How to Use Your Camcorder as a Security Camera

By Kirk Bennet

First used on a large scale by the banking industry, surveillance cameras are now widely used to monitor everything from a room in a house to an entire warehouse. Because complex security camera systems are expensive, you can use a camcorder with a built-in motion detector -- or connect it to motion detection software -- to achieve the same result. You can even connect the camcorder to your computer and use free video capture software to continuously record the video stream.

Things You'll Need

  • Video capture software
  • Video capture card or TV tuner
  • Motion detection video capture software

Camcorder With a USB Streaming Feature

Step 1

Remove the SD card or tape from the camcorder's tape compartment, if a tape is present, and turn on the camcorder.

Step 2

Open the cameras menu, navigate to "Settings" and look for the "USB Streaming" option. On Sony cameras, the USB Streaming option is in the Camera menu.

Step 3

Enable the USB Streaming option and set the Camera/Playback switch to "Camera."

Step 4

Place the camcorder in a suitable position to capture the area you want to keep an eye on.

Step 5

Insert the installation disc that came with your camcorder into your computer. The setup menu should pop up automatically.

Step 6

Select to install the USB drivers for your camera and operating system, then restart your computer.

Step 7

Connect the camcorder to your computer using the USB cable that came with the camera.

Step 8

Launch your video capture software and select the camcorder as the video source. The camcorder should be recognized by any video capture software.

Step 9

Decrease the resolution at which the video capture software records the video stream, and decrease the framerate to about 10 to 15 frames per second to preserve disk space.

Step 10

Select the format in which you want to record the video. Most software allows you to select from at least AVI, WMV and MP4.

Step 11

Click "Record" or a similar button to start recording the video stream.

Camcorder With a Motion Detection Feature

Step 1

Turn on the camcorder and open the onscreen menu.

Step 2

Enable the Motion Detection feature, usually located in the Camera menu.

Step 3

Select a smaller video resolution from the camcorder's settings to enable it to record more data before running out of space.

Step 4

Select the format in which you want to record the video. Most software allows you to select from at least AVI, WMV and MP4.

Step 5

Place the camcorder in a suitable position to capture the area you want to keep an eye on.

Step 6

Start recording. The camera will only record when its built-in motion sensor detects movement.

Camcorder and Motion Detection Software

Step 1

Remove the SD card or tape from the camcorder, if a tape is present.

Step 2

Turn on the camcorder and place it in a suitable position to capture the area you want to keep an eye on.

Step 3

Connect the camcorder to your video capture card or TV tuner.

Step 4

Download, install and launch motion detection software on your computer. Examples include iSpy Connect, VisionGS and Zone Trigger (see Resources).

Step 5

Select the camcorder as the video source to see the video feed from the camera on your screen.

Step 6

Enable the motion detection option, if not already enabled. This makes the software record only when motion is detected.

Step 7

Adjust the video settings to decrease file size. Lower the resolution at which the software records, and also decrease the framerate to about 10 to 15 frames per second, to record more video before running out of disk space.

Step 8

Select the format in which you want to record the video. Most software allows you to select from at least AVI, WMV and MP4.

Step 9

Click "Record" or a similar button to start recording. The software will record only when it detects motion in the video feed, saving valuable disk space.

Tips & Warnings

  • Connect the charger to the camcorder to make sure it doesn't turn off while recording.
  • Find software for your camcorder on the manufacturer's website.
  • If you don't know how to select a video source in your video capture or motion detection software, consult the documentation that came with the software.
  • Certain video capture tools don't allow you to change the framerate and resolution; you can find many free alternatives online.
  • Insert a higher-capacity SD card into your camcorder to store more data.
  • A lower resolution and framerate enables you to capture more video; however, high-quality videos enable you to see everything in great detail.
  • Recording people without their knowledge is illegal in most cases, so don't attempt to use your camcorder to conduct illegal surveillance.
  • Protect your camcorder from direct sunlight, rain and snow to avoid damaging it.
  • Fast-moving objects recorded at low framerates may be blurred, and may sometimes not even appear in the video.
  • Install the correct drivers for your video capture card or TV tuner before you connect it to your camcorder.