Webcam Program Reviews

Edited by Earl on Feb-16-2011

Go right to reviews or continue reading. 

I looked for a webcam program that meets these specifications:

  1. Motion Detection triggers video recording.

    This feature is good for security applications. When a person walks in front of the camera, they trigger the motion detector, automatically starting the video recorder.

  2. Sends text message to my cell phone when motion is detected.

  3. Uploads video to a web server by FTP.

    This feature allows remote monitoring. It also acts as a backup. Without this option, if a burglar breaks into your house and steals the computer that you recorded your video to, you'll lose the video with the computer. However, if you back up your video to a remote location, you can download it from another location, even if your surveillance computer is gone.

  4. Non-proprietary format for video recording.

    The videos should be viewable on any operating system, including Linux, Windows, and Macs. The videos should be in a format that can be edited years from now using freely available tools. Acceptable video formats include: AVI, MPG, MPG4, OGM.

Programs are sorted from favorite to least favorite.

1.  Blue Iris
2.  VisionGS BE
3.  Webcam Monitor
4.  Active Webcam
5.  WheresJames free
6.  Yawcam free

#1  Blue Iris

review updated Mar-01-2010
Price: $50 for full version
Operating System:  Microsoft Windows XP, Server 2003, Vista, or Windows 7

Downloaded from: blueirissoftware.com

Blue_Iris_webcam_software (37K)

This was the best program that I tested, but not the cheapest.

Pros

Cons

Getting PTZ function to work



Updating might disable your program

Edited on Mar-01-2010, by Earl

Blue Iris popped up a notice saying there was a new update that required that the old version of Blue Iris be uninstalled.  Blue Iris uninstalled itself and loaded back up in demo mode and put a watermark on my video stating that my version of the program was not registered.  I actually paid for the full version of the program, so I knew this was some mistake.  

I sent Blue Iris an email and received a prompt response.  It looks like during my testing on multiple computers, I activated the license key too many times.  After explaining my issue, Blue Iris reset my key and now the program is again working as it should (and on only one computer).




COMMENTS

michael  - Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at 11:57 PM

Hi, good information, thanks.
i'm using blueiris and the orbit MP and can't get the ptz to work. very frustrating. Ken told me the same things to try but they didn't work for me. i can not figure out why. i'm running 11.4 and can only choose directshow anyway.

i wish it would work, i like blueiris a lot and i've tried many myself.

thanks,
michael
 
Earl - Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 9:10 PM

You are running version 11.4 of the Logitech Quickcam software?  I am running 11.5.  It might be worth a shot to download the latest version.  Personally, I would uninstall the Quickcam software first, then install the latest version.  What OS are you running it on?  I have the PTZ functions working on XP.

ngdhai  - Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 04:13 AM

Excellent reviews on various webcam programs. My home was burglarized so I am looking for some webcam software that allows me to watch my home when I am away. I have bought the Dlink network camera and when I look at the reviews at Newegg, people complained about Dlink own software and people there recommended either Iris or Active Webcam. Your review steers me toward Iris. But I am a little bit concerned about your statement that Iris uses up a lot of CPU power with more than 2 cameras recorded. I plan to use 3 cameras but my original idea of using a netbook such as the EEE PC to conserve energy is shot now because the eee pc doesn't have a lot of horsepower.  So I am wondering if I set the recording only when motion is detected - and can I do this per webcam - will this require less CPU power?


Earl - Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Yes, Blue Iris records video on just those cameras that detected motion.  The computer will not start recording video for all camcorders attached to your computer unless they all detected motion.  The less recording your computer is doing, the less CPU usage your computer will consume.


scottspam  - Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 1:17 PM

It may be the Logitech drivers that are actually eating up the CPU power, not Blue Iris. Most USB cameras do the majority of the image processing in the driver software on the PC, to avoid having expensive dedicated video processing circuitry inside the camera. This image processing takes CPU cycles.

I use Blue Iris with a multi-cam PCI board (4 cameras) that does the image processing on the board. Running all four cameras at once, Blue Iris rarely moves my CPU more than 5%. The only time it starts using any significant CPU is when it records video. Recording all four cameras at once will use about 75% CPU.


