MAKE pal Mr.Bill has a great HOW TO for us on CVS Video Camera Hacking for Macs...Shortly after the cameras became available at my local store, I picked one up for "safekeeping", not knowing how long they'd be available. I'm glad I did, because progress was being made in finding out exactly what made the new cameras tick, and the Camera Hacking message boards were abuzz with discussions about the software. A week ago, I saw on the MAKE: Blog that someone had finally figured out the final step to getting video off the camera. Time to dig the camera out of the closet- here's the HOW TO!...">

HOW TO CVS Video Camera Hacking for PC & Macs

cvsMAKE pal Mr.Bill has a great HOW TO for us on CVS Video Camera Hacking for Macs...Shortly after the cameras became available at my local store, I picked one up for "safekeeping", not knowing how long they'd be available. I'm glad I did, because progress was being made in finding out exactly what made the new cameras tick, and the Camera Hacking message boards were abuzz with discussions about the software. A week ago, I saw on the MAKE: Blog that someone had finally figured out the final step to getting video off the camera. Time to dig the camera out of the closet- here's the HOW TO!...

Ever since CVS announced their one-time-use video camera, I'd been waiting to see if it was successfully "hacked" like their PV2 single-use digital still camera.

Shortly after the cameras became available at my local store, I picked one up for "safekeeping", not knowing how long they'd be available. I'm glad I did, because progress was being made in finding out exactly what made the new cameras tick, and the Camera Hacking message boards were abuzz with discussions about the software.

A week ago, I saw on the MAKE: Blog that someone had finally figured out the final step to getting video off the camera. Time to dig the camera out of the closet:


 22331152 9124A04696 B


 22331153 7Acdca0A70 B


From reading Raymond Kawakami's PV2 cable instructions (mirrored as a PDF; his web site is down), I knew that I needed a Palm III serial sync cable in order to connect to the camera via USB without opening it up. Luckily, an eBay search found a local vendor, and I had a cable in my hands the next day.


 31311117 Daa04D6Fab B


Before I wreak havoc on the cable (all we need is the connector at the end), let's see what it looks like now..


 31310726 8Ca2585557 B


Not too complicated. Because I hadn't touched a soldering iron in about fifteen years, I'd bought a basic electronics kit with soldering iron and got some practice in the night before, building a LED blinker.

The first thing I did was cut all of the old serial cables off the connector, and bend the unused pins out of the way.


 31310079 9E9Dda0Cae B


Then, I cut the "square" end off of an old A-to-B USB cable that I had sitting around, and stripped the wires.


 31310868 32E4Fd3Adf B


According to Raymond, the pinout from the USB cable to the Palm serial connector looks like this (pins numbered 1-10, starting at the top):

Palm Connector USB Function USB Color
6 +5V Red
8 Data + Green
9 Data - White
10 Ground Black

Ten minutes later, my horrible soldering job was done (remember, I'm new at this) and everything was reassembled. I used packing tape as a pseudo- stress relief to keep wear and tear off my solder joints.


 31309892 1Bd25B0F22 B


There was only one problem - the connector, as is, won't fit into the port on top of the camera - its too thick! So, out came the Dremel tool, and I proceeded to get black plastic shavings all over my desk. The end result...


 31309945 831E5F74Da B


 31311023 9154A362A4 B


Let's give it a try... It fits!


 31310926 85493906Fb B


Just to be safe, I plugged the cable into my USB hub, instead of directly into the iMac G5. I'm not *that* sure of my soldering abilities just yet.

For the moment of truth.. I fired up System Profiler, clicked the "USB" entry on the left, and there it was!


 31310581 5553E2E2Bd B


I ran around the house and took a video of my cats, then proceeded to download them off the camera. First, I tried the process on my Windows machine. I downloaded libusb-win32, and used its wizard to create an .INF file for the camera. Once that file was created, I told XP to use that file as the camera driver when it was plugged in, and pointed it to libusb0.sys (from the libusb distribution) when prompted.

The other piece of software you'll need is the latest version of the Ops utility.

