Security Tip

Looking for a complete video surveillance system that is effective, flexible, and gives you the best bang for your buck ?

Get a 4 camera syetem, with a good B&W or color monitor, and an inexpensive DVR. This will provide all the video security most people will need.





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Your Video Surveillance System

Getting To Know The Other System Components


As you know from the introduction to Video Surveillance, there are two basic motivators for installing a video surveillance system: deterrence and apprehension, which play a key role in protecting your family and property.

But the security camera is only part of a complete video surveillance system. Although security cameras, spy gear, and other CCTV equipment can get quite technical, we'll stick to our principle of simplicity. So here are the basics.

At its' most basic your video surveillance system will include at least one security video camera (often with a motion detector to trigger the camera), and a surveillance monitor.

A more complete video surveillance system will also have a digital video recorder (DVR) to capture the image. And if you need to monitor more than one area, a switcher or multiplexer is used to monitor and coordinate multiple cameras.

It may sound complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Now let's look quickly at the pieces.

The Security Video Camera

Security Video CAmeraIn the section on security camera basics, there are a several types of cameras, each suited for a specific purpose or environment.

You'll need to choose between hard-wired and wireless surveillance camera systems. There are security cams for low-light areas, and for night-time monitoring. And there are cameras made for indoor or outdoor use, and some are built to be used anywhere.

And don't forget the specialty spy gear: nanny cams, and hidden cameras that are designed to look like something else (a lamp, teddy bear, smoke detector, etc).

But as you might guess, the camera itself is only one part of a complete video surveillance system.

Surveillance Monitors

Surveillance MonitorsMost video surveillance system packages include a security monitor, as well as a recording device. But the natural question to ask is why anyone would use a security video monitor when a regular TV monitor will do the job. And you already own one of those ! Yes, a TV is OK for baby monitoring or for single surveilance camera, when image quality is not too important.

However for a quality installation, the surveillance monitor is as important as the cameras. It provides an extended life of picture tube, necessary due to the static picture, which causes picture burnout. Surveillance monitors also provide higher lines of resolution (better picture quality), and accept only video signals rather than RF/antenna signals.

Monitors are available in TV-style black & white or color, and in LCD designs. B & W is the least expensive, and is fine for night surveillance or area viewing that does not require high resolution.

For facial recognition, or for surveillance of detailed areas that require higher resolution, a color monitor is recommended. LCD video monitors offer the highest resolution and contrast pictures, and are the preferred option if your viewing is more than casual.

Switches and Multiplexers

Video Security MultiplexerA dedicated monitor displays the video from only one camera. However, as the number of cameras increase, your video surveillance system will likely include additional equipment such as switchers, recorders, multiplexers, and quad splitters.

1) Switchers - A switcher enables a user to select the area they want to see by pressing a button associated with a specific video camera. A sequential switcher is the most popular, and switches from one camera to another automatically, at user-defined intervals - an inexpensive way to view multiple cameras with only one monitor. However, a switcher will not allow you to view cameras in split screen.

2) Quads - a quad compresses images from four separate video cameras and simultaneously displays them on a single monitor screen. Or a single camera can be selected and displayed full screen. Unlike multiplexers, quad recordings show only what appears on the monitor at the time of recording. Some monitors have built-in quad functionality.

3) Multiplexers - For larger video surveillance systems, a video multiplexer displays images from 8, 12, or 16 cameras on to the security video monitor, either one at a time in full screen, or simultaneously on a in reduced sizes. Most multiplexors today contain motion detection features that enables one camera to record more frames of video that show motion than from one not showing any motion.

Recording Devices

Digital Video RecorderIf you plan to record images for later viewing, your video surveillance system should also include a video recorder. Recording can be either a set of stills taken at predetermined intervals or constant video recorded to a tape system or digitally to a hard drive.

Older technology, called time lapse CCTV recorders, record the video signals on standard VCR tapes. Decent images can be achieved by setting the recoding duration for about 72 hours, thus requiring a tape change every 3 days. Quality of recording is acceptable with one video camera. But when more then one camera is being used in split screen mode, picture quality is reduced.

If you have a very limited surveillance equipment budget, don't need high quality images, and don't mind the frequent 'tape management', these recorders can still be found at very low prices.

However, almost every video surveillance system on the market has replaced VCR-type devices with the Digital Video Recorder (DVR), also referred to as Digital CCTV recorders.

Designed for 4-, 8-, and 16-channels (cameras), DVRs store their data in a digital format on a hard drive. They use compression technology to provide far better image quality, and more recording space. The recording capability of digital security video recorders range from 80 to 300 hours.

Security system DVRs offer 4 important advantages over older video recorders:

1) DVRs digitally record data on to a hard drive or memory card, eliminating the need for video tapes.
2) They are equipped with a "motion detection" capability, which triggers recording only when it senses action or movement.
3) Unlike time-lapse analog recorders, they maintain video quality when multiple cameras are used.
4) Many DVRs allow you to view your surveillance video remotely, over a standard internet connection.

Choosing the right video surveillance system equipment offers a great advantage by letting you monitor multiple areas of your property, and improving your chances of preventing the threat before it can escalate into theft, vandalism, or harm to your family.

And if an intrusion does occur, the video camera system gives you the hard evidence to prosecute or resolve the trouble.


For more information:

Video Surveillance Introduction: First consider whether a video surveillance system is the right choice for you.

Types of Security Cameras: Get the big picture on what's available.

Security Surveillance Cameras: A quick review of styles and how they're used.

Thoughts on using hidden spy cams for home surveillance.