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After trying to make one of those super-rad IR camera blockers as seen here and here, I can only say that I am left disappointed.

A couple of weeks ago I took an over-sized thug hoodie, decked out the outer rim of the hood with 8 ultra-bright IR LEDs and pointed a camera at it. If someone were to be observing me on a security camera I would have looked like a walking Christmas tree. The lights did not do a darned thing other than make me look mildly-silly. Although, thanks to the fact I was wearing an over-sized hood, part of my face was obscured from the camera (but I didn’t need IR LEDs for that). Anyhow, from this initial experiment I got the impression that there is no way this could work under any circumstances, but I decided to give this theory the benefit of the doubt.

There are two models online. The first model was made by URA / FILOART and has a ring of 12 super-bright IR LEDs centered on the forehead and being powered by 12vdc. The other model posted online on Instructables had 8 LEDs staggered across the front of a baseball cap. These LEDs are being powered by a 9vdc battery with no resistor. This, from the get-go, seemed kinda fishy.

Being that the baseball cap was bound to fail for the same reason my hoodie had failed (the LEDs being to far spaced out and at different viewing angles), I resolved to centralize all of the LEDs on the center of my forehead like URA / FILOART had done with their headband.

Next, to alleviate doubt and the obvious playa-hating that is gonna arise from my claims here, I purchased from the Electronic Goldmine at least 9 of just about every IR LED they sold. I ended up with 5 different promising IR LEDs (those being Part# G14670, G2318, G13661, G2158 and G14587).

I placed eight of each LED on a breadboard and powered them first with 5v and then with 12v (with a 220 ohm resistor). I took photographs (using a camera modified to view near IR light) of each test. In addition, for the 12v trial, I placed the breadboard on the center of my head and took a video from an arm’s length. I took the video dead on for a few moments and then would move the camera to view my side profile.

I could have just given up there since, but I wanted to thoroughly test this before I called “FAKE!!!!” So, I took the brightest LEDs in my arsenal, added another 4 to the breadboard to match URA / FILOART and powering them at 12v, tried it again at an arm’s length. It was slightly better from the front, but as soon as I moved the camera to my side-profile, there I was clear as day.

What I found was that I could see myself in every single attempt at every angle. It then dawned upon me that perhaps the results at 3 feet were not the same results I would get at 10. So, I moved the camera back 10 feet and using the most promising of the LEDs (G2318), I tested it again. From that distance I found the results to be more or less disappointing. My head was not a halo of light. It just looked like I was wearing a headlamp.

The other thing I had to take into consideration was that perhaps the security cameras they were using were of a lower resolution than my 3 megapixel camera (even in 640 x 480 video mode). This point is almost not worth exploring since as soon as you turn your head, you become clearly visible, but, even so, I have tested it using the security cam in the hallway at work at about 20 paces and still no noticeable difference.

Lastly, I remembered a prior discussion with Dan and he was of the impression that if you pointed the LEDs at your face, you may be able to illuminate it out of existence. I felt pointing that many high-intensity IR LEDs directly at my face was a bad idea, but I closed my eyes and gave it a shot. No noticeable difference.

The results from my tests have led me to conclude the following:
1) Even if you can hypothetically block cameras with IR LEDs you could only do it so long as the LEDs are pointed directly in the direction of the camera. LEDs (and IR LEDs in particular) have a limited viewing angle that does not correspond the 360 degree aspect ratio of the average person.
2) The existing results on the internet may either be digitally altered to make it seem to work better than it does or were photographed in a very opportunistic manner in the brief instance in which it may have been working (aKaMaKaVeLy on Instructables never shows actual video of their hat in use. There is just two quick and highly suspect snapshots).
3) Probably with around 20 high-powered LEDs located in about 5 positions around the front of your head, you might be able to pull this off. At that point, you will be so conspicuous, why bother?
4) New media artists and metacafe panderers cannot be trusted with your privacy.
5) You cannot sufficiently block cameras with 12 high-powered IR LEDs. End of story.

(If anyone feels like proving me wrong with replicable results, be my guest.)

More explanation and pictures on Instructables.

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Posted on August 26, 2008

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