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TheGrayMan
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Posted: 5/10/2011 12:23:37 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/11/2011 9:56:33 AM EST by TheGrayMan]
Disclaimer: I'm not a CCTV professional. I'm not licensed to do this kind of work, don't make my living from it, and advise anyone reading this to make an honest assessment of their own abilities before jumping into a DIY camera system.

Intro:

Safety and security are never far from the minds of most gun-owners. People who have chosen to own guns for their personal protection tend to take a far greater interest in their own personal security than the average person, and likewise take a strong interest in the security of their homes. This is mostly because the "Home = Castle" doctrine is firmly planted in the minds of most posters here, but also because home is where you live, eat, sleep, and house your family.

When discussing home security, one gets into high-security deadbolts, reinforced doors, motion-sensor lights, window films, driveway sensors, alarm systems, dogs, safes... and the discussion eventually turns to security cameras. A quick Google search of the topic will literally produce hundreds of thousands of hits, many to websites that hawk the latest/greatest security camera systems, always at a GUARANTEED LOW LOW PRICE (!!!).

Be wary. There is an extremely wide range of products out there, in price points ranging from $20-per-camera, to $1500-per camera... and the relationship between price and performance is decidedly non-linear.

A basic security camera system-in-a-box can be had at any number of "big box stores" for as little as a few hundred dollars on-sale, with four day/night bullet cameras, and a self-contained DVR. This seems quite reasonable, and it is... if all you want is basic functionality, a rough idea of what's happening, and don't expect CSI-level detail out of the recorded video. Forget about getting a license plate number off the car the burglars were driving, and face shots may be too grainy to identify very much. You'll know that somebody was creeping around out there... but good luck identifying them unless they're practically on top of the camera. The DVR is totally proprietary, and might only last a year or two. Once it dies, getting replacement parts will be impossible. You won't be able to expand it past the original four cameras. The cameras themselves are probably 1/4" or 1/3" CMOS cameras, and this will limit their night-time performance. They may or may not be very weatherproof...

But that's what you get for a few hundred bucks. Some people don't need any more than that... and those folks are served perfectly well by that type of system. Even if it only lasts for two years, they've probably gotten their moneys worth.

Then there are the folks who want an NSA-type uber-system, where they can bring up 20 different megapixel camera views from anywhere in the world and spring traps on intruders with a touch-of-a-button on their cellphone. These folks should consult a professional... I can't help you with something that elaborate.

Incidentally, the consult-a-professional advice is never a bad idea for anyone who doesn't feel up to the task. CCTV isn't rocket science, but there is definitely a professional body-of-knowledge, a significant learning curve, and a certain amount of expertise involved in system design, camera selection, DVR construction, installation, and so forth. A guy who has been doing this stuff for ten years has a head full of hard-won experience, and can help you avoid some pitfalls that you might otherwise encounter. That expertise is worth something... so consider a professional if you get stuck, and be prepared to pay him/her. It will probably be worth it.

Even if you don't end up DIYing it, after reading this thread, you should have a much better idea of what questions to ask a potential installer.

Camera types:

Cameras come in two main flavors: analog and IP-based (also called network cameras). Analog cameras have been around since Methuselah, and still make up the bulk of cameras sold today, particularly the bargain-level systems. They typically operate on 12VDC (dual-voltage models will also take 24VAC), and output an analog video signal on the NTSC standard (PAL if you're in Europe). You can literally plug the video cable of these camera into the "Video In" RCA jack on your TV, and get a picture. These cameras are typically connected via "Siamese" cable, which is usually RG-59 coaxial cable, and 18-gauge two-conductor power wiring (for either AC or DC power). The connectors most commonly used are BNC-connectors for video (RCA occasionally), and barrel-connectors for power. See pictures below:

Analog cameras with BNC and power jacks circled:


Siamese cable:


Two different analog cables. Pre-made on left, stripped-but-unterminated Siamese on right. Crimper highlighted with arrow:


Some connectors. Those are barrel connectors on the right (2), and a BNC-to-BNC connector in the middle:






There is another category of cameras, and those are the IP-based network cameras. These are a more interesting lot, and more expensive. These cameras can be almost entirely autonomous, and are like their own mini-computer. They run their own internal webserver, process their own image data, do their own motion detection, and can send you pictures, alerts or emails. You can open up your web browser, type in the camera's web address, and have an image in seconds. Some will record image data to internal storage in addition to sending it to a central DVR. They also tend to have MUCH higher resolution than a regular analog camera.