Earl - Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Thank you for that informative feedback.  I guess if I want to add more cameras to my computer, I should look for a camera with its own video processing.


mike  - Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Great review, thanks a lot. I have been using BlueIris for years and love it. also had the same problem with the Logitech cam. Ken has always been fast with replies. love that.
it's my understanding that the CPU usage shoots up with Motion Detection. it has to compare every image against the next etc... motion detecting on more then one camera sucks up more CPU.
my old single-core pentium struggles with 4 cams motion detecting, but it works. if your netbook is dedicated to this purpose i bet it would be fine for four cams.

metzyztem  - Saturday, August 7, 2010

The CPU usage depends on various things. Like resolution, FPS, video mode (mjpeg jpeg push, h246 etc.), motion detection configuration.

gv  - November 30, 2010

Reading this forum I am unsure if the term "webcam" is referring to a USB camera connected to a computer, or if it is, in fact, a Network or IP camera connected to a router, switch, or hub on a network? I have 1 Trendnet TV-IP410 network (IP)camera connected to a switch and 1 Foscam FI8918W wireless network (IP) camera connected wirelessly to a router. I plan to purchase additional network cameras as well and am looking to view all makes and models on one software program with tiles where I can click on one tile to enlarge it, should I wish to view only one camera briefly. I would also need to do pan and tilt on the models with that option. Can you tell me if the Blue Iris software is capable of my needs? Or another program? Thanks...


rsxspeed  - January 31, 2012

well it looks like the grinch may be behind blue iris.. as of 25 dec 2011, the release of blue iris 3.0 put an end to updates for all existing customers. anyone who bought blue iris more than 3 months prior to the 3.0 release is stuck with a dead end piece of software that will never be updated again, a great christmas present, thank you. a blue iris smartphone app would have been a much better development, i would have paid extra for that but this update with new licence purchase is simply a greedy low blow..
if you buy this software whatever version it's up to now just expect the updates to end anytime and start reading the fine print carefully when you download an update so you don't get switched to a convenient monthly subscription licence, possibly on a lag cloud.. that might be the next move, times are tough

Earl - Feb-7-2012

I noticed the nagging screen asking for a paid update, too.  My Blue Iris installation no longer works on IE9 for any view except the Motion JPEG mode.  The Java and Active-X do not work any more, which is disappointing, even when I make the required updates.


llagerva  - February 21, 2012

I get Blue Iris to work on Android phone but I cannot get it to work on a Balckberry 9900.


semaphore45  - February 29, 2012

For some unknown reason, it doesn't detect nor record live video from my first webcam, an antique, Filand, 640x480 7.5fps max. With other applications accessing it, I have no problem getting live video out of it, although it's blurry.

Once every 30 seconds approximately, video briefly turns to colored vertical stripes, and an updated image appears. I don't think it detects motion properly.


aaron5913  - August 24, 2014

My pc crashed and i had to reinstall, when i reinstalled blue iris i noticed it records the video in brv format instead of avi. How do i fix this?



Comments or questions Blue Iris?

Your message:

If appropriate, your message may be posted to this section of the page.

Your email address (so we can reply):


#2  VisionGS BE

Review updated Feb-04-2011
Price $30
Operating System:  Microsoft Windows
Bought online from visiongs.de

VisionGS software review

This program has lots of cool features for its modest price.

VisionGS successfully sends me text messages on my cell phone when it detects motion.  It also successfully sends pictures in emails, which I could view on a Blackberry cell phone.  It was successful in uploading pictures to my FTP server every 30 seconds.

The main disadvantage I see with VisionGS compared to Blue Iris regards the video recording feature when motion is detected.  With VisionGS, there is no video recorded  before motion is detected.  You want to know what triggered the motion, right?  VisionGS only shows what happened after the motion occurred.  The video might not show you what triggered the alarm.

VisionGS will take still images before the motion trigger.  But I would rather have this information included in the video.

The menus are not intuitive to use.  Seems like I had to add the same information in multiple locations to get the program to function.

Pros


Cons


The user interface can be tough to navigate.  Here are some tips.

How to set up VisionGS to upload a photo by FTP every 30 seconds

If you want your webcam to send a photo to your server automatically, regardless of whether there is motion...

Click on the device settings icon.

VisionGS device settings

Click on Capture/Upload...

VisionGS Capture Upload Automatically

Then make sure the check box is marked for "Capture/Upload automatically".
You can choose any time interval you want.  In the above example, I chose one picture to be uploaded every 30 seconds.


