Poor Video Quality - Laptop Monitor Too Bright

tetris445

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Hi everyone,

I wasn't sure where I could ask this question. Does anyone have experience with or knowledge about filming computer/laptop monitors/screens.

In each recording, all else is decent but the image of the laptop screen is far too bright to make out anything. I think it doesn't help that the location of the cam is in a brightly lit area with several windows. But I did another recording at night with low lighting and the screen was even worse. This is the only location I can have my current camera.

Is it impossible to get a clear image of the laptop screen or do I just need a super high quality/more expensive camera?? Or maybe the location of the camera needs to change/be closer too?

It's crucial that the laptop screen and all activity on it can be clearly viewed.

I would deeply appreciate any help. Thanks.
 

J Sigmo

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People forget that security camera use is exactly like any other photography.

There is always a limit to the dynamic range (the range of brightnesses) that can be captured. I always point out that any camera system can only capture a "slice" of the scene's dynamic range. And when you set the exposure, you are selecting which slice you want to capture. Anything too bright will be "blown out", and anything too dark will be lost in the noise.

This is made worse by the lack of spot or zone metering in these security cameras. They tend to use average metering for their auto exposure, where they set their exposure based on the average brightness of the entire scene.

If the laptop will always be in the same place, you can get a camera with the focal length lens that allows you to capture only the laptop screen and nothing else. That will allow the camera's averaging exposure metering system to make the correct adjustment.

It will also give you a much better chance of seeing what's on the screen.

On the other hand, if the computer will not be in the same position at all times, then you may need to employ a PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera so you can aim it at, and zoom in on, the computer screen. But that will require you to be there to aim and zoom the camera.

Even if the camera has enough resolution that you could read the screen while capturing the whole room, then you still have the problem of somehow adjusting the exposure for the computer screen at the expense of seeing everything else.

If the user never adjusts the brightness of their computer display, and the computer doesn't auto adjust its display brightness, you may be able to manually set the camera's exposure and achieve what you want (again, sacrificing exposure for the rest of the scene).

Spying on someone's computer screen is possible, just not extremely easy. It may not be legal or ethical, either, depending on the situation, of course.
 

tetris445

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Dear J Sigmo,

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your knowledge with me and write a reply. I admit I know nothing about cameras. Making all these 'exposure' adjustments is beyond my capability and the minicam I bought - it isn't possible to adjust any settings except for a text document time stamp. Also to my hindrance - it's wireless and can only record 1 hour. It's clear I would need more professional equipment and someone with the skills to set it up correctly.

I just bought what I could because at this point I'm desperate. I initially didn't want to put personal details here, but the camera is for my own house/living room.

I'm a young adult female who believes an older adult family member has been spying on me in own bedroom with cameras I can't detect. Maybe my method of trying to get evidence isn't ethical - but the few details that I am able to make out in my recording only solidifies my belief.

But because the screen is too bright - things just aren't clear enough. And it's not good enough to be less than 100% certain I'm right.

I feel pretty helpless now but maybe there's a better solution for my problem. I'll keep searching. ((I'm not sure if having someone edit the recording to improve the quality is a possible option.))

Thanks again for your help.
 

alastairstevenson

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spying on me in own bedroom with cameras I can't detect.
Suggestion:
Install the 'Fing' app on your smartphone and scan the house LAN for attached devices.
This has the ability to find and identify any devices that use the house network, and will be able to pinpoint devices that provide a video stream such as a surveillance camera, assuming that such a camera is connected via WiFi to the house network.

Members here will be happy to help interpret any results and suggest how to probe possible candidates further.
Don't worry about exposing results that include IP addresses - these will be commonly used and not private.

Do you have a link to the camera that you bought?
 

bp2008

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Have you considered installing a program on that computer that records its activity? You're on your own to find and pick one that will meet your needs, and to determine its risks/legality, and to get it installed. You'd likely need to know the computer's password at the very least, since such a program would almost certainly require admin privilege to install and run.
 

fenderman

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Take a flashlight (a really powerful led, not your cell phone) and start looking for the camera, in ac vents, outlets, anything that has a hole in it, once your are looking for them they become obvious.
 