Ever compared regular old analog TV side-by-side with HDTV? It's like that.

To give you an idea of the difference in megapixel IP cameras to the older analog cameras:

Look at the first picture carefully. Note the inset images on the right-hand side. See how the license plate gets clearer in the megapixel image, compared to the CIF/2CIF image? That's because the pixel density of the megapixel image is much higher. If you take the same scene, and photograph it with more pixels, there is more image data contained in the picture, so enlarging it will show clearer details. If you take a low-resolution or low-pixel-density image and enlarge it, everything quickly becomes boxy or pixelated... the image data just isn't there.









Here is an interesting link that demonstrates the phenomenon. Go over and click on it... I'll grab a couple of the images here to save you some time (and their bandwidth).

Here is a CIF image:



Here is a 1MP image. Notice how in the second image you can not only make out the satellite dish on the side of the house, but see that it's a DirecTV dish? That's because that image contains a lot more "data" than the CIF image.




Now let's blow up that CIF image to the same size as the 1MP image. See how blurry/blocky/pixelated the image is? That's what happens when you attempt to enlarge a low-res image... unlike Hollywood or CSI, you can't make data appear where there isn't any data.







Here's another image to give you a sense of pixel density, and what it does to your chances to ID a face, or a license plate:




IP cameras really shine in the pixel-density department, since they're capable of much higher resolution pictures than the older analog standard.

To drive that point home, here's a straight-up, same time-of-day, same scene comparison between an analog Speco intensifier, and a 1.3MP Acti ACM-1231:










IP cameras also connect differently than an analog camera does. Network cameras, as the name might imply, require a network connection; they use the very same Cat5 or Cat6 cable that you're using to connect your desktop computer to your router or home network. They also have the capability to draw their power through the same cable, via "Power over Ethernet" (the spec is 802.3af. Here's a link if you want to read about it on wikipedia). Power-over-Ethernet (abbreviated hereafter as PoE) saves you a lot of time and hassle when it comes to install your system... you can run a single cable for power AND video.

Here is a network camera, with the Cat5/6 jack circled (top). This one can also take 12VDC directly, through the second circled jack (bottom)



They plug into a switch just like this one. The top four ports are regular network ports, like you might find on any home's wireless or wired Linksys/Dlink/Netgear/Belkin/etc router. The bottom set of ports supplies PoE in addition to network connectivity.






Naturally, since the two camera types are powered differently, you'll need one of two different types of power supplies. The top one in this picture serves 12VDC to analog cameras, and the bottom one is a PoE network switch. The PoE network switches also come in rack-mount versions, as in the second picture:








Since the two camera types create and send their data differently, they often connect to two different types of DVRs. Analog systems most commonly use an "embedded" DVR, which is a generic box-looking device with some buttons on the front, and a bunch of BNC jacks on the back. This device digitizes the video streams it receives (eg. turns them into storable digital data), and puts them on an internal hard drive. Depending on the size of the drive and number of cameras, it will record for a variable length of time... often a week or two.






A network DVR receives video streams just like the analog DVR does, but the pictures have already been digitized at the camera-end, so it's simply a matter of collecting the images and storing them. There's no need for the network DVR to dedicate CPU cycles to creating the picture from an analog signal, since that work has already been done. The network DVR also connects to the network with a single cable (assuming your system isn't overly large... if it is, you'd better be using a separate gigabit network... or consult a professional to help you design it). Network DVRs can be of the same box-looking form-factor as an embedded analog DVR, but a regular PC can be used, as shown here. When doing so, one should consider beefing up certain components, like the network card, and the hard drive (an enterprise-class drive will hold up to the constant data-writing better than a regular consumer-grade hard drive).

You can also add an analog encoder or "DVR card" to an existing PC-based network DVR, and use it to digitize analog streams... just make sure it's supported by the software you plan on using. This would be called a "hybrid" system (network and analog cameras on the same system).

Thinkcentre former "cube farm" desktop computer being used as a DVR:


A dedicated rack-mount PC-based DVR:





As for the cameras themselves, they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and form-factors. You can get either analog or IP in almost any form factor, with the exception of very small covert cameras. Those are almost entirely analog.

Bullets (these are all analog)


Bullet: (this one is IP-based)


Covert "board" camera (analog... virtually anything this small will be analog):


Dome (this one is IP-based)


Another dome (this one is analog):


Dome with cover off (this one is IP):




Domes and Bullet cameras each have a certain set of advantages.

