IP CCTV Camera Systems Made Easy

There is a new trend in IP Camera Systems. More and more manufacturers are trying to simplify IP CCTV System setup so it’s more appealing to installers. Recently we’ve been seeing more and more NVRs with built in network switches. The next step was taken by LTS with their new line of Platinum Series NVRs and Platinum Series IP Cameras. Now NVR not only comes with a built in switch, but also it is a PoE switch, so it can power connected IP cameras without a need for a separate power supply. There is also a built in network server, so all compatible IP cameras can automatically be assigned with a IP address within internal network. Installation of a IP Camera System with Megapixel Cameras and High Definition NVR has never been easier. All you need to do is connect Ethernet cable from the NVR to compatible IP camera and everything else is taken care of automatically. No network or IP setup is required. NVR creates its own local network so you don’t need another router or network server and on the top of it, it doesn’t steal bandwidth from existing network. Suddenly installation and setup of a high definition IP Camera System is as easy as installation of a Standard Analog system. All you nned to do is run cat5 cables from the NVR to each and every camera and everything else will be taken care of. This is not only a great product for an average CCTV installer, but it makes IP CCTV available for DIY installations. This is a future of IP CCTV Surveillance. Make sure to check our new Platinum Line of LTS IP Cameras and NVRs.

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New DVR’s. New Resolutions: CIF, D1, WD1, 720p, 1080p. Finally, Full High Definition Available in CCTV Systems.

In late 2010 we started seeing new DVR models available with new higher resolution. It was about time CCTV systems were capable of recording resolutions higher than D1 known also as 720×480. The revolution in CCTV has began. New CCTV Cameras were capable of 700TVL resolution. Unfortunately when using 700TVL resolution cameras with D1 Digital Video Recorders, we couldn’t take advantage of better quality. To solve this problem manufacturers came with a new resolution known as WD1 (Wide D1) which is often also described as 960H or just 960×480. Since most of current monitors are in wide angle format, 960H was a great answer for a new video format extending already standard resolution D1 to a new wide screen format. It is an easy solution to improve picture quality without massive upgrades to surveillance system and technology. Conventional D1 cameras can still be connected to 960H DVR and 700TVL Cameras work great with D1 DVR’s.
At about the same time we started seeing first fully digital CCTV systems based on
SDI technology (Serial Digital Interface)
. This technology sends uncompressed digital signal via standard coax cable. Since those system are fully digital, cameras are now capable of sending Full High Definition signal of 720p or 1080p (1280×720 or 1920×1080 pixels) which is basically equal to 2 Megapixel quality. With SDI systems we can use existing infrastructure and easily upgrade current system to a whole new quality. Long story short, CCTV installers love this technology. It does not require any networking knowledge and since every camera is individually wired back to the DVR, there are absolutely no bandwidth issues. You are getting full HD picture at full framerate on every channel all the time.
As of today, SDI cameras and DVR’s are becoming more and more affordable and currently those systems are already lass expensive than IP systems usually surpassing IP quality. SDI looks like a next big thing in surveillance technology and it is here to stay.

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Using Cat5 (UTP) in CCTV installation vs RG59 Siamese Cable

