Posts Tagged ‘ camera

Playing with the Raspberry Pi’s camera

I recently picked up a camera module for the Raspberry Pi from Adafruit.  This post will serve to be notes to myself on how to use the dang thing.  There’s a lot of info on the web, so I’m going to collect what’s applicable to myself here.  This post will continue to evolve over time.

Note, I’m using a Macbook Air, so all software and commands are centric to OSX (10.8.5).

First off, you need some sort of stand for it.  I made one that should survive the Zombie Apocalypse out of some MicroRAX:


First Time Setup:

Based on the latest installation of Rasberian via NOOBS, the hardware installed easily, and was auto-detected by the Pi.  First time setup can be found here on


Official documentation can be downloaded off of Github.  The first time setup above covers many basics.

Camera forum can be found here.

Capturing and Viewing:

Important note:  You can’t view anything over VNC, and obviously you can’t do it via a ssh terminal.  This post explains the reasons behind it.  This is however, a bummer:  To run any of the “demo” code, you need to be viewing the Pi directly over hdmi.

Super Simple Commands:

You’ll find these on all the sites:

$ raspistill -o image.jpg
$ raspivid -o video.h264
$ raspivid -o video.h264 -t 10000

1 : Capture an image
2 : Capture a (5 second, default) video, at 1920×1080 (1080p)
3 : Capture a 10 second video (in milliseconds)

Viewing a video stream from the Pi on your Mac:

Need to instal mplayer on the Mac so you can access it from the command-line.  The best luck I had was to install it via macports.

$ sudo port selfupdate
$ sudo port install mplayer

Now, thanks to a post by spudnix from this thread, here’s how you can stream video from the Pi to your Mac:

Mac shell code to start netcat listening to port 5001, and piping that to mplayer:

$ nc -l 5001 | mplayer -fps 31 -cache 1024 -

Pi shell code to start streaming vid and pipe it to netcat on port 5001, shooting it to the mac’s local ip:

$ raspivid -t 999999 -o - | nc 5001

There’s a few second lag, but it worked right away.  My guess is the lag is because of the full 1080p signal being broadcast.  Dropping the resolution down had some lag at first, then caught up after a few minutes, odd:

$ raspivid -t 999999 -o -w 640 -h 480 - | nc 5001

Record raw video, convert to mp4, play:

The h264 video the camera records is “raw”.  To make it easily viewable by the Pi or Mac (or other PC’s) it needs to be converted.  Thanks to this post, here’s how you can do it:

First, you need to install gpac on the Pi, then run MP4Box (part of that install) to do the convert:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install -y gpac
$ MP4Box -fps 30 -add myvid.h264 myvid.mp4

To play video on the Pi, you need omxviewer.  I think it may come installed iwth NOOBS now(?), but if not:

$ sudo apt-get install omxplayer

Then play in a window (again, this doesn’t work over VNC, need to be on a monitor connected to the Pi) or to the HDMI port:

$ omxplayer myvid.mp4
$ omxplayer -p -o hdmi myvid.mp4

Copy data from the Pi to the Mac:

Once you record a nice video, how do you get it to your PC?  Presuming you have a ssh connection, execute this from a shell on your Mac, to copy the data from the Pi, to the Mac:

$ scp user_name@the_pi_ip:/path/to/source/file/on/pi /path/to/destination/file/on/pc

For example:

$ scp pi@ ~/macVid.mp4

Broadcast video to the Internet:

Using VLC

Thanks to this post, I was able to get the Pi cam streaming to the web, and viewable on my Mac (via the “middle” option they described).  It wasn’t entirely straight forward though, so these are the steps I went though:

Install VLC:

On the Pi, it’s easy:

$ sudo apt-get install vlc

On the Mac, at first, I tried to install it via Macports like so:

$ port install vlc

It took forever.  And while vlc was then available at the command line, it kept giving me missing plugin errors.  I found a App for it in my downloads folder (which I moved to Applications) and tried via the gui to “File -> Open Network…” : But it wouldn’t recognize the stream from my Pi (info below).  Soooo, I went to the official download page here, installed the App that way, and it started working!

