Designing, Installing, and Maintaining Commercial Security Cameras and Systems in Southern California
There are many makes, models, features, and price points for commercial video security cameras. In fact, there are too many manufacturers to keep track of when making a decision. As a business security integrator, we are inundated on a daily basis by different manufacturers and distributors trying to get us to represent their brand. Over the years of working with different surveillance camera types and makes, we have come to realize some of the most important characteristics of choosing a camera are reliability, warranty, and features such as – lens type, housing, analytics, and programming. These will be discussed in more detail below. All of these are important, but one of the most important factors is support. Does the camera manufacturer back-up their product with technical support and sound, fair return, and repair policies? At SoCal Access and Video, we make sure that we partner with the best providers of video security cameras so we can get the support we need in order to pass that onto our customers and provide them with unparalleled service and maintenance for their investment.
Understanding the different types of cameras, and how the technology best suits your needs and budget will allow you to make the best decision regarding the best security camera system for your needs.
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A Brief Overview
Security cameras capture usable, live video from both the interior and exterior areas of your business. The signal transmitted from the security camera is displayed “live” on closed circuit television, commonly referred to as CCTV, and stored to a set of files within the Digital Video Recorder – DVR, Network Video Recorder – NVR, or cloud storage options. These devices allow you to view archived video through a Video Management Software (VMS) solution to be viewed as needed. Emerging technology using cloud-based video management and archive storage is also becoming more reliable and affordable. Configuring these devices with a broadband internet connection will allow you to view live and recorded video from virtually anywhere from any device – PC’s, Tablets, Smartphone. The advantages in doing so are many, but we like to sum it up by promising you a new level of command and control to manage your business, assets, and employees.
Different Types of Commercial Security Cameras
Video Surveillance Systems are made up of many parts, the most common of which is the camera itself. The type of camera specified for a particular location is important to make sure the field of view and detail is properly captured on video. In addition, the type of camera and camera options are many in number. Here are some factors to consider.
A Bullet camera is in a cylindrical or rectangular type housing, best used for outdoor and/or license plate readers.
Dome cameras have a clear or tinted dome around the lens, come in different sizes with different housing types, and are best for indoor use, although sometimes can also be used outdoors.
We always suggest a vandal resistant housing for outdoor use and for rugged environments, such as manufacturing and warehouses where cameras can be bumped by a forklift, or exposed to possible sabotage. The main difference is a more rugged metal housing versus a plastic housing. In an office situation, a plastic housing, non-vandal resistant camera is usually more appropriate and costs about $10 less.
The first question to ask when selecting a security camera is fixed lens or varifocal lens. A fixed lens, as it implies, is constant and usually runs 2.8 mm to 3.7mm depending on the make and model of the camera. These lens types will give you a 90 to 110 degree field of view. Conversely, a varifocal lens will allow you to adjust the angle and size of the field of view once the camera is installed. These lens measurements usually run 2.7 to 12mm in size. If you are trying to zoom into a specific location and have good resolution, facial recognition, etcetera, a varifocal lens is the best option, but also costs more than a fixed lens.
On a more detailed level, in the case of license plate recognition (LPR) and other factors that you are considering such as location of camera, field of view and facial recognition and resolution requirements a larger lens such as a 40 or 50 mm may be appropriate to get the best shot at the location being recorded. In these cases two cameras may be necessary, one to get the specific shot up close with the appropriate resolution and detail. A second camera with a wider angle shot would get more of the overall scene and be a supported view to show what happens outside of the more detailed shot area. A good example of this is a LPR camera focused on a tight window on a driveway/entry into a parking lot that captures license plates and the driver/passenger in the vehicle, but that’s about it. A second camera would provide an overview of the parking lot and entry from the street as cars and people exit and enter.
PTZ stands for Pan, Tilt and Zoom. These cameras allow you to move and zoom the camera lens for closer and more varied views. Mostly ideal for applications where a security guard with a joystick controller will be operating the camera. These cameras can also be programmed to go on guard tours and have preset locations that are set to move every 5,10, 20 seconds. We don’t usually recommend PTZ cameras for several reasons. First, a PTZ camera even with a live person monitoring it on the other end can create issues trying to view too many areas. What tends to happen is the guard will leave the camera viewing something not needed and when actual activity happens that needs to be recorded, the camera is not looking/recording at the right place. For this reason alone, we generally try to design our camera systems to look at all areas without zoom or movement required so regardless of what takes place, the customer can get the video footage they need. Additionally, with the right megapixel IP camera, a PTZ function is available which will allow some flexibility in the field of view and zoom eliminating any requirement for a PTZ camera. In other applications, we like to recommend a 180 degree or 360 degree panoramic camera to capture all the activity without the need to pan, tilt and/or zoom a camera lens.
License Plate Recognition Cameras
LPR cameras specialize in the capture of license plates. There are many factors to consider when dealing with an LPR Camera solution. Some of these include the horizon or field of view for the car and the license plate, how fast is the car going, will you be looking at the front of the vehicle, the back of the vehicle or both? One of the most important factors is to decide if the plate will be read by a video system operator or by the VMS software and then recorded in a database. Does the application require the LPR camera to display the digital read out of the plate in the recorded video frames(s)?
