Security Cameras

Modified: November 14, 2015 at 11:11 pm

The information provided on this site is in no manner from any professional installer or sales person. We do not have any affiliation with security vendors. There may be laws in your region that directly affect your rights and those around you in relation to video and audio surveillance. You must contact legal representation in your area in respects to this matter in order to better understand how the laws may apply to you. The reviews and information you find on this site may be provided by untrained individuals, it is your responsibility to verify the accuracy of any information. We welcome input from others, you can email news @ sohudblockwatch.org

Resources

There is a great little introductory video “class” that goes into various types of cameras and systems. If you are totally new or have a small bit of knowledge, watch this video series. (the great thing about Youtube is the 2x speed setting to watch videos, and you can likely follow along ok at this speed with this guy)

For further research, check out Security Camera King for their explanations on the various lenses, how well they work and some other technical explanations, check it out!

Overview

There are many types of security solutions and at varying price points. The complexity of the solution can range from simple view only cameras all the way up to high resolution recorded systems that can be viewed remotely. For the average resident, many of the complete 4 camera systems will have enough features and decent video quality. Often, we are asked what systems are available very cheaply and still provide some form of sharable video. The simplist of solutions entail USB cameras. More complex systems will be wired or wireless and communicate directly with a DVR recording system.

Wireless vs. Wired

With the proliferation of wireless signals in the neighborhood, wireless cameras might have difficulty in maintaining connection to the base station. Quality of video may also be reduced in comparison to a wired solution. Wireless signal strength is dependent upon the distance from the base station and any other competing radio signals in the area (like other wireless computers and routers). The trouble with wired solutions is finding a location to make a hole to pass the cable from an external camera to the base station in your house. Depending upon the wired technology, there might be cable length restrictions without using some form of repeater or amplifier along the way. Max cable length can be determined by checking with the manufacturer or from various online resources.

All-In-One

This may not be the cheapest option out there, but many decent systems can be purchased from $300-$700. These systems are very easy to install. They usually come with either 4 or 8 cameras, cabling for each and a DVR unit to record and share video. Many of these systems connect to your current home network and with a little tweak of your router settings, you can remotely monitor while you are away from home.

Cameras

The type of camera you might wish to purchase, will depend on multiple variables. Plan ahead and you will be happier. Things to consider are where you think you would like to place the camera, what you are trying to capture and the distance you might wish to see clearly. Do you have a power source nearby, or can you run a power outlet near the camera. What weather conditions do you expect year round. How much lighting do you have at night. Will you be able to run cable, or is a wireless camera an option (provided you have a power source nearby and not an overabundance of wireless signals already in the area)

Cameras with infra red night vision will need power. There are two different ways to send power to the camera that I know about, one is Power Over Ethernet (POE) and the other is RG59 siamese cable that has both a power connection and video connection at both ends. Check the camera technical specification, as there seems to be far more cameras available using the RG59 cables compared to POE.

Weather is important to consider for cameras. In Ohio, weather can get as warm as the high 90s and the record low was near -22. Check to see that the camera can handle those ranges, not all will handle temperatures that cold without internal heaters.

Night vision with infrared is not always as clear as you might think. Much of the quality will be determined by quality of the lenses as well. In our experience, a camera that lists ability of 65 feet will not have clearly identifiable video at that range. Also, a car with headlights on can quickly blind the camera until the camera can re-adjust for the lighting. It is recommended that if you have the ability to add more light to the area. Note that motion sensor lighting should be set to turn on enough time in advance for the camera lens to adjust prior to the subject entering into view of the camera. Snow and clear moon lit skies are very useful in assisting lighting situations.

Cameras have video ratings measured in TV Lines. In our experience, even a camera rated at 640 TVL will not be able to clearly read a license plate at 20 feet. Choosing a MegaPixel camera will greatly improve your video quality. What you see in CSI with video enhancement just does not work.

