Build a Raspberry Pi Security Camera Network

In this project, I am going to make a Raspberry Pi security camera simply using the standard Pi camera such as the one I used in the time-lapse tutorial.

Raspberry Pi Security Camera

This project is a cost-effective way of getting a security camera up and running that you can view over the network and also have it, so it is motion activated.

Remember the Raspberry Pi isn’t a powerhouse, so performance will degrade if you try to do too much by adding too many high definition cameras.

With that said, it’s still an excellent way of building your own affordable camera network. So let’s get to it.

Equipment

You will need the following equipment to complete this Raspberry Pi security camera project.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi camera or USB WebCam

Power Supply

Micro SD Card (8GB + Recommended)

Ethernet Cord (Recommended) or WiFi Dongle

Raspberry Pi Case (Optional)

Video

If you want to see how to set up the Raspberry Pi security camera visually, then check out the video I have prepared below.

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Installing the Raspberry Pi Camera

Firstly before we do anything, we need to have a Raspberry Pi camera. In this tutorial, I use the regular IR camera, and it works fine however if it gets dark it can’t see at all. (Which is probably not much good for a security camera). You can find the regular camera here or the non-IR camera here.

If you’re after for more information check out my Raspberry Pi camera guide for everything you need to know.

Secondly, we will need to install the camera (If you haven’t got one you can get one here), to do this go to the ribbon slot (the one directly behind the Ethernet port) using two fingers gently pull up on both sides of the connector.

Clips & Ribbon Cabble

Now the connector is open insert the ribbon cable with the metal leads facing away from the Ethernet port. Make sure it is nicely lined up and then gently press back down on the connector. The cable should now be locked in place, and we can now move onto the software.

On a side note, if you want to install this into a more secure enclosure, there is some great equipment you can buy or even design to do this. To keep this tutorial pretty basic I am not going to go into a heavily customized camera enclosure.

Installing MotionPie

I settled on using MotionPie as it seems to be an all in one solution for what I require and it also didn’t involve as much fiddling around to get it to work.

The MotionPie Logo

Download & Format the SD Card

1. Download the Motion Pie SD Card Image from the Motion Pie GitHub repository.

2. You will need a formatting tool. Visit the SD Association’s website and download SD Formatter for either Windows or Mac.

3. Follow the instructions to install the formatting software.

4. Insert your SD card into the computer or laptop’s SD card reader and check the drive letter allocated to it, e.g. G:/

5. In SD Formatter, select the drive letter for your SD card (eg. G:/) and format

Install the Motion Pie Image onto the SD Card

1. Download the Win32DiskImager.

2. Now unzip the MotionPie img file so you can install it onto the Pi safely.

3. Select the MotionPie img file and the drive letter your SD card is assigned (Eg. G:/)

4. Confirm you have the correct details and click on Write.

5. Once done you can safely remove your SD card from the computer.

win32diskimager motionpie

Booting/Setting up MotionPie

Now we’re ready for boot up, so insert the SD Card, an Ethernet cord, and the power cord. We will need to communicate to the Pi over the network rather than directly as I have done in most of the previous tutorials.

So now go ahead and boot the Pi up and then we can move onto getting it set up correctly.

Setting up the Raspberry Pi Security Camera

Once the Pi has booted you will need to do the following:
1. First, we will need the IP or hostname, so we’re able to connect to the Pi.

  • If you’re using Windows, then simply go to network on the right-hand side in the File Explorer.
  • You should see a computer names something like MP-E28D9CE5
  • Go to your browser and add this to your browser bar e.g. http://MP-E28D9CE5
  • You should now have the Motion Pie interface up.

2. Alternatively, you can find out the IP of the Pi by going to your router. Since all routers are different, I will not go into how to do this. Please refer to your manufacturer’s manual.

3. To log in as the admin go to key symbol in the upper left corner. The username is admin and the password is blank, this can be changed later.

4. You can access all the setting for the camera stream here. If you’re interested in altering these settings, keep reading as I explain them as much as possible below.