Once the camera is installed and recognized by Windows, download and extract the Ops software. Run the executable that pertains to the version of libusb that you downloaded. Once the window pops up, you should be able to click "Open Camera", "Unlock Camera", and then download the videos off the camera to a location of your choice. You can also reformat/erase the camera after downloading, but it will not reflect "zero space used" until it is power-cycled.

Camera downloading is possible on a Mac as well, but you'll need to be familiar with building programs from source code and using the command line. First, grab the libusb source code and compile it by extracting the .tar.gz file, changing to the source code directory, and then doing "./configure; make; make install" as root. Then, you'll want to grab cmstar's port of SaturnDownload to OS X. Running the application, you'll get a simple window with a "Download" button.

Videos from the camera are in XviD format. I've posted some sample videos here . Filenames ending in ".divx.avi" are DivX format, where I used ffmpegX on OS X to convert the XviD movies to DivX. Files ending in ".avi" are "raw" XviD from the camera.

Resources:

  • Mr.Bill's Flickr set here.
  • Mr. Bill's site.
  • Interview with John Maushammer, a talented hardware tinkerer who's leading the way to reusing the disposable digital cameras and now the new CVS disposable digital video camcorder.

Posted by Phillip Torrone | Aug 7, 2005 01:38 AM
Instructables | Permalink | Comments (30)

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Comments

Oldest comments listed first.

  • That's cool,
    Me and my friend Russ did this one different. We opened up our cameras and hacked out a hole for a USB "b" female connector in the side of the case opposite the lens where there is plenty of room inside for one. We soldered wire from the connector straight to the contacts on the circut board, put em back together and now we can use any normal USB a to b cable to transfer the video. :)

    Posted by: Johnny_Action on August 7, 2005 at 10:06 AM

  • Johnny: one of my coworkers did the same thing; I didn't get any pictures of his work though. I'm not confident enough yet to solder directly to the connector on the camera like he did. 8-)

    Posted by: mrbill on August 7, 2005 at 2:10 PM

  • Johnny_Action:

    What did you have to do to open up the camera?

    Posted by: asdfergar on August 7, 2005 at 9:00 PM

  • Jesus get some audio in those videos! The very faint breathing sounds and total lack of commentary makes it seem like I've come across some sort of stalker video. ;)

    btw cute dog.

    Posted by: Bowfinger6969 on August 9, 2005 at 2:12 PM

  • There's a new camera that has showed up in the CVS stores, that is visibly darker... Has a larger RED record button, and a smaller front RED light indicating it's recording. This camera does not work with the current hacks. CVS must have had these just waiting for a hack on the first ones..

    Posted by: shawnc on August 10, 2005 at 5:40 AM

  • This thing really works. Modified the I/O using a mini DIN connector that mounts in the side of the left side of the case (facing camera lens). Hacked up on old USB cable to make a DIN to USB interface cable. Not the most beautiful thing in the world but there are so many old cables lying around why spend more money.

    Posted by: assyrian47 on August 22, 2005 at 12:26 PM

  • Does this thing take AA batteries, or do you need a charger?

    Posted by: Joe1245 on August 29, 2005 at 10:46 PM

  • I have built a cable using the palm III and am able to download movies from the camera. They are listed as Movie_0001.avi with a 0 K size. They will not play.

    The camera info is: FW ver 3.40 and the PCB ver is B1.
    I have tried several of the different versions of Ops_libusb-0.1.10.1.exe and other things I have downloaded, and still can't view any of the movies. Is there a complete "idiots" step-by-step guide of exactly what is needed for use with the model camera I have?

    Does anyone have any sugestions? email redbeard263@earthlink.net please. Thanks from OldRedBeard

    Posted by: oldredbeard on September 13, 2005 at 5:24 PM

  • Does anyone know if the CVS one-time use video cameras are still able to be hacked. I see all the posts from the summer and early fall of this year, and now it is December, I want to know before I go and buy one. Thanks...

