How to Monitor Your Home Remotely With Skype

SkypeCall

Want to peek in on your dog ? Have an elderly parent or friend that you want to check up on ? Don’t have the time or cash to shell out for a dedicated web based camera solution ?

If you have a spare laptop with a camera, you can install Skype and have your call answered automatically so that you can get a full audio and video peek at any time using your mobile phone.

SkypeCall

A note of caution, this method using Skype obviously involves some risk that a random person might call and peek in on the camera. To minimize this, don’t use an existing account, set up a new user, and limit calls and your contact list only to those who are authorized to check on the camera.

In addition, note that this only works on a Windows or Linux version of Skype. The Apple IOS version does not permit auto answer and the Android version only answers in audio only – the person receiving the call must manually switch the video on (which works great if you have an elderly parent that has trouble with Skype calls as Skype automatically answers your audio call, you can then guide them by voice to turn the video on).

Installing Skype

Here are the instructions for Windows 10 (Linux also works, but the screen shots will be slightly different):

  1. From a Windows 10 machine install the Skype App.
  2. Create a new unique User account with its own set of contacts different from any other existing login you have. Give it a name that is not interesting or identifiable to you or a location.
  3. Login as your new user.

    Configure Skype Settings To Limit Contacts

  4. Open Settings:

  5. Make sure you do not “Sync Contacts” while setting up your Skype Account. Make sure this is turned off, as we are going to limit received calls to those in your contact list and do not want everyone on your computer’s contact list to be able to call this account. Later we will add only a select few to the Skype contact list:

    Skype-no-sync

  6. Turn “Appear in Search Results” off under Contacts->Privacy

    Skype Setting Hide From Search

  7. Turn off “Share location with Bing”Do Not Share With Bing
  8. Click on Calling – Turn on “Only Allow Skype Calls from Contacts to Ring on this device”:

    Skype Only Allow Contacts

  9. Since Skype options often change with each new version, look around for any other settings that might allow unauthorized persons to call or expose your contact information or your camera location and turn them off.
  10. Now turn on automatic answer, by going into Settings->Calling->Advanced Calling:

    Auto Answer

  11. Now add yourself and any other authorized persons to the contact list:

    Skype Add Contact Button

    Invite to Skype

  12. Now – test it out and enjoy two way video monitoring!

    Whatsapp Tip
    For another life-hack which works well as a video baby monitor, you can use Whatsapp on a mobile phone. Although Whatsapp won’t automatically answer, it will will stay connected for hours. Install it on your phone, point it at the baby, and call from another phone. Whatsapp won’t automatically answer so you’ll need to do that yourself, but it doesn’t require the more restrictive contact settings above as someone. This is ideal for monitoring your baby or elderly parent from another room in the same house, getting full HD video and audio (although it will lack night vision).

Replace A Video’s Audio Track In Three Minutes or Less

KdenLive

The Problem – Switching Out Your Audio Track

It’s common for those recording musical or other performances to record audio separately from the video. For instance, the video may be recorded using an Iphone which gives good video quality. The audio however may be recorded using an external mic for either duplication reasons (in case the hookup to the Iphone or other video camera goes bad, or because one doesn’t have the proper connectors to pipe the microphone audio to the camera). To replace the audio track manually might cost you hours of time trying to sync the new audio to the video.

Automatic Syncing of New Audio with Video Track

If you find yourself in a position of wanting to replace the audio track recorded with the Iphone or other video camera with the audio recorded by an external mic, here’s a dead simple way of achieving the replacement without manually re-syncing to the video.

KDEN Live – An Open Source Solution

KDENLive is a free and open source video editing software for Linux which offers an easy way to replace the audio track while automatically syncing the new track to the old.

Steps to Replace Audio Track

  1. Install KDENLive. Go to the download page and install per the instructions.
  2. Copy the video file from your camera or mobile phone (in my case it was a .MOV file from the Iphone) and the audio file from your microphone recording (probably a .wav file) to the same folder on your computer.
  3. Open KDENLive, Select “Project” from the menu and then “Add Clip or Folder”

    Add Clip to KDENLive

  4. Select the folder that contains the video file and microphone audio file.
  5. The files should appear in your “Project Bin” on the top left of the KDENLive screen. Drag the video file to the time line below. It will create two tracks, one for the audio only track recorded by the microphone, and one for the audio associated with the video file (in my case the audio that was recorded by the Iphone).
  6. Drag the Microphone .wav file to the time line right below the Iphone’s audio track. In my case, the Iphone’s Video track was assigned V1, the audio track assigned A1, and the Microphone audio track was assigned A2.
  7. Mute the video file’s audio track (A1) by clicking on the speaker on that track.
  8. Now select the audio track from the Iphone (A1). Right click and select “Set Audio Reference”. Below is a screenshot showing the tracks, the muted audio, and setting the audio reference:

    KDENlive Set Audio Reference

  9. Now right click on the A2 track (the microphone’s wav file) and select “Align Audio”:

    KDENLive Audio Tracks

    KDENLive will automatically move the A2 track to match the audio in the A1 track. You are done. Play back the video using the preview and confirm that the audio is satisfactory then save your project and/or render your video.

    KDENLive does offer a Windows binary version for download but I have not tested as it is reportedly buggy. I would be interested if somebody would try and it and respond in the comments as to how well the audio sync feature works.