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A python module for controlled and automated image and video recording with the raspberry pi

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A python module for controlled and automated image and video recording with the raspberry pi

pirecorder is a package to facilitate controlled and automated image and video recording for the Raspberry Pi (rpi), specifically developed with the Behavioural Scientist in mind.

pirecorder consists of a main PiRecorder class and a number of additional submodules that facilitate setting up the Raspberry Pi camera, configuring the camera, scheduling future recordings, and converting recorded media. It helps get optimal recording settings and stores these such that they can be easily updated by the user via python or a text file. Subsequently, these settings can be used to make standardised recordings by user command or via a user-set schedule of recordings.

pirecorder is build to make controlled and automated recordings as simple as possible. It is fully usable by simple terminal commands without needing to go into python (via calibrate,record, schedule, and convert). The package also comes with detailed documentation and tutorials that are continuously updated with the aim to help people with limited coding knowledge to set up their rpi and make controlled and automated image and video recordings. See the detailed wiki.


PiRecorder is easy to install. Simply open a terminal window and enter:

pip install pirecorder

All dependencies (see below) will be automatically installed with pirecorder except for:

  • picamera: To enable pirecorder to be installable on non-rpi systems such as to use the convert functionality
  • opencv: Opencv has to be manually installed due to various dependencies. Click here for my opencv installation guide.
  • ffmpeg: ffmpeg is needed only for using the convert functionality of pirecorder and needs to be installed manually. Click here for my guide to install on OS X and here for my guide to install on raspberry pi.

See the pirecorder wiki for a detailed guide for setting up your raspberry pi and installing and working with pirecorder.


pirecorder is both Python 2.7 and 3 compatible. It builds strongly on the picamera package, uses numpy, pyyaml, and opencv for some of its core functionality, and relies on various utility functions of my pythutils package. The scheduling functionality is baded on CronTab and the associated python-crontab package.

Module overview

Recorder class

The main functionality of pirecorder is the PiRecorder class. This class initiates a Recorder instance that sets up the Raspberry Pi to record either A) a single image, b) a sequence of images, C) a single video, or D) sessions of video recordings.

There are many custom recording parameters that can be set with the PiRecorder class, which are divided into 1) general user recording parameters, 2) camera settings, 3) video recording settings, 4) image recording settings, and 5) custom settings linked to the specific rpi being used. A detailed overview and description of all these settings can be found by calling print(pirecorder.PiRecorder.__doc__).

When the PiRecorder is run for the first time, it creates a pirecorder setup directory in the user's home folder to store all relevant setup files. Central is the default configuration file pirecorder.conf. PiRecorder is set up in such a way that it is very easy to set and save custom settings that are then automatically used for future use without further user input.

Multiple configuration files can be created and called for specific recording settings and the configuration file(s) can be easily edited with any text editor as well as updated from the command line with the set_config() method. In addition the setup directory will contain a log file pirecorder.log that will store all terminal output when PiRecorder is used to help keep a history log of your recordings.

Recording modes

PiRecorder has four recording modes (set with rectype):

  1. img: Records a single image with the custom settings and then quits.
  2. imgseq: Creates a controlled sequence of images based on either a set duration (setting imgtime) or total number of images to be recorded (setting imgnr) with a certain delay between images (setting imgwait).
  3. vid : Records a single video. Specific settings that can be set for this mode are vidfps, the framerate of the video; vidduration, the duration of the video; and viddelay, extra recording time in seconds that will be added to vidduration.
  4. vidseq: Starts a series of standardized videos using the custom settings. After each recording has finished, the user is asked with a keypress if a new recording should be started or exit.

Files are automatically stored in the configured directory (recdir), by default a directory called recordings in the pirecorder directory, and are automatically named according to the provided label, the computer name, the date and time, and potentially the session number or image sequence nr.


In addition to the main recording module, pirecorder contains a number of modules to facilitate setting-up the Raspberry Pi camera, configuring the camera, and schedule future recordings, with more functionalities to be integrated in the future, see the planned enhancements here.

  • calibrate(): Opens a live video stream with user interface to calibrate the raspberry pi camera in terms of its position, focus, and region of interest (roi).
  • set_gains(): Function to calibrate the red and blue color balance either automatically or dynamically using a live video stream with user interface.
  • record: Start a recording using the stored configuration settings. If initiated for the first time, the default configuration file will be created (pirecorder/pirecorder.conf). This file can be simply updated with a text editor (e.g. via sudo nano).
  • schedule(): Automatically start image and video recording in the future according to custom recording schedules.
  • convert: Convert images or videos to (resized) videos (with timestamps)


pirecorder is developed by Dr Jolle Jolles at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, Germany.

For an overview of version changes see the CHANGELOG and for detailed changes see the commits page. Please submit bugs or feature requests to the GitHub issue tracker here.


If you use pirecorder in your research, please cite it as follows:

      title = {pirecorder: controlled and automated image and video recording with the raspberry pi},
      author = {Jolles, Jolle W.},
      year = {2019}
      url = {},
      doi = {10.5281/zenodo.2529515}


Released under a Apache 2.0 License. See LICENSE for details.

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