6 Tips to Selecting the Right Security Camera
High-tech solutions aren't always the answer to your video surveillance challenges.
As we move toward more advanced video surveillance equipment, it’s often hard to resist finding high-tech solutions to low-tech problems. For example, if you can use image stabilization, why worry about camera vibration? While it’s true that modern cameras can often get you good images under lousy conditions, improving conditions usually improves the image quality dramatically. In that spirit, here are a few camera placement tips that we frequently see overlooked.
- Megapixel expectations — Sure, higher resolution is better, but we may all agree that megapixel cameras are often overhyped. While you can cover a stadium or large open atrium with a single camera, that’s often more about obstructions than area. The megapixel camera that can see around trees and through marketing posters has yet to be invented.
- Fixed vs. pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) — With areas that have obstructions, the answer is often to use fewer p/t/z cameras, rather than more fixed cameras. This is fine for live viewing (see following) but Murphy’s Law was enhanced to cover p/t/z cameras a long time ago. Something like, “If a camera can be pointing the wrong way when something happens, it will be.”
- Recording and viewing — Along the p/t/z versus fixed lines, many people forget that cameras are used for both live monitoring and forensic review. If you’re covering a parking lot with p/t/z cameras and thinking that a 35X zoom lens will allow you to space the cameras pretty far apart, keep in mind that fewer cameras means fewer recorded streams. If you’re just viewing live, that’s not a problem, but if you’re going back later to review something, you may discover holes in your coverage that you weren’t expecting.
- Stable mounting platform — As we look to cover long distances, with megapixel cameras or long optical zoom lenses, keep in mind that you’re only as good as your mounting platform. A camera using high magnification will get you seasick if it’s on top of a tall light pole on a windy day, or pendant mounted to a long, unsupported pipe.
- Outside influences — Even with perfect camera placement, things go wrong. A camera located near an exhaust vent can capture the perfect image but require frequent cleaning. A loading dock camera can be blocked by unexpectedly tall vehicles. Sometimes it’s important to have a “Plan B.”
- Height matters — Higher isn’t always better. Sometimes placing cameras too high can give you a great shot of the tops of people’s heads, rather than their faces. Too low and they can be disabled too easily. The trick, as Goldilocks can tell you, is getting it just right.
I’m sure this is just scratching the surface — what’s your experience? Feel free to vent or provide your own ideas by posting a comment.
Robert Grossman is president of R. Grossman and Associates Inc., a consulting group specializing in electronic security products and projects. He can be reached at (609) 383-3456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.
David Burns serves as the campus Emergency Manager (EM) for Santa Clara University. During his 30+ year public safety career, Dave has served as a paramedic operations manager in Oakland, Calif.; EMS system administrator and regional disaster planner; EM Director for UCLA and local emergency manager in LA County, and consultant for FEMA/Emergency Management Institute (EMI).
Jim Grayson is a senior security consultant. His career spans more than 35 years in law enforcement and security consulting. He worked for UCLA on a workplace violence study involving hospitals, schools and small retail environments and consulted with NIOSH on a retail violence prevention study.
Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East.
Robin has been covering the security and campus public safety industries since 1998 and is a specialist in emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorials on important campus safety issues, including gang prevention, grants and funding, network integration, IP video, emergency notification, emergency management and communications, crime trends and risk management.