This guide will show you how to use a Raspberry Pi as a dedicated network video recorder, as an alternative to using the VMS and CMS software from a PC or Mac.
This is achieved by using the free ‘Motion Eye’ operating system installed on a Raspberry Pi. This means you don’t have to buy an NVR or keep a full sized desktop/laptop computer running 24/7 to have non-stop recordings. This guide will also show you how to access the control centre via a web browser.
This guide is only recommended if you understand IP addresses and basic CCTV concepts. If you're looking to learn the basics about CCTV, read this article first: Basics of a Home Network and CCTV Systems
- Before you begin
- Installing motionEyeOS on the SD card
- Accessing your Raspberry Pi
- Adding your cameras to motionEyeOS
- General configuration
Before you begin
You will need a single board computer that can run motionEyeOS. A Raspberry Pi 3b+ has been used for this guide. A brand new 3 b+ is currently selling for around £35. You can get a starter kit for around £60. Although the guide has not been tested with other models of Raspberry Pi the motionEyeOS is compatible with most or all models of Raspberry Pi and many other single board computers.
You will also need a MicroSD card for the cameras to to record onto.
You will need a wired or Wi-Fi IP camera that has been set up and connected to your internet router.
Installing motionEyeOS on the SD card
Using your PC or Mac download the motionEyeOS disk image. The motionEyeOS wiki is at the following link: https://github.com/ccrisan/motioneyeos/wiki
Once downloaded use your preferred Raspberry Pi Imager to install the motionEyeOS software on to a Micro SD card.
Accessing your Raspberry Pi
Next, install the Micro SD card in to your Raspberry Pi, connect the Pi with an Ethernet cable to your network and turn on.
The software should load on the Pi and be ready within about 2 minutes to connect. You don’t need a keyboard, mouse or display to connect to the Pi to run the software.
Once booted you can connect to the Raspberry Pi using its IP address. There are plenty of tools available to help you show the IP addresses on your network and locate the Pi. Try using LANScan on a Mac which is available on the App Store. For Windows computers AdvancedIPScanner is recommended.
Once the IP address has been discovered, open your chosen Internet browser and type the Raspberry Pi address followed by :80 e.g. 192.168.1.10:80 in the address bar.
The motionEyeOS login page will be displayed. The username is ‘admin’ with no password.
Adding your cameras to motionEyeOS
With a successful login, the following screen will be presented. Click the horizontal 3 bars (top left) to open/close the camera configuration screen.
To add your camera to motionEyeOS, click the box next to the 3 horizontal bars (see 7.) and choose ‘Add Camera’ from the drop-down list, see below.
If you have other cameras already connected they will appear in the drop-down list. Choose a ‘Camera Type’ of ‘Network Camera’ and in the URL box enter the camera RTSP URL (see above).
If the camera can’t be found after you’ve entered the RTSP URL, the username and password an error in red will be displayed. If the configuration is correct the remaining boxes will become populated and click the ‘OK’ button, see below.
Click the horizontal 3 lines again to minimise the window and the camera view should be displayed. Hover the mouse over the camera window to display buttons on the top right of the image such as take a still photo.
To add an extra camera, repeat the process.
motionEyeOS has many configuration options to help you get the most out of your cameras. When making a change, make sure you click the orange ‘Apply’ button at the top of the screen to save them. Also at the end of each field is a ‘?’ which provides some help when you hover the mouse pointer over it.
There are additional help resources available on the motionEyeOS wiki. https://github.com/ccrisan/motioneyeos/wiki
This is how my system and camera (Green Feathers wireless birdbox camera) is set up; to record when motion has been detected in the birdbox and save the videos to a NAS server.
Preferences - How to layout the view of your cameras on your browser window. Useful when using more than 1 camera.
General Settings - Setup a user who can view cameras only and not make changes (Surveillance username and password), plus other settings such as change the admin password (recommended), shutdown/reboot, take a backup (recommended before making changes) and restore a backup and load software updates.
Network - Set if the Raspberry Pi is using a wireless network or wired and change IP settings. If you have the knowledge, set the Pi to have a fixed (Static) IP address. Leave alone if you are not sure.
Services - Turn on/off different services such as FTP.
Expert Settings - Leave alone unless you're an expert.
Video Device - Your camera settings from the initial camera setup will be displayed here. You can also experiment with changing the resolution settings to get the best effect for your camera. It also allows the frame rate to be selected. The higher the number the smoother the video will be but takes more network bandwidth. I suggest setting to 30 to start and turn down if you have problems.
File storage - This is where you can setup the ability to record your camera footage to a NAS server - or other server on your network. You can also set the system up so it saves video to a ‘cloud’ based service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Mine is setup to save recordings to my Netgear readNAS 102 server that is on my home network (192.168.1.6)
Text Overlay - Add a camera name and timestamp when viewing the cameras on MotionEye. If this has already been set in IC SeePro then this can be left off.
Video Streaming - Setup live video streaming so you can watch footage from a web browser on your computer, or embed in a webpage - see Useful URLs’. Again the higher the streaming rate the better and smoother the footage. Experiment with the settings (don’t forget to click Apply) to see what works for you.
Still Images - This is especially useful where your bird box camera (such as the wired camera) doesn’t have the ability to store video locally on the camera using a storage card such as a Micro SD card. When saving still images to your, for example NAS Server, set the default file name to use. Mine is set to add CAM01 at the start of the filename. Set the quality of the image and choose the capture mode. Mine is set to take a photo when it detects motion, and then save the image for 1 week. You can also have the option to take a photo manually when viewing the camera.
Movies - This is especially useful where your bird box camera (such as the wired camera) doesn’t have the ability to store video locally on the camera using a storage card such as a Micro SD card. As for Still Images above but for movie (videos). Again mine is set to record when motion is detected in the bird box.
Motion Detection - Fine tune the sensitivity of motion detection for the video and still images above. To setup a Mask so motion detection doesn’t activate if motion is detected in part of the frame click ‘Edit Mask’. This is of more use if using your camera outside a nest box to avoid motion detection triggering if a tree blows in the wind for example. The red areas will be ignored.
Motion Notifications - Set up an email or other notifications when motion is triggered.
Working Schedule - Setup a schedule so motion detection is switched off for certain / hours/days.
If your bird box camera doesn’t have the ability to store video on a Micro SD card, and you want to record all footage to a NAS server, then motionEyeOS on a Raspberry Pi is a great cheap solution. The software is free and can link to your existing NAS servers or Cloud storage very easily.
If you have multiple cameras and want to view them in one place it is also very good in that you don’t need to keep your computer turned on and the app such as CMS or VMS logged in, as the Pi can sit unattended recording your camera footage.
It’s not perfect - what do you expect for free - but it is a pretty good solution to keep track on the wildlife in your bird box or garden.
These instructions were kindly written and provided by Alan Pewsey, a Green Feathers customer. We do not sell Raspberry Pi's and the Helpdesk team has not personally set one of these systems up. We cannot guarantee support with any items not purchased from us, but we are always happy to help if possible.