Infrared (IR) Webcam




Introduction: Infrared (IR) Webcam

This guide will tell you how to modify your webcam so that it catches the infrared spectrum rather than the visible light one.

You will need:
- 1 webcam
- A screwdriver
- Some black processed film (find some old 35mm negatives and use the unexposed start block)

Total time: around 15 minutes.

Step 1: Disassemble

Ensure the webcam is disconnected from the computer.

Remove any base the webcam may have. You then need to remove any exterior screws (use the screwdriver). The case should then separate to reveal the insides, however if it doesn't try and prise the case apart using the end of a flat screwdriver or penknife. You shouldn't need too much force, and remember to check under pads and stickers for screws.

You may also want to remove the USB connection lead from the main board to give you more movement if the cable's position is fixed.

Step 2: Remove PCB and Lens Enclosure

Remove the PCB (the main chip) and the lens enclosure. Since this is basically the whole of the insides in most cases, you need to remove all the casing. When handling the PCB (usually green), try not to touch it too much, and attempt to handle it by the edges. The same goes for the lens.

You should end up with something like the one shown in the pictures.

Step 3: Seperate the Lens Enclosure From the PCB

Next you need to try and separate the unit containing the lens (the bit which faced the outside world) from the PCB chip. In my case this was connected by two screws and a sticky pad, although yours may be different.


Put the PCB to one side, but try and cover the newly exposed area so that dust can't get to it.

Step 4: Disassemble the Lens Enclosure

This lens unit will probably unscrew apart into two pieces (used for focusing). The section which attaches to the PCB is probably the spacer, and only holds the other section with the lens in a set distance from the main light sensor, however the filter we are after could be in the connecting part too (you will probably work out if it is if you can't find the filter in a minute).

Step 5: Find the Filter!

This is the main step.

Look at the section with the lens (right in the picture) and try and get it under different lights. We are looking for a filter here, and it will probably have a red/pink/blue tint if you look at the right angle.

When you have found it, you need to remove it (carefully - it is glass). In my case, I had to snap a () ring out, although it had been well glued, so I needed to break it out to release the filter. When you have the filter, you will probably want to put it to one side in safety (you no longer need it, but if you ever one to reverse the modification you will need it).

Now you need to cut two (yes 2) squares of film out of your stash (black processed film - find some old 35mm negatives and use the unexposed start block). Clean them off best you can (remember the light goes through here, so any dust is going to leave a black dot on all your images), and put them in the place that the filter was before you removed it (this can take some patience) one on top of the other. Then do your best to put any holder back in place (like my () ring) to stop the film falling out.

Step 6: Reassemble

Now all you need to do is reassemble the webcam, and you are ready to go!



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47 Discussions

Lots of grandstanding here that doesn't answer his question. You see stars? The entire spectrum of light from IR to UV traveled hundreds of millions of miles to get here without attenuation. CO2 is the only thing in the air that can absorb IR radiation, but the concentration is too low to affect a picture quality at the resolution of a webcam video.

They both travel at the same speed (the speed of light through a given material applies to all electromagnetic radiation).

All EM waves (light, microwave, IR, Gamma ETC) have 1 constant speed in a vacuum, but in a given medium the speed at which they travel is frequency dependent.

Low frequencies travel much slower than higher frequencies (remembering the old "Low is SLow" thing from my physics class) but go further than higher frequencies. They are also attenuated less. However, the resolution is not going to be awesome. Not much bandwidth to work with.

Higher frequencies have a tendency to be attenuated more because of a wavelength's relationship with the size of the particles its striking.

Too long; Didn't read version:

Lower frequencies can travel further without getting as attenuated. Higher frequencies just get all jiggidy-jacked when traveling great distances.

So, yes. IR will travel further than say optical or gamma or Ultra Violet.

The only thing that keeps electromagnetic radiation, like visible light and IR, from traveling forever is hitting something and being absorbed or being reflected (bouncing off) or refracted (bent to a new direction). The difference between different wavelengths is their likelihood of being absorbed by what they are moving through. In air near the earth's surface the air and water vapor absorb red and infrared better than the blue/violet/UV end of the spectrum. This part of the reason why the sky looks blue even though our sun is more red/yellow. So basically, visible light travels "farther" than IR.

The sky is blue due to Rayleigh scattering. The high frequency light (blues) have a shorter wavelength and a higher energy than IR light. The gas molecules in the atmosphere can absorb these higher frequency spectrum and then releases that energy in the form of a photon at a random direction (hence scattering). A particular photon's ability to propagate farther than another photon of varying energy level depends on the medium they are propagating in. Typically, lower frequency (longer wavelength) electromagnetic energy can travel longer distances through mediums than higher energy photons. In some cases, a goldy locks situation occurs in which a certain frequency band is "just right" where as higher or lower frequency bands may not travel well through a medium. Such a medium exists (Sio2) and is widely used for fiber optic communications (which utilizes the IR band). I hope this was helpful.

Thanks for the tutorial. My webcam was very different, and I used a floppy disc instead of exposed film, and part of a DVD to add the piece necessary to get the focus to work. I spent (many) hours making it as perfect as possible, and I am really impressed by the sharpness and overall quality of the resulting images.

Here are some sample pictures using the floppy disc method. Taken with a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000.

here are some pictures to demonstrate (all taken during the day with my webcam pointed out the window and such) the greyish one you see is with the infared filter (technically for use with photographic cameras using infared film, or just digital cameras) second one you see (the white one) is the picture that my webcam sees without the infared filter on it. third one (the black one) is a picture of me sitting in my room with the infared filter over my camera (whilst sitting next to the window with the blinds open) :D photo film does block out some visible and let the infared shine through more, but these types of filters block out all visible light and only let infared through (interpreted as the grayscale by digital cameras) enjoy ;D

Picture 97.jpgPicture 99.jpgPicture 100.jpg

lol i just threw my infared light filter for my 35mm film camera over my webcam xD got some neat pics during the day, but if theres no sunlight in my room or anythin all i can see is the flash of the infared led off of my remotes xD

Im doing this project due to the usb wires being ripped out of my old web cam.
long story short can any one who has worked on one of these tell me what color order the the wires go on the board. I need to solder them on an want to be sure there right.

OK, would something like this give me something akin to heat vision?  I'm wanting to use something to detect the less insulated spots in my house where I am losing the most heat in the winter (or cold in the summer).

1 reply

no it is not sensitive enoigh..I played with one of those cameras at a place i used to work looks like a medium size vhs camcorder...difference is the special ir ccd is cooled by a liquid cooled heatsink.. the other end of the tubing is in a small cooler of dry ice on a small cart along with a small car batt for power...these are used to scan electrical breaker panels in large factories for overloaded circuits..looks like a washed out black/white negative..the whiter spots are the hottest...on a human the hottest spots are (clothed)..not the arm pits or supperisingly not even the groin area...but the eyes ...on each side of the nose very close...let me play while they had a smoke...the color camera would be more need the great cooling & temp diff for sensitivity

Can you tell me what's your webcam? Looks pretty easy to handle inside.

Darkness for eye yes. The camera is picking up light on an invisible side of the spectrum. If it were true darkness, without even infrared, it wouldn't work.

The black film blocks out visible light, so that the chip only receives IR light.

if the black film blocks out visible light, then wouldn't really dark sunglasses lenses work too?

No, sunglasses are made so that if the sensor (your eye) is close to the lens it can see through. The film is more opaque to the human eye than sunglasses.