! Nicely done!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Just wanted to bump this in case anyone is looking for something like this for this years haunt!
 

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black light queen
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excellent tutorial!

looks like a real easy mod ... might have to try

drsprite, would you be aware of any camera you could mod where you'd get correct color? i use a lot of black light and my props are modded for black light use so i'd want to record a video with color

amk
 

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Discussion Starter #5
drsprite, would you be aware of any camera you could mod where you'd get correct color? i use a lot of black light and my props are modded for black light use so i'd want to record a video with color

amk
My tutorial should be updated a little bit. When using the remote control my objects had a purple hue to them. When using that 36 IR light it was black and white.

With no IR light source, and just normal lights on in the room, the camera is mostly normal in that it can see colors. I believe my colors are bit a yellow when in normal light, the IR filter is really in place to block IR light as well as do a little color correcting.

But this could be good for your scenario where you use the IR to light up the very dark areas, but then have the black lights to light up your props. I would assume that if its bright enough the camera should be able to see both lighting scenarios with no problem.
 

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I wanted to chime in on this discussion because, being a paranormal investigator, I've had some experience with IR and Ultraviolet light.

If you are modifying a webcam and removing the IR filter, you may not need an IR light if you are using a lot of black lights. Here's why, from what I've found out, because the ultraviolet light that the black lights are putting out is so close to the visible spectrum of light, your IR camera will pick it up just as if it was normal light.

Just because the IR filter is off, doesn't mean you can't film in normal daylight. It will still pick up images with the lights on. Just now it will see IR and Ultraviolet Light too. I made a video showing this effect a couple of years ago. I will try to get the link posted later this evening. It demonstrates this using an incandescent IR bulb, but I have used it with the florescent kind with great success.

We don't use this technique much in our investigations because it's hard to look around in a room with ultraviolet light. After a while it messes with our eyes and could cause false positives. But it's relatively inexpensive, and if it's in a room we may not enter, we'll use this technique.

So if you're using a lot of black lights, you may have enough light for the camera to pick up without the use of the IR light. I will say this however, the image my camera picks up is also black and white, just like filming with IR light.

Great how to tutorial by the way!

- Christopher
 

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I made a video showing this effect a couple of years ago. I will try to get the link posted later this evening. It demonstrates this using an incandescent IR bulb, but I have used it with the florescent kind with great success.
Here is the link to our webpage with the video that demonstrates the result you get with a black light and an IR camera. Go easy on me as this was done a couple years ago when I was just learning video editing software... :)

http://www.pbjpi.com/IRLight.html
 

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joven76,

i don't suppose you've tested with compact fluorescent black lights? i use these because the incandescent black lights give off little to no uv

thx

amk
Yes, as I stated in my first post:

I made a video showing this effect a couple of years ago. I will try to get the link posted later this evening. It demonstrates this using an incandescent IR bulb, but I have used it with the florescent kind with great success.
I just don't have that in the video.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Here is the link to our webpage with the video that demonstrates the result you get with a black light and an IR camera. Go easy on me as this was done a couple years ago when I was just learning video editing software... :)

http://www.pbjpi.com/IRLight.html
Thanks for the little tip! I have a few BL incandescents floating around. I'll have to give this a try with my IR hacked webcam.

Since I am planning on live streaming my haunt to Ustream this year, having a great light source like that would make it much easier to view. And the best thing is, it's a black light, so it won't look out of place. :)
 

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If they're the regular old fashioned bulb and not the twisted CFL or tube fluorescents, you're not going to get much UV out of it. Incandescent blacklights don't really do much but start fires.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
If they're the regular old fashioned bulb and not the twisted CFL or tube fluorescents, you're not going to get much UV out of it. Incandescent blacklights don't really do much but start fires.
Absolutely something to watch out for is the fire hazard. If you check out his video, you can see the incandescent blacklight sure does output quit a bit of UV, which the IR camera can see nicely.

It looks promising, and I'm going to give it a try later on tonight to see how it works with my modified webcam.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The incandescent black light worked great! Only thing to be careful of is the heat output.

Thanks for the tip.
 

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Here is the link to our webpage with the video that demonstrates the result you get with a black light and an IR camera. Go easy on me as this was done a couple years ago when I was just learning video editing software... :)

http://www.pbjpi.com/IRLight.html
So I saw this thread getting some hits again and I wanted to repost the original video I made a few years ago that is now on YouTube:


On another note, I made a video using an IR capable dashboard camera and what I'm now calling a "Blacklight Booster" as a scare cam. This video shows a side by side comparison of how it looks with the dashboard cam and the naked eye when using the booster:


If triggered properly, it could be used as a scare cam.

Hope this is helpful. Enjoy!
 
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