How to set up a password protected baby-cam with Ustream.tv

Okay, yes we have an audio monitor that lets us hear every cry and whimper and I also set up a wi-fi camera next to the crib that broadcasts out to our laptops, Iphone and Googlephone anywhere in the world. But I wanted to set up a streaming camera that I could embed on our personal website so I could have family log on (when invited) and watch a feeding, nap-time or that really special diaper change. I also wanted this video to be password protected to keep prying eyes off the crib. By crib, I mean I have the camera trained on the the actual bed he sleeps in. Not a camera showing his "crib" - the pimped out nursery. I also wanted the image to be time stamped so I would know if the camera was frozen or if Danny Ocean came in and replaced the video with a that taken from a reenactment so he could make off with our Diaper Coach. I know what your thinking, "The image could freeze but the server could still be stamping the video with the current time!" Rest easy... rest easy. I have an analog clock on the wall so I can ensure the image is live. (I'm the guy who wears a belt with suspenders and then keeps my hands in my pockets to make sure my pants don't fall down.) I looked at several websites that offer free streaming and settled on Ustream.tv to host the live video. Think of Ustream as a Youtube for live video. It's both free to host video streams and to watch them. Since I'm cheap and like to repurpose old hardware, I'm using my old Xbox360 USB camera to capture the video and have it strung (through a wall) to an always on computer I use as a media server in the house. Even though there are several video streaming services online... I found Ustream to be pretty easy to set up but I hate the site itself! I despise sites that automatically start broadcasting crap out through my speakers when I log-in! Unless, of course, it's a laughing monkey telling me to play online poker. I'm a sucker for anthropomorphism. Our dog Bella is too.

To set up a stream, first create an account on Ustream and then click "create a show" under the quicklinks on the dashboard. Name the show and in my case, since I want the show password protected, I clicked "Require a password" under the advanced setting of "your new show" and used the password I use for all my banking and email accounts - "123abc.". This ensures viewers need to enter a password when watching either the show on Ustream or embedded on your own site. If you don't have a site to embed the video on - you can use the Ustream URL and watch your stream there. (Save the URL so you don't have to go through the main site and get blasted with whatever crap they are sending out at that time!) The "Share your show" option has the embed code for other sites or quick links to share to places like Twitter or Facebook.

Since I have a personal site, I used the embed code and pasted it to a new page on my wordpress blog. The height and width needed to be tweaked to fit and to make him look taller. When I first showed him the video he said, "I'm on a few dozen inches tall... that camera makes me look squished!" Speaking of anthropomorphism.

Now, when I feel like showing him off, or I want to see the crib from afar, all we need is the URL and password. Ustream also has apps on the Iphone and Android stores for both viewing and streaming. With the same login credentials you used on the site, login on your phone and you can broadcast a remote show to stream your child's first visit to the Florida Aquarium, in Tampa Florida which hosts a large array of wildlife. And... is a pretty nice place for a wedding.

There is also a scheduling option to set the site up to record video of a given length at recurring intervals of your choosing. I have my show set to record a few minutes every morning, every day so at his wedding I can show his first few years of growth in a few seconds of fast-forwarded footage set to circus music.

I wasn't expecting HD image quality on Ustream so I could check to see if his eyes were red from too litle sleep, but I was expecting a little better than I got when I first set up the stream. I assumed it was because I was using a crappy old Xbox camera, and though it probably doesn't help, after some research I learned it is best to compress the video locally before you send it to Ustream for compression. This gives a faster upload and a smoother image. I installed Adobe's Flash Media Encoder on my computer have it converting the image to flash before it sends it out to Ustream. This made a much crisper image on the other end. Flash media encoder is pretty straight forward to install - and once you have it running, the Ustream website will recognize it and use it as the video source rather than the USB camera.

The biggest downside of the whole set-up is our nursery looks like the lobby of a bank with cameras mounted all over the place. In the near future, I may have a post called, "How to hide your web-enabled baby camera in a stuffed monkey with a really long tail that plugs into the wall - and how to ensure that if your baby chews on said monkey - they won't get zapped with electricity."