Setting up office or home surveillance systems brings an added layer of protection. But with a myriad of options available in the market, how do you choose the right one for you? This ultimate video surveillance guide by Spy Monkey Surveillance covers everything you need to know about buying DIY video security systems in Australia.
What Is A Surveillance System?
Security surveillance systems consist of security cameras and a recorder. The cameras capture and record footage of particular areas for future reference in case of an unforeseen event. You can choose between IP, analogue and wireless systems based on your specific needs. Surveillance systems have become popular choices for homes and businesses because of their ability to deter intruders and capture suspicious activities.
IP Surveillance System Vs Analogue Surveillance System
What Is An IP Surveillance System?
IP or Internet Protocol systems consist of cameras that are connected to a Network Video Recorder (NVR) through an Internet network. These IP network cameras have the ability to record and compress video data before it reaches the NVR where it is stored and accessed for playback when needed.
Most modern IP systems use Power over Ethernet (PoE), a security system innovation that supplies both power and data from the NVR to the camera through a single cable. This plug-and-play functionality means that setting up a video security system is possible for nearly anyone.
IP security camera systems or IP Kits have quickly become the most popular choice because they deliver high-res videos and images while enabling remote accessibility to live cameras via smartphones, computers or tablets.
- Straight-forward to set up
- High resolution images and videos produce excellent detail
- Ability to easily access video footage remotely via a smart device
- Fewer wires and cables
- Good security with encrypted data
- Camera firmware can easily be updated
- Advanced features like motion detection, face detection, tripwire technology, email & Push notifications to smartphone, digital zoom, and image enhancement technology
- Ability to cover a much wider area – up to 3 times more than analogue cameras
- High resolution video needs adequate hard drive storage capacity
- Higher setup costs in comparison to analogue cameras and systems
What Is An Analogue Surveillance System?
Camera's from Analogue security systems transmit and record video data in an analogue format before it is transmitted over coaxial cable to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The DVR converts this analogue data into a digital format before compressing and storing it on a hard drive for future playback. Some of the more modern DVR's can be connected to the Internet for live monitoring and playback over a network.
- Lower cost in comparison to IP systems especially if many cameras are needed
- Setup is straightforward
- Consumes less bandwidth than IP camera systems
- Technological improvements allow for high-resolution analogue cameras
- A coaxial cable and power cable are required for each camera in comparison to IP cameras requiring a single PoE cable
- Image quality and frame rates are usually lower and may appear blurry or grainy for high motion areas
- Lack of encryption opens up the system to potential hacking from outside
What Is A Wireless Surveillance System?
A wireless security system connects to the NVR through Wi-Fi or a wireless network. Please note that you will still need wired power for each camera.
Wired Vs Wireless – What Is Better For You?
It's important to understand the pros and cons of going wired or wireless. Wireless is potentially a quick and easy solution, however it's not always the best solution. In general we recommend to use a cabled system for the most stability. Wireless systems can only support a small quantity of cameras, up to 4 usually.
Pros Of A Wireless Security System
- Easy to install since there is no need to run cables between the cameras and recorder, which makes it convenient for DIYers
- Easier to relocate, making it ideal for renters or even in situations requiring a temporary setup
- Easier to conceal because of the smaller size and lack of wires
Cons Of A Wireless Security System
- Wireless cameras still need a power source, so it's not actually completely wireless unless they're battery powered
- Lower total bandwidth capacity
- Potential loss of WiFi signal from interference
- Susceptible to hacking which could put your property at risk. Strong passwords and encryptions are absolute musts to reduce your risks
- Cameras need to be within WiFi range
- Higher lag times
- Susceptible to interference from wireless signals, devices or reflections from building structures
- Low camera resolution, which means less image clarity
- Lower frame rates (choppy video)
Cabled security systems are worth the investment for their stability. So what are the pros and cons of a wired system?
Pros Of A Wired Security System
- The most reliable solution, with low to no interference
- Stable data transmission
- Ability to support more cameras at once with higher total bandwidth capacity and channels
- Higher bandwidth capacity means you can install higher resolution cameras for better image clarity
- Larger coverage area due to higher resolution cameras
- Faster streaming and higher frame rates for smoother video
- Less lag time, especially in Live view
Cons Of A Wired Security System
- Takes longer to install running multiple cables
- More of a permanent solution for properties as it cannot be relocated easily
- A wired security system will cost more to setup and install
Breaking Down Various Camera Styles
Bullet Vs Dome Vs Turret
Why Choose Bullet Cameras?
Bullet cameras stand out, which makes them a good visual deterrent. They are easily mounted to walls and eaves. It's easier to reorient their viewing direction to monitor new areas than domes or turret cameras. Although this can also make them more susceptible to tampering.
