You probably have no webcam at home but need to make a video call now
And you are thinking about your Raspberry Pi camera, but don’t know how to use it as a webcam.
That’s what I’ll show you today and it’s easy.
There is a way to use a Raspberry Pi camera as a webcam, by streaming the image on the network (IP camera), capturing it on the computer and send it back to a video call application (Skype for example).
In this post, I’ll explain step-by-step how to do this.
And as you’ll see, it’s faster, you only need the right software tools on your computer and on your Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi Preparation
Let’s start now with the Raspberry Pi preparation.
This tutorial is for the Raspbian distribution, so if you don’t have it yet, I recommend installing it now.
I have an entire guide on how to install Raspbian on Raspberry Pi, so I will not repeat everything here.
The Raspbian version has no importance.
I’m doing this tutorial on Raspbian Lite, so any version is fine.
Before going further you need to:
- Install Raspbian by following the tutorial if needed.
- Update Raspbian packages to the latest version:
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade && sudo reboot
- Connect the Raspberry Pi to the network (Ethernet or Wi-Fi).
- Enable SSH:
Then go to Interfacing options, SSH, and answer “Yes”.
You can now use SSH to do the next part of this tutorial.
That’s it, you are ready to start!
Plug the camera
You probably know how to do this if you have a camera, but don’t forget to plug it correctly on your Raspberry Pi.
Remove the slot protection and plug the cable as shown in this picture:
Enable the camera
By default, the camera interface of the Raspberry Pi is not enabled.
To activate it, you need to use raspi-config:
Then go to “Interfacing options” and select the “Camera” item.
Answer “Yes” and exit raspi-config.
The tool will ask you to reboot, accept and reboot.
After the reboot, it enables the camera, and we can now install the software.
Motion is a powerful software to do everything with your camera.
We’ll use it to stream the camera on the network (IP camera), but it can do a lot more.
To use it, follow this procedure:
- Install motion and the required dependencies
sudo apt install motion libavcodec-dev libavformat-dev libavutil-dev libjpeg-dev libjpeg62-turbo-dev libpq-dev libswresample-dev
Answer “Yes” to install them
- Enable the camera driver:
sudo modprobe bcm2835-v4l2
- Use this command to check that the camera is visible and displays its settings:
You will get something like:
Format Video Capture: Width/Height : 1024/768 Pixel Format : 'JPEG' Field : None Bytes per Line : 0 Size Image : 786432 Colorspace : JPEG Transfer Function : Default YCbCr/HSV Encoding: Default Quantization : Default Flags
- Then you need to configure motion.
The best way I found is to download directly the configuration we need:
- Extract the files:
tar -zxvf motion-mmal-lowflyerUK-20151114.tar.gz
- Start motion:
sudo motion -c motion-mmalcam-both.conf
Feel free to adjust settings in this file to fit your camera configuration (image height and width for example).
To finish the Motion installation part, you just need to check the video stream before moving to the computer configuration.
Check the video stream
The live stream is available in HTTP, by using the Raspberry Pi IP address and the port 8081.
Open your web browser and go to http://<RASPBERRY_IP>:8081
Check that you can see correctly the live stream, with sufficient quality.
Now that you can see the live steam, you can adjust again the Motion configuration.
The goal of this tutorial is not to explain to you how to configure Motion
But you can find all the resources needed on their GitHub page.
Computer software installation
We now have your live stream working, and we need to use another software on the computer to relay the camera image in a video call.
SplitCam is the software we’ll use to turn your IP camera to a webcam for your computer.
SplitCam allows, among other things, to create a virtual camera on your computer and send an IP camera flow into it.
We’ll use this software to have a camera available on Skype (or other video conference software), even if we don’t really have a camera on our computer.
Download & Install
SplitCam is a free software for Windows, you can download it from the official website.
To install it on your computer, follow this procedure:
- Double-click on the file you just downloaded.
- Keep the default values (“Next”, “Agree”, “Install”).
- At the end of the installation, click “Next” and choose where you want to put shortcuts and set default options.
Choose whatever you want. In my case, I keep only the Start menu shortcut.
- Then hit “Finish” to start SplitCam.
It may ask you to reboot to install the camera, it’s mandatory for the following.
- After the reboot, start SplitCam.
- Click on “Sources” in the bottom menu.
- In the drop-down list, make sure you select “IP Split Camera”.
You’ll get something like this:
- Then in the URL field, enter the live stream URL.
For example: http://192.168.1.17:8081
Click on Add.
- After a few seconds, the line appears in the “IP Camera List” and the image in the main window.
You’re almost ready, you just need to configure your video call software now.
I’ll show you how to use it in Skype, as I guess it’s always the most used tool for this.
But it’s the same thing with any software:
- Start Skype.
- Click on “…” in the left panel and choose “Settings”.
- In the settings windows, go to “Audio & Video”.
- In the Camera section, make sure that the “SplitCam Video driver” is your main camera:
- You can check the camera image below.
And you are ready to use your Raspberry Pi camera as a classic webcam 🙂
How to auto-start motion on boot? We use a specific configuration file and command to start motion temporarily, but you can move the files to the default folders to configure it as a daemon.
Here is how to do this:
sudo mv motion /usr/bin/motion sudo mv motion-mmalcam-both.conf /etc/motion.conf
Then edit the daemon configuration file: sudo nano /etc/default/motion
And change the start_motion_daemon option to “yes”.
On the next reboot, motion will start directly.
That’s it, you now know how to use your Raspberry Pi camera as a webcam in any computer software.
I hope it was useful for you and that I saved you some money 🙂
If you want to get more ideas on what you can do with a camera, check my article about 21 projects ideas to do with a camera on Raspberry Pi.