TL1096r

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Suggestion:
Install the 'Fing' app on your smartphone and scan the house LAN for attached devices.
This has the ability to find and identify any devices that use the house network, and will be able to pinpoint devices that provide a video stream such as a surveillance camera, assuming that such a camera is connected via WiFi to the house network.

Members here will be happy to help interpret any results and suggest how to probe possible candidates further.
Don't worry about exposing results that include IP addresses - these will be commonly used and not private.

Do you have a link to the camera that you bought?
Yes almost like this:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/06/they-were-settling-into-their-airbnb-then-they-found-hidden-camera/

And it is still listed with airbnb

Do these work - they seem like tons of models and variations of this device:
https://www.amazon.com/Detector-Detectors-Locates-Excursions-Bathrooms-Pocket/dp/B07WDBCM5W
 

th182

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Have you had experience with that specific camera detector? Thinking of ordering one to play around with!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

TL1096r

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Have you had experience with that specific camera detector? Thinking of ordering one to play around with!


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No. I never tried one but always thought it would be good to have anytime I am at a hotel/airbnb but never got around to buying it. It is fairly cheap to test it out.
 

J Sigmo

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One common design feature of digital cameras is that they employ filters over their sensors for various reasons. Those filters are flat glass plates, and therefore quite reflective.

Some light that enters through a digital camera's lens will strike these filters and be reflected back out through the lens at the same angle from which it entered. This is sort of like a retroreflector.

Thus, even if you're not looking straight-on at a digital camera, if you shine a light at the camera, you will receive a strong reflection straight back at the light source.

So laser devices exist that can scan an area and discover digital cameras (as long as they don't have a closed mechanical shutter) by these reflections.

Here is a gadget that appears to work on this same principle, but is much simpler, only using some bright visible LEDs arranged in a ring around an opening that you look through. This gets your eye where it needs to be with respect to the light source so you can see the reflection from a digital camera.

You can probably do the same thing with a flashlight held so that your eye is sighting along the light path.

SpyFinder Pro Hidden Camera Detector

It also seems like you could build one of these for a small fraction of the price asked for this gadget, but it shows the concept.
 

alastairstevenson

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It also seems like you could build one of these for a small fraction of the price asked for this gadget, but it shows the concept.
That does seem like a stupidly high price for what it is.

You can probably do the same thing with a flashlight held so that your eye is sighting along the light path.
That sounds like a good suggestion.
 

tetris445

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Everyone,

Thanks so much for your helpful replies. I really appreciate it (and for not just calling me paranoid or something..).


@alastairstevenson
I installed Fing and messed around with it a lot today. I think all the devices were recognizable – but I did see my iPhone was listed twice for some reason, and the IP address given for one of them is not the real IP of my phone and way different from all the other IP addresses.

I IP searched some online and it seems a lot of the IPs for the devices on my network are “bogons” or something – which I was reading is bad/shady. There’s also a device that just says ‘generic’ and doesn’t give more info.

Before this, I’ve checked the devices on my network on my laptop/WiFi range and didn’t see any weird connections/devices either…

Link to the camera I got. (I can’t exactly be spending too much right now.)
https://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Portable-Activated-DORISO-Security/dp/B07VSP5KJM


@bp2008
I didn’t even think about that. It sounds really tempting too – so much simpler than trying to set a camera up or something and I could see everything for sure. I feel it would definitely be on the not legal side though.. and I’d be worried they’d notice the program. I think this person may be using a similar program on my own computer though (like keylogger) and I can’t find any trace if they are.

(I liked the idea of a camera because it can show them on their laptop doing all these things. Otherwise they/others could claim/think I just installed the cameras in my room myself if i'm so capable to install sneaky things on this persons laptop, like planted ‘evidence’)


@fenderman / @J Sigmo
I tried your suggestions with a regular flashlight this time but couldn’t find anything. I’ve tried in the past with my iPhone flashlight too and a couple of lousy ‘hidden camera detector’ apps.


