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SharpCap - free Astro Webcam Capture Software


rwg
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SharpCap is a fairly new Webcam capture application that I've written over the last 6 months or so. It's designed from the start to be easy and convenient to use for Astronomical use. Sharpcap is free software both in the 'free beer' sense (i.e. it costs you nothing) and the 'free speech' sense (i.e. you get to modify it if you want).

To cut to the important bit, if you want to try it out, the SharpCap web page is here :

http://sites.google.com/site/rwgastro/sharpcap

You will always be able to find the latest info and download the latest version from that page.

Why would you want to use SharpCap? Key features include :

  • Camera controls always open alongside the capture window - no need to open dialogs
  • Can save and restore capture profiles, which store all the camera settings - once you have your camera set up perfectly to capture the moon, save the settings and restore them later
  • Can adjust camera settings during capture if necessary
  • Automatic file name generation for each new capture - no more overwritten captures
  • Useful preview transforms - these preprocess each frame of the image when previewing:
    • Highlight over exposed areas
    • Image boost (increase gain to find faint things)
    • Focus score (measures image sharpness to help focusing)

    [*]Adjustable reticule overlay

The idea for SharpCap came after spending too many cold evenings fighting with other capture software and ending up overwriting my previous capture file or capturing with the wrong settings.

A number of forum members have been using it already, and there is an existing discussion thread about it here :

http://stargazerslounge.com/diy-astronomer/98474-new-webcam-capture-software.html

Unfortunately you have to dig through quite a lot of stuff on that thread to find the useful info (like where to download the latest version), so I'm hoping to let that thread die and start over here. Additionally, now the application is more mature, I'd hope that more people would discover it here in the imaging forum.

Suggestions for new features and changes are always welcome. Things that are currently on the to-do list and might appear in a future version include :

  • Night mode colour scheme
  • Focuser control (via ASCOM)
  • Capture via ASCOM compatible cameras (maybe)

Robin

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I've found a really good page with info on using the reticule system to drift align your mount, here :-

Classic Astrophotography - Photographing the Cosmos with ordinary film

Also there's an Andy's Shot Glass on using the method here :-

Andy's Shot Glass - Drift Alignment for Amateur astrophotography,ccd, Neutonians and Refractors, amateur astronomy

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I've had SharpCap on my laptop for a while but not used it yet. I've being using Craterlet mostly.

As it was clear last night, I thought I'd have a go at trying it out on Jupiter.

Wow! It's so user friendly. I love the way the camera controls are always visible and you can save your settings for later. Have yet to stack the results, but I think I might be slightly pleased with both my first Jupiter and my first SharpCap.

One small request - can the frames per second range be increased/decreased at all please? The version I have has 7.5 and 20 fps. I'd laike to see down to 5 fps and up to 30fps with a few more options in between.

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Glad that you like it!

The FPS rates shown are what the camera reports it can provide. In general setting the rate above the highest rate shown just wont work, the camera will just reject the request. Usually you can get higher rates by selecting lower resolutions or changing your colour space setting. Selecting lower rates that are not explicitly reported by the camera works for some cameras and not for others. I'll have to make sure that I can detect when it doesn't work before adding additional rates to the list.

cheers,

Robin

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Ok, good stuff Robin, thank you kindly.

I'm just processing my Jupiter AVis from last night and I have to say I am very impressed! They won't be up to the standards of some on here, but they are pretty darn good for me!

Have used the Autosuite software that came with a Meade LPi before, it is refreshing to actually see and capture detail thru the webcam, rather than just getting a bright white blob.

I'm hooked!

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Hi Robin,

I have one of Dion's Philips SPC900 webcams now. I've loaded al the drivers for it but I get the following error when trying to use it with Sharpcap: -

See the end of this message for details on invoking

just-in-time (JIT) debugging instead of this dialog box.