Recently we have noticed that more and more CCTV installers use Cat5 cables for analog CCTV system installations. With Passive Video Baluns based on specification you can use UTP cable to transmit color video as far as 1300ft. With a active CCTV Balun you can go as far as 5000ft. While it is much more than with RG59 cable there are some issues you may run into while using Cat5 cable on long runs. First of all it is a power issue. With Cat5 cable you can use remaining 3 pairs for power. This is recommended for long runs of 500ft and more. With those distances, I would not use 12V DC. Due to the voltage drop you need to use 24V AC cameras. With more power consuming infrared cameras, you need to actually use AC power supply with a 28V output. Only this way you can compensate for a voltage drop at the end of the cable. Long range infrared cameras would need a power supply located much closer to the camera or need an extra cable to supply power at those distances. 3 Pairs of Cat5 cable will not be sufficient to provide enough power even with 28V power supply in case of Long Range Infrared Cameras. When using an active CCTV Balun, it is necessary to put power supply much closer to the camera. There is no way we can transmit the power at a distance of 5000ft using traditional methods.
Another thing about UTP installation is a higher resistance to interference of UTP Cable. We have some observations of our own regarding this issue. There are cases where coaxial cable may be useless. Installing cameras in close proximity to high powered TV or Radio antennas or even cell towers may result in complete lack of image on coaxial cable. This may happen even on a short runs of 200ft. Cat5 Cable usually performs much better in this type of environment. But where there is no significant electromagnetic field we observe coaxial cable to actually outperform Cat5 cables on runs of 500ft and more. In both cases video has very decent quality, but Cat5 cable tends to produce lines and sometimes little ghosting effect while RG59 picture is more stable.
So there is no one perfect solution. Choice of the cable should be based on few other factors other than just installer’s own preference. We like using RG59 Siamese cables on most of the installations where cameras are located not farther than 1000ft and there is no more than 32 cameras. On the other hand Cat5 cable is much easier to run and if you are using Conduit, Cat5 cable will be a great money saver. Cable management at the base is also an issue with a UTP cable. There is just no way to make it look perfectly clean. Thus we really do recommend using dedicated cabinet or a server rack when dealing with Cat5 cable. If you put DVR on the desk and have all those baluns and wires hanging there, you will be back there many times with a service call. Something to keep in mind.

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How to secure your home with surveillance camera system?

Here is a simple guide on how to secure an average home with surveillance camera system. It may seem as simple as just mounting surveillance cameras and connecting them to DVR unit. But many times it is one of those situations when the more you learn and read the less you know. So I will try to provide a few important tips helping homeowners securing their property with CCTV system.
Unless we want to keep an eye on the babysitter, most likely we will be talking here about outdoor surveillance for home. In case of surveillance for single family house, there is few locations we should focus on and cover them with surveillance cameras. So, we should have a camera at every entrance to the house. That means putting wide angle lens surveillance camera right above each door in left or right corner. It is important to keep in mind that we don’t want the camera to be blinded by the door if it is open. Also we don’t want to have a light right in front of the camera. It is a good practice to mount surveillance cameras so outside light are behind the camera. It is essential to have an camera at every door because if someone breaks in, most likely they will use the door and getting close picture of the criminal is very important. Let’s don’t forget about garage door and basement door. I would also install several cameras inside of a house. They don’t need to be everywhere, but if you have a garage, put one camera there. Since garage is usually unfinished, it is easy to run the cables and install camera there. This camera should be as hidden as possible. This will be 2nd layer of protection in case outside cameras were disabled. I would suggest putting also surveillance in the basement. It is often entry or exit point for criminals. It is important to remember that they may enter your home wearing hoods but usually once they are inside they will take them off. Hidden cameras in couple places may help a lot.
Going back to outdoor surveillance of your home, it is important to have some extra general view cameras. Do not try to get license plates. It never works. But we want to know the car that robbers were driving, its color, make and any other detail that may be helpful later (bumper stickers, rims, spoiler etc.). Police will be on the lookout for the car matching description and chances are sooner or later someone will see similar car in the neighborhood. So it is very important to cover your driveway and streets around your property. It is actually more important than getting a face shot on the other cameras. So let’s get the car information recorded before robbers get even inside of your home.
Another very important aspect in home surveillance and security is location of the DVR. Since Digital Video Recorder will have all the video footage, it is important to locate it out of sight. So hide it in the basement, attic, closet, under the bed etc. Criminal will not spend extra time looking for it, but if it is in your living room next to TV, they will take it, often not even knowing what it is. Good place to locate the DVR is the place where robbers don’t go at all. It may be your laundry room, spare bathroom, nursery etc. Just remember that every DVR needs to have good ventilation and ambient temperature can’t exceed or go below operating temperature usually listed in spec sheet. Remember also that DVR is your base and every camera would need to be wired back to it. So easy access from the attic or basement, through which we would usually run cables, will make your work easier and cleaner.
So which cameras should I consider for home surveillance? Answer is pretty easy. In most of the home surveillance installations we use Turret, Ball type Cameras with Infrared Night Vision. They look good, perform great and are much less offensive to your neighbors and visitors than i.e. bullet type cameras. On the top of that, they come with infrared, so you can use them at night without having to install outside light all around your house. Turret type cameras are also easy to mount and adjust with wall or ceiling mounting option. Ball Cameras come with Vari-Focal or Fixed Lens. Fixed Lens is not-adjustable. Systems with those cameras are less expensive and can be used for short range surveillance (up to 50ft) with Cameras mounted at low level (up to 10ft). So those systems are perfect for ranch house, split level home or any other 1 story house. If you live in colonial style home, you probably will mount your cameras under the soffit. It is most common choice since you can ran the cables through the attic which usually is open. Since cameras are pretty high, you would want to use Security Cameras with Vari-Focal Lens. With those Cameras you can manually adjust zoom. So if the cameras are high you can zoom in to get more detailed view. It is a little extra work and you may need another person to view camera while you are adjusting zoom and focus. But this feature is way worth extra effort. Also Home Surveillance Systems with Vari-Focal Lens have stronger Infrared so Cameras can see farther in the darkness. Another great feature when Cameras are mounted high up.
Choosing DVR may seem very difficult too. After all there is so many to choose from. Start with number of channels or number of cameras you need it to support. Most common are 4, 8 and 16 channel Digital Video Recorders. For larger systems we have 24 channel or even 32 ch DVR unit. Many customers just want the best unit out there. But what really means “the best DVR”? DVR should provide highest recording quality with all the necessary features for home surveillance system. Features like remote access, mobile access from smartphone or tablet, maintenance free operation, reliability, user friendly interface and email alerts are probably the most important features in home surveillance system. On the top of that it would be nice to have something that doesn’t take whole closet. So yes, make sure that DVR you are about to purchase has all those features, but don’t look at the price. You don’t need enterprise grade DVR for home surveillance system. It will work, but it wont give you any extra benefits. You just wasting your money for features like 8 hard drive support, network server backup, industrial case, loop out for every channel, multiple sensor inputs etc. We encourage you to check our section for home surveillance systems and see our solutions for home security. You will find there pre-configured CCTV packages designed for residential surveillance.