Now we should have a working security hub that we can configure! Require the security camera to be wireless? No problem! Require to alert you with an email? No problem! Read more to find out what the settings do in Motion Pie.

How to set up multiple network Raspberry Pi security cameras

If you want to run more than one Pi cameras, it is pretty easy to set this up, so you have all the streams under in one window. You can even add a stream that has been set up using the Raspberry Pi Webcam server tutorial.

1. First, click on the three lines with dots on them in the upper left-hand corner.

2. Now up in the upper-left hand corner and click on the drop-down box and select add camera.

3. In here you have four settings to set up.

  • Device: This allows you to select where the camera is located(network/local) and type. (Eg. MotionEye, MJPEG camera)
  • URL: This is the URL to the other network camera. Eg. http://othercamera:8080
  • Username: This is the username of the camera device. (If no username/password is required, then leave the fields blank)
  • Password: This is the password for the username chosen above.
  • Camera: Select the camera you wish to add.

In the example below camera1 (Pi Camera) and camera2 (USB WebCam) are connected to the Pi running Motionpie while camera3 is coming from a different Pi that was set up using the webcam server tutorial.

This method is a great way to set up a strong Raspberry Pi security camera network.

Raspberry Pi Multiple Cameras

Connecting to the surveillance outside your network

Now that you have your Raspberry Pi security cameras setup it might be worth considering allowing access to the central Pi so you can monitor your cameras elsewhere.

To do this just head over to my guide on how to setup port forwarding and also how to setup dynamic DNS, you can find the guide at Raspberry Pi Dynamic DNS & Port Forwarding.

A few important bits of information you will need for the setting up the port forwarding.

  • The IP of your Raspberry Pi for example mine is 192.168.1.108
  • Internal port is 80.

Ensure you also have set up passwords on both the admin and the surveillance user to help avoid unwanted visitors.

Once set up, you should now be able to connect using your external IP address such as XX.XXX.XXX.XXX:80 (80 should be changed to something else, I would recommend changing it to avoid easy access for unwanted visitors)

Configuring the Settings in MotionPie

Raspberry Pi MotionPie Interface

General Settings

In here you can set the administrator username and password. This account will have access to all the settings you see at the moment.

Surveillance username and password can also be set in here this can be used to just to access the camera interface.

To view all the settings available to set turn the show advanced settings to on.

Wireless Network

Turn this on if you plan on connecting to the network via a wireless dongle. There are two things you will need to fill in here.

  • Network Name: Enter the network name/SSID you wish to connect to in here.
  • Network Key: Enter the network password/network key in here for the network you’re connecting to.

Once done you should be able to disconnect the Ethernet cord and remain connected to the network.

Video Device

Under this menu, you’re able to set certain settings regarding the Raspberry Pi camera device.

  • Camera Name: Set this to whatever you would like the camera to be named. For example, the name kitchen would work well for a camera in a kitchen.
  • Camera Device: You’re unable to edit this one, but this is the device name of the camera.
  • Light Switch Detection: Enable this if you want sudden changes such as a light being switched on not to be treated as a motion. (This will help prevent false positives)
  • Automatic Brightness: This will enable automatic software brightness, this means the camera software will make adjustments for the brightness. You don’t need to activate this if your camera already handles this. In here you change the brightness, contrast, and saturation of the video of the camera.
  • Video Resolution: Here you can set the video resolution of the camera. The higher the resolution, the more room it will take up and the more bandwidth it will need to use to stream the footage. I set mine to 1280×800, and that seems to work perfectly fine.
  • Video Rotation: You can rotate your video from the Raspberry Pi security if you’re finding that it is looking the wrong way.
  • Frame Rate: This sets the number of frames that will be sent be every second. The higher this is, the smoother the video, but again this will increase the storage used and bandwidth.

File Storage

Under this menu, you can specify where you would like the files stored for the Raspberry Pi security camera. This location can be a custom path on the Pi, the predetermined path or the network path.