    Posted by: terfel on December 10, 2005 at 3:17 PM

  • Damn, works like a charm!

    I've been hanging on to this camera since August waiting for a useable hack. Hats off to all who made this possible, I knew it was just a matter of time!

    Posted by: greevler on February 15, 2006 at 8:58 AM

  • Damn, works like a charm!

    I've been hanging on to this camera since August waiting for a useable hack. Hats off to all who made this possible, I knew it was just a matter of time!

    Posted by: greevler on February 15, 2006 at 8:59 AM

  • INFORMATION FROM NEW RITZ-RED PV2

    FIRMWARE 6550
    HARDWARE 06
    TYPEID 2B
    CMP TYPEID 2B
    ID DB1051600043
    REALM ID 16

    Posted by: IRRATE on March 22, 2006 at 10:25 AM

  • I SUPPOSE THE NEXT QUESTION ANYONE WILL HAVE IS WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF HACKING A VIDEO CAMCORDER IF IT IS NOT DISPOSABLE. THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE. THE MEMORY USED ALLOWS BOTH UPLOADING AND DOWNLOADING OF VIDEO FILES. WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO SPEND FOUR TIMES AS MUCH ON THE NEW VERSION OF PURE DIGITAL CAMCORDER, WHEN IT IS A FEATURE THAT THE MERCHANDISING PUNDITS SAY YOU CAN DO TO YOUR TV SET DIRECT FROM THE CAMERA. THE CAMERA, OF COURSE HAS ITS OWN TV VIEWING SCREEN.

    Posted by: IRRATE on May 22, 2006 at 1:15 PM

  • Hope someone can help me with this problem.
    I purchased a CVS digital video camera, made the USB cable and downloaded and installed the software.

    The computer/program sees the CVS camera but it will not unlock the camera.

    I hope someone can please, explain to me why it is not working and tell me how to fix it.

    Thanks in advance.

    Rene R. rener@gis.net

    Posted by: rrusche on June 27, 2006 at 6:42 PM

  • Hope someone can help me with this problem.
    I purchased a CVS digital video camera, made the USB cable and downloaded and installed the software.

    The computer/program sees the CVS camera but it will not unlock the camera.

    I hope someone can please, explain to me why it is not working and tell me how to fix it.

    Thanks in advance.

    Rene R. rener@gis.net

    Posted by: rrusche on June 27, 2006 at 6:43 PM

  • I purchased what I think is the same camera at Rite-Aid. I used a handheld docking stations M105? and the plug/circuit board seems to fit snug (If you cut the extra plastic off, the camera sits upside down on the dock!)

    I used the appropriate ciruit board holes 6, 8,9,10.

    Neither a pc or mac sees the device. I'll check my connections with a meter.

    Any thoughts.

    Oh, any more details on the drivers. Im not familiar with software at this level...

    Posted by: hkk on July 17, 2006 at 3:11 PM

  • Here is a link to a site that links to the CronusKey.rar file which can help unlock the camera. Refer to camerahacks.com for more info and of course the READ ME files.


    http://drknife.com/macbook/index.php?itemid=10

    Posted by: rhombu on August 3, 2006 at 12:21 AM

  • I just purchased the CVS camcorder. The firmware version is 23.82 and the PCB ver is B3. I've been reading about putting this guts of this camera into a model rocket. Can this version of the camcorder still be hacked? If so, where is the software I should d/l to get the vidoes off the camera?

    --Scott

    Posted by: Scott216 on August 20, 2006 at 8:02 PM

  • I have a CVS camcorder:
    The FW ver; 33.19
    Camera ID: GD3061200617
    PCB Ver: B1

    Can this camera be hacked and if so,what version of software do I use to dowvload the video's?

    Posted by: rrusche on August 30, 2006 at 6:14 PM

  • Hey, newbee here. I think I have the correct camera and I did the software thing and it shows
    FW version 53.12
    Realm = 20
    PCB = A3

    It looks just like the one posted light grey, so it looks like the duck but will it walk like a duck...ha ha

    I have an old palm3 cable and can solder fairly well.
    Will this one be able to download????
    Please help the new guy. Thanks all.