************** Exception Text **************

System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

at SharpCap.CameraPropertyControl..ctor(IAMCameraControl camera, CameraControlProperty property)

at SharpCap.PropertyControls.CaptureControl.BuildCameraControls(IBaseFilter iBaseFilter)

at SharpCap.PropertyControls.CaptureControl..ctor(IPreviewControl previewControl, IBaseFilter iBaseFilter, IAMStreamConfig videoConfig)

at SharpCap.ControlForm.InitControls(IPreviewControl previewControl, IBaseFilter iBaseFilter, IAMStreamConfig videoConfig)

at SharpCap.SharpCap.OnStartPreview()

at SharpCap.Capture.StartPreview()

at SharpCap.Capture.ChooseDevices(IMoniker pmVideo, IMoniker pmAudio)

at SharpCap.Capture.ChooseDevices(String szVideo, String szAudio)

at SharpCap.Capture.Initialize()

at SharpCap.SharpCap.SharpCap_Shown(Object sender, EventArgs e)

at System.Windows.Forms.Form.OnShown(EventArgs e)

at System.Windows.Forms.Form.CallShownEvent()

at System.Windows.Forms.Control.InvokeMarshaledCallbackDo(ThreadMethodEntry tme)

at System.Windows.Forms.Control.InvokeMarshaledCallbackHelper(Object obj)

at System.Threading.ExecutionContext.runTryCode(Object userData)

at System.Runtime.CompilerServices.RuntimeHelpers.ExecuteCodeWithGuaranteedCleanup(TryCode code, CleanupCode backoutCode, Object userData)

at System.Threading.ExecutionContext.RunInternal(ExecutionContext executionContext, ContextCallback callback, Object state)

at System.Threading.ExecutionContext.Run(ExecutionContext executionContext, ContextCallback callback, Object state)

at System.Windows.Forms.Control.InvokeMarshaledCallback(ThreadMethodEntry tme)

at System.Windows.Forms.Control.InvokeMarshaledCallbacks()

************** Loaded Assemblies **************

mscorlib

Assembly Version: 2.0.0.0

Win32 Version: 2.0.50727.3615 (GDR.050727-3600)

CodeBase: file:///c:/WINDOWS/Microsoft.NET/Framework/v2.0.50727/mscorlib.dll

----------------------------------------

SharpCap

Assembly Version: 1.0.0.0

Win32 Version: 1.0.0.0

CodeBase: file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Hugh/Desktop/SharpCap.exe

----------------------------------------

System

Assembly Version: 2.0.0.0

Win32 Version: 2.0.50727.3614 (GDR.050727-3600)

CodeBase: file:///C:/WINDOWS/assembly/GAC_MSIL/System/2.0.0.0__b77a5c561934e089/System.dll

----------------------------------------

System.Windows.Forms

Assembly Version: 2.0.0.0

Win32 Version: 2.0.50727.3053 (netfxsp.050727-3000)

CodeBase: file:///C:/WINDOWS/assembly/GAC_MSIL/System.Windows.Forms/2.0.0.0__b77a5c561934e089/System.Windows.Forms.dll

----------------------------------------

System.Drawing

Assembly Version: 2.0.0.0

Win32 Version: 2.0.50727.3053 (netfxsp.050727-3000)

CodeBase: file:///C:/WINDOWS/assembly/GAC_MSIL/System.Drawing/2.0.0.0__b03f5f7f11d50a3a/System.Drawing.dll

----------------------------------------

System.Configuration

Assembly Version: 2.0.0.0

Win32 Version: 2.0.50727.3053 (netfxsp.050727-3000)

CodeBase: file:///C:/WINDOWS/assembly/GAC_MSIL/System.Configuration/2.0.0.0__b03f5f7f11d50a3a/System.Configuration.dll

----------------------------------------

System.Xml

Assembly Version: 2.0.0.0

Win32 Version: 2.0.50727.3082 (QFE.050727-3000)

CodeBase: file:///C:/WINDOWS/assembly/GAC_MSIL/System.Xml/2.0.0.0__b77a5c561934e089/System.Xml.dll

----------------------------------------

dzmbjq6r

Assembly Version: 1.0.0.0

Win32 Version: 2.0.50727.3614 (GDR.050727-3600)

CodeBase: file:///C:/WINDOWS/assembly/GAC_MSIL/System/2.0.0.0__b77a5c561934e089/System.dll

----------------------------------------

************** JIT Debugging **************

To enable just-in-time (JIT) debugging, the .config file for this

application or computer (machine.config) must have the

jitDebugging value set in the system.windows.forms section.

