Archive for Budget CCTV

Home CCTV – Encoder

Our CCTV system, which was never simple, has grown over the years. It’s made up of a pile of different components, it’s laid out like this;

Camera – DVR – HDMI/Composite Converter – Encoder – Modulator

Camera – Both Analog and IP Cameras feed into the Digital Video Recorder.

DVR – The DVR creates a multiplexed (that is all cameras visible on a single screen) which is then fed into the HDMI-Composite converter (this is my fault as the DVR I bought has only a HDMI output – buying a DVR with a composite output would have eliminated this step).

HDMI-Composite Coverter – This device simply takes the HDMI output from the DVR and converts it into a basic analog signal so it can be fed into the Encoder and then the Modulator (earlier versions of this arrangement saw the signal fed into an amplifier and then split to the Encoder and the Modulator separately).

Encoder – The encoder converts the analog signal into a digital one, which can then be viewed by our home automation system and portable electronic devices (smartphones etc).

Modulator – The composite analog signal is then fed into a modulator which converts it into a frequency recognized by CATV as a specific channel (this allows us to view the multiplexed feed on any TV in the house when we bring up a designated channel).

The encoder is an important part of the overall system. We originally had a Aviosys IP9100a performing this function, and while far from ideal it was economical and mostly reliable (towards the end of its service life I had it plugged into a Belkin Wemo module so I could remotely power cycle the device). The first unit lasted approximately 2 years, and its replacement another 3.

When the most recent unit died it was time to find a better solution (also it appears the Axiosys 9100a is no longer available). As with other components we have phased in to our system I would prefer commercial grade hardware where possible – my concern was that a new device might not integrate into the various system we have in place.

More updates as we try out the new hardware.

CCTV to CATV – An overview

We have always had our CCTV system fed into our cable so that regardless what room of the house you are in you can simply turn to a specific channel and see what the cameras see.

This is accomplished by taking the composite video signal from the CCTV DVR (usually a quad screen split or some such), feeding it through an agile modulator (a device that converts a signal from a composite source into a designated frequency specific to a cable television channel) which is then combined into the CATV line for the house (a notch filter is used to block a specific channel range so there is no interference on the channel used by the modulator).

CATV distribution system

1 – CATV feed from cable company.
2 – Signal is split – one line goes to cable modem to minimize drop loss.
3 – Cable signal is fed through a ‘notch filter’ which eliminates a specific cable band (channels 72-78 are deleted).
4 – Cable signal and CCTV modulated feed (set on channel 75) is combined, then fed to various locations.

Hey presto, your cameras are now easily accessible from anywhere in the house and you can check what goes ‘bump’ in the night by simply changing channels.

Home Surveillance System

The backbone of our home CCTV system consists of a few hardwired analog cameras connected to a digital video recorder which keeps approximately 2 months worth of footage on file.

The recorder itself is isolated from our network, and it’s multiplexed feed is fed out to the usual array of internet thingamabobs by an encoder, and to all the TVs in our house by a modulator that converts the composite signal from the DVR to a specific TV channels frequency.

This allows me to access the video feeds remotely, but in a worst case scenario means an unauthorized user could access the live feeds, but would be unable to access the recordings or recorder itself.

I’m no network security guru, so both the alarm system and the CCTV system have this sort of “one way” (or “look but don’t touch”) relationship with our internet enabled home automation systems to prevent people smarter than me from ruining my day.
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As we’ve renovated our new house I’ve taken the opportunity to run wire for both the alarm and CCTV systems whenever I get the chance. More renovations means more coverage for both. The system now, after four years of renos, is really quite substantial.

An early issue was the location of the recording/distribution hardware for the system. I chose a high shelf near an outlet in the basement for convenience. This area has become quite a mess as I’ve run in new cameras and have left long loops of wire (for later relocation) dangling around the shelf.

Home CCTV system

Our long list of other projects trumpted CCTV as a priority, but I’ve now arranged a proper location for the CCTV system, and have just finished relocating it (hence the picture of the old setup).