Port Forward the Router:

I accessed my routers web page 192.168.x.x and via the “virtual servers” option, opened up port 8554 for outside listening.  I’m sure this process can vary widely per router.

Stream from the Pi:

After ssh’ing into the Pi, I executed this to start the video stream (note I knocked down the resolution from the default 1080p):

$ raspivid -w 640 -h 480 -o - -t 9999999 |cvlc -vvv stream:///dev/stdin --sout '#standard{access=http,mux=ts,dst=:8554}' :demux=h264

View via VLC:

I accessed “What’s My Ip” to find the external IP of my router.

Launching VLC, I accessed “File -> Open Network…”, and entered:

http://<ip of my router>:8554

And hit “open” :  Next popped up a (delayed by about 5 seconds) stream from my Pi’s cam.  Awesome.

Using MJPG-Streamer

It’s slightly more involved, but this tutorial shows how to broadcast video straight to a web page via MJPG-Streamer. All things considered, it’s really easy to setup.  I followed the tutorial my Miguel Mota, and it worked the first time I tried.  Nice!  :  “Raspberry Pi camera board video streaming

Miguel made two shell scripts, & that handle all the heavy lifting of starting and stopping all the services:  Make a copy of them to your home dir for easy execution.  Note, I changed them to up the resolution, jpg quality, and add a password to the site.  I only made one change:  Since I previously port-forwarded port 8554, I also changed their code to use that port, rather than 9000.

To add your own password, edit and change the line including the block of code below to include the “-c” stuff shown here, changing myUserName:myPassword appropriately.  Note, the -c argument must be inside the quotes, after the www, or things won’t work so well.

-o " -p 8554 -w /opt/mjpg-streamer/www -c myUserName:myPassword"

Then browse to:

http://<ip of your router>:8554/stream_simple.html

To login and start watching from the auto-generated web page!  Looks like I’m getting around 1fps.

raspistill Image Formats

--encoding <format>

The default is jpg, but you can change it, where <format> is jpg, bmp, gif, & png.  From the docs: “Note that unaccelerated image types (gif, png, bmp) will take much longer to save than JPG which is hardware accelerated.”

If using jpg, you can set the quality via:

--quality #

Where # is a value from 1 -> 100.  They say that 75 is a good number.

Python Bindings


Here on PyPi.  Official documentation here.  Source on Github here.  Forum discussion here.

Easy to install with pip:

$ sudo pip install picamera

I’ve successfully ran the quickstarts via Adafruit WebIDE successfully (while having the Pi hooked up over HDMI to preview the results).


Homepage here.  Source on over on Github.  It returns PIL Image objects.

$ sudo pip install

Project Links:

Refresh your Pi

It seems like I use my Raspberry Pi just often enough to forget everything about how I set it up the previous time.  Unlike an Arduino, it’s possible all sorts of new configuration \ updating will need to take place if it’s sat for a few months.  This post will serve mainly a notepad to myself on what I need to do to get it up and running again, and info on how to do fresh installs.

I’m sure this all can vary widely from user to user and Pi to Pi.

Great Linux/Unix command-line cheat-sheet: Web Site, PDF.

First Time Setup Guides

Just in case you do need to do everything from scratch:

The overall gist is:

  • Format SD
  • Download Linux distro and install on card
    • Most recently, I used Pi Filler (looks like Mac only)  : It does both the format and install.
    • Look here for other solutions.
  • Once the pi is up and running, via the settings menu:  (run > raspi-config to get there from the commandline)
    • Expand the root partition:  This is only needed for older distro installs.  If you’re using NOOBS, it should be auto-expanded.
    • Set screen overscan (if wanted)
    • Configure keyboard
    • Change password (if wanted)
    • Set locale, timezone
    • Enable ssh & boot behavior
  • Optionally you can then try to make a new user, but I’ve not found a need yet.  And when I do it, I tend to screw it all up permission-wise.
  • Install VNC (so you access the Pi’s gui remotely)

Linux Distros

I’m the last person you want to ask about which distro to use, but the two main one’s I have used are Raseberian, and Occidentalis.  Rasberian is now installed as part of NOOBS, and it’s a much easier install than in the past.