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Use of Pan Tilt Zoom PTZ Cameras in Surveillance Systems.

Why and where it is justified to use PTZ Surveillance Camera? Pan Tilt Zoom Cameras known as PTZ Cameras are the only surveillance cameras with the option of panning tilting and zooming in one package. We do see box cameras with a optical zoom capability, but those do not move. They stay fixed in one position. In my opinion, they really make o sense, because when you zoom in, you dramatically reduce field of view of the camera and unless object is in exact center, by zooming in, you will loose the view. That’s why cameras with zoom only make sense if you can move the camera to follow the object or aim it at the object when zooming in. PTZ seems lie a great feature and often new customers want to “jump on it” right away. But here is a thing, unless you use your PTZ Camera for real time surveillance, meaning you are actually there to operate it, installing PTZ camera is often unjustified. Cost of a PTZ Camera equals often 5 times the cost of fixed camera. So the question is, will you get more by using PTZ Camera. Well, it depends. Let’s use a real life example. Let’s take a any large supermarket. With PTZ Camera security can easily follow suspect, zoom in and capture much more details than with the fixed cameras. So in this case PTZ Camera operated by security guard, is a really good idea and there is no number of fixed cameras that could replace it. PTZ Cameras are often used to monitor processes in different manufacturing plants, electric plants etc. This is a perfect use of the features of PTZ Camera. But unfortunately we see a lot of PTZ Cameras mounted on the buildings (usually government buildings) where PTZ feature of the Camera is never or almost never used. Those cameras are in fact doing exactly the same thing as fixed camera would do with fraction of the price of a PTZ Camera. In other cases we see PTZ Cameras being used along with their Pattern/Swing or Preset feature. What it means, we can set most of the PTZ Cameras to constantly scan the area by using pre-set positions or moves. It is a neat feature, but while scanning the area we can only really see part of the area for only few seconds. This means, that there is a large blind spot which constantly moves. So wouldn’t be better to use few fixed cameras and have a constant coverage of all the area? In most cases yes. So my point is that PTZ Cameras offer great benefits if they are being deployed where those extra features can really be used. Unfortunately in many cases PTZ Cameras end up being just a very expensive fixed camera.