Many bullet cameras have strong vandal-resistant steel housings in accordance with IK10 ratings, as well as IP67 weatherproof ratings. They often have longer infrared ranges, for example 50m, in comparison to domes and turrets which are typically 30m.
Why Choose Dome Cameras?
By design, dome cameras are more discreet in appearance. These cameras come with a dome housing case to protect the camera and can conceal its viewing direction. Dome cameras are less susceptible to tampering and many come with IK10 ratings. This ensures superior protection against high-impact vandalism.
Dome cameras are great for indoor spaces where they can be easily mounted to ceilings. However they are not designed to be mounted directly to walls. Many brands have wall mounts/brackets that allow this.
Why Choose Turret Cameras?
Turret cameras are aesthetically pleasing, and their versatility make them a popular choice. They can be directly mounted to ceilings or walls. They resemble ball and socket joints – giving them immense directional flexibility. At first glance they may look easy to tamper with however once the fixing screws are tightened firmly in place its very difficult to adjust the direction it's pointing by hand.
Turret cameras are low maintenance and easy to clean – avoiding the accumulation of cobwebs that can cause problems for dome cameras over time. They tend to be the easiest to install.
What is a fixed lens camera?
A fixed lens camera doesn't have any inbuilt motors to adjust focal length or facilitate movement such as panning or tilting. Once set in place, the camera maintains the same field of view 24/7.
What is a motorised (varifocal) lens camera?
Motorised lens/varifocal (VF) lens cameras have optical zoom. This means they can "zoom in" optically with inbuilt motors that drive the camera's lens from a wide to narrow field of view allowing distant objects to come into clear focus. Optical zoom maintains video quality throughout the entire focal adjustment. Most NVR's support 16X digital zoom in playback, which is simply digital magnification of images/video that have already been captured and stored on the hard drive. You may use digital zoom to get a closer look at finer details in playback. However the more you magnify an image the more pixelation occurs. The higher the resolution of your video, the less pixelation.
What Is A PTZ Camera?
PTZ cameras have the same optical zoom ability as varifocal cameras, but they also have motors that can allow the camera to pan and tilt as well. A pan–tilt–zoom camera (PTZ camera) offers a tremendous amount of flexibility through total zoom and movement control, allowing you to cover more area with fewer devices.
With PTZ cameras, you can set up patrols with auto roaming and some support auto-tracking, where an intrusion is detected and tracked automatically until the intruder is out of range. They offer infrared night time ranges of around 100 metres to as high as 500 metres, along with a range of smart detection features. They typically cost more because of their advanced features, but are well worth it for protecting vital business and commercial spaces and infrastructure, such as airports, train stations and metro lines, sports stadiums, hospitals, bridges and campuses.
Auto-Tracking with a PTZ camera from Uniview.
Security Video Recorders
Differences between DVRs and NVRs
Network video recorders (NVRs) and Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) are available in different recording resolution sizes and support different camera systems. Both are used to record footage from security cameras but differ in the camera types used.
Video data in a DVR system is processed at the recorder, whereas data is processed at the camera in an NVR system. Since both systems manage video data differently, they use different cameras. DVR systems must be wired and are compatible with analogue cameras, while NVR IP systems can be both wired or wireless and are compatible with IP cameras and wireless cameras.
Simply put, DVRs support analogue cameras, while NVRs support IP cameras.
Both NVRs and DVRs typically come in 4, 8, 16 and 32 channel configurations. Each channel supports a single camera, so a 4-channel system has the capacity to support up to 4 cameras, an 8 channel supports up to 8 cameras and so on. The 8 and 16-channel recorders tend to be most popular because you can start with fewer cameras and then scale up to add more cameras to your security system when necessary.
Cables For Security Surveillance Systems
There are different cables for different situations, but for most security surveillance systems you only need to learn about two types – one for IP systems and the other for analogue systems.
Cables For IP Systems
For IP surveillance systems that use NVRs, you will simply need a Cat5e or cat6 cable (Cat6 cable supports the fastest data speeds). This is also known as a network cable and is the same blue cable used to connect to computer networks. A Cat5e cable can support data speeds up to 1000 Mbps, while a Cat6 cable can support speeds up to 1 Gbps. For most applications, a Cat5e cable will be enough. For very high resolution video systems, that support 8MP (4K ultra HD) cameras, a Cat6 cable is the better option to handle the increased bandwidth.
The maximum transmission range for Cat5e and Cat6 cables is around 67 metres and 91 metres respectively. For further distances, you will need a PoE signal extender to boost power and data transmission.