Feature __________________________Bullet___________________________Dome
cost ....................................................cheaper...............................................more expensive
mounting...............................................easier.................................................. harder
Visibility.............................................more-visible............................................. less visible
Wiring concealed.................................not usually......................................................yes
Vandal-resistance..................................worse.....................................................better
weather resistance.................................same.....................................................same
integrated IR.......................................common................................................less common
PTZ..................................................no.................................................... possible (more $$$)
coverage area obvious?..........................yes........................................................no
can be redirected easily?..........................yes......................................................no

"Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought."

- Sir William Osler -
labchimp
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Posted: 5/10/2011 12:40:53 PM EST
TGM,

I've been putting the CCTV thing on the back burner but our street just got hit with a string of car break-ins and, well, I shouldn't put if off any longer.

I'm thinking of a couple megapixel IP cameras to start #1 monitoring the front porch under an awning and #2 mounted on a detached garage monitoring a driveway lit with motion sensing flood lights. Maybe a sealed bullet style vs vertical surface mount dome on the garage and a dome under the awning...

The detached garage camera would be exposed to the elements but the porch one somewhat protected - would it be overkill to use IP66 rated enclosures for both?

Any good retailers or good places to find deals on camera?

How do you have time to do all this AND have a day (sometimes night) job ?

TheGrayMan
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Posted: 5/10/2011 9:29:32 PM EST
Originally Posted By labchimp:
TGM,

I've been putting the CCTV thing on the back burner but our street just got hit with a string of car break-ins and, well, I shouldn't put if off any longer.

I'm thinking of a couple megapixel IP cameras to start #1 monitoring the front porch under an awning and #2 mounted on a detached garage monitoring a driveway lit with motion sensing flood lights. Maybe a sealed bullet style vs vertical surface mount dome on the garage and a dome under the awning...

The detached garage camera would be exposed to the elements but the porch one somewhat protected - would it be overkill to use IP66 rated enclosures for both?

Any good retailers or good places to find deals on camera?

How do you have time to do all this AND have a day (sometimes night) job ?



You might check out some of the Vivotek offerings... specifically the IP7361 bullet or FD8361 vandal dome. They run about $5-600 each (about a hundred bucks more than a comparable Acti camera), but are higher-res, give a better night-time picture, and do on-board recording to an SD card... saving you the trouble of building a DVR if you choose not to. I have one of the 8361 domes deployed right now, and am pretty happy with it.
"Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought."

- Sir William Osler -
TheGrayMan
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Posted: 5/10/2011 9:30:26 PM EST
[Last Edit: 5/20/2011 9:37:50 AM EST by TheGrayMan]
Glossary and explanation of terms placeholder

Day/Night cameras:

As you read through camera specs, or look at options to cover your home/property, you will be confronted by cameras that claim to be day/night cameras... or have extremely low Lux ratings... or have "night vision." This isn't as simple as it sounds at first glance, and we'll use this space to attempt to explains some of the mechanisms, and why you might not want certain routes to "night vision."

All cameras have an image sensor inside of them (CCD, CMOS, etc) that is sensitive to light. They are frequently sensitive to a broad range of wavelengths. Many camera sensors are not only sensitive to visible light, but to wavelengths of light well into the near-infrared range. This brings up the possibility of using those near-infrared wavelengths to produce an image in areas that are completely dark to the human eye. Black-and-white cameras are naturally sensitive to IR light, but some color security camera will automatically switch to black-and-white mode at night, enabling IR light to be used.

But there's a problem. If you don't block out infrared wavelengths during the daylight hours, it screws up the camera's ability to correctly render colors. Things look quite weird... and so an infrared filter is often used over the imager to block those infrared wavelengths.

"But wait," you say... "Doesn't that render the camera blind at night?"

Yes... it does... but wouldn't it be great if that IR filter could automatically be removed once it gets dark? Well... that's what some cameras do, via an ICR (IR-Cut filter, Removable). The IR filter stays in place over the lens during the day, and is automatically retracted at night. This allows the "best of both worlds" when you have a single imager.

But the camera still requires some light... IR or otherwise. Even full-on GenIII Night Vision Goggles require light.

To show what we're talking about, here's an image sequence from a camera with an ICR. Here's daytime:




And here's nighttime... with no light (IR or otherwise). The camera has obviously switched to black-and-white mode, but gives a fairly miserable picture.