    Posted by: db4687 on August 31, 2006 at 12:28 PM

  • Hey, newbee here. I think I have the correct camera and I did the software thing and it shows
    FW version 53.12
    Realm = 20
    PCB = A3

    It looks just like the one posted light grey, so it looks like the duck but will it walk like a duck...ha ha

    I have an old palm3 cable and can solder fairly well.
    Will this one be able to download????
    Please help the new guy. Thanks all.

    Posted by: db4687 on August 31, 2006 at 12:31 PM

  • where can I find step by step guide to making the cable?

    I have the serial sync cable for palm3. What end will go to the camera? the already made side that goes to the PDA or the other end that you end up making, or do both ends need to be re-wired.

    Thanks for your help to the newbee

    Posted by: db4687 on September 1, 2006 at 4:59 AM

  • I cant find the Ops utility. I think the link is broken. Can someone find it and post it I have searched google.
    thanks
    rich

    Posted by: psi3000 on September 28, 2006 at 3:56 PM

  • where can i find the ops utility?

    Posted by: psi3000 on September 28, 2006 at 4:50 PM

  • ok i did the usblib thing and made a file, btw it wont let you rename the file or else it give you a curruption error. So I made the inf file your_file.inf. I went to hardware manager and right clicked on the unknown usb device and navigated to the folder i put it in and it wont recognize that its there. What am I doing wrong? I really want to get this to work.

    Posted by: psi3000 on September 28, 2006 at 9:56 PM

  • Hey all, hope your're having better luck than I am...but by the looks of it, no. Well I made the cable and tested it on my laptop, which it saw the camera, named Saturn. I tried the programs but cant really get it to work. I need the driver, and theres the semi-unexplained section about creating the .inf file...which I do not understand how to do. Ive reached the point at which it is over my head haha. Any one get around this issue? Wizard comes up but, obviously, there arent any drivers for it.

    Hope you all have some luck with the newer versions (mine is pcb ver: DC-6910 A3...whatever that means and FW version: 53.12). Hopefully a new hack will come out for the newer versions, or atleast the drivers for the PV cameras. Until then Ill probably hang onto it.

    Posted by: Algae998 on December 7, 2006 at 11:50 AM

  • Hi everyone thankful to have found this!!! I bought the rite aid camcorder in january and for some reason I knew it would end up being hacked. This is awesome because I really dont believe rite-aid when they tell me that my videos "would never be kept on file" or that "we respect our customers right to privacy". Plus I am a big cheapskate so having a thirty dollar reusable camcorder that I bought with a check that bounced on purpose is a very satisfying thing.

    Posted by: artificialPm1 on December 8, 2006 at 11:10 PM

  • Ohk, so the newer version isnt easily hackable...yet. Does anyone know where to buy the older hackable version? Perhaps there is a website? I dont think the stores will have any because they come and go pretty easily (plus I highly doubt they'd know which is which). Really anxious to get this working...how's the video quality and resolution? I know it's in VGA format but I seen great and horrible video quality in this form.

    Posted by: Algae998 on December 9, 2006 at 9:13 AM

  • Model 200, 220, & 230 are hackable. If you would rather buy a cable look on ebay, search CVS CAMCORDER and cables will be there.

    Posted by: homer8babs on March 24, 2007 at 11:43 PM

  • Great to see someone got this working and I enjoy seeing the smarts that went into this.

    For some of us, we are lazy and cheap and for those of us who are looking for the quick and cheap way... The manufacture often has a $30 rebate on the reusable version with flip out USB included. I got mine at the local Jewel Grocery store which is part of Albertsons. Have seen them since then at COSTCO as well. Yes, this could be a joy killer for someone bent on making their own version. However, may be some who are reading this would like to know of an option to just mail off for that rebate and have a version with a warranty for less effort than this project.

    Make it own it.

    Posted by: makeitownit on August 13, 2007 at 8:56 AM


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