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How to peep in other laptop built-in webcam: Learn how

to use a built-in webcam for ones own purposes

Some people truly believe their laptop built-in webcams can pry them so they fearfully beware of that. Sometimes theyre so seriously
afraid of prying that they even tape their devices watchful eye. Actually, they do it invainly. We'll show you how to master the built-in
laptop webcam and use its functionality in civilian purpose and not as much civilian too.

Implementation: first annoying troubles

I was very surprised and upset when I learned that great and mighty .NET Framework is completely released from the ability of easy web
camera interaction. In .NET v4 the situation has got a bit better (SilverLight-projects got some relevant classes), but I didnt have enough
time to test it, because I began writing some code examples for this article before VS2010 and .NET v4 official release.

Almost desperate, I have tightly ensconced myself in Google. All I found were MSDN and DirectDraw technology links. I even tried to
knock out a simple application, but due to lack of DirectDraw work experience I just got a can of worms. Actually, I wrote an application,
but I was never able to find and fix all the bugs in it.

Getting even more desperate I started browsing our Western friends web resources. After I studied a few dozens of links, I dug a lot of
different goodies. There were various application examples and small articles (Americans dont like to write a lot) among them too. I even
managed to find a working DirectDraw based application example, but I was really horrified when I saw the source code. It was pretty
hard to understand. So I decided not to bother with that stuff and try to find some easier way. I had hardly bowed out the I-st DirectDraw
application example, before my eye caught another one. The author of that application had coded a whole web cam and other video
capture devices handling library on the basis of the VFW (Video for Windows) technology.

This project (I'm talking of the library) was neutered at the hilt and that was a big pity. All things that library could do is video outputting
of the webcam picture. It didnt include neither individual frames capturing or video recording nor any other useful features.

Nevertheless, my subconscious mind firmly told me that this project is what I was looking for. Before I had a quick glance through its
code, I saw names of some familiar Win-messages and no less familiar names of WinAPI functions. Once upon a time I had to write a
Delphi application for webcam operation. Thats when I faced these functions for the first time.

Its possible for one PC/laptop to have several webcams connected at the same time. Example is not far to seek. In a professional capacity
I often have to organize some simple videoconferences. Usually they involve two people. Each participant is shot by individual cam. Web
cams are connected to my PC. When I start shooting, I choose an appropriate camera to work with at the moment using special software.
Since we decided to take the web cam under our control, well have to figure out how to get a list of system installed video capture
devices and choose the one to work with at the moment.

WindowsAPI provides the capGetDriverDescription() function to solve this simple problem. It deals with five parameters:

1. wDriverIndex capture driver index. Index value ranges from 0 to 9;

2. lpszName buffer pointer, which contains the appropriate driver name;

3. cbName lpszName buffer size (in bytes);

4. lpszVer buffer , which contains the description of a specific driver;

5. cbVer lpszVer buffer size (in bytes).

This function returns TRUE in case of success. Now we have the function description, so let's see how to define it in C #. This can be
done as follows:

protected static extern bool capGetDriverDescriptionA (short wDriverIndex, [MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.VBByRefStr)] ref String
lpszName, int cbName, [MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.VBByRefStr)] ref String lpszVer, int cbVer);

Please note that before you specify the name of the function it is required to add the DLL name which includes its definition. In our case
its avicap32.dll.

So, the function is imported and now you can write a class it will be used in. Im not going to show the whole class code, but only the key
method code:

public static Device[] GetAllCapturesDevices()

String dName = "".PadRight(100);
String dVersion = "".PadRight(100);

for (short i = 0; i < 10; i++)

if (capGetDriverDescriptionA(i,
ref dName, 100, ref dVersion,
Device d = new Device(i);
d.Name = dName.Trim();
d.Version = dVersion.Trim();

return (Device[])devices.ToArray

Source code looks like child's play. The most interesting place is a cycle, which references the above mentioned capGetDriverDescription
function. MSDN tells us that its index (the first parameter of the capGetDriverDescription () function) can vary from 0 to 9, so we
deliberately set the cycle in this range. The method result is an array of Device classes (this class I have defined by myself. See the
appropriate code source).

After we get the device list, we should take care of displaying the cam video flow. Theres capCreateCaptureWindow () function invented
to help us creating a capture window to make that.