And here it is with an IR illuminator in place (still pitch-black to the naked eye):




Here's another example. Here's a day image from an ICR-equipped camera:




And here's a night image, with IR illumination supplied by a separate illuminator (again, pitch-black to the naked eye):




When looking for a day/night camera, one should ALWAYS get one with an ICR, or removable IR filter. Such cameras are more mechanically complex, and thus a bit more expensive, but it's well worth the few extra dollars. Avoid "slow shutter" solutions... which brings us to...




DSS (digital slow shutter):

Another method of "night vision" is for the camera to slow down the shutter speed. Slowing down the shutter speed leads to longer exposure times, and thus the camera's imager has more time to gather light, and can produce a much brighter picture. This actually works... and if you want to see a real-life example of this phenomenon, look at any of those astronomy pictures of the night sky where they leave the shutter open for prolonged periods of time... or those "nighttime freeway" pictures. Like so:

Here's the night sky, with a 26-minute exposure time:




Here's the German Autoban, with a long exposure time:




Notice how the stars have turned into bright lines as seen from the rotating earth, and the moving cars have turned into red-and-white streaks on the picture? This is what happens when you slow down the shutter speed, and are looking at a moving object. Now let's apply this to a security camera scenario. A camera that uses a very long exposure time (some use an exposure time of 1 second or longer, rather than the 1/30 second exposure time you might naturally expect in a 30 Frame-per-second stream) will produce a brighter image of a static scene... but that's where the benefit ends. The second you introduce something moving (like a vehicle passing, or a person creeping around), that moving object becomes a blur, and will be completely unrecognizable.

Most people put in cameras to catch intruders, look at suspicious vehicles, etc... they don't just want a black-and-white picture of their backyard... so Digital Slow Shutter (DSS) sucks.

Avoid cameras that use this route to boost their night performance. A popular line of cameras that did this was the Speco "Intensifier" series of cameras. They do have decent night performance... but ONLY for a static scene. I had several in my system, and replaced every single one of them. Good day time cameras... but inadequate for night use if you don't have a lot of ambient light. They're also completely insensitive to IR, and that was a deal-killer for me.

Remember... slow shutter speed is not what you want, unless you like blurry:






Dual Imagers:

Another route to "night vision" is to use a dual-imager camera. Such a camera uses one imager exclusively for daytime pictures, and a second Black-and-white-only imager for night use. Using dedicated imagers for each time of day allows the camera manufacturer to avoid some of the trade-offs of using one imager for everything. As one might expect, cost goes up significantly with these, as you're essentially buying two-cameras-in-one. Arecont does it this way, as does Mobotix.

Arecont:




Mobotix:




Mobotix even enables you to change out the modules, depending on what kind/lens you want:





Wide Dynamic Range:

Wide Dynamic Range refers to a type of advanced light-handling that some cameras are equipped to perform.

The average CCD or CMOS only has a dynamic range of about 60dB... and some have even less, due to the nature of how they digitize the image data. Wide Dynamic Range cameras (hereafter referred to as "WDR") greatly expand this to 120dB or more, and this is used to solve a particular set of problems with certain applications.

Whenever you have a scene with VERY bright areas and VERY dark areas in the same picture ('High Contrast"), the camera tries to split the difference, and take the average brightness of the scene. This often leaves the bright areas oversaturated (completely whited out), and the dark areas under-exposed (black). A camera with WDR has a much broader range of light levels that it can handle, and will be able to bring out details in both the bright AND the dark areas. It does this by taking two scans/pictures of the same scene, one with a long exposure time (to highlight the dark areas), and one with a short exposure time (to keep the bright areas from washing out). It then combines the two images to create a single high-quality image.

Sometimes it's better to show you an image than explain it, so here are several examples:






Note the difference in the WDR and non-WDR images? These kinds of cameras are VERY useful for certain types of applications... like for catching somebody coming through an exterior doorway into a darker interior room (where they will be badly backlit by light from the outside)... or for businesses with large glass windows in the front.

Here's what happens when you don't have WDR... good luck IDing this burglar. To further complicate this situation, he's African American, which is a a particular challenge, as bringing out details in that skin type is more difficult, due to contrast issues.

"Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought."

- Sir William Osler -
UNDERTOW4507
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Posted: 5/10/2011 10:03:46 PM EST
Check out AXIS cameras too! They are one of the nicest cameras to buy for I.P. based applications. If you decide to go the I.P. route some companies offer free Video Managment Software you can download, and use to record to a desktop or home server.
TheGrayMan
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Posted: 5/11/2011 10:16:34 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/15/2011 10:01:29 PM EST by TheGrayMan]
It's time to talk about lighting.

