Why should I support Starr Ranch and this cam?

This is not a commercial site, which means we depend upon the generosity of people like you to keep the camera on, and this remarkable educational resource available for the world to enjoy. Moreover, donations fund all the other important work we do here at the Audubon Starr Ranch Sanctuary. So if you like the webcam, or anything else at Starr Ranch, please consider helping us out. Any contribution is deeply appreciated. And they are all tax-deductible. We are a 501(c)(3) non profit.

Support this Webcam

What kind of cameras are these?

Current fixed cam (left view) is a Supercircuits PC185 IR (infrared), but I think this model is discontinued. Closest replacement might be PC177RHR-4 (Not in SC online catalog – call them). Keep in mind that at short distance you don’t need a lot of IR range. The connection is hardwired using VT-1 transceivers (Not in SC online catalog – call them) on RG-6 coax cable. Pan/Tilt/Zoom cam (right view) is a PC407PTZ. It also uses a VT-1 connection on RG-6 which is paired with Cat 5E to provide two leads for RS485 control of P/T/Z. I am currently using PTZ Controller software.

Cameras stream one A/V signal each via a PC using PCI analog to digital cards or USB analog to digital connections via Microsoft Windows Media Encoder software (free). Any PC with a decent processor will do. Video streams go to a server that can support hundreds of simultaneous users.

How do you guys post pictures?

Posting pictures (by Trish): I use Fraps to capture images from the owl cam, although there are other programs available. You can download and use the program for free at http://www.fraps.com. It is very easy to use.

Once you install it, open the program. You’ll want to do a little configuration. I created a folder on my desktop called Owl Shots and that’s where I told Fraps to store my screen shots and videos. By default it stores them at C:\Fraps. You can change the location by clicking on the Change button, and browsing to the folder of your choice. I just find it easier to have them on my desktop.

On the Screenshots tab, my configuration is hotkey F4 (the default is F10), and both boxes are unchecked. In the free version, your only choice is .BMP and that should be okay, except if you take full screen images they will be large files. To capture an image, simply press your selected capture key.

Remember, you can only post images that are about 4 inches max or they will be cut off on the message board. So if you make a full screen capture, you will have to crop it, or shrink it. I use Paint for that. You figure that one out on your own. I suggest just taking captures off the page in regular size, so no hassles, and no more lessons here.

Once you have the image captured that you want to post, you have to upload it to a “host site”. Many host sites are free. I use http://s101.photobucket.com but there are others you can use.

How to Use PHOTOBUCKET (Borrowed from Chil forum, edited by Trish)
Once you’re registered, create your album. I named mine owls. Upload your image by pressing the green UPLOAD button, browse for your image, the click open.

If you want to select multiple images, hold down the Ctrl button while you select them all. It will then ask if you want to tag your images. I usually just skip this by clicking on my image. Once you’ve tagged, or skipped tagging, and gone back to the main album page, select the image your want and click on it. Select the direct link box, click in it and either right click and select copy, or use keyboard shortcut ctrl + C. Do not use the other links, they won’t post right.

Go back to the owlcam page, and enter your info in the box to add a comment.
Then click in the comment box, and enter your info. Then select Click here right below the comment box and the dialogue shown will open. Paste your URL of the image your copied from Photobucket in the box and click OK. Your link should show up something like the one shown. Then enter the captcha and click on submit button. Your image should post on the message board.

How does the “time out” save bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the capacity of any given internet connection to handle X amount of data flow in both directions.  For example (and I’ll use the term “units” instead of megabits, megabytes, etc.) a typical business might have/pay for 1500 units of upload capacity (to send email, etc.) and 1500 units of download capacity (to view web pages, streaming video, and get email)  When I stream a cam I use about 200 units of our available upload capacity to send the stream to a server.  Think of the receiving server as being one person watching the cam, i.e. a continuous download of my upload video.  In turn, this server is connected to the internet and can have, say, 200,000 units of upload and download capacity.

This server is where you and anyone in the world accesses the Starr Ranch cams, because EVERY viewer uses 200 units to see the cam on their computer   So, in the example, the server that receives my single, 200 unit stream can handle 1,000 users at one time (200 X 1,000= 200,000).  Remember that my capacity is 1500.  If I tried to provide the stream directly, 8 users (200 X 8 = 1600) would quickly overload my capacity.

So if all the above makes sense, how does timing out the feed save bandwidth?  Using a server like I described above is not free, but it is necessary in most cases because most situations (like us)  don’t have their own servers and access to high capacity bandwidth .  So we have to pay for bandwidth.  Usually there are flat rates for X amount of capacity and then surcharges as you go over or “burst” to higher capacity use.  Here’s an example.  Audubon had a cam on an eagle nest in FL last year.  It was getting some modest attention – maybe 100 viewers at a time – and cost about $1,500/ month for the server company to provide the capacity for this many users.  THEN there was a media piece on the cam (maybe was  TV spot) and the # of people accessing the cam skyrocketed.  And so did the expense because more and more capacity (bandwidth) was needed.  At one point the monthly bill went up to $15,000!!

So, if I don’t have the cam time out, what’s to keep any user from clicking on the barn owl cam and then walking away from their PC and coming back in an hour or two, or maybe just leaving it streaming 24/7?  Nothing.  But the problem is that every second that the page is open it is using bandwidth.  And we have to pay for this bandwidth, whether users are watching or not.  Put another way, it’s like leaving the lights on when you leave a room.  Only difference is that we have to pay the light bill…