A motorized lens allows for the adjustments of zoom, focus and field of view through the VMS software after the camera has been installed. At SoCal Access and Video we generally recommend motorized lens cameras when the budget will allow for both ease of installation and ongoing adjustments that may be requested after the initial installation period. As a customer’s needs change, we want to be able to make changes/adjustments without adding cameras or having to apply additional charges. Finally, a security camera with a varifocal lens also help to replace the requirement for a PTZ camera as previously discussed.
Night Vision cameras come in three forms now. Infrared – Infrared LED Cameras allow for the Infrared light to be displaced onto your field of view. The field of view and the objects viewed at night will change to black and white, but will still give you a clear and accurate picture to recount activities. Infrared cameras are not always necessary if the scene has good ambient lighting, but in the case of a very dark area with ambient lighting an infrared security camera is recommended. It’s also important to know the distance rating of the infrared LED security camera. In a parking lot, for example, you would want to be sure that the infrared LEDs can cover the far reaches of the lot, not just the area right under the camera.
Starlight technology security cameras are the latest technology with special starlight sensors to provide improved full color night vision in low light conditions. Security Cameras with Starlight Technology provide clear and relevant images in full color regardless of lighting conditions and time of day. Essentially light passes through the lens.
Placement of cameras is key and takes not only a professional to assess the property and viewing areas, but also a collaborative effort with the customer to better understand what their needs and requirements are to design and engineer the best solution for their long term use and to maximize their investment.
WiFi cameras are also becoming more mainstream, particularly with Ring Doorbells and Ring WiFi Cameras. We have used WiFi cameras and we install Ring Products, however, we find that for commercial and industrial applications a wired solution works best. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but we mostly recommend a wired solution. Another variation of wireless cameras, however, is to create a point to point wireless network using a mesh network, or node. This is often called for with a remote parking lot or remote satellite building location where we can direct a digital signal back to the main building and accept the digital signal/recording into the recording device.
A security camera is essentially a very sophisticated motion sensor. You have the added benefit of video and other functions that a motion sensor by itself does not always offer. On the highest scale of sophistication are Video Analytics. Video Analytics employ a fixed algorithm to scan video footage live or recorded and to create an alert to a monitoring station or to populate video clips for the desired outcome. In the first example, let’s say you have a retail store and you want to be alerted if there are more than 20 people inside of the store. A security camera with motion detection and the proper analytics set-up can count people as they enter and exit the store and send an alert to a manager or perhaps a loss prevention employee to indicate they need to increase security coverage in that location. Similarly, analytics can provide line crossing functions. In a parking lot, if a car moves or a person walks across the perimeter an alert is sent and the appropriate response can be given. Analytics can also detect audible noises such as gunshots. In the second example using recorded video, let’s say you had a nice piece of art missing from the wall or table top. You could go back to the analytics and ask to show the last time that item was in its place. The recording would then give you the precise time and video footage of when that item was taken.
Card Access Control & Security Cameras – AKA “Integration”
Many consider having security cameras on the premises, however most white-collar crimes occur within the building by trusted employees. Controlling who enters your business, restricting access to certain employees, and offering more protection to employees from outside intruders is becoming more and more important. Card access control systems are often installed in tandem with video surveillance systems to provide the best possible security for your business. We offer the latest in technology for card access control hardware and software. Ask us about keyless entry systems and how they can help further protect your company’s valuable assets.
Brands of Commercial Security Cameras
If we had a nickel for every brand of camera… There’s a scene in the movie, Armageddon where the Russian Cosmonaut, Lev, is trying to fix something in a hurry on the spacecraft as they are leaving the asteroid. He yells in his Russian accent, “Yeah! Russian part, American parts all made in Taiwan!” We like to use Dahua, Hikvision, Axis, and Arecont Vision cameras. All of these brands are also available in what are called OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) cameras. Depending on the type of camera specified – dome or bullet, lens type, IP, CVI, TVI or Analog we can sometimes save you a lot of money if we go the OEM route. As previously mentioned, the biggest factor in choosing a camera brand is support and warranty. Most camera brands offer the same or similar features. It’s whether they back-up their product with advanced replacements, repairs, and good tech support that really sets a camera manufacturer apart from another.
Let our qualified technicians work with you to develop and design the security system that best fits your needs and budget. We will assist you with navigating the plethora of alternatives including IP, TVI, CVI, and Analog cameras. What resolution is best for your application and price requirements? How would you like to view the video? From a cellphone or mobile device, on the company network, from a remote office or command center, or a video monitoring station with live, real-time response and voice down capabilities? No solution is unattainable. We are experts at explaining your options and educating you on the most current technologies while also staying with some of the old tried and true solutions that are still very effective.
Contact us today to learn more about our commercial video surveillance systems including digital video surveillance. We service businesses within the Southern California area including cities in and around Los Angeles, Orange County, and the San Gabriel Valley.