  • NOOBS : From the page:  “We recommend that first-time Pi users start by downloading and installing our New Out of Box Software (NOOBS) onto a 4GB (or larger) SD card. On first boot, this presents you with a choice of operating systems to install, including Raspbian, Pidora and two flavours of XBMC. Once you have installed an operating system, you can return to the NOOBS interface by holding down shift during boot; this allows you to switch to a different operating system, or overwrite a corrupted card with a fresh install of the current one.”
  • Occidentalis : From the page : “Our distro is based on “Wheezy” but comes with hardware SPI, I2C, one wire, and WiFi support for our wifi adapters. It also has some things to make overall hacking easier such sshd on startup (with key generation on first boot) and  Bonjour (so you can simply ssh raspberrypi.local from any computer on the local network)”

Get into the Pi

It’s been a while, how do I do that?  I forgot where my  surplus usb keyboard is & the wifey is using the spare hdmi cable…

(To do a first-time setup of SSH & VNC, see the post, “Connecting the Mac to the Pi“)

First, SSH:

This will let external machines talk to the Pi.  The primary way I interact with the Pi.
Connect the pi to the network (I use cat5).
There’s a good chance the dynamic ip has changed.  From another computer, access the router and click on the ‘DHCP Client List’ to find the new ip of the Pi.
Or, if you have the Pi plugged into a monitor \ keyboard, you can enter the below command, and look for the “inet addr”

$ sudo ifconfig

Open a shell.  ssh into the Pi:

$ ssh <pi ip address> -l <userName>

Enter password.  Hopefully it lets you in…

This can fail though on a new install.  I get this on my mac:

Someone could be eavesdropping on you right now (man-in-the-middle attack)!

If this happens, lower down in the error it will have this line:

The fingerprint for the RSA key sent by the remote host is

And right below that, is an address.  Copy that address, browse (on the mac) here:


Edit that file (known_hosts), and find the section starting with the local ip of your pi.  At the end of that section, add a ‘+’, then paste in the address copied above.

When you try to re-ssh back in, it will ask you if you want to add this new host, and say “yes”.  Enter the password, and you should be good!

Copying files over SSH:

Once you have a ssh connection, you can copy data from one machine to another.

From a terminal on your PC (in my case, a Mac):

Copy data from the Pi to the PC:

$ scp pi@you_pis_ip:/path/to/source/file/on/pi /path/to/destination/file/on/pc

For example:

$ scp pi@ ~/macVid.mp4

Copy data from your PC to the Pi:

$ scp /path/to/source/file/on/pc pi@you_pis_ip:/path/to/destination/file/on/pi

For example:

$ scp ~/macVid.mp4 pi@

I should note that I’ve not got this to work over SSH from a terminal on the Pi.  But once a ssh connection is open, I can execute these from a terminal on my Mac just fine.

Copying files via SFTP

If you want a more robust solution to copying files to\from the Pi, SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) is a good solution. The post HERE by Trevor Appleton covers how to set it up using FileZilla.  Provides a super easy way via the FileZilla gui to drag & drop files.

Second, VNC:

Once you’ve ssh’d in to the Pi, optionally you can access the desktop via VNC.

If not yet installed, install it:

$ sudo apt-get install tightvncserver

Then start the server:

$ vncserver :1

To start the server.
On your other PC, access the VNC Viewer app.
Set the VNC server address to <pi ip address>:1
Connect:  You should see your Pi’s desktop on your PC.

