Recently, I decided I wanted to use a webcam connected to my desktop computer as a security camera, to see what's happening around the apartment when I'm away. I then started looking for programs that would let me do that, and stumbled upon Vitamin D, which can turn one or more webcams into a full-fledged video surveillance system. It's available in a free Starter edition, a $49 Basic edition (reviewed here), and a $199 Pro edition.
Vitamin D can use cameras connected to your computer via USB, and can also connect to Web cameras connected to the network. Once it connects to the cameras, you can "arm" them to begin recording, and leave the area.
Constantly recording surveillance video would make for some very dull home movies (not to mention very full hard drives). That's why Vitamin D uses motion recognition to capture video only when something is moving in the scene. Once you've captured the day's video, it is very easy to review the video within Vitamin D and see if anything happens. By default, the application lets you look at all captured video segments that contain any motion. When you play a sequence that has motion, any moving objects are surrounded by a colored frame, making them easy to spot within the scene.
However, it may be that your camera is facing a street with moving cars, or that people walking up to your neighbor's door move across the scene. In those cases, reviewing the video under default settings may become tedious, because much of the motion is not relevant. Fortunately, Vitamin D lets you filter videos by areas of motion: You can choose to show only segments with motion in a specific area of the frame, or in which someone crosses some threshold within the recorded area, and so on.
Video capture applications can often be demanding, but Vitamin D did not perceptibly slow down my computer while capturing or reviewing video. The only noticeable load it put on my system was in terms of storage space: I had it record all video in SXGA (1280x1024) resolution. As a result, a single day with 87 videos took around 13GB of space on my hard drive. This should not be a problem if you are using the free Starter Edition of Vitamin D, which can only record at a low resolution of 320x240. Had I opted for a lower resolution, it would have taken less space. Of course, this also depends on how much motion is detected (and thus, how many videos are recorded).
I really like Vitamin D, and it's just about everything I would expect from a video surveillance application aimed at home users and small businesses. Although I didn't test the Pro version's multi-camera support, there's no denying that it could be helpful. The only thing that somewhat curbs my excitement is that due to poor sales, its developers have had to move on and find other jobs. The company told me that it is still supporting new and existing customers, but don't hold your breath for a new version in the foreseeable future.
As it is, the version I reviewed packs plenty of functionality, and should be more than enough for most users who wish to improve their security system by making use of hardware they already have.