Text Overlay

In here you can set the text overlay on the output of the camera. By default, the left text reads the camera name and the right read the time stamp (Today’s date and current time).

Video Streaming

This menu you’re able to set the video streaming options, this is the video you see in the browser.

  • Streaming Frame Rate: This is the same as mentioned above under video device.
  • Streaming Quality: You can reduce the video streaming quality. This setting is good to reduce if you need to access the camera on a low bandwidth device often.
  • Streaming Image Resizing: Enable this if you want MotionPie to resize the images before being sent to a browser. (Not recommended on a Pi)
  • Streaming Port: This is the port that the device will listen to for connections looking to view the stream. Eg. http://motionpie:8081
  • Motion Optimization: This will reduce the frame rate whenever no motion is detected. This setting will save you bandwidth.

You can also see three URLs that can be used to access different footage. These URLs are very important if you have multiple cameras per Pi as each camera will have a unique port that you listen to the stream.

Still Images

Here you can set the Raspberry Pi security camera to take still images whenever motion is triggered, during specific intervals or all the time.

Motion Detection

In here you can activate the Raspberry Pi security camera motion detection that is included in the software. You can make adjustments to the settings here so that you can get better motion detection.

Motion Movies

In here you can set the Pi to record movies whenever motion is detected.

Motion Notifications

You’re able to set up email notifications, webhook notifications or even run a command whenever motion is detected. This option will allow you to be notified whenever activity is detected on the cameras, perfect if they are monitoring areas with low traffic.

Working Schedule

Here you can set the days, and the hours of operation you would like the system to be monitoring (If you leave this off then it is 24/7). This option is perfect if you only need it running during specific hours.

Summary

The Raspberry Pi security camera system is a great way to have multiple cameras hooked up both locally and over a network. All the extra setting Motionpie provides allows you to have a strong functioning security hub for your home, office or wherever you’re setting this up.

I hope this tutorial has helped you in creating a fantastic Raspberry Pi security camera network. If you have had any problems, provide feedback or have a great setup you would like to share then feel free to drop a comment below. If you’re after more great Raspberry Pi projects, then be sure to check out many other great tutorials.

184 Comments

  1. Nick on

    I had my system set up and running perfectly fine and one day I went to set it up for wireless network and it no longer connects. I cannot see it in my router config and I copied the SSID and PW directly from the router. Any thoughts?

  2. Jake on

    The problem with using motionEyeOS (now new name, check github) is that the software ‘motion’ is CPU intensive, and does NOT use the RPi’s GPU to offset the video work. You will NOT get more than 2-3 fps due to the bottleneck. Quality will be low, and delay will be ~30seconds on motion.

    It works great on a powerful cpu, but it just isn’t viable as a solution IMHO. The performance is terrible on an RPi

  3. Prakash on

    hi…

    Raspberry is new to me.I have some experience with Microcontroller.

    Recently i purchased the raspberry Pi 2.I also purchased reloaded Noobs SD card from Amazon.I did the initial boot.Now as per the above article, i need to format the SD card and then load the MotionPie. But, if I format the SD card and only load MotionPie, how the Raspberry Pi will boot without OS in SD Card? Correct me if i am wrong or I should load both Noobs and MotionPie into SD card? Please let me know….

    1. Gus on

      MotionPie is already pre-packed with an operating system so you don’t need to worry about installing NOOBS/Raspbian.

  4. Manuel on

    I want to contratulate you for your wonderful tutorial. I am starting with raspberry and after checking many tutorials yours makes the difference. Thanks again

    Best regards

    Manuel

    1. Feri on

      Hi! Seems to be good, but i have loaded the version for raspberry2 (i have raspi B+) – this show me the clor table only, then the version for raspberry (motionpie-raspberrypi-20150719.img.gz), this is running until: “eth0: starting dhclient” then waiting approx 1 minute and does reboot!
      How to get it to work please?