Sufficient light is critical to the ability of most cameras to see/function. Just like your eyes, a camera cannot see if it's too dark. Fortunately, cameras have a significant advantage; their sensitivity to light extends well into the infrared portion of the spectrum. This opens up the possibility of having a camera that can see literally "in the dark."

Infrared illuminators assist in this effort, and some cameras come equipped with infrared LEDs for this very purpose, usually in a ring assembly around the lens, like so:







Illuminators also come in other form-factors... Ebay is full to-the-brim with various types (and some of them are junk), including wide-area-coverage domes, spot-lights, and so forth. As a general rule, I've found that the wider-angle the illumination, the better it actually works to illuminate a scene. Tight-angle Spot-light illuminators (like the 15 and 30-degree models) are basically worthless. They are overly-bright in the center, wash-out the rest of the scene, would only be useful for lighting up a very specific area, and would need to be paired with a suitable zoom camera.

A spot-light illuminator gives you this:




A wide-angle illuminator gives you this:




Or this:




No illuminator gives you this:





It's helpful to think of IR lighting in the same way you would visible lighting. Spot-lights are spot-lights... good for lighting up a single guy at center-stage, but not useful at all for evenly illuminating the theatre. For the latter application, you'd be better off with some standard tube-fluorescent lights with diffuser covers (like every office building in the entire country).

As another example, this ceiling-mounted illuminator:




Turns this:




Into this (pitch-black to the naked eye):





Separate illuminators are generally preferred, particularly when compared against camera-integrated IR. The reason for this is that IR attracts bugs. Insects often see further beyond the visual spectrum than we do, as in this example of the Silverweed flower. On the left is the flower when viewed in the visible spectrum. On the right is the flower when viewed in the UV spectrum (and the darker area colored red... UV has no "color" to speak of).





In the same way, insects can see the IR, and are attracted to it. Infrared is basically heat, and plenty of bugs go looking for heat sources. This, in turn, attracts spiders... Here's a "spidered" IR-integrated camera:



Replacing it with a different camera with a separate illuminator brought us this picture (also shown above). Note the absence of spider webs?




Not convinced yet? Watch the following time-lapse video, and note how quickly (about 2 hours) one industrious little spider screws up the view. Even without spider webs, bugs will continually fly into the lens... which triggers your motion detection and gives you false alerts.







"Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought."

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lightguy
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Posted: 5/11/2011 1:26:00 PM EST
[Last Edit: 5/11/2011 1:30:05 PM EST by lightguy]
Greyman;
Thanks for your effort in putting this togeather.
I wanted a system from a "spy"/security store and can get one istalled for about $2k but wanted to wait for a better IP system.
Can I put togeather a decent 6 camera IP system for $3k realistically ? Or should I do an expandable 4 camera (now) system for that ?
Are the prices about fixed or are they still coming down as with most technology stuff ?
I'm pretty computer inept as well.
Someone would have to set it up for me.
I can do the wiring and install.
TheGrayMan
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Posted: 5/12/2011 10:22:32 AM EST
Originally Posted By lightguy:
Greyman;
Thanks for your effort in putting this togeather.
I wanted a system from a "spy"/security store and can get one istalled for about $2k but wanted to wait for a better IP system.
Can I put togeather a decent 6 camera IP system for $3k realistically ? Or should I do an expandable 4 camera (now) system for that ?
Are the prices about fixed or are they still coming down as with most technology stuff ?
I'm pretty computer inept as well.
Someone would have to set it up for me.
I can do the wiring and install.


Yes, you can.

Location and type-of-camera-required will largely determine the price point you'll encounter. Outdoor/megapixel/day-night/weatherproof/internal-storage/vandal-resistant cameras will cost the most: $500-600 each (or more, depending on extra features).

Some of the indoor megapixel cubes from Axis and Acti will only run you $250-400... you save money because they're not waterproof, don't require a housing, aren't vandal-hardened, etc. You sometimes can even skimp on using day/night cameras indoors, since burglars and intruders require light to work, and will turn on the lights if they're ransacking your place. If you can, I'd still get a camera with day/night capability for indoors, since illumination levels inside are frequently lower than outdoors, even during the daytime.
"Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought."

