Overclocking the CVS Videocam

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Why stop at CPUs? – Joe

SUMMARY: Why stop at CPUs? How-To overclock the CVS digital videocam.

CVS Pic

The CVS videocam for about $30

I have to believe that many overclockers are gadget freaks and LOVE to take things apart. The CVS videocam is one of those products which can blend PCs, video recording and unlocking the CVS’s potential with a bit of diligence.

The Hardware Hack

This hack has been around for a while and it’s pretty well developed, so the odds are a bad hack are fairly low – assuming you have good soldering skills. The clue that led to this by some intrepid hackers was under this label – peeling it back led to the discovery of a data port:

Cam Port

The port is used to download the digital videos from the “One-Time-Use” videocam; once unloaded, the CVS is recycled and sent out again to be resold – very neat. What was discovered is that this port can be linked to a PC through a USB connection – once linked, the videos can be downloaded, the memory purged and ready for use again – so for $30, a fairly good videocam!

The first step is to peel back the plastic overlay to expose four screws, then open the battery compartment, remove the batteries, unscrew the four screws and remove the back. Once done, the PCB comes out pretty easily – there is a good set of pics HERE at the bottom of this post on this procedure – this is the easy part.

When the PCB is removed, there are four pressure pads that control the videocam’s functions – note how they line up to the buttons in this composite pic:

Pads

I am using just the bare PCB, so I use the pads to activate the videocam. There are two key mods: One is to connect up a USB cable to the data port – this link shows the USB Wiring Diagram and it should look something like this (obviously depending your soldering skills):

USB Wires

The second part if you’re using the bare PCB is to wire up a battery pack – I use a AAA pack:

AAA

I used Molex fan plugs to connect the battery pack

Together this weighs just 1.9 ounces. Note that on all the connections I used 5 minute epoxy to ensure that the wires do not pull out. I also removed the screen – when you turn on the videocam, you hear a tone; when you hit the record pad, there is a red LED on the front that lights up so you know you are recording.

If you don’t want the bare PCB, you reassemble the videocam with the USB plug and you now have a $30 videocam.
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The Software Hack

The better part of all this is that once you unlock the videocam, you can alter settings through software for various video modes; even better, there are freeware programs available to further enhance your video experience, as I reviewed HERE.

Accessing the software in the camera requires two programs – these can be found with these Software Links – the two key programs are Ops20 and Cronuskey.

Ops20 is the software used to open the videocam; once you have the USB plug installed, running Ops20 will find the camera:

OPS

Once the camera is found, you scroll up to find the “challenge key” (the lines that begin with “C”) – this is where Cronus comes in:

From the Cronuskeys README:

Open your camera in Ops or PV2Tool, and copy the reported challenge
to your cronuskeys.txt file. Then run cronus, and it will create
a pv2keys.txt or saturnkeys.txt file for you – copy this file to
your PV2Tool or Ops directory, and they will use this new key when
unlocking your camera.

The “challenge” key looks like this:

S sample key
C 045c3ac1b56fee1b8893e93460e79e44e18a7e87acb0bfef3bf55c160bf15d7
C 010c58dc0793381af60c3dfcb8c7447eaeb6493c4f7e2a2a12cead858ef0c50
C e09e11654e16a6ec2a710e8df8309005d318b2530c40fd6d156800319d8c989
C fdb96e44d320c0f9ec6965ce68490b421857c4b52b1bc11f0a685c0180ec5c9

Copy the key into cronuskeys.txt, run cronus, copy saturnkeys.txt to the Ops directory, then run “Unlock” and the videocam should then unlock. You can then save the key by clicking on “View/Change Cam Settings” and checking “Reset Cam Key?”, then “Write Settings to Camcorder”:

Resolution

Once this is done, each time you open the videocam you have to hit “Unlock” to access the camera. Once you’ve done all this – the overclocking part:

Under “Settings” you can change the camera’s settings for higher quality videos:

Resolution

Resolution Settings

Bitrate

Bitrate Settings

The limitation on all of this is the camera’s memory – only 128 MB. Using the stock settings, this is good for 20 minutes of video at the stock settings – higher quality settings will reduce recording time.

CONCLUSIONS

Put all this together and you have a video camcorder with editing software for $30 – not bad!


Resources:

Camerahacks Forum – Great resource to answer any questions.

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