By jumping a little ahead, Id say that further camera involved action will take the form of banal capture window messaging. Yes, indeed,
well have to use the SendMessage () function which is painfully familiar for every windows-programmer.

Now lets take a closer look at the capCreateCaptureWindow () function. There are six arguments to be set:

1. lpszWindowName null terminal line, which contains the name of the capture window;

2. dwStyle window style;

3. x X coordinate;

4. y Y coordinate;

5. nWidth window width;

6. nHeight window height;

7. hWnd parent window handle;

8. nID window ID.

The function result is handling of created window or NULL in case of error. This function has to be imported as it also applies to
WinAPI. I wont exemplify the import code, because its almost identical to the one I wrote for the capGetDriverDescription () function.
Wed better look at the camera initializing process:

deviceHandle = capCreateCaptureWindowA (ref deviceIndex, WS_VISIBLE | WS_CHILD, 0, 0, windowWidth, windowHeight, handle,


if (SendMessage(deviceHandle, WM_CAP_DRIVER_CONNECT, this.index, 0) > 0)

SendMessage(deviceHandle, WM_CAP_SET_SCALE, -1, 0);
SendMessage(deviceHandle, WM_CAP_SET_PREVIEWRATE, 0x42, 0);
SendMessage(deviceHandle, WM_CAP_SET_PREVIEW, -1, 0);

SetWindowPos(deviceHandle, 1, 0, 0, windowWidth, windowHeight, 6);


In this code, there goes an attempt to send a WM_CAP_DRIVER_CONNECT message immediately after the window is created. The
non-null result will tell us about the function performing success.

Now well imagine that today, the gods are on our side, and well immediately send multiple messages: WM_CAP_SET_SCALE,
WM_CAP_SET_PREVIEWRATE, WM_CAP_SET_PREVIEW. Alas, the story goes just the same as functions story. C# knows nothing
about the existence of such constants. You'll need to define them by yourself. A list of all necessary constants and comments goes below.

// Custom message
private const int WM_CAP = 0x400;
// Video capture driver is connected
private const int WM_CAP_DRIVER_CONNECT = 0x40a;
// Video capture driver is disconnected
private const int WM_CAP_DRIVER_DISCONNECT = 0x40b;
// Buffer copy of a frame
private const int WM_CAP_EDIT_COPY = 0x41e;
// Preview mode On/Off
private const int WM_CAP_SET_PREVIEW = 0x432;
// Overlay mode On/Off
private const int WM_CAP_SET_OVERLAY = 0x433;
// Preview rate
private const int WM_CAP_SET_PREVIEWRATE = 0x434;
// Zoom On/Off
private const int WM_CAP_SET_SCALE = 0x435;
private const int WS_CHILD = 0x40000000;
private const int WS_VISIBLE = 0x10000000;
// Setting the preview callback function
private const int WM_CAP_SET_CALLBACK_FRAME = 0x405;
// Getting a single frame from a video capture driver
private const int WM_CAP_GRAB_FRAME = 0x43c;
// Saving a frame to a file
private const int WM_CAP_SAVEDIB = 0x419;

I will omit all further class description as I reviewed its basic structure. All the rest is easy to deal by getting acquainted to my well-
commented source code. The only thing I dont want to leave behind the scenes is an example of the library usage.

Totally, I have implemented a couple of methods in this library: GetAllDevices (already discussed), GetDevice (getting the video capture
device driver by its index), ShowWindow (webcam video flow displaying), GetFrame (individual frame to image file capture) and
GetCapture (video flow capture).

I made a small application in order to demonstrate the efficiency of created library. I've used one ComboBox component (which is used to
store a list of available video capture devices) and a few buttons - "Refresh", "Start", "Stop" and "Screenshot". Ah, yes, theres also an
Image component which is to display the camera video flow.

Well start from the "Update" button. It gets a fresh list of all installed video capture devices. Event handler source code:

Device[] devices = DeviceManager.GetAllDevices();

foreach (Device d in devices)

Looks simple, isnt it? We just enjoy the object-oriented programming because the developed library undertakes all dirty work. The code
which displays the camera video flow is even easier:

Device selectedDevice = DeviceManager.GetDevice(cmbDevices.SelectedIndex);


Again, looks just like a piece of cake. Well, now lets take a look at "Screenshot source code:

Device selectedDevice = DeviceManager.GetDevice(cmbDevices.SelectedIndex);


I dont pay some special attention to the FrameGrabber () method. In my source code this method call leads to direct root system drive
saving of current frame. Of course thats not the way it should be, so dont forget to make all necessary changes before application field

Now its time to talk about how to create a simple but reliable CCNC system. Typically, such systems are based on two algorithms: two
frames distinguishing and a simple background simulation. Their implementation (source code) is quite a heavy thing, so I decided to go
an easier way at the last moment. That easy way includes the use of powerful, but so far little-known AForge.NET which is a framework
for .NET.