If it won't be too expensive, maybe I can just get a professional to scan for cameras and check my devices or something. If even they can't find anything...
 

alastairstevenson

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I installed Fing and messed around with it a lot today. I think all the devices were recognizable – but I did see my iPhone was listed twice for some reason, and the IP address given for one of them is not the real IP of my phone and way different from all the other IP addresses.
OK - so you've scanned the network and have a list of the devices found.
What would be interesting now would be to get Fing to check what ports are listening on those devices.
A normal IP CCTV camera, even on WiFi, would have a recognisable set of listening ports.
If you believe that the laptop is being used to view the suspected camera, there is a good chance the camera would be on the LAN, therefore visible to Fing.

The port scan is under the Fing Network tab :
Service Port Scan: a secondary scan of your individual devices to check for opened ports with available services living on them. For some services, such as Web, FTP, SSH, Samba you can launch a connection with the service directly from the app (for the Web service, Fing will launch your web browser, for other services Fing will suggest other well-known apps you can download to handle those services).
Of particular interest would be devices showing HTTP (80 or 8080) or RTSP (554) or in fact any that have ports listening.
Most devices should show no listening ports.
 

bp2008

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For the sake of experimentation, I took the brightest flashlight I have (a really bright one meant for mounting on a bicycle at night) and pointed it at my cams. I had to hold the light nearly between my eyes in order to get the strongest reflection from the camera lenses, but it did work.

I did see my iPhone was listed twice for some reason, and the IP address given for one of them is not the real IP of my phone and way different from all the other IP addresses.
The "different" one may have been an ipv6 address. Nothing to worry about.
 

Will.I.Am

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Another trick that will work on cameras with ir lamps (likely if some unscrupulous individual wants to spy on someone) is to turn the lights off to the ir kicks in.
Sometimes you'll even hear a noticeable click, but if not, you can point your mobile phone camera around the room and you'll pretty clearly see anything emitting ir.

Unfortunately it doesn't work on iPhones (not that I've ever found anyway) but on most android phones you'll get a purple glow through your camera if you're looking at an ir lamp .

The easiest way to tell if your phone camera (or a borrowed one) can see the ir lamp is to point a TV remote at the camera on your phone. You don't need to take a picture, you'll actually see the purple glow right on the screen if your phone camera can see it.
 
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tetris445

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@alastairstevenson
Out of the 10 devices, 3 had ports. Our router had 5 (including 80); fire stick had 1 (8009 apache jserv protocol 1.3); and smart tv had 6.
Seems no sight of a camera after all.

@bp2008
Got ya. Glad it's okay.

@Will.I.Am
Thanks for that info. Tried it with a TV remote and you're right, doesn't seem to work with iPhones.
 

alastairstevenson

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Out of the 10 devices, 3 had ports. Our router had 5 (including 80); fire stick had 1 (8009 apache jserv protocol 1.3); and smart tv had 6.
Seems no sight of a camera after all.
You've done OK checking that.

So maybe ...
Not powered on at the time you checked, if it's a network-based device.
Not a live device that could be found on the network that the laptop is connecting to.
A stand-alone camera could record to an SD card which could then be viewed off-line on a laptop.
I could do that for example with my bike helmet cam. It's a small cylindrical camera 25mm x 90mm, 1080P, a couple of hours battery life, no IR LEDs, SD card.
 

Will.I.Am

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It could also be a wifi camera that isn't connected to the main home network but creates its own hotspot.
I use WiFi analyser on android which will show you all the hotspots near you as well as their signal strength, I'm sure something similar is available for the iPhone
 

bp2008

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The smallest hidden cameras are probably analog anyway, so they won't show up on a network or in any wifi scanner. However they also won't usually be viewable on a laptop without an obvious video receiver device of some kind plugged in to the laptop.
 

jack7

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To get a good monitor picture, you might try an old phone. Most better phones lately have lots of pixels that you can zoom in on for the monitor image. Just have to be able to hide it where the little lense is exposed. You may only need to take snapshots at a proper interval or perhaps a time lapse video. App may be needed to do interval or time lapse. Just store everything in a big memory or micro SD card. My 12MP camera has no problem getting good monitor images from 30ft varying in light conditions, but it depends on what you want to see.

More on finding a hidden camera:
How to Detect Hidden Cameras and Microphones
 
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