Understanding the Basics of Video Surveillance

We all have seen that news story where they show an image captured by a video surveillance camera asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect. Most times the quality is so bad it is even hard to identify if they are male or female. What is the point of having a video surveillance system if the quality is that low? Fortunately, technology has come a long way in coming up with better quality cameras and capture devices IF you purchase the correct equipment.

Consumers are used to watching content that is high definition so why would anyone want to continue purchasing analog equipment.  There are some larger companies (that sell security systems as well) that are still selling their customers analog cameras that don’t have the quality that measured up to what everyone is used to. With the prices coming down on HD equipment there isn’t even much savings.  However, upgrading to an HD surveillance system doesn’t mean you need to re-wire your entire system as some newer technology allows HD video over the old coax cable.  Some terms to understand when looking at video surveillance systems.

IP Camera System: networked cameras connect like the way computers connect.  They provide video, power & control over a single Cat5 or Ethernet cable.  The quality of an IP Camera System can be quite high.

HD-TVI Camera Systems: High Definition Transport Video Interface (HD-TVI) will transmit 1080p video content over coax cable.  If you want to upgrade the quality of an analog system you can save money by reusing the coax cable and just replace the cameras and recorder

Analog System: Lower quality cameras that can vary in quality depending on the camera.  The resolution is not HD quality

Hard Drive Size: The larger the hard drive size the more video footage can be stored. Sizes are measured in Tera-bytes (TB).  Depending on the quality of the cameras the amount of footage can vary.

Motion vs. Continuous Recording: the video recorder can be set to record only when motion is detected on the camera or it can be set to record constantly.  There are also schedules that can be programmed into the recorder to select when it records motion vs continuous.  If the recorder is setup to record continuous it uses much more space than set to only motion.  Why fill up a hard drive with footage of an empty room?

DVR/NVR: Digital Video Recorder (DVR)/Network Video Recorder (NVR) are the 2 types of recorders.  If you have an IP camera system, the recorder will be a NVR because it is recording from network devices. If you have an analog or HD-TVI system the recorder is a DVR because it is digitally recording the footage. Most NVRs or DVRs can be connected to your computer network so viewers can monitor the cameras from any computer on the network

Remote/Mobile Viewing: Most modern surveillance systems have phone or tablet apps to allow viewing on your phone when you’re at home or off site.  A high speed internet connection is needed to connect to the DVR or NVR.

If you are considering a video surveillance system hopefully this information will help when talking with the sales person or system designer to make sure you are getting a system that will meet your goals.

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