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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

BROWSE / IN TIMELINE

COMMENTS

  1. halvfet says:

    urban mythbustin’ randy to the rescue.

  2. jamie dubs says:

    Damn, so what’s the conclusion for the IR ASC from the German dudes? Artistic “proof of concept”? Photoshop lensflares?

  3. Thor says:

    Very well researched and presented…good job.

    The one thing I notice that may be different from the other postings showing better cloaking is that those were shot at night with seemingly less ambient light. If a camera’s aperture is wide open allowing in max light, the IR LEDs may “blind” it better. I’d enjoy seeing you test this.

  4. nathan says:

    I so wanted this to work…. please keep trying.

  5. Jo Scientist says:

    This is great stuff but those IR blockers only work with police cameras at like speeding checkpoints. That is because almost every camera has a filter in it to block all IR light. It’s just a little piece of glass. Otherwise in a Starbucks or whatever, all the security camera would see is a huge heat source coming off the coffee for instance. Police cameras in fixed positions like at red lights have these filters removed so that they can pick up license plates at night. On one of those cameras, your hoodie would work because the heat from the IR bulbs would wash out your face just like you were wearing spotlights. You can test this with a standard Logitec Webcam if you want. Open it up and remove the little square IR filter. Then your special hoodie will block the view. So for a security camera that needs to work at night or in darkness, you can block it with the bulbs, but not on most cameras that only care about visible light, like the kind the human eye sees.

  6. Jo Scientist says:

    Oh, and removing the IR filter on any standard camcorder or web cam does give it limited night vision capabilities. For true night vision you would need an infrared spotlight, sort of the reverse of what you are doing with your hoodie because its focused on an image. But still pretty good.

  7. [...] video, by Randy at fffff.at, relates to experiments where people tried hiding their faces with masses of IR LEDs, which emit [...]

  8. Matt Katz says:

    I recommend you do something simple like suspend a discoball from your forehead and point a laser at it.

  9. samuel says:

    As for the actual security camera, I think the room was still too bright for the IR feature to turn on due to the open door.

    Try it in a dark room.

  10. [...] video, by Randy at fffff.at, relates to experiments where people tried hiding their faces with masses of IR LEDs, which emit [...]

  11. [...] video, by Randy at fffff.at, relates to experiments where people tried hiding their faces with masses of IR LEDs, which emit [...]

  12. [...] video, by Randy at fffff.at, relates to experiments where people tried hiding their faces with masses of IR LEDs, which emit [...]

  13. The Fool on the Hill says:

    I’d like to see the spec sheets on the LED’s, most of them wont even list the output power per LED since the millicandella system only works with the visible light spectrum, from what I gather one has to look at the power output in terms of milliwatts, which is rarely tested. (manufacturers omitting info on a spec sheet? I’m shocked!!)

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