Pi USB Cam: A simple and affordable DIY solution that enables high-quality, high-throughput video capture for behavioral neuroscience research

Shikun Hou, Elizabeth J Glover
2022 eNeuro  
Video recording is essential for behavioral neuroscience research, but the majority of available systems suffer from poor cost-to-functionality ratio. Commercial options frequently come at high financial cost that prohibits scalability and throughput, whereas DIY solutions often require significant expertise and time investment unaffordable to many researchers. To address this, we combined a low-cost Raspberry Pi microcomputer, DIY electronics peripheries, freely available open-source firmware,
more » ... and custom 3D printed casings to create Pi USB Cam, a simple yet powerful and highly versatile video recording solution. Pi USB Cam is constructed using affordable and widely available components and requires no expertise to build and implement. The result is a system that functions as a plug-and-play USB camera that can be easily installed in various animal testing and housing sites and is readily compatible with popular behavioral and neural recording software. Here, we provide a comprehensive parts list and step-by-step instructions for users to build and implement their own Pi USB Cam system. In a series of benchmark comparisons, Pi USB Cam was able to capture ultra-wide fields of view of behaving rats given limited object distance and produced high image quality while maintaining consistent frame rates even under low- and no-light conditions relative to a standard, commercially available USB camera. Video recordings were easily scaled using free, open-source software. Altogether, Pi USB Cam presents an elegant yet simple solution for behavioral neuroscientists seeking an affordable and highly flexible system to enable quality video recordings.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTVideo capture is increasingly necessary for neuroscience research where neural and behavioral data are synchronized to reveal correlative and causal relationships. This relies on a recording system that can capture quality videos without significant alterations to pre-existing experimental conditions (e.g., lighting, space, etc.), enables easy online and offline analysis by commonly used software, and offers high scalability to increase throughput. However, the high cost and poor flexibility of commercially available options leave the role of an ideal video recording system unfulfilled. Here, we present a DIY video recording solution that combines affordable electronics hardware and custom 3D printed components with sophisticated open-source software to make a simple, yet powerful USB camera that satisfies almost any recording need.
doi:10.1523/eneuro.0224-22.2022 pmid:36635936 pmcid:PMC9522465 fatcat:k7gejnohurb3bm6fcseiqnxzry