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What is SDI High Definition 1080p CCTV?

SDI seems like a brand new technology in Closed Circuit Television, but in fact this standard has been available for few years now. 2011 was a first year when we started seeing SDI standard in CCTV systems. So what it really is SDI? Serial Digital Interface is a standard of transmission developed in television and movie industry allowing sending High Definition picture via standard Coaxial Cable (RG6 or RG59). SDI is a fully digital way of sending picture and/or sound via coax. Since it is a digital signal, it contains more data than analog signal and there is absolutely no quality loss. Well there is signal loss on long runs, but as long as we can get signal the quality will remain same. Signal loss is probably the biggest obstacle when it comes to SDI technology. As for now the limit of SDI transmission is about 200ft using best Caox cable. Not bad, but not enough in many cases. Thankfully there is option to deploy amplifiers on longer runs. It makes installation a little more complicated but probably still much less confusing and less expensive than IP installation.

So why SDI? There is IP technology supporting Megapixel quality picture. The problem with IP is that it requires pretty good knowledge of networking and it is still much more expensive than Analog CCTV. Problems with bandwidth is just another downside of IP system. Let’s face it, IP cameras have been around for many years now and this technology has never succeed. A lot of installers were looking for something as easy to install as regular CCTV system, but at the same time there was a need for better quality. Another factor is that we already have millions of miles of Coaxial cable already installed and it can be reused to some degree with SDI systems. Switching to SDI technology in many cases requires only replacing cameras and DVR unit. This is definitely great news for all CCTV installers out there.

When it comes to the SDI CCTV Cameras, there is more and more of them on the market. Prices are a little higher than prices of analog CCTV Cameras, but they are not as high as prices of IP Cameras. I also predict that SDI Cameras will be more and more affordable and in near future we should see 1080p SDI Cameras for as little as $150. Currently they cost around $200-$350 which is still not bad.

Also we see more and more SDI High Definition DVRs on the market. They are on average 2-3 times more expensive than Regular DVRs and will require much more hard drive space to store High Definition Video. As with SDI cameras, those price should also come down in near future.

Overall SDI really seems like a next big thing in surveillance. It offers full High Definition 1080p picture with Real Time Video, is more and more affordable, easy to install, doesn’t really require any extra knowledge and in many cases it can be applied to existing wiring. I am looking forward to more and more SDI products hitting the market and we will keep introducing them on our website.

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Difference between Home Surveillance System and Commercial CCTV Systems.

Some customers may be confused about which security camera system is right for them. Usually we recognize CCTV Systems for Home and commercial CCTV Systems. There are many systems on the market that can qualify to both categories. But there are also systems specifically designed for home and CCTV Systems for commercial surveillance. So what are the differences? While surveillance systems designed for small business in many cases can be also used at home, there are some systems designed for commercial installations and you probably would not want to have them at home. The difference is usually not in quality or performance, but more in features.

Systems designed for home usually are smaller in size. DVR units used for home surveillance usually are pretty small and quiet, so they can easily be located in the bedroom, living room, home office etc. Smaller, doesn’t mean lower quality. Those DVR usually record at the same quality and are capable of the same recording framerate as any commercial class Digital Video Recorder. But due to small form factor, usually there is only room for one hard drive, so storage space is limited. Also those DVR units rarely have Loop Out connection. There is limited number of Audio Inputs, Monitor Connections and there is usually no room for DVD burner for backup. DVR may not also support some network features like network backup to a server. Commercial DVR units often support Central Monitoring Software, so you can view several systems from one location. On the other hand, home surveillance often supports smartphone access, so you can view your home from work. There are of course Digital Video Recorders for home and for business supporting both features. So DVR for home surveillance is stripped from all the unnecessary features. Other than that it is still good quality product designed for long time operation.