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Posted: 5/13/2011 12:43:55 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/13/2011 1:16:48 AM EST by TheGrayMan]
I wanted to thank you so much for your post here and your other series of posts on surveillance.

I am moving to a new city and state to start a fellowship, and will be living in a town and part-of-town which has higher crime than where I live now. I will absolutely be setting up some cameras based on your helpful series.

TheGrayMan
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Posted: 5/13/2011 1:17:01 AM EST
Originally Posted By Mr_Psmith:
I wanted to thank you so much for your post here and your other series of posts on surveillance.

I am moving to a new city and state to start a fellowship, and will be living in a town and part-of-town which has higher crime than where I live now. I will absolutely be setting up some cameras based on your helpful series.



Drop me an IM if I can help you.
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Posted: 5/13/2011 11:30:36 PM EST
Grayman,
You recommended the Vivotek cameras earlier. With one of those two cameras you recommended I would just need to plug the camera into a power source and put a SD card in the camera to record onto and I'm good to go. I'm guessing to view the video I would occasionally have to pull out the SD card and plug it into my computer?

I was considering this setup until I can get a dedicated computer to record to. Lots of cable I would not have to run for awhile.

Thanks
TheGrayMan
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Posted: 5/14/2011 12:23:10 PM EST
[Last Edit: 5/14/2011 7:10:01 PM EST by TheGrayMan]
Originally Posted By gatorfan:
Grayman,
You recommended the Vivotek cameras earlier. With one of those two cameras you recommended I would just need to plug the camera into a power source and put a SD card in the camera to record onto and I'm good to go. I'm guessing to view the video I would occasionally have to pull out the SD card and plug it into my computer?

I was considering this setup until I can get a dedicated computer to record to. Lots of cable I would not have to run for awhile.

Thanks


I don't see any reason why you'd have to remove the SD card... just access the camera remotely and grab the images that way. Every camera I've ever seen with internal storage allows you to do that.

ETA: for instance, the camera I set up in this thread records to an SD card, and the movie clips are accessible and downloadable simply by accessing the camera over wifi (using IE).
"Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought."

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Posted: 6/16/2011 12:48:35 PM EST
Thanks for the info. A ton of good stuff.

One little thing though, that picture of the timelapse is of downtown Atlanta, not the autobahn. I work down the street from where it was taken.
TheGrayMan
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Posted: 6/21/2011 9:13:14 PM EST
Originally Posted By perry73779:
Thanks for the info. A ton of good stuff.

One little thing though, that picture of the timelapse is of downtown Atlanta, not the autobahn. I work down the street from where it was taken.


Heh... I guess that's what I get for going by the caption
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gaspain
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great job!
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Posted: 8/1/2011 9:11:36 AM EST
[Last Edit: 8/1/2011 9:12:35 AM EST by niceguymr]
Great thread TheGrayMan!

I'm contemplating putting one of these inexpensive PTZ IP cameras in my home for use while I'm away.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00466X9SY/ref=s9_simh_gw_p23_d0_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=15N4CDEZY8WFMK35NHMR&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846

I realize the image quality 'limitations' but my main question is what is the simplest (and cheap/free) way to record video constantly using this type of camera utilizing an existing PC or online service? Basically, I want it to record everything while I'm gone but don't want to invest in a separate DVR system or expenisve software. Am I asking for too much?
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TheGrayMan
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Posted: 8/1/2011 9:20:19 AM EST
Originally Posted By niceguymr:
Great thread TheGrayMan!

I'm contemplating putting one of these inexpensive PTZ IP cameras in my home for use while I'm away.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00466X9SY/ref=s9_simh_gw_p23_d0_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=15N4CDEZY8WFMK35NHMR&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846

I realize the image quality 'limitations' but my main question is what is the simplest (and cheap/free) way to record video constantly using this type of camera utilizing an existing PC or online service? Basically, I want it to record everything while I'm gone but don't want to invest in a separate DVR system or expenisve software. Am I asking for too much?


As long as your software can talk to that camera, you run that software in the background on your home PC, and record all you want.

I would set up a second hard-drive as the recording drive, so it doesn't fill up your system drive and lock-up your system.
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Posted: 8/12/2011 2:50:28 PM EST
GrayMan I've been living with a Swann 4-camera DVR system for a month now and it works fine but of course I desire more resolution and more cameras. I would like to have two high resolution cameras one to watch the front walkway up to the front door and another to watch an intersection about 50' away. Can you recommend two cameras that will improve upon my current ones and deal with the issues below?

