How to Turn Your Mac Into a Security Camera With Periscope

Ever wanted to turn your Mac into a security camera, to snap a few pictures of what’s going on in your home when you’re away? Or how about a timelapse recorder? Periscope is a very clever application from Freeverse which utilizes your Mac’s built in camera and mic to automatically detect when to take the right photos.

Alongside some very cool motion detection, Periscope also has the ability to save and even upload the photos to a whole bunch of different places immediately after snapping them. Read on to find out more.

Overview

Periscope makes use of the Mac’s in-built iSight camera (or an external one if attached) to automatically take pictures. It’s packed with a good range of features which serve the application well. The interface of Periscope is split into three main sections; Capture, Share, and Review which are self-explanatory in basic function but I will look into the features of each below…

The over-arching “Off Air”/”On Air” button at the top dictates whether the application looks for triggers to take the pictures or not.

Use Motion Detection in specific regions to capture movement.

Use Motion Detection in specific regions to capture movement.

Capture

First up, the Capture tab lets you set up when the camera should take pictures, and what should trigger them. The main (and definitely the most fun to test) way in which Periscope works is by sensing movement, such as that burglar creeping around your home – or your cat.

You can specify Periscope to watch the entire camera, or only the areas you’ve selected. The latter can come in handy if you have trees swaying outside a window, so that Periscope will ignore any motion there.

The other options for triggers are when the microphone hears a noise over a certain volume, or when the Apple Remote button is pressed. There’s also a Timer, which rather than going off at set time, takes a photo every so many seconds, minutes, or hours (to a maximum of 2 billion days!).

This allows you to create some interesting time lapses… and also far less interesting ones such as your long, tiring day at work!

Share

Automatically share new photos

Automatically share new photos

The Share tab is really important. While you might not want the world to see the photos your computer has captured, this could be a great way to give you remote evidence of the person who’s stolen your Mac. If you use Periscope as a security app, then those photos of the burglar aren’t going to be much good on your Mac when it’s nowhere to be seen…

Periscope gives you the option to send these images via email, save them to a local folder, iPhoto, or upload to .Mac or an FTP server. It’s a sign of slight application neglect when it still references .Mac rather than MobileMe, but don’t let that stop you giving it a try.

With the growing popularity of Dropbox, possibly the best solution is to have new images sent instantly to a “local folder”, to which you would assign your Dropbox folder. This way, the photos will be synced straight away with the Dropbox server for you to look up later for an increased chance of catching the thief.

This tab also lets you add a timestamp to every photograph, as well as image overlays and text if need be.

I would like to note that the email feature doesn’t work for me at all, though I’m not sure why that is. It doesn’t sound as though email is the best way to share photos to yourself if you use Periscope for security though because it will sometimes wait up to 5 minutes before sending all captured photographs at once, by which time the thief has no doubt packed up your computer and left.

Review

It’s a given that the Review tab is for having a look at the pictures taken, but it also boasts a few nifty features. The image browser on the left feels a bit clumsy and seems to jump around erratically – a grid layout to show more than two images at a time would be ideal.

Review all captured photos

Review all captured photos

Underneath the the photo are a few extra buttons which enable you to copy an image to the clipboard, the desktop, or upload to your Flickr account. The best feature here is “Movie” which exports the captured photographs and turns them into a time-lapse QuickTime film, letting you choose the playback speed.

Preferences

In the Periscope Preferences you can set which camera you’d like to use, and turn off the give-away ‘camera snap’ sound it makes every time it takes a photo.

The ‘Video’ section of the Preferences has a very welcome feature; the ability to color correct the image from the camera. This lets you really bring out the color in the images, but also allows you to stretch the brightness/contrast to record more detail in dark rooms. Plus, if you drag the Hue slider all the way to the right you turn into the Incredible Hulk, which is always fun.

Adjust color in the Periscope Preferences

Adjust color in the Periscope Preferences

Conclusion

Despite a few quirks, Periscope is an overall great application for monitoring and recording activity when you’re away, and if the worst happens, may increase your chances of catching a burglar. It’s also a very easy to use application for creating time lapses with a MacBook, but of course the camera quality isn’t going to be stunning unless you use an external camera.

Priced at $24.95, it could be a worthy investment or a fun tool to have depending on your needs. Download Periscope and let us know if you’ll be using it in the comments.

There are plenty of other applications that exist in this niche, as well. Do you use any of those as security protection for your Mac?


Summary

Periscope automatically takes photos using the iSight camera when something such as a movement or sound triggers it, and can share the images immediately online. A great application for monitoring the home when you are away.

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  • http://www.totushi.com totushi

    im searching for this type of app, are there more apps out there?

    • Lightsout565

      Check out Vitamin D Video
      http://www.vitamindinc.com/

    • http://connorcrosby.me Connor Crosby

      There’s also iCam which alerts your iPhone when motion is detected and allows you to see your cameras.

  • http://www.cmnddsgn.com L1

    This apps interface is disgusting, I can’t understand why they didn’t just use the default apple aqua UI instead of making a dated 90s look.

  • Paul

    Hi this app has been about for sometime. There is a newer beta version though no development for over a year. Maybe due to the new owners?

  • James

    I’ve used Periscope now for over a year, and while it does work, it does not offer options to control how often pictures are taken when in security mode, nor length of video, and so either you have no pictures taken because the sensitivity has to be set low or you have gigabytes of pictures as it takes them once every two seconds for weeks while you’re away. Not a good setup.

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