Into a deeper spectrum: Infrared Camera Mod

ir filter

IR filter and reassembled webcam

This is an incredibly easy, and quite cheap, hardware hack. It does some weird shit and I love it to bits.


  • Acquire cheap webcam. (While many say they require Windows, most these days are cross-platform.)
  • Dismantle it as far as possible with a screwdriver.
  • Unscrew the focusing lens, on the front, until it comes off completely.
  • Locate the little iridescent square of glass on the back, which may be held in place by tabs of melted plastic. It reflects red in some directions, green in others.
  • Pry it out.
  • The fiddly bit: Replace this glass piece with equally-sized squares cut from an exposed, developed photographic negative. (The black rectangles at the ends of the roll are perfect for this.) Use a couple of layers, and press some plastic back into place over the edges, so that they stay in place. These layers block the visible spectrum, so you can leave them out if you want – but the effect won’t be as pronounced.
  • Reassemble.

The entire job takes about ten or twenty minutes, once you’ve done it a couple of times. It works equally well with webcams and standalone digital cameras, and doesn’t affect the camera’s other workings at all.

photo negative computer screen

In our human world, this is nearly opaque black photo negative, and the computer screen is set to full brightness.

A couple more effects:

pigments   <->   Photo on 5-22-13 at 3.45 PM

It takes out the freckles, mole, hair dye, and chlorophyll-green, and adds some weird eye effects, which I’ve shown before. Also, the blue hair is normally darker than my natural color, but in (near)IR-world, those bits turn up lighter. It can see that the hair was bleached, but not the blue dye.

These cams are always fun to play with; I’ve used them as a hook at events, routing the video feed to my screen and adding some dot-map motion-tracing with Quartz Composer. If I can find the patch, I’ll put it up later. I also made one that sticks two video feeds side-by-side, and at some point I’m planning to build a cyborg head with swivelly webcam eyes (one regular and one near-IR) that mashes them together.

The only trouble is that, with the rise of CFLs and LED lights, there’s less “warm” light around at night. So build yourself an IR headlamp and hit the town! :)


  • By tz, May 31, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

    You can get “congo blue” filters which pass infrared, (adorama I think has them), and alternate them with red filters, you can create your own IR pass filter. Many “IR” filters are just such layers, though there is a dye that looks violet for plastics in things like remote controls.

    These might be easier to find than exposed negatives.

  • By Jon Foote, June 1, 2013 @ 11:39 am

    The gold standard for visible-blocking IR filters are Kodak Wratten 87, which are expensive. The exposed-film solution is a great hack!

    Also note that IR and visible have a focal plane at slightly different distances (because of the different wavelengths), so you may need to refocus.

  • By admin, June 1, 2013 @ 11:51 am

    Fascinating! I can’t take credit for the film-negative hack, which I found when browsing a bunch of blogs before doing this project the first time. Unfortunately, I also can’t credit my original sources, because it was back in 2010 and I know there were several who mentioned it.
    But here’s another in-depth write-up on the process:
    And a cool Instructable using a floppy disk!

Other Links to this Post

  1. Infrared Camera Modding « adafruit industries blog — May 31, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

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