Recording Systems

Recording can be accomplished with software on a desktop computer or with a dedicated DVR (Digital Video Recorder) unit. Using your own computer and the camera software can be a cheaper route, but you will need to keep the computer running in order to record video while you are away. Watching video remotely can be a little more difficult as well depending on the camera capabilities. On the flip side, a DVR unit includes pre-installed software to manage the setup, viewing, recording and playback of video from connected cameras. The unit can be hooked up to your network so that you can use the client software on your PC or Mac to view video from the comfort of your couch. If you wish, and if the DVR is connected to your Internet router, some system providers offer a free service that will help you connect to your DVR unit away from your home. The service provides Dynamic DNS lookup by communicating with your device to lookup your current IP address from your Internet provider so that you can have an easy to remember address to setup the Video watching software.

Another option would be to setup your own DVR unit. You can use an older computer, add a few special video cards to accept incoming video signals, and some software to record the video. If you like to use Linux, there is a zero cost software package called ZoneMinder. It is somewhat easy to setup if you are at least a little familiar with Linux.

Installation

Before you purchase your system components (or an all-in-one), plan out where every item will be. Where will you keep the DVR unit, and will it have a power source and access to your home network. If you do not want the ability to view from your computer, you do not need network access, as many DVR units will have the option to plug in a monitor and mouse to use as stand alone. Will there be easy access to the DVR to run the cables from it to the cameras. Plan the route you would like to run your cables. What is the distance, and does the store sell cable lengths to meet your needs. Will you need to purchase clips to hang the cables against your walls. Can you screw in the clips to the wall, or do you need to move away flashing or other objects. Do you need to weather proof connections. Do you have electrical tape handy. Many questions to be answered, so grab a measuring tape and a notepad and go outside and plan out your camera locations, the cable paths, and entry points into the building to run towards your DVR unit. Draw diagrams and write out the distances. Keep in mind that the DVR unit is a computer and is susceptible to water damage and extreme temperatures.

Placing the cameras can be more of a challenge of what did you plan to record, versus how easy it will be to run the cable. Try to locate mounting points that would allow to screw into wood beams. The hardest part is to keep the camera mounting joints loose so that you can move the camera head out of the way to get to hard to reach screws. Plan mounting the camera away from tight corners in order to allow room to view and reach hands easily to get to mounting screws. Many bullet cameras have at least two adjustable joints for getting the angle you needed, plus a screw on the camera body that allowed it to be rotated so the image was straight up and down on the video display at the DVR.

Lastly, run the cables by rough fitting the length of the run and threading around any objects that might be in the way. Then go back along the run and fasten the cable to wood beams with cable clips and screws. In some locations, it was just as easy to use small cable zip ties around objects or poles. At the entry point of the building the whole needs to be big enough to fit at least one connector at a time on the last cable going in (remember that multiple cables might be entering the same whole). A trick is to use a plastic sandwich bag, held the two connectors offset from each other to keep as skinny as possible and then use the electrical tape to tape the bag around the cable wire and connectors. This allows to fish the cables into the whole easier and not have to worry about getting the connectors all gummed up and provided a little more support and weight as you push the cable end through the whole.

After powering up the DVR and monitor, look at the view from each camera. You might need to go out a couple times to each camera and readjust the joints to angle the camera as i needed. It is far easier if you go ahead and hook up the DVR to your internal network, install the software on a laptop and go outside with the laptop to adjust the camera angles. If you have a cellphone, consider installing the vendor’s app to help in camera angle setup by viewing the feed on your phone.

Notes

From our research, the cameras are not used for much in the legal aspects of prosecution. They seem to be able to be used to put someone in a location at a time and place, but you have to remember that the camera has only a small window into what is truly happening. Actions can be taken out of context because you only have a small picture. It has been suggested that if you want to be helpful with video, angle the camera so that you can show entry and exit of the protected area and hopefully get clear enough image to show “without a doubt” the suspect. Someone walking down the street with a TV is not proof, but showing that same person exit your property with that TV might hold more weight.