Web Cam FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What kinds of cameras are included in the web cam network?

All web cams are Axis IP cameras:

  • Axis Q1755-E (x1)
  • Axis Q1602-E (x1)
  • Axis P3364 (x3)

An "IP Camera" is a camera that can connect to the Internet directly, without needing to connect to a computer. 

Axis is the name of the company that makes the most durable outdoor-rated IP cameras.

How much do these web cams cost?

Prices depend on what's available on eBay around the time we purchase the cameras. Depending on the camera model and what's available, we have spent between $400 and $1,500 per camera; with most around $900.

Why do these cameras cost so much?

Why can't you just use a "$50 Wal-Mart Special?"

These web cams need to function independently of a computer, and operate in harsh outdoor conditions. The cheap web cams you find in Wal-Mart or security cameral kits you see at Costco typically connect only to a home computer or some other closed/proprietary system. Those will not work for our web cam network because we need for each web cam to independently transmit photos to a web server where the photos can then be presented via the MtnCare.com website.

The cheap cameras can only connect to a computer where special software must be used to display the photos or stream real-time video from the web cameras; and display the photos or video only on the computer running the special software. This forms a closed network with no way to get the photos to the web server where they can then be presented via our website.

The Axis IP cameras we use include a built-in minicomputer capable of transmitting photos and video to any Internet destination. These cameras can also be accessed remotely for managing focus, zoom, etc. These capabilities are important for cameras installed outdoors in relatively inaccessible locations; for example 35 feet up a tree (see images below).

Why do we see only one photo every minute? Why not streaming video?

Two reasons:

First; the 1990's DSL-based wired Internet infrastructure in our mountain communities cannot handle the throughput requirements (bandwidth) needed by streaming video. While some camera sites are within reach of a cell tower, and therefore streaming demands could be satisfied, we don't have the budget to pay for wireless connectivity and all the data charges that would be incurred.

Second; the server-side requirements needed to stream video through the mtncare.com website would incur bandwidth utilization charges that we simply cannot afford.

Considering the intent of the web cam network is to serve as a community safety service, 60-second updates are sufficient to know what's going on with our roads, any fires within the camera view, and overall weather conditions.

What are the requirements for a web cam installation site?

Each web cam installation site needs these things:

  1. Electricity (free)
  2. Internet connection (wired, free)
  3. Safe location (safe from theft or vandalism)
  4. Useful view for community safety interests

Because Mountain CARE is a non-profit with restricted budget, we need for the electricity and Internet connection to be donated by the owner of the property where the cameras are hosted.

Can we have a web cam at the recycle bin?

(This is in reference to the recycle bin located outside of Forest Falls, just above the Hwy 38 intersection with Valley of the Falls Drive)

Yes, but doing so would be prohibitively expensive.

Because there is no accessible electrical connectivity or wired Internet connectivity available at that remote location expensive networking equipment would need to be acquired to build a wireless network bridge to the nearest neighborhood - about a mile away. And because there is no accessible electrical connectivity there, an expensive solar panel-based setup would be required to supply power for the camera and wireless network bridge components.

Alternatively, a wireless network connection using cell phone technology could be deployed for that site; but then there would be a recurring monthly fee paid to Verizon for the connection to the cell tower in Forest Falls.

And even if several thousand dollars were donated to bring the camera online at this remote location outside of town, there would be significant risk of vandalism or theft.

What did it take to get the current set of 5 web cams up and running?

As of mid-2018, these are the numbers:

  • $6,500 for 5 web cams and 5 weather stations, enclosures and related mounting components, mid-spans (for POE; power over Ethernet - injects 110 into the data cable so we don't need to run a separate power cable to the cameras), custom mounting brackets, timers to reset the web cams automatically, and a lot of other little things to make it all work.
  • More than 35 hours donated by 6 people to perform the camera installations.
  • Software developer who donated over 200 hours to configure each camera and each associated weather station and write a server-side utility program to process and categorize the many thousands of images received each month from the web cams; and process weather data received from each weather station and present web cam photos and associated weather station data on the mtncare.com website.
  • 5 trustworthy camera site hosts to donate a safe location, electricity, and Internet connection.

Web Cam Enclosure and Installation

This photo sequence shows the installation of an AXIS P3364 IP camera about 30 feet up a large cedar tree.

While the camera is built for harsh outdoor conditions, a special enclosure was built to protect the camera from the elements and to help obscure it from view at a distance.

Custom mounting bracket made by Ark Engineering in Yucaipa
Custom mounting bracket with safety chain ready for installation.

We can have more web cams if we get (1) additional installation locations meeting the requirements described above; and (2) money for the additonal cameras and associated installation/mounting components. Everything else is donated.