How Webcams Work

Advanced Features

Once you manage the simple system, you can look into other Webcam features and settings like:

  • Motion sensing - The Webcam takes a new picture when it detects motion.
  • Image archiving - You can create an archive that saves all of your Webcam images or only certain images at pre-set intervals.
  • Video messaging - Some instant messenger programs support Webcam video.
  • Advanced connections - Use wired or wireless methods to connect your home-theater A/V equipment to your Webcam.
  • Automation - Robotic cameras let you set a series of pan/tilt positions and program frame-capture settings based on the position of the camera.
  • Streaming media - For professional applications, a Webcam setup can use MPEG4 compression to achieve true streaming audio and video (this is the compression system used in most of the popular PC-based media players).
  • Custom coding - Import your own computer code to tell the Webcam what to do.

One example of custom coding is a set of commands that makes a Webcam image automatically refresh. The simple Webcam system we've set up in this article produces a static image. Users have to refresh the image manually (by pushing the Refresh button in the browser) if they want to see any changes. There are three different techniques you can use to create automatic refreshing:


  • You can add a meta tag to the HTML for the page so that the page refreshes at some frequency. The tag to add is: <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="30"> The "30" is the number of seconds between each refresh and can be set to anything you like. The entire page will reload every 30 seconds, so it is beneficial to keep the page short.
  • You can add a Java applet to your site. The Webcam32 and Java Applets page explains how to obtain and install the free applet. The applet is a program that automatically fetches the image periodically. The advantage is that only the image refreshes, not the entire page. Most browsers support Java applets, so most of your viewers will have no problem.
  • You can use JavaScript, as demonstrated on The JavaScript Source: Refresh (look at the source code on this page). You can also check out How Java Works for a detailed look at Java programming.