Update Pi Configuration

Not always needed, but if you need to access the global configuration on the pi, from the shell enter:

$ raspi-config

When done, if a reboot is needed:

$ sudo reboot

Optionally, to safely shutdown the Pi (rather than just unplugging it, which I’m told can be hard on the sd card) :

$ sudo shutdown -h now

Auto Login

Check out the post here:  Raspberry Salad Part 3: Auto-run program on startup

General linux commands

  • ifconfig : network info
  • pgrep <process name> : Return the process id
  • kill <process id> : delete the process
  • lsusb : Get attached usb device info

Setup WiFi

Adafruit has a good overview here.  Note that their section on “Setting up WiFi with the graphic interface” works, but the Pi will only start using WiFi when the gui is up.  If you want wifi to be there at the commandline as soon as the Pi boots, you need to follow their  “Setting up WiFi with the Command Line” tutorial.

Note, I’ve needed to have the pi connected to a monitor\keyboard\mouse to get this setup properly.   Having the Pi hooked up over lan and ssh’d in seems to override the WiFi with the lan, and I can’t get the IP.  Maybe I’m not smart enough.

Check to see if it’s working:

$ ping

BUUUUT, I’d had problems with loosing connection over wifi.  After getting a tip from this thread, I added this line:

wireless-power off



But that didn’t help anything.  So then I tried the recommendations from this thread (since it’s based on the chipset of the wifi dongle I got from Adafruit) to:

$ sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/8192cu.conf

and add this code to it:

# Disable power management
options 8192cu rtw_power_mgnt=0

But after a reboot, it still didn’t work well.  In fact it got even harder to ssh in, it would constantly “Operation timed out”.  So I decided to connect the wifi dongle to my powered usb hub.  When I removed it from the Pi, it was really hot:  Power issues?

After plugging the wifi dongle into the  powered hub, and the hub into the Pi, nothing seemed to be working.  I had to power it on\off twice (over lan).  Bu by the 3rd time the wifi dongle started blinking, apparently recognized.  From there I set the Pi to pinging google. com, and my mac to ping the Pi.  So far, so good, internet radio is streaming.

So it looks like the Pi can’t provide enough, or stable enough power to the wifi dongle over it’s own usb port?   That seems… really annoying.

FINALLY, I bought a new wifi dongle:  It worked immediately.  So lesson to you all.  If you have these problems, spend $10 and get a new dongle…

Setup Camera

This post from covers it all.

A really good tutorial covering how you can capture raw  h264 videos, convert them to mp4, the play them on the Pi can be found here: Capturing HD Video With The Pi Camera Module.

And, my own setup guide here: “Playing with the Raspberry Pi’s Camera

Software Update

I use the apt-get package manager.

Update your cache:

$ sudo apt-get update

Search the cache for software:

$ sudo apt-cache search <someString>

Upgrade all the software on the Pi (can take a while… hours…)

$ sudo apt-get upgrade

Install new software:

sudo apt-get install <package>

Remove old software.  remove can leave some dependencies behind, purge deletes it all.

$ sudo apt-get remove <package>
$ sudo apt-get purge <package>

Adafruit WebIDE

The Adafruit WebIDE is a great way to program on the Pi from some other computer over ssh.  All the code is managed in the cloud via Bitbucket.   Setup guide HERE.

The general process is:

Note if you’re ‘refreshing’ an old Pi, the WebIDE may no longer recognize it.  In that case, log into your Bitbucket account, and in the “Manage Account -> Integrated Applications” menu, remove any “Consumers” and “OAut Consumers”, and then follow the setup guide to create a new one.


Scratch-pad area of different packages used based on projects I’ve done, or learned about, and probably forgotten about.

To get a list of all the packages installed:

$ dpkg -l

This post has a great overview of many packages to install: Linux & Python Packages for my Raspberry Pi

Presuming you have pip installed, you can use this to get a list of all Python packages installed:

$ pip freeze --local


Thanks to this post, I learned about these first three apps:


$ alsamixer

Alsamixer is part of the distro, and has a simple command-line interface & gui.  Gives you a simple way to adjust volume, etc.