My current bullet camera can only get grainy pictures of faces approaching the front door. This is under the best conditions, during the day and sunshine on a subject's face. At night forget about it, I can just tell there is someone out there. The front entrance is under a brick arch structure about 5' deep, 6' wide, and 14' high. The camera does struggle with dark areas during the day, you've mentioned this as dynamic range.

The bullet camera watching the intersection does not resolve any details (license plates, number of occupants) and at night the brake lights, headlights, and to a lesser extent taillights really bloom up in the video and make it near impossible to capture any useful information. There is a street light at the corner of the intersection that illuminates the area below it. In addition I notice an artifact in the image that occurs at night it is a small white spot that tracks across the screen in opposite motion to the cars direction of travel. One spot goes across and then another spot goes across. I believe it is a reflections of the IR illuminators. Do you know what this is and how to eliminate or reduce the effects?

I would like higher resolution cameras that will capture license plate numbers, facial features of people approaching the front door, and deal with the shadowy spots during the day. I'm in the process of building a dedicated Ubuntu Zoneminder PC so IP based cameras will probably be the way to go. Also can you recommend a 4-ch Analog capture card that will work with Zoneminder so I can reuse my existing Swann analog cameras.

Thanks for the help.
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Posted: 8/13/2011 8:33:45 AM EST
Originally Posted By AR15Texan:
GrayMan I've been living with a Swann 4-camera DVR system for a month now and it works fine but of course I desire more resolution and more cameras. I would like to have two high resolution cameras one to watch the front walkway up to the front door and another to watch an intersection about 50' away. Can you recommend two cameras that will improve upon my current ones and deal with the issues below?

My current bullet camera can only get grainy pictures of faces approaching the front door. This is under the best conditions, during the day and sunshine on a subject's face. At night forget about it, I can just tell there is someone out there. The front entrance is under a brick arch structure about 5' deep, 6' wide, and 14' high. The camera does struggle with dark areas during the day, you've mentioned this as dynamic range.

The bullet camera watching the intersection does not resolve any details (license plates, number of occupants) and at night the brake lights, headlights, and to a lesser extent taillights really bloom up in the video and make it near impossible to capture any useful information. There is a street light at the corner of the intersection that illuminates the area below it. In addition I notice an artifact in the image that occurs at night it is a small white spot that tracks across the screen in opposite motion to the cars direction of travel. One spot goes across and then another spot goes across. I believe it is a reflections of the IR illuminators. Do you know what this is and how to eliminate or reduce the effects?

I would like higher resolution cameras that will capture license plate numbers, facial features of people approaching the front door, and deal with the shadowy spots during the day. I'm in the process of building a dedicated Ubuntu Zoneminder PC so IP based cameras will probably be the way to go. Also can you recommend a 4-ch Analog capture card that will work with Zoneminder so I can reuse my existing Swann analog cameras.

Thanks for the help.


A couple of thoughts:

There seems to be a dearth of WDR-equipped IP cameras on the market. I find far more analog cameras have that feature... can't explain why, but it may be a technical challenge to integrate that feature into an IP-cam. It certainly can be done (Acti has done it), but it may be more difficult to find a good selection of IP cams for that application.

Even so, an analog camera should be adequate for a front-door camera, particularly if you place it appropriately. For analog WDR cameras, you'd be hard-pressed to beat the Panasonics... and while they're $5-600 new, those can be found on Ebay for very reasonable money. Here is one NIB for about $300 (and you could probably get it for less).

Covering an intersection from 50 feet away, with sufficient resolution to capture a license plate (and enough low-light performance, including fast shutter-speed, to work at night) is going to be a very expensive proposition. That will be a real challenge, and you're looking at a multi-megapixel >$1000 camera. I haven't attempted to cover a scene like that, but a regular intersection is going to be at least 30 feet wide, and having enough pixel density (as well as the correct lighting and angle) to catch plates is probably beyond my ability to do over-the-internet. In fact, I'm still attempting to find the right camera/setup for the entrance to my neighborhood, and it's not as challenging a scene as you're describing.

You're also going to have trouble getting that camera in a dome form-factor... you'll probably be restricted to a box camera with a longer-lens, inside an enclosure... and that just looks butt-ugly on a house. Your wife would probably come hunt me down over the internet if I talked you into putting up something like that
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Posted: 8/15/2011 1:20:39 AM EST
[Last Edit: 8/16/2011 8:22:11 AM EST by TheGrayMan]
Originally Posted By TheGrayMan:

So would the Mobotix M12 fit the bill?