  5. Miao Sun on

    Not able to ssh to my mention pie, have the ssh server service enabled, tried both the serial number and the password I set in the mention pie web interface, and the original pi pass, all of them give the result of “Permission denied”. Please help!

  6. pierson on

    Hi Gus,
    While adjusting the settings on my PI for the camera, It somehow triggered an infinite reboot loop..
    Any idea what setting could have triggered this?

  7. Kirk on

    Is there a way to set the display default to the 7 in touch display? I’ve got it up and running, but have to connect it through the HDMI port.

  8. sim367sim on

    I followed your instructions and setup usb cam-creative HD cam. It works fine, but when motion is detected it stopped working. what should I do? need some help.

  9. Blablas on

    Would it be possible to do this with the Raspberry pi zero ?

  10. Ben on

    Awesome build!
    Thanks for a top project.
    Question: Is it possible to use FTP on the Raspberry Pi to push stills or video to a secured FTP server on the internet.
    The aim of this is to remove the need to open ports on the router.

  11. Kennet on

    Hi

    Great program!!

    When I push the Snapshot/Record button on the Window with the camera I get an “error”. Pictures taken my “camera” – (no media files), and nothing is saved.
    Tried to change storage folder from NAS to SD card, but it’s still the same.

    Kennet

  12. Jared on

    Can you use multiple IP cameras on the PI set up through a LAN?

  13. Jelle on

    I can do the initial setup, add the wireless ID and password, but somehow the configuration is not saved/stored. So when I disconnect and reboot, it defaults to wired internet connection and all settings are gone. Do i miss something?

  14. Daniel de Colli on

    Great project! There seems to be a support for Easy cap EM2860 and the pi seems to recognize it as a “V4L2 Camera”. Unfortunately I just get a black screen in the motionPie interface (connected through web browser). I´m using the version 20150719 of motionPie. Any suggestions?

  15. Gerald on

    Using Fast Network Camera mode and tried to use “Authentication mode = Basic” under Video Streaming. After “apply” I can’t see any streams and it is not possible to connect to 8081.
    Any hints? Thanks

  16. Paul Cook on

    Could someone pls help me? I have had motion pie working but now if i use the following browser these things happen:
    Internet explorer……I get some kind of file E9NF01XV downloading from 192.168.1.9 (rasp ip address)
    Firefox…… I just get the live stream of the camera image but I have no buttons to access the web ui.
    Please help me find access to my web ui settings again.
    Thanks

  17. Victor Ramamoorthy on

    I am using Pi 2 and corresponding motion pie for 2. The file system is locked and I can not install any new packages for no-ip or modify any files. How do I get around this problem? I am limited to only my local wifi network!!

    Help!

  18. Victor Ramamoorthy on

    I could get the motionpie project working in half an hour, thanks to your description. I find that two problems in setting the camera outside the local area network:

    1.The system is locked for writing. “mount -o remount,rw” does not do anything.

    2. I can not make IP address static to enable access from outside my wifi network (through internet). It seems that wpa_config files are not used. Also the usual /etc/network is missing. Perhaps it can be done only through motionpie web interface and not through programming.
    3. The last line in the /boot/config.txt is supposed to turn off the camera LED, but does not do it
    4.Also “sudo” does not work. Changing the config.txt with nano seems to be not possible.

    Please help.

    Thanks

    1. Jaasiel on

      Victor,
      I have the same problem. Would really like to disable the LED.
      -Jaasiel

  19. Jon on

    I am new to the Pi and I installed the image and everything works fine. I logged into the system using the admin and password. When I access my router it recognizes the Pi but says that it is not connected to the wireless. How do I connect my Pi to the wireless setting using my computer? Or do I have to use the command line on the Pi? and how do I do that?

    Thanks

  20. romanus on

    Hi! i really like this project. Is there an option for sending the picture with the notification email as attachement, when motion is detected? That would be a very nice feature and extend the use of this project even more. Also sending files to an ftp server could also be useful.

    Thanks

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