Cameras used for Home Surveillance are also usually just smaller. Not too many homeowners want to put big commercial cameras on their home. Same, as with DVR, Security Cameras for home surveillance are not necessarily lower quality. Usually it is the same resolution and quality, the only difference is in size, so if those are infrared cameras there will be limited range for night vision. For home surveillance we tend to use small bullet cameras or turret cameras. They are easy to install and blend into environment.

Another difference is with cables. For commercial installations we tend to use Siamese Coaxial cable. It is much thicker than pre-made CCTV cables, but it offers much better quality on long runs. For home surveillance, since most of the runs are within 200ft, we can use pre-made cables. They are a little more difficult to fish through the walls, because of the ends, but they are cheaper and thinner, so easier to conceal.

And this is about it. As you see there are some differences, but rarely in quality. Of course I am not talking here about cheap home surveillance systems with plastic cameras and low resolution digital recorders, which you can find on store shelves of big box stores. So again, when comparing professional home surveillance and professional commercial CCTV system, the difference is usually in the features not in quality.

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CCTV and Catching the Criminal

So, many times when I talk to customers, they ask me few questions that seem to be more common than others. I will try to answer and explain some things regarding those frequently asked questions or FAQ about CCTV Systems, Security Cameras and right way to use them.

Q: Will I be able to clearly see the person’s face on the camera, so I can give it to the police?

A: In some cases yes. But camera would need to be located at the entrance or exit door and focus on the face. In open area like parking lot, or outside of the building it is almost impossible to capture clear mug shot.

Q: If I can’t get the clear shot of the face, how can I catch the criminal and what is the point of putting Surveillance Cameras?

A: In case of “little crimes” you don’t really need a face shot. Remember, just because someone broke into your car, and you do have a mug shot of the person, it doesn’t mean that police will be able to catch this criminal. They will not go through their data base to look for the match. But if you report it to the police and even if you don’t have a mug shot, you can still help catching this criminal. Police will look at other features like skin color, hair color, tattoos, clothes, way person walks, hair style etc. They will be patrolling the area and if they see someone matching description, they may stop this person and get ID or even compare it to the video. Even if they don’t arrest that person, most likely this person will move to different area knowing that Police is aware of his/her identity.

Q: Can I get license plate on the Security Camera?

A: Yes, but only if there is a camera located at the entrance/exit from parking lot, garage etc. Car needs to be passing slowly through narrow space so the camera can be focus just there to get tags.

Q: Can I get the license plates of cars parking next to my house or cars on the open parking lot?

A: Usually no.

Q: So what is the point of putting camera?

A: As with the face shot, license plate may not be the most important in catching the criminal. Usually person committing crime lives, works or just hangs out in the same area. Getting make of the car, color, specific detail like bumper sticker, ladder rack, big rims, tinted windows etc. is already big help in catching this criminal. If you report it to the police, they will be for a lookout for this specific car. If they car matching description, they will pull it over for questioning. Believe it or not, but in many cases stolen merchandise is still in the car. In case of hit and run, there will be visible damage on the car. Even if there is no other proof, it is usually enough to scare the criminal and prevent him or her to do more bad things.

It is always very important to report every incident to the local law enforcement. File the report even if you think that there is nothing to go after. More reports you file, more attention police will be paying to your property and sooner or later they will get the person. Always provide police with the video footage from your cameras. Something that may looks like nothing to you may be very important for them. In fact, there are situations where police just by looking at the video recognized suspect. They just arrested him many times before. So don’t be hesitant calling police, only in the worst case scenario they will not be able to help you.