The Mobotix stuff is pretty high-end, but my concern would be with you getting the exact FOV you want. The nice thing about Mobotix is that you can use a 35mm SLR camera to approximate the view you're going to get with the respective lenses. IIRC, the M12 comes with a specific set of unchangeable lenses... you order it from the factory, and the lenses are glued into place.

This is a major disadvantage compared to the D12, where lens modules are easily changeable in the field.

With that in mind, I'd make extra-sure you're getting the field-of-view (FOV) you really want. Also make sure you have enough illumination and the correct angle of that illumination to catch license plates (I assume you're using this camera to cover the intersection). Mobotix cameras allow you to adjust the shutter-speed in the camera's software, through a VERY wide range. This will help you fine-tune the camera settings to catch the details you want, and prevent blurring during motion events (BUT a fast shutter-speed setting ABSOLUTELY NEEDS ENOUGH LIGHT TO WORK). You can also adjust "exposure windows" to a certain area if you want to catch something very specific (like a plate).
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Posted: 12/10/2011 5:15:26 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/10/2011 6:54:32 AM EST by TheGrayMan]
GrayMan what do you think of these Monoprice WDR analog cameras? I might try one out in place of my 480TVL bullet camera. Can also get an enclosure and mount for about $20.00

$110.00
WDR 600TVL Sony HAD

Here is the Sony Datasheet for the CCD device
Sony ICX408AK CCD HAD Datasheet

$17.85 3-9mm VariFocus Lense with IR Correction and Auto Iris

$14.22 Camera Enclosure

$4.56 8" Camera Mount

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Posted: 12/10/2011 6:54:39 AM EST
Never used that one, but at that price, it couldn't hurt to try it out. You can probably Ebay it if you don't like it, and not be out much money.
Originally Posted By AR15Texan:
GrayMan what do you think of these Monoprice WDR analog cameras? I might try one out in place of my 480TVL bullet camera. Can also get an enclosure and mount for about $20.00

$110.00
WDR 600TVL Sony HAD

Here is the Sony Datasheet for the CCD device
Sony ICX408AK CCD HAD Datasheet

$17.85 3-9mm VariFocus Lense with IR Correction and Auto Iris

$14.22 Camera Enclosure

$4.56 8" Camera Mount



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Posted: 12/10/2011 7:08:08 AM EST
Nice post, I have been installing and servicing security and CCTV systems for over 31 years. Although the company I work for is a GE(UTC) dealer I am partial to the Honeywell line of Cameras and DVR.s. Very affordable.
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Posted: 12/10/2011 7:15:11 AM EST
Originally Posted By danman0:
Nice post, I have been installing and servicing security and CCTV systems for over 31 years. Although the company I work for is a GE(UTC) dealer I am partial to the Honeywell line of Cameras and DVR.s. Very affordable.


Glad you enjoyed it.

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Posted: 12/11/2011 6:27:30 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/11/2011 8:08:33 AM EST by TheGrayMan]
GrayMan I have a few more questions for you, any experience with the a joystick PTZ controller like this listed eBay item and what do you think of this listed eBay UTP 4-in-1 range extender (to save on wiring costs)? Do you know if the joystick controller be plugged directly to the PTZ camera? Do you know what type of cabling is necessary, maybe a RS-232 cable?

ARM Electronics PTZ Joystick Controller

Another PTZ Joystick Controller eBay item

UTP 4-in-1 Passive Hub

TheGrayMan
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Posted: 12/11/2011 8:08:39 AM EST
Originally Posted By AR15Texan:
GrayMan I have a few more questions for you, any experience with the a joystick PTZ controller like this listed eBay item and what do you think of this listed eBay UTP 4-in-1 range extender (to save on wiring costs)? Do you know if the joystick controller be plugged directly to the PTZ camera? Do you know what type of cabling is necessary, maybe a RS-232 cable?

ARM Electronics PTZ Joystick Controller

Another PTZ Joystick Controller eBay item

UTP 4-in-1 Passive Hub



No experience with the joysticks, but most of those work on Pelco P/D protocol, through a two-wire interface to your DVR.

The video range-extenders are used to send video down cat5/6 cable. it's basically four-baluns-in-one. Those do work, and can be a handy way to make a single run of UTP cable provide multiple camera views (you have to power the cameras locally, of course).
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