What is the blue bar that moves at the bottom of the program?

Sometimes the bar is black...

VisionGS progress bar - black

This black bar means that the program is not connecting to the internet.  It's in offline mode.

And sometimes the bar is moving and blue...

VisionGS progress bar - blue

If the progress bar is blue, that means the program is set up to upload images to the internet.

So, if you want your webcam to be offline, be sure that the progress bar is black.  If you want your webcam to upload photos to the internet, it should be blue.

...

More examples and tools available from the VisionGS Workshops.


Comments or questions VisionGS?

Your message:

If appropriate, your message may be posted to this section of the page.

Your email address (so we can reply):


#3  Webcam Monitor

Version v4.24 tested Jan-22-2008
Price $70
Operating System:  Windows 7 / 2008 / Vista / 2003 / XP
Comments edited Feb-2-2011

WebCam Monitor

Downloaded from: deskshare.com

This program has been updated since I tested it.  As of March 1, 2010, the program is now up to version 5.24.  Just looking at their website, I don't see any compelling reason to choose this program over the other ones tested above.  See the cons (below).

Pros

Cons





Comments or questions about Webcam Monitor ?

Your message:

If appropriate, your message may be posted to this section of the page.

Your email address (so we can reply):

#4  Active Webcam

tested Jan-15-2008
Price: $49 for Active WebCam Pro (which has motion detection capability)

As of March 7, 2009, I see that the product name may have changed.  It now appears to be called Argus DVR.

Pros

  • Works really well with motion detection
  • Can capture video using a firewire connection, meaning the resolution of the video is higher than that achieved with a streaming USB connection.
  • Recorded audio and video using a USB connection with an old Digital8 camcorder.
  • Successfully uploaded snapshots (still images) to my FTP server once every 10 seconds.
  • Cons

  • Video is saved in their proprietary format: AWlive. It's difficult, if not impossible, to edit the video or convert it to different formats, like MPG or AVI. Our computers crashed when Active Webcam tried to save videos in AVI format using many codecs, including the Xvid codec.
  • We were not able to stream video by FTP using either ActiveX or a Java Applet. Our only success with FTP was to upload still photos to our website, about one image per second.
  • The program automatically deleted images, preventing us from archiving images on our FTP server.

  • -

    Comments or questions about Active Webcam?

    David  - Sunday, January 29, 2012

    It seems like I've tried every software option out there, and this one is by FAR the best.  I've noticed a lot of changes since your review...including the price...it's almost doubled.  Everything is really straight forward, but that's not to say easy, you will need the manual with this one.  I did have it up and running with a single cam in about a half an hour though, and felt pretty comfortable about it.  The program now has a built-in function to change the video format to wmv, mpeg, or avi.  I'm going to keep using this for a while and see if it's worth the money (sure seems pricy, but it really is feature rich.) 

    I suggest you revisit this one if you are still doing these.  Thanks though, without your reviews I would have never found this one, and all the recommendations on "large mainstream" sites seemed to be the same, crappy, and completely wrong.

    Thanks Again,

    David

    sites1012  - February 22, 2012

    Active Webcam is the worst of them all, You pay for each cam that you have on it, and by the video quality you want, the cheapest is 20.00 per mpnth (YES I SAID PER MONTH NOT PER YEAR)Its a real rip off.

    Thanks for testing the programs out for us. I almost paid for one that i didnt need.


    semaphore45  - February 29, 2012


    Active WebCam seems more recent than Argus DVR. At least the former is easier to navigate, and hides its antiquated technology better. Argus relies on the really antiquated ActiveX controls that require

    Interface is awful, very confusing to navigate. One can not be quite sure what "snapshots" should be used for, why they would be constantly generated, as opposite to updated pictures that get deleted after an even has ceased. It's also not clear how to start and stop the program manually.

    I found a very bad surprise: on a 3.2GHz Pentium 4, Windows XP Pro with two webcams, it's sluggish as frozen hell. Also, although it does allow you to select another codec than its AWLive format, it doesn't alert you when it cannot find the codec, and doesn't provide any straightforward way to point the application toward the codec. The consequence? It detects motion, as you want it, but when you're looking for the corresponding videos, you just end up with a 0-byte file.

    There are more user-friendly applications.


