IVB\’s Home Theater and Home Automation

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CCTV 101

Posted by IVB on May 2, 2007

I just typed up this summary of my Monday night CCTV walkthrough with my neighbors and sent it out. Dang they loved it; it’s not really that insightful, but I s’pose if you’ve not had any exposure to CCTV, this could help.
Why I put up cameras:

1) 55% of the value to me was the ability to remotely view the cameras over my cellphone in the event of a false alarm. I’ve had 2 instances over the past 6 months where I was erroneously contacted, and the ability to confirm that everything was fine gave me piece of mind. Once was when I was alone and wife/kids were out of town, so I was definitely a little skittish about potentially coming home to a robbery in progress, and it;s not like I’d want to ask my neighbors to put themselves in harms way by checking it out. The police will start charging for false alarms, so this was a simple way of confirming that life was good.

2) 45% of the value to me was security in case the bad guys do come. Of that 45%, there’s 2 components:

2a) Recording whats happening on the sidewalk outside my house in the event of a mugging there or someone running away from a mugging, so there’s legit evidence of what happened. (ie, no need for Neighborhood Watch Network emails with text-based and potentially vague descriptions about who was the guy who robbed you/broke into your car, but an actual picture.

2b) Recording of the bad guys stealing my stuff.  This is clearly the smallest overall percentage since my stuff will still be gone, but hopefully this will help the police somewhat.
What equipment you need:

1) Cameras. The sweet spot is from $125 to $175, my Vitek brand, night vision color 1/3” 480line cameras are $156 if you get them from automatedoutlet.com. 

2) Either:

2a) A CCTV DVR, which is basically a tivo-type unit with camera inputs and specialized software. This runs anywhere from $700-$2000, based on # of cameras you want to record, quality, internet/PDA viewing.

2b) A CCTV card for computer. This could run $150->$1000, mine cost $400 and is a pretty dang decent one. It’s the AverMedia NV5000. It’s very picky though and only works on Intel computers (not AMD). If you opt for the same card I have and are computer-savvy, you can read through the hardware recommendations on the AverMedia site. Warning, it’s pretty technical, as I’m sure they need to legally defend themselves (http://www.avermedia.com/nvd/hardware-recom.asp

You do NOT need both the computer and the DVR, it’s one or the other
3) Cabling to run from the camera to the PC or DVR (unless you get wireless cameras, which I know very little about since I don’t have them).  You can use either

3a) CAT5 network cable with adapters on the end, or

3b) RG6 (video signal) and 18gauge/2 conductor (for low-voltage power).
How hard is it:

– If you’re comfortable with getting up on a ladder, have easy access to your attic, and know how to use a drill, this is pretty basic stuff.  The first time you drill a hole through your outer wall is a little freaky, but once you get in the attic and look around at how craftsman style homes are built, you realize that it’s all very very simple.
Other thoughts:

– Consider camera placement before purchasing cameras. If you’re only going to have one, then putting up high where you just grab a shot of the top of the perpetrator’s head isn’t going to be useful as all a jury will ever think is “yes, the suspect had a bald spot”.   If you have more than one, that’s less of an issue.

– If you’re going to go through this hassle, don’t skimp on the most important bit and get a cheapo camera.  Keep in mind that the jury system requires “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, so getting something cheap and grainy won’t really help you that much if the bad guys come knocking.


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