The backbone of any surveillance system is the recording package, without it the cameras are useful only as long as a human operator is sitting there and watching them (and even then only if the operator is capable or willing to initiate the appropriate response when something is observed).
For older systems time lapse video tape was used, but this suffered from some serious weaknesses (not the least of which was the physical degradation of the media itself, and the fact that reviewing the tape was a time consuming and cumbersome proposition).
Digital video recording offers longer recording times, no “worn media” issues and when combined with the appropriate software allows operators to scan through “event logs” looking for activity instead of reviewing tape on an almost 1:1 basis).
While Digital Video Recorders for surveillance systems are appreciably less expensive than even a few short years ago they can represent the single largest expense in a “budget” or hobby system.
I’ve decided that I need to increase the capacity of the system in use for my home, and have decided that this will require me assembling a new system rather that upgrading the old one (for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that upgrading the old system would take the recorder offline while it was reconfigured, and this way there’s no pressure to hurry things along.).
Commercial multi-input DVRs are available for between $900-$5000 and offer a dazzling array of options. For the purposes of this project we are going to stick with a fairly basic system comprised of a Personal Computer running Linux, free software (“Free” as in open source, not “free” as in pirated) beefed up RAM, processor and storage space and a DVR card capable of monitoring at least eight cameras).
The goal is to keep the footprint of the entire package as small as possible (so no HUGE tower desktops for this one), and to see if we can’t get a nice slick “custom” appearance into the deal.
We’ll be aiming to bring the entire system in under $400 (CDN) with the parts accumulated over time to spread out the up-front costs.