The application must also be compiled with debugging

enabled.

For example:

<configuration>

<system.windows.forms jitDebugging="true" />

</configuration>

When JIT debugging is enabled, any unhandled exception

will be sent to the JIT debugger registered on the computer

rather than be handled by this dialog box.

It works fine in Craterlet, but I have developed a liking for Sharpcap. Can you help me out at all please?

Cheers,

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My SPC900 from Dion is sitting at home now having been delivered this morning :blob10: If I get a chance this evening I will see if I can work out what is going wrong. What version of Windows and the drivers are you using BTW?

cheers,

Robin

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Quick update - on my Win 7 x64 system, the drivers downloaded automatically and Sharpcap runs on the camera without crashing. However, I don't get any useful control over the settings as the camera claims not to support the CameraControl (exposure etc) functionality and doesn't support the ProcAmp (gain, brightness etc) controls properly. :blob10:

I'm setting up a Windows XP virtual machine to see if I can get it to crash like the report above.

Robin

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I've just setup my SPC900NC webcam (not from Tophouse) and it seems to be fine except in the right window there is no facility to change exposure/gain. They can be controlled by opening a separate window (Options-Video capture filter). I'm using XP on a netbook.

Dave

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Hi Robin,

I have one of Dion's Philips SPC900 webcams now. I've loaded al the drivers for it but I get the following error when trying to use it with Sharpcap: -

See the end of this message for details on invoking

just-in-time (JIT) debugging instead of this dialog box.

************** Exception Text **************

System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

I think you have an old (very old?) version of SharpCap that you are running from your desktop that can't cope with the fact that the SPC webcam doesn't make some of the camera controls available.

The latest version (1.0.11) doesn't crash, although you can't adjust the webcam settings in the normal way, you have to use the dialog brought up by Options->Video Capture Filter or the SPC tray tool.

Make sure you've installed 1.0.11 and have a fish around to delete any old SharpCap.exe files you have lying around to avoid confusion.

cheers,

Robin

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Robin i downloaded and used your software last week with my neximage, I really like the fact that it saves each avi with a different filename automatically. I found out that the amcap software that came with neximage does not after shooting about eight 30 second avi's only to find 1 on my laptop once back inside, doh!. Again thanks for sharing

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Quick post - 1.0.12 is released which can control SPC900 cameras properly (at least it does for mine). See the SharpCap webpage in the first post for the download. As usual, let me know if you have any problems.

Not hanging around here - Jupiter has risen over the neighbours house and it's clear...

Robin

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Same here, but on Win 7 x64 laptop with an SPC900; can't get the program to run at all (:)) I've set to run as Admin and I've tried running as Win XP SP3, but the result's the same. Is it possible the lappy's in-built webcam is conflicting with the SPC?

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Tested the new version (1.0.12) on an old netbook with windows XP and the SPC900NC and it works perfectly. A very user friendly piece of software with everything I could wish for. Well done to the author :)

My only issue (and it isn't really one), is that I had to download and install a Microsoft runtime enviroment thing before it worked. This was a much bigger install than the SharpCap install itself.

Thankyou for releasing this to the community ;)

PS- My netbook (Asus eee 900) has a built in webcam also, and it doesn't cause any issues with SharpCap. I can simply choose in the software which device I want to use (it seems to default to the SPC900NC)

Edited by bus_ter
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