We’re not done yet, but it is coming along nicely.

(For the record, the new location is much better organized and looks less sloppy)

The anatomy of a burglary

The video below shows a few kids breaking into a house just before new years. Not a lot of technical expertise here. Give it a watch, and you’ll see a team of young burglars tackle a residential burlgary on a Saturday night at about 8:30pm.

This looks to be a fairly typical B&E, they ring the doorbell repeatedly and peer in the windows to make sure the occupants are not simply ignoring their efforts. The last thing these guys want is to run into a homeowner. An alarm system would likely not have prevented the burglary, but it would have certainly reduced the kids time on the ground inside the house.

Dashcam Footage… MVC

So, on the way home from work the other day I witnessed a collision. It’s hard to make out in the video (occurs at 00:16), but a pickup truck runs a red light and smokes a security cute-ute in the middle of an intersection.

I stopped, called 911 and waited for the city Police to arrive so that I could give a statement. As my brother has pointed out, it’s really not a flattering angle for me (but have some pity, this was filmed coming home from a 12 hour night shift worked with bugger all sleep the day before).

It’s neither graphic or exciting video, within 15 minutes the paramedics had taken the security guard away, fire had dumped kitty litter all over the spilled fluids and I had given a written statement and was on my way.

Dashcam Evolution

Dashcams are now just a part of the standard equipment for our cars. It offers nice peace of mind whilst sitting in the middle of the goat rodeo we call everyday traffic.

We’ve gone through a number of different models, with different features (single camera, dual camera, GPS equipped) and have at this time moved on to the “rear view mirror dashcam” as being the best option for us. Generally these rear view dashcams clip/slip/stick to the stock rearview mirror, meaning they take up significantly less real estate than a camera suction cupped to the windshield. An added bonus is that they are less obvious, and would be less tempting to parking lot thieves that might mistake your dashcam for a GPS unit.

Rear view miror dash cam

We’ve got some abuse testing to do with this unit, but early impressions are favorable.
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Ah, that’s better…

Received the Ram Motorcycle Fork Stem Base in the mail yesterday. This mount is a double ball mount with the base mounting into the center of the handlebars, allowing all sorts of adjustment for height and angle. Initial impressions are favourable, with all the bits included and proper english instructions for installation.

ram motorcycle fork stem mount

Installation took 20 minutes altogether, and was extremely simple. The finished product looks like the picture on the outside of the packaging, and so it’s time to test the thing out and see how it does.

I have to admit I like it. It provides a much better view than the cludged together mirror mount, and doesn’t make me nearly as sea-sick as the sunglasses camera. I think it’s just about perfect!

I’ll run this AND the sunglasses tomorrow on my way into work, and see if I can’t cobble together some entertaining video from the two sources as a mini-project!).

“Action Camera”

The most recent camera up for testing is a fixed outdoor action camera at $70CDN shipped. Promising a 120 degree field of vision and resistance to water and shock this camera will be mounted on the motorcycle to provide a fixed forward view of the ride.

gocam clone

Initial impressions are positive, with the camera working in the way the documentation describes and a few test clips being recorded properly (I was able to set the time and date the VERY first time following the documentation on this unit).

Update: 16 May 2012 – Video clip from my commute home.

I am impressed with this little camera, although the video size is not encouraging (about 16 minutes of video ate up almost 2Gb). I’ll look at a better mounting system under the front fairing, and see how that turns out.

Update: 18 May 2012 – Recorded a couple of test clips this morning (the Action cam now being equipped with a 8Gb TF card), the first to demonstrate the benefits of placing a piece of electrical tape over the microphone.

For the second clip I mounted the camera on the passenger grab handle, which resulted in somewhat shaky video of my posterior with a sliver of traffic visible on the left. Far from optimal.

I’ll experiment with other mounting locations, and (of course) post the results here.

Update: 25 May 2012 – I’ve given up the wire tie/velcro/duct tape mounting arrangements and ordered a Ram Motorcycle Fork Stem Base to install on the bike. This would give a view over the instrument cluster. We’ll see how this works out.