How to Convert a Camcorder to a Thermal Imaging Camcorder

The human eye and camcorders do basically the same job: organize light. However, they do it very differently. As a result of these differences, camcorders can be modified to visualize types of light that the human eye cannot see. These modifications can allow many camcorders to see a type of light called “near-infrared,” also known as “thermal.” These modifications do not produce the detailed heat vision of scientific-grade cameras, but they do allow filming in pitch-black conditions.

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Many camcorders can be modified to "see" parts of the infrared spectrum.

Step

Open the camcorder housing. This will most likely void the warranty.

Step

Locate the sensor chip. The sensor chip is a square on a computer circuit board somewhere behind the lens. This varies considerably from camcorder to camcorder. Consult the manufacturer to find the sensor chip if you are having trouble. The infrared, or IR, filter housing will be on top of it.

Step

Remove the housing for the IR filter. Most camcorders and cameras have a plastic housing on the sensor chip that holds the IR sensor. On some camcorders, this can be popped off with a fingernail. Others require the use of a jeweler’s screwdriver. Some more expensive models have the IR filter built in to the sensor. Unfortunately, chips with built-in filters cannot be modified.

Step

Remove the IR filter, which is a small piece of plastic inside the housing. Now the sensor can “see” infrared light.

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Cut two to three pieces of developed film to fit into the IR filter housing.

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Reassemble the housing with the pieces of film in the place of the IR filter. Again, this varies depending on the camcorder. On some, the piece can snap back in. Others require gluing. If it requires gluing, use extreme caution not to get any glue on the sensor chip or the film.

Step

Reassemble the camcorder housing. The camcorder can now “see” only near-infrared light.

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Disassemble an LED flashlight. There will be an array of LEDs that produce the light.

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Snip out the regular (visible light) LEDs.

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Reassemble the LED flashlight. Now the flashlight produces only near-infrared light. This light is invisible to humans and most animals. However, the modified camcorder can use it.

Step

Turn out the lights, turn on the flashlight and record. The flashlight should produce only nearly invisible light, which the camcorder will be able see. The image will appear in black-and-white.