MPD is the “Music Player Daemon”.  From the page it is “an audio player that has a server-client architecture. It plays audio files, organizes playlists and maintains a music database all while using very few resources. In order to interface with it, a separate client is needed.”

One of those clients is MPC.  It is “a minimalist command line interface to MPD, not to be confused with musepack.”

To install the two at once:

$ sudo apt-get install mpc mpd

To add internet stream(s) to play (Let’s play some Groove Salad):

$ mpc add

To play a specific stream:

$ mpc play 1


I used MPlayer as part of my Raspberry FM internet music streamer.


$ sudo apt-get install mplayer

Play a stream:

$ mplayer

Lot more MPlayer configuration from this post : “Raspberry Salad Part 2: Raspberry FM


Minecraft Pi

Why wouldn’t you want to play Minecraft on you Pi?

Note, Minecraft Pi doesn’t work for me over VNC:  The application launches, but all I see is a black window.  You need to have the Pi directly connected to a monitor/keyboard/mouse.

FYI, it needs to be ran via the XWindows gui mode, so be sure to launch it first via

$ startx

Open a LXTerminal window:  Download (to your home dir), install (then remove the tar), & run:

$ cd ~
$ wget
$ tar -zxvf minecraft-pi-0.1.1.tar.gz
$ rm minecraft-pi-0.1.1.tar.gz
$ cd mcpi
$ ./minecraft-pi


First off, be sure to get pip installed:

$ sudo apt-get install python-pip

Once that’s installed, you can use pip to pull down all other Python packages needed.  This is preferred to using apt-get, this  post does a pretty good job of explaining why.  That being said, I’ve been unable to use pip to install certain packages (like matplotlib), and apt-get works fine.  However, once installed by apt-get, pip recognizes them.

See what Python packages you have installed:

$ pip freeze


You’ll need this to access the Pi’s GPIO pins in Python:

$ sudo pip install RPi.GPIO


$ sudo pip install pySerial


I’ve been unable to get PIL installed via pip.  But apt-get seems to work:

$ sudo apt-get install python-imaging


Again, pip fails for some reason.

$ sudo apt-get install python-scipy


This wil install OpenCV, and the Python bindings:

$ sudo apt-get install libopencv-dev python-opencv

Some links:

Other Hardware


This Instructable has a really good overview of how to instal all the necessary packages to get your Pi to talk to an Arduino: “Arduino / Raspberry Pi Internet Radio“.

$ apt-get install arduino

And other Python dependencies:

$ sudo pip install nanpy
$ sudo pip install pyserial

Android Adventures, part 5: access the camera in Processing

Go to part 4…, part 6…

This became far more difficult than anything previous I’d tried to do with the hardware :)

I thought it would be a simple matter to access the camera’s pixel data in Processing, but that was not the case.   And I should point out I can’t take credit for everything below:  The camera passes back a byte stream encoded in YUV format, that my brain simply couldn’t\wouldn’t decode.  I’d already ran across the Ketai library before (here, & here), and discovered that they had written a YUV decoder function (since they’ve already completed this exercise I’m trying…), so my solution below uses a direct implementation of their code.  So a huge thank you to that project!

As well, I used concepts for my CameraSurfaceView class from examples in the book  Android Wireless Application Development, page 340.

At any rate, it works.  Camera pixel data is passed to Processing, and displayed as a PImage on the screen.  It’s not fast (1 fps?), which is a bit disappointing, but it’s a start!

Eric Pavey - 2010-11-15

Set Sketch Permissions : CAMERA
Add to AndroidManifest.xml:
    uses-feature android:name=""
    uses-feature android:name=""

import android.content.Context;
import android.hardware.Camera;
import android.hardware.Camera.PreviewCallback;
import android.view.SurfaceHolder;
import android.view.SurfaceHolder.Callback;
import android.view.SurfaceView;
import android.view.Surface;

// Setup camera globals:
CameraSurfaceView gCamSurfView;
// This is the physical image drawn on the screen representing the camera:
PImage gBuffer;

void setup() {
  size(screenWidth, screenHeight, A2D);

void draw() {
  // nuttin'... onPreviewFrame below handles all the drawing.

