Webcams and Windows Vista...
This brief article is directed at the owners of the following cameras and covers all SC mods.
- ToUcam Pro PCVC740K, PCVC750K
- ToUcam Pro PCVC840K
Making your Philips Webcam work with Vista...
Support for these cameras under Windows Vista has been very limited to the point of being non-existant. Only the SPC900NC has been supported at all by a driver downloadable from the Philips website
Astronomiser offers a service to flash any of the other above listed cameras to look like an SPC900NC - this service is available for £20 which includes return Special Delivery postage and a driver disk download of the Philips SPC900NC drivers from Philips website.
Please send your camera to:
16 Valley View
I strongly recommend that you send your camera via Special Delivery or another fully insured Signed For service.
Philips Webcam Flash Service including Special Delivery P&P - £20
Parallel, Serial and USB Control and Software...
Another problem with using a long exposure modified camera with Vista is that Vista laptops and PCs rarely have parallel ports which calls for a parallel to USB adapter set like the one here - this could then only be controlled by the full version of K3CCD at $49 and the settings for the camera could only be accessed via an icon in the system tray and it was sometimes complicated and glitchy to set these things up on Vista.
The solution is a piece of software called wxAstroCapture. This software produced by Carsten Arnholm and Martin Burri can control your webcam on Windows and Linux - most 'flavours' of these OSs are supported and the software does Planetary, Deep Sky and Guiding making it a great one-stop-shop for webcam imaging... oh - and it's free.
astronomiser has no connection with the software in any way other than I use it and I'm very impressed.
Now, whichever of the above models of philips webcam you have, SC modded or not, you can get it working with Windows Vista easily and reliably and via USB alone.
Webcams represent a cost effective method for guiding and imaging (both planetary and deep sky) starting at £85 for a basic long exposure modified camera - see the Modified SPC900NC cameras page for more details.
To capture and process images, there is a wide variety of software available, some of it capable of both jobs. Unfortunately, the number of programmes which will capture images easily with Windows Vista is very limited.
In this short section, I will give a few details of wxAstroCapture and registax 4. These are the programmes I use myself, along with PhotoShop CS2 to add 'polish' to end images.
Whichever software you use, the process is basically the same - you capture a sequence of images which are saved in the form of an AVI video file. These are taken apart frame by frame, registered (aligned) and stacked to produce an image which can then be 'tweaked' in your favourite photography software to reduce noise and increase signal and adjust things like levels, brightness, contrast etc.
To process images in PhotoShop, I've found Noel Carboni's 'Astronomy Tools' an invaluable help in easily extracting the best from images.
wxAstroCapture is a relatively new piece of software produced by Carsten Arnholm and Martin Burri, both of whom have been involved in the development of webcam astronomy virtually since it's inception. It is freeware and can be downloaded from the wxAstroCapture website linked at the start of this paragraph.
wxAstroCapture supports the following Windows and Linux Operating Systems:
- Windows 2000
- Windows XP
- Windows Vista
- Linux (K)ubuntu 7.04, 7.10
- Linux SuSE 10.2
- Linux Mandriva
It's likely that other flavours of Windows and Linux will also support wxAstroCapture
wxAstroCapture can be used for capturing images from Philips webcams and Artemis/ ATiK cameras. In the case of webcams, it supports Lunar, Solar, Planetary and Deep Sky Imaging (using SC modified webcams) as well as guiding.
I have tested this software on both Windows XP and Windows Vista machines and it runs well on both.
astronomiser recommends wxAstrocapture for use in imaging or guiding with a webcam on any platform, particularly Windows Vista and any Linux platform.
Registax 4 written by Cor Berrevoets allows you to take an AVI apart and stack individual frames, whether the image the video contains is Lunar, Solar, Planetary or Deep Sky.
In essence, you can select a feature or features - using multipoint alignment, particularly useful for lunar images - the programme then compares each frame to find this/ these feature(s) in all of the frames. Then each image can be aligned and stacked to form an image.
The advantage to taking multiple images is that in every digital imaging system there will be some noise or atmospheric effect. Assuming that the object that is being photographed can be accurately aligned, the image 'signal' will always be in the same place whereas noise will be more likely to move around, so adding images together will increase signal and reduce noise. This process generally reveals masses of hidden detail simply by improving the signal to noise ratio of a picture.
The following capture tutorials are not for wxAstroCapture but instead for K3CCD tools, though the process is very similar. I am currently working on tutorials for Lunar, Planetary and solar image capture, Deep Sky Image Capture and Guiding using wxAstroCapture - these will appear here soon. Other help for using wxAstroCapture can be found on the wxAstroCapture website.
Tutorials on stacking and image processing are links to other sites on the Internet. I try and keep these links up to date, but can't guarantee their accuracy - if you find any inaccuracies etc, then please contact me.
Capture (tutorials from my personal website)
Image Stacking and Processing
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