Occasionally, your editor stumbles across some really fun
software in the tireless search for interesting Linux applications.
It all began with the recent acquisition of an inexpensive
Kensington VideoCAM USB camera from a yard sale. This was my third
yard sale camera purchase in the summer hunt for fun computer toys,
it was also the first camera that I actually managed to get
working under Linux.
Previous attempts to get a Kodak DVC-323 cam (unsupported) and a Connectix parallel-port Quick-cam (supposedly supported, but broken) proved to
be more trouble than they were worth.
Unlike the other devices, the Kensington
camera provided a pleasant hardware experience. It works well with most
of the video applications that I have experimented with so far,
and did not require a kernel build to use.
The Kensington camera is not a super high-quality device,
with a maximum 300x400 resolution
and a total inability to handle the brightness levels
found outdoors, it is mainly useful for indoor use.
Fun Video Applications
We'll take a look at a couple of interesting video
applications for Linux, to see the wide variety of video applications
that are available, search the
FSF/UNESCO Free Software Directory
seems to be the basic video application for X11
systems. It has a useful -hwscan (hardware scan) mode
that can locate active video devices. Xawtv is useful for
getting a quick video display up and running, focusing the
camera, and adjusting the brightness and color balance levels.
Xawtv is also useful for grabbing snapshot images, it advertises
the ability to record movies, but your editor was unable to make
After verifying the basic functionality of your camera,
it's time to move on to more interesting applications.
the Movement Video Capture application is an interesting application
that can be used to capture movement within the camera's field of
Mvc is a tiny package that built with no problems on my RedHat 9.0
and Fedora Core 1 systems. Operation is simple, just fire it up
and it will create a series of .jpg images as it detects motion.
Denizens of cube-farms may find it useful for figuring out
who is making off with your pencils when you are away.
is by far, the most interesting video application that I have
"EffecTV is a real-time video effector. You can watch TV or video through amazing effectors."
The current version features 39 real-time video effects.
Some of the effects are fairly simple, such as adding noise and
distortion to the video, changing colors, and producing both sides of
a mirror-image. Other effects are quite impressive, such as
viewing through real-time morphing lenses, through-the-water simulations,
and burning simulations. A number of the more complicated effects
are quite subtle, you may want to leave them on for a while to
get the full effect.
Effectv also has a few trendy effects, such
as Warhol TV, Shagedelic TV, and Matrix TV.
To switch the current effect, simply press the keyboard's up and
down arrow keys. A GUI interface with buttons for each effect,
and sliders to modify the parameters would be a useful addition.
The effectv full-screen mode is the best way to get the most
bang-per-buck from even the cheapest of video cameras.
It is a bit too easy to get stuck in full-screen mode, pressing
alt-enter toggles it on and off.
Below are a few still shots from some of the many effectv modes,
keep in mind that they hardly do justice to the real-time video-in-motion:
Not being easily satisfied, your editor procured
a second Kensington camera on eBay for a mere 99 cents (before
shipping costs). As a fun demonstration, I connected both cameras
up to the USB ports on my Athlon XP1700 system, then fired up
XaoS, a real-time fractal
zoomer that's worthy of note. With a little effort, I was able to
fill the entire screen
up with three windows worth of zooming fractals and morphing video
effects. Such a system would make a great store-front display, or could
provide some fun interactive eye candy for your next party.
This is a great way to put some of those idle processor mips to use.
It must be time to look into getting one of those fancy high resolution
video projection devices...
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