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IP Camera System vs Regular Analog CCTV System – Objective Comparison

Internet Protocol Cameras (IP Cameras) are becoming more and more popular due to lower prices. IP Cameras are also capable of much higher resolutions comparing to analog CCTV Cameras. A lot of experts say that regular security cameras would be soon replaced entirely by IP camera systems. In my opinion for at least next few years we will see analog and IP camera system coexist with each other. There are few advantages of IP cameras but there is also few disadvantages. Let’s start with advantages. As mentioned before, IP cameras are capable of capturing picture in much higher resolution then regular CCTV Camera. Current IP Cameras can capture 2 Megapixel (and more) picture with 30fps quality of video. IP Cameras use network to send the image to the Video Recorder, so in many cases we can save a lot of money just on the wiring. There is no need for separate cable for each camera. By using network hubs or switches, we can combine several cameras and send the picture via one cat5 or cat6 cable. This makes wiring easier and it doesn’t require so much cable. Network cable is also usually cheaper than Siamese Cable used with Analog CCTV Cameras. With IP Camera System we have a flexibility when it comes to Video Recorder. For this purpose we can use standard PC with the Video recording software installed. Software usually comes with the camera. So there is really no need for additional DVR. We can also locate our Video Recorder anywhere on the Network. We are not limited to the one spot where all cables are terminated like with Analog CCTV System. IP systems can be also pretty easily expended. There is virtually no limit on the number of cameras IP system can handle, but of course this means extra Video Recorders, Switches etc.
Recently I ran into a lot of articles where cost of IP system seems to be calculated below cost of Analog CCTV System. How is it possible while IP Cameras are way more expensive comparing to their analog counterparts? The major argument used in many articles is price of labor and wiring. Obviously most of people writing those articles never install the CCTV System in their live. Arguments of cheaper wiring and cheaper labor may be true only in a very few instances. Basically we would have to have all cameras located in one area and connected to one switch. And this never is a case. There is also a lot of labor involved in setting up IP cameras. You can’t just connect it and aim it. There are network procedures that need to be implemented into every camera settings. It may not be a manual labor, but it takes time and skills, so it does cost. In most of the instances we will have to use more than one PoE switch and those are pretty expensive too. Argument, that you can use existing network to install IP Cameras is far from truth either. Most of existing network do not offer enough bandwidth to support few megapixel IP cameras, so in almost every case there is a need for separate network just for surveillance. Also not every PC can be used to run NVR software. For larger installations, we will need very fast computer and they may be much more expensive than regular CCTV DVR for analog system. So let’s forget about saving money on IP camera system. It usually costs 2-3 times more than Analog CCTV System.
Another disadvantage of IP Cameras is limited bandwidth. Let’s face it, if we want to use megapixel cameras and send 30fps video over the network, this network will get clogged pretty soon. Interesting is that most of the installers will actually lower resolution on IP cameras to standard VGA resolution to resolve bandwidth problems. So actually quality is no different than with Analog CCTV Cameras. In large IP systems we will have problem with high speed video, since it is hard to achieve full motion video due to again limited bandwidth. Another thing is night vision and low light capability. IP cameras use CMOS sensor to capture picture. CMOS sensors are not as good as CCD sensors in low light situations. So IP Cameras on average need more light to generate picture. While IP Cameras are great for big open spaces, they are not very suitable for smaller spaces or areas with a lot of corners and blind zones. Of course we can put a lot of IP cameras to cover every corner on every angle, but than cost of the installation sky rockets. There is no really advantage of higher resolution in that situation since a single camera is used to cover small area.
So to be fair I provided advantages but also disadvantages of IP Camera System. I was trying to be objective, not like other websites, where only advantages are highlighted. I hope this article will be helpful in choosing between IP or Analog CCTV setup.

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Do I really need static IP address to view my cameras online?

Many customers think that static IP address provided by Internet Service Provider or ISP is necessary for remote access and remote viewing of cameras. While having static IP address may be helpful, it is not necessary to have it and pay extra for it every month. If you have dynamic IP address, which most of us have, you can still enjoy viewing your Security Cameras and accessing your DVR over the internet. Simple alternative to static IP address is domain service like DynDns.com. It is free or for a small annual fee you can sign up and have ability to create many domain names. Your IP address turned from numeric form into easy to remember domain name. Here is how it works. You receive domain name, which is being updated on the server to match current IP address assigned to you by your ISP. Many CCTV DVR units on the market support at least one of DNS services. This way DVR will send and update its current IP address on DNS Server every time IP address changes. You, by entering your domain name, are being forwarded to current IP address of the DVR. This way your domain name will always point you to the current IP address of the DVR.

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