// Override the parent (super) Activity class:
// States onCreate(), onStart(), and onStop() aren't called by the sketch.  Processing is entered
// at the 'onResume()' state, and exits at the 'onPause()' state, so just override them:

void onResume() {
  // Sete orientation here, before Processing really starts, or it can get angry:

  // Create our 'CameraSurfaceView' objects, that works the magic:
  gCamSurfView = new CameraSurfaceView(this.getApplicationContext());


class CameraSurfaceView extends SurfaceView implements SurfaceHolder.Callback, Camera.PreviewCallback {
  // Object that accesses the camera, and updates our image data
  // Using ideas pulled from 'Android Wireless Application Development', page 340

  SurfaceHolder mHolder;
  Camera cam = null;
  Camera.Size prevSize;

  // SurfaceView Constructor:  : ---------------------------------------------------
  CameraSurfaceView(Context context) {
    // Processing PApplets come with their own SurfaceView object which can be accessed
    // directly via its object name, 'surfaceView', or via the below function:
    // mHolder = surfaceView.getHolder();
    mHolder = getSurfaceHolder();
    // Add this object as a callback:

  // SurfaceHolder.Callback stuff: ------------------------------------------------------
  void surfaceCreated (SurfaceHolder holder) {
    // When the SurfaceHolder is created, create our camera, and register our
    // camera's preview callback, which will fire on each frame of preview:
    cam =;

    Camera.Parameters parameters = cam.getParameters();
    // Find our preview size, and init our global PImage:
    prevSize = parameters.getPreviewSize();
    gBuffer = createImage(prevSize.width, prevSize.height, RGB);

  void surfaceChanged(SurfaceHolder holder, int format, int w, int h) {
    // Start our camera previewing:

  void surfaceDestroyed (SurfaceHolder holder) {
    // Give the cam back to the phone:
    cam = null;

  //  Camera.PreviewCallback stuff: ------------------------------------------------------
  void onPreviewFrame(byte[] data, Camera cam) {
    // This is called every frame of the preview.  Update our global PImage.
    // Decode our camera byte data into RGB data:
    decodeYUV420SP(gBuffer.pixels, data, prevSize.width, prevSize.height);
    // Draw to screen:
    image(gBuffer, 0, 0);

  //  Byte decoder : ---------------------------------------------------------------------
  void decodeYUV420SP(int[] rgb, byte[] yuv420sp, int width, int height) {
    // Pulled directly from:
    final int frameSize = width * height;

    for (int j = 0, yp = 0; j < height; j++) {       int uvp = frameSize + (j >> 1) * width, u = 0, v = 0;
      for (int i = 0; i < width; i++, yp++) {
        int y = (0xff & ((int) yuv420sp[yp])) - 16;
        if (y < 0)
          y = 0;
        if ((i & 1) == 0) {
          v = (0xff & yuv420sp[uvp++]) - 128;
          u = (0xff & yuv420sp[uvp++]) - 128;

        int y1192 = 1192 * y;
        int r = (y1192 + 1634 * v);
        int g = (y1192 - 833 * v - 400 * u);
        int b = (y1192 + 2066 * u);

        if (r < 0)
           r = 0;
        else if (r > 262143)
           r = 262143;
        if (g < 0)
           g = 0;
        else if (g > 262143)
           g = 262143;
        if (b < 0)
           b = 0;
        else if (b > 262143)
           b = 262143;

        rgb[yp] = 0xff000000 | ((r << 6) & 0xff0000) | ((g >> 2) & 0xff00) | ((b >> 10) & 0xff);

Go to part 4…, part 6…