AForge.NET is primarily intended for developers and researchers. With its help, developers can greatly facilitate their work in developing
projects in the following areas: neural networks, image operation (filtering, image editing, per-pixel filtering, resizing, and image
rotation), genetics, robotics, interaction with video devices, etc. AForge.NET is delivered with good manual. It describes everything about
the product. Take the time to thoroughly read it. I especially like to mention about the quality of the product source code. Digging that
code is a real pleasure.

Now back to our immediate problem. Frankly, it can be solved as two and two by that framework means. "Then why did you give me soar
brain with that WinAPI functions?" Youll ask dissatisfiedly. Just to ensure that you wont be limited in anything. I think you know that
therere different kinds of project and in one case its more convenient to apply the .NET, but in some other case its easier to get away
with just a good old WinAPI.

Lets return to our problem again. Well have to take the MotionDetector class of the above mentioned framework in order to implement
the motion detector. The class excellently operates with Bitmap objects and allows a quick calculating of two images difference
percentage. Source code example:

MotionDetector detector = new MotionDetector(

new TwoFramesDifferenceDetector( ),
new MotionAreaHighlighting( ) );

// Next frame processing

if ( detector != null )
float motionLevel = detector.ProcessFrame( image );

if ( motionLevel > motionAlarmLevel )

flash = (int) ( 2 * ( 1000 / alarmTimer.Interval ) );

if ( detector.MotionProcessingAlgorithm is BlobCountingObjectsProcessing )
BlobCountingObjectsProcessing countingDetector = (BlobCountingObjectsProcessing) detector.MotionProcessingAlgorithm;
objectsCountLabel.Text = "Objects: " + countingDetector.ObjectsCount.ToString( );
objectsCountLabel.Text = "";

The above code (if not taking into count the MotionDetector class initialization) is performed when getting every next frame from the web
cam. After weve got a frame there follows a banal comparison (based on ProcessFrame method). If the motionlevel value is more then
motionLevelAlarm (0.015f) it means we should sound the alarm! Some motion is detected. One of the screenshots clearly demonstrates
the work of the motion detector.

Any web cam can be easily adapted for facial recognition and advanced system logon establishment. If after browsing all this material
you think that its difficult, then you're completely wrong! Late March, there appeared an example (and then a link to the article) on the
http://codeplex.com web site (OpenSource MS projects hosting), which demonstrated the implementation of the application for web cam
face detecting. Application example is based on the use of new opportunities of .NET and SilverLight. Its unreal to be reviewed within
the limit of one journal article, because the author of the source code tried to do everything elegant to the hilt. Here you can find as
algorithms for image handling (blur filter, noise reduction, pixel by pixel comparison, stretching, etc.) so the demonstration of the
SilverLight new products and much more. In other words, it gets the must use label with no doubt! See the project and article link

All application examples overviewed within the article will serve you a good start point. On the basis of those examples it is easy to
create a webcam professional tool and earn a few hundred bucks a quarter by selling it or create some greasy and creepy spy Trojan.

Bethink the story about the backup of Skype conversation. It was told there that the keyloggers time had already passed away. Now audio
and video data is extremely red hot. If you consider that nowadays, the webcam is a mandatory attribute of any laptop, it is easy to
imagine how many interesting videos you can shoot by putting off this kind of "useful program" to your victim... But, anyway, I told you
nothing about that, didnt I? :). Good luck in programming! Remember, if you got any questions just feel free to ask me.

http://blogs.msdn.com/ "Silverlight 4 real-time Face Detection" Russian version.
http://facelight.codeplex.com/ "Facelight" project is hosted up here. It allows real time face recognition. If youre going to code some
serious software for person identification or system logon, then youre simply obliged to check out this project.
http://www.aforgenet.com/framework/ AForge .NET - is an excellent and easy to use framework for video and image handling.
http://vr-online.ru All source code examples and a lot more information you can find at VR-Online project web site.