    Anonymous  - May, 22 2012

    I have recently tested both Argus and Active WebCam. They are sold as two separate products now. Argus has an antiquated interface, but still has all the functionality of Active WebCam. Support for either is non-existent. I really mean ZERO. So I find it REALLY difficult to give them $. The pro here is that the free version of Argus has a nag screen on the preview pin only. Any recorded video views without the nag screen.

    Active Webcam has a slicker interface and a stand alone viewer for those who dislike using ie. Althought the tech behind the viewer is the same used by Argus through ie. I find the Argus ie viewer to be a better solution bc you have full setup control from the exact same interface.

    Active WebCam can be difficult to configure with Netgear firewalls, while Argus has no such issues.

    The main difference between the two is the resources utilized. Argus can run four cameras with a capture card using less than 50% cpu with a now ancient Pentium 2.5 Ghz and 1 GB RAM. I even have an older Celeron running 4 cams with ease. Active WebCam and most other programs lock up these same machines.



    Your message:

    If appropriate, your message may be posted to this section of the page.

    Your email address (so we can reply):


    #5  WheresJames Webcam Publisher

    Webcam Publisher 2.0015

    Price: free
    Operating System:  Windows
    Tested again on Jan-31-2011.
    Comments edited Feb-02-2011.

    Downloaded from sourceforge.net

    Before you install, please read.  

    Privacy Concerns

    Before installing, I suggest that you disconnect your computer from the Internet.  Here's why...

    1.  The program connects to the WhereJames server the first time you start it up, revealing your IP to the site owner. You can disable this in the settings.  Uncheck the box shown below.

    2. The program has the default setting to allow guest access. I assume the site owner, now knowing your IP, could connect to your webcams as a guest. I suggest you disable this in the settings.

    guest-access-wheresjames-webcam-server (49K)

    In Vista, I could not get my Sony Handyman DCR-HC21 camcorder to work with WheresJames. The exact same computer and camcorder worked fine with another program: VisionGS, but that is a paid product.

    Pros

    Cons




    Comments or questions about WheresJames?

    Your message:

    If appropriate, your message may be posted to this section of the page.

    Your email address (so we can reply):


    #6 Yawcam

    http://www.yawcam.com/index.php

    Price: Free!

    Operating System:  Windows NT or newer.  Does not work with Windows 98.

    Tested on Jan-31-2011.
    Comments edited Feb-03-2011.

    Pros

    Cons


    Comments or questions about Yawcam?

    Your message:

    If appropriate, your message may be posted to this section of the page.

    Your email address (so we can reply):


    Comments

    krlatkinson  - March 31, 2011

    Have you considered WebcamXP?  I've used it for a few years and it is robust for my monitoring needs, with the ability to connect multiple different types of cameras at once.


    Earl - April 21, 2011

    I see that WebcamXP is free for personal use.  I have not tried it.


    o00o  - October 10, 2011

    I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for software that can recognize objects (you would think that faces would be HARDER to do from a programmers perspective than, say, vehicles (make and model) but nothing is out there other than Matlab which has a silly learning curve and technical prerequisites up the wazoo.
    Same goes for audio apps. I have found the usual speech recognition, song recognition,even bird-call recognition apps. But I have yet to find an app that can be trained for any kind of sound or image and has sliders for narrowing or widening the swath of possible matches along various applicable criteria.
    For instance say you want your computer to inform you when it "sees"; via a web cam or video feed, a car pull into your driveway, a person walking up the path to the front door, or a child near the swimming pool.  You could use simple motion capture, but it will also alert you when a dog is near the pool, and butterflies flying in front of the lens, bird shadows, blown leaves, so you'd be very busy with false alarms. Today's PCs are capable of being taught the difference between species, or even to tell the make and model of a vehicle, but today's software won't touch it. Why?


    Earl - October 10, 2011

    Very good points and interesting question.  I'm too busy to address this, though, as I am preparing for the return of Jesus.  I hope you seriously consider what I just said.

    Test setup

    Operating Systems used: 

    1. Windows XP Pro 

    2. Vista Ultimate

    Video capture devices used:
    1. Sony Handyman Mini-DV camcorder, DCR-HC21, connected two different ways: firewire and USB
    2. Sony Digital Handyman, DCR-TRV740, connected via USB
    3. Logitech Orbit/Sphere MP connected via USB.