|The Hawk Eye is a color camera, but I’m not seeing any in my birdhouse?
Although the Hawk Eye is a color cam, the brightness and intensity of that color depends on the amount of incadescent, or natural light reaching the camera. The size of the birdhouse entrance, whether the house is made of light or dark wood, and brightness of the sun (dawn, noon, dusk, overcast) will influence color intensity. In most cases the color inside a birdhouse will be rather muted. Full color capability is achieved when the Hawk Eye is used outside around birdbaths, feeders, etc.
Can I use the Hawk Eye on my computer? And, can I stream the video onto the Internet?
Most computers now have RCA (audio- and video-in) ports into which you can plug your Hawk Eye Nature Cam. Make certain these are “in” ports. In and Out RCA ports look the same . . .little colored holes in the side (yellow is video, white and red are audio). You have to make sure yours are “In”. If your computer has RCA In ports, it will also have the necessary capturing and editing software. Check your Programs file. Windows comes packaged with MS MovieMaker, a good, but basic editing package, but there are other programs that different manufacturers bundle with their particular machines.
If your computer doesn’t have RCA In ports, you’ll have to buy an adapter into which you plug the Hawk Eye, and then plug the adapter into the computer’s USB port. The one I like best is the Dazzle, made by Pinnacle http://www.pinnaclesys.com/Home+Video . Great capturing, editing, and DVD burning capabilities.
All of the above is for getting signals into the computer. From there you can either save it as a file, edit it, and then simply add an html link to your web site so people can click on the file and see that day’s highlights. This is probably the easiest, and least expensive way to go, but, obviously, isn’t real time. Visitors to your site will only see highlights of what happened the day before.
Now, if you want to stream live, real-time video
(none of this still photos that refresh ever 30 seconds stuff) you’ll have to pay for it. We did it a couple years ago with ‘our’ Screech owls, and literally had thousands of hits, from as far away as China, across the U.S. and on to Germany. It does cost, but it’s well worth it. A great video/audio streaming company is www.audiovideoweb.com . There is a learning curve doing this, but it’s fairly easy. Audio Video Web has great customer support, and it is a tremendous way to get visitors to your site and keep them coming back.
Go to www.audiovideoweb.com and click on the “Content Delivery” tab at the top. From this select “Live Webcasting.” There are three payment options. I learned the hard — and expensive way — that Option 3 is the best. Click on the “rates” button on Option 3. You’ll see that this option offers unlimited bandwidth, but limits you on the number of people who can log in at one time. Because you want to stream real time, live action, you need to select the 300 kb option at the bottom of the page. There you’ll see you have different options for allowing three, 10, and so on listeners to log on at one time. Three listeners at a time will probably suffice, but if you want to splurge, go for 10. Just ask viewers to limit the time they are on.
AudioVideo Web has great tech support and can walk you through the setup. You’ll have to download their free encoding software into your computer. Do this, and hook up the camera and make sure everything is working — you have a video and audio signal on the software’s viewing screen, BEFORE you sign up and pay them.One of our customers, Alison C. in Charlotte, NC, has discovered a FREE video streaming service at www.camstreams.com. She says: I’m using camstreams.com. It’s free and some of the broadcasters appear to have been with them for quite a while so there are a lot of satisfied customers.
As for set up, the encoder (software needed as a bridge between your computer and Camstream) downloaded and installed without a problem. The difficulty I had was finding out that my IP address was assigned dynamically through the cable modem and essentially firewalled. I had to change my IP address to a static one then do a port forward so my broadcast stream could get out through my cable modem.
When I started I didn’t know much about video streaming, but was able to follow the help instructions to set it all up. However, it may not be for everyone. A quick test of minimal comprehension would be to ask if you’ve ever checked your IPconfig setting through the command prompt window. If you haven’t a clue, this may not be for you.
This free version of Camstreams allows up to 15 viewers, but each viewer pulls a 64K bit stream and the total service only allows a total of 500K so if all 15 did get on at the same time they would pull 500/15, which would degrade the image.
Another nice feature is the chat – works great.
How far way does the Hawk Eye focus?
With a few twists of the Hawk Eye’s lens (be sure to loosen the little set screw beneath the lens . . . no need to retighten) you can literally see your finger prints from 1/8″ away. A couple of twists the other way and you are out to infinity.
More importantly, is the depth of field. From only a few inches away, the entire object (birds in our case) will be in focus. In a typical birdhouse the camera may be anywhere from 3-12 inches above a bird’s head, but yet all of the bird and the eggs it is sitting on are in focus.
One other point . . . because the Hawk Eye has a wide angle lens, the apparent size of the object gets very small with distance from the camera. It is therefore best to get the camera as close as possible to the bird feeder, bath, or whatever you are watching.
Will the Hawk Eye work in the cold?
Many of our customers live in northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Maine and regularly use the camera throughout the year. On of our Canadian customers used it to video flying squirrels when it was -16 below zero.
The manufacturer recommends leaving the camera on all the time, as the minute amount of heat it generates helps prevent any cold damage. As of February 2008 we’ve had two cameras running 24/7 for four years.
Bear in mind that your Hawk Eye is a piece of electronics, so the more shelter you can give it, the better. A small board, or piece of plastic over the top will go a long way in extending its life.
Can I extend the Hawk Eye beyond its 100 feet of cable?
Yes, the Hawk Eye can be extended out at least 1000 feet, by daisy-chaining a series of our 100′ extension cables, which we offer for sale.
How difficult is it to hook up the Hawk Eye cams?
It really couldn’t be easier. Simply hang the birdhouse, or attach the Hawk Eye to a post overlooking a feeder; run the cable into the house, plug the audio and video plugs into the appropriate RCA jacks (video-in and audio-in) in the back of the TV. Plug in the power and sit back and enjoy.
How do I get the cord into the house?
Your spouse isn’t too keen on that idea? OK, then run the cord under a door. Most have a 1/4 “+ gap between the floor and door, which is sealed with a flexible plastic or rubber weather strip. Most doors will easily close with the cord running beneath them.
That won’t work? How about through a loose fitting window jam?
That won’t work? Do you have a sliding door? There’s quite a gap between the sliding part of the door and the permanent, non-sliding side. This is sealed by a rubber gasket or flap through which the camera cord can easily be pushed. Make sure the cord is then attached to the floor or baseboard so that it does not fall into the track the door slides in.