Video Surveillance Cameras for the Home

Video Surveillance Cameras for the Home

Technology drives so much of what we do these days. The traditional view of video surveillance of the past conjures up a vision of a row of monitors in a small (or large) room, each monitor connected to a video camera that is installed somewhere inside or outside the building; each monitor viewing an entrance, a room, or perhaps an outdoors area such as a courtyard, a gateway, a driveway, or an outside satellite building. Cameras required mounting, wiring to provide power, and cabling to bring the video signals back to the monitors. Video images captured would be stored on videotapes or DVDs, but that is older technology systems than those available today.

But todays options include cable-free Wi-Fi installations, and even wiring free, solar-powered cameras. Installation may still require camera base plates to be screwed or bolted to walls, ceilings or other physical structures, but wireless technology and solar-power with rechargeable batteries make installation so much simpler and much less expensive. A basic, simple home video surveillance system can even be implemented without the need to purchase any monitor equipment because a smart ‘phone can be utilized. However, because video surveillance options for the home are now simpler and more affordable than ever before, it is still a smart move to do some homework before rushing out or jumping online to buy cameras and whatever else you might think you need.

So where do you begin?

A typical camera product description might read something like this: 

Wireless Security Home Camera with:

1080P Video, 2-Way Audio, WiFi, Rechargeable Battery-Powered, Night Vision, Indoor/Outdoor

An alternative description might read like this:

Outdoor Security Camera 1080P, WiFi , 2.4G, Night Vision Security, Two-Way Audio, Cloud Storage, Motion Detection, Activity Alert, Deterrent Alarm, IP66 Waterproof.

Reading through these two descriptions we can pick out certain things listed for both units, and also several that are listed on one but not on the other.

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Common to both units is the reference 1080P which is the resolution of the camera. The ‘P’ stands ‘progressive scanning’, not for pixels as many may think. Understanding pixels is important, however. Remember that today we expect video surveillance to be video, which means moving, motion captured pictures. Older video surveillance systems were often not video as we understand it, but were a series of still photos. Now if you look at the file size of photographs you’ve taken with your digital camera you will understand that you see a file size reported in bytes, which because of the number of bytes we are familiar with KB or MB – kilobytes and megabytes. We also know that we have options on our cameras for standard or widescreen photographs and if you do any digital editing you may be aware that photo sizes such as 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768 are standard photo sizes. A 640×480 photo is 640 pixels wide and 480 pixels high.  With video 720P and 1080P indicate the vertical pixel count from top to bottom of the video frame., meaning the screen height.  This is referred to as the resolution.

Resolution

A 720P resolution camera produces a picture built up from 1280×720 pixels which is 921,600 pixels. In the USA, the rate of refresh of the pixels is 60 times per second, meaning 1/60th of a second per frame. The other important measurement to understand is the aspect ratio of the screen which is the ratio of the width compared to the height of the screen. Widescreen format, which has a 16:9 aspect ratio, is generally considered the most appropriate for video surveillance systems. It’s important to understand that both 720P and 1080P cameras are designed for use with an HD or widescreen monitor. A 1080P format is 1080×1440 pixels and that means 1,555,200 pixels or 1.555 MP (Mega pixels).  In case you’re shopping for used equipment, to be able to recognize whether the screen will be wide screen or more of a square shape which earlier cameras and monitor screens might be, check on the exact pixel height and width. If the second number isn’t close to being twice the first number, it’s not an HD or widescreen device.

It’s also important to understand that while the video quality you see on a screen should be better if you choose 1080P over 720P, there are other factors that can impact that assumption.  A video camera’s ability to process and transmit the information it receives is critical to the frame rate it delivers data at because that determines how smooth or how choppy the video is. You may have heard the term buffering which is what a computing device does when it becomes overloaded. When buffering occurs, a camera will make a compromise by changing the frame rate which is measured in frames per second (FPS). Video cameras that have a built-in H.264 video encoder are able to process streaming video better than those that don’t have a built-in H.264 video encoder. If you are purchasing on a budget and don’t require HD-quality surveillance video, choosing a 720P video camera might be a better choice because less buffering and less skipping will result in smoother, more fluid video because the frame rate is more likely to be maintained.

Video Quality

A factor that impacts video quality with wireless (Wi-Fi) security cameras is physical distance from the camera to the Wi-Fi router that will be connecting your camera to your monitoring system, which might be your mobile ‘phone. Not only are you connecting the camera and the router over the Wi-Fi link between them, but then there has to be a connection between your router and your monitor device. In the case of a physical monitor, such as your digital TV, in the home, but if you are away from your home that probably means connection over the Internet and possibly also your cell ‘phone provider’s network unless you are at a Wi-Fi location.

When choosing security cameras, other factors to consider are audio needs, motion detection, night vision, video storage options, and power supply requirements.

Audio

If you are planning on a door-bell style camera, you would expect to have audio capability. Two-way audio probably isn’t needed at all camera locations; some might benefit from having one-way, ‘monitoring’ audio capability while others might not require any audio capability.

Motion Detection

Motion detection can be helpful, but you need to be sure that you can program the system for automatic timed restoral if you turn it off.  Audio warnings every time there is movement detection during the day is probably something you need to have control over, but if it doesn’t automatically switch back on either on a programed timed basis or when daylight disappears or you’ll probably not have it activated

Night Vision

Night vision capability would be most appropriate for outdoors surveillance, and might also be a consideration for indoors surveillance of rooms with patio and even balcony windows, and also hallways.

Video Storage

Video storage is a further consideration. SD card options, at least an SD slot, is a commonly offered which provides you with local storage but video storage is, of course, limited to the storage capacity of the SD card. The other option generally available is connection to ‘cloud storage’ services which will most likely involve service provider charges.

Power

With solar power charging and battery-backup, installing wiring beyond wiring between the solar collection panel and the camera for power can be avoided. Solar power is, of course a very good option for outdoor cameras in locations that have plenty of sun, but might not be fully viable in some locations. If you choose a system with rechargeable batteries that require the batteries to be removed in order to recharge them, consideration of what you have to do the physically remove them and re-install them might be a smart move. A simple rule is, if you wouldn’t be comfortable doing self-installation, you might feel that having to change out batteries is something you might not want to have to deal with.

If neither solar power nor battery operated cameras are appropriate for your needs, then assessing the requirements for installing power to each camera location will be necessary.

More information on Video Surveillance Systems and options is on this site on these two pages on this website:

SAFETY AT HOME – MAKING YOUR HOME SECURE

HOME SAFETY SECURITY SYSTEMS 

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2 thoughts on “Video Surveillance Cameras for the Home”

  1. Hi, my husband and I have been looking at several options because we do need video surveillance cameras at our home. We have gone through a rather unpleasant experience recently (thankfully nothing happened), but we have learnt our lesson. One of the key features our video surveillance cameras must have is a good resolution. Thanks for expanding my knowledge about this keypoint.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful and informative article with everyone. The main content of this article is Video Surveillance Cameras for the Home. Technology has taken us so far that we can monitor everything if we have video surveillance cameras in our house. It has a video camera, high-resolution video recording system and we can easily control it from anywhere else through a WiFi connection. Video surveillance cameras are very important for home security and for monitoring your own home.

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