If your IP camera supports Power over Ethernet (PoE), then you will find set up as simple as plugging one end into the camera and the other into the NVR. This single cable powers the camera and transmits video data to the NVR.
Some NVR's are designed with extended POE capability and can power cameras with cat6 cable from 250 metres to 800 metres with compatible devices.
All Spy Monkey IP cameras support PoE for easy user installation. You can also purchase pre-terminated cat5e and cat6 cable on our website, available in various lengths and colours.
Cables For Analogue Systems
For analogue systems using DVRs, you will need an RG59 (or RG6) Siamese coaxial cable. This cable has both power and video built into it and can transmit in high-definition video. The power cable can easily be split off from the coax if the power supply is far from the camera. The BNC connector plugs into your Video Input on your DVR and the DC fittings plug into your power supply.
The cable allows for a video transmission distance of up to 457 metres, but you are limited by maximum power supply distance of approximately 76 metres. This means that you need to have a nearby power source for the camera if you want to install it further away.
Understanding Resolution and Megapixels
High Resolution Images And Videos
Higher resolution videos and images make it easier to detect suspicious activity and recognise finer details such as number plates or faces.
An image is comprised of grids of pixels. The more pixels there are, the clearer the image will be. As an example, a common 1080P Full HD resolution consists of 1080 pixels in height and 1920 pixels in width. Multiplying the two together gives you a total of 2,073,600 pixels. This is a 2 megapixel or 2- million-pixel camera. IP cameras have the capacity to record in different resolutions – from 0.5MP (DVD quality) to 5MP (super HD) to 8MP (4k ultra HD) and even as high as 12MP.
As a general rule, higher resolution and better image quality cameras tend to be more expensive. A 4 or 5 megapixel camera resolution is usually ideal for most security surveillance and provides you with crisp, clear videos and images. Keep in mind that higher resolution footage requires more hard drive storage space. The most common high resolution cameras are 8 Megapixel also known as 4K ultra HD. These provide the best video quality.
At the end of the day, you want to make sure that suspicious actions are easily identifiable whether in day light or low-light conditions, or when you need to zoom in with 16X digital zoom in playback. Higher resolution footage is going to retain the most detail when you view it in playback.
The most common way to store video surveillance camera footage is to a hard drive installed locally inside the NVR. Some NVR's support 1 or 2 hard drive capacity up to 8TB - 10TB each. If you want to upgrade your total storage you will need to add a second hard drive, or if the NVR only supports one hard drive at a time you will need to remove the old one and re-install a larger one.
Installing a hard drive into an NVR is not difficult and requires a screwdriver to remove the outer housing. There are two small cables inside that need to be connected/plugged into corresponding connections on the hard drive. You will then need to screw the hard drive into the assigned holes at the base of the NVR.
During recording if the hard drive becomes full the system can be set to overwrite old data automatically or stop recording.
Surveillance Hard Drives
Surveillance hard drives have been designed for higher workloads, especially given the 24/7 demands of security camera recordings. These hard drives enable you to store video on site and can read or write data faster than regular desktop hard drives while consuming less power and offering more reliability.
Internet-Based Cloud Storage
Some surveillance cameras provide Internet-enabled cloud storage options, but these are usually consumer cameras. Often you will need to pay for subscriptions to have access to the cloud. Storing video in the cloud can potentially be expensive due to the large amount of video data being streamed and backed up. Some of the worlds biggest brands such as Hikvision and Uniview don't use cloud storage and focus on local storage to hard drives instead.
Memory Card Storage
Some cameras offer on-board memory card storage for footage. However, this is more ideal as a backup storage option if the hard drive fails or is full or you use a camera without an NVR and record to the SD card directly. Storage capacity of SD cards are limited, usually to a maximum of 256GB. An advantage of using memory cards is that they can easily be removed and transferred to another viewing device when needed.
Continual Recording, Scheduled Recording and Motion-Activated Recording
Most systems support 3 types of recording methods. Continual 24/7 recording, scheduled recording and motion activated recording. Continual is obvious enough, the system will run 24/7 saving captured video to the hard drive. Scheduled recording allows you to choose, in terms of hours and days, how long and when to record.
However most people use motion activated recording. This is a great way to save space on your hard drive and simplifies searching for events in playback. The cameras will only record when they detect movement within their detection range. Once activated the camera records the previous 10 seconds before motion is detected and then 60 seconds after it ends. You can tweak these times to suit your conditions. And you can also refine where you want the camera to monitor for motion by highlighting areas of a grid on your screen.
When you go to playback and search for recorded motion events, the 24 hour timeline will display coloured markers indicating where events have been detected, allowing you to easily skip straight to the action. This is much easier than scrolling through hours (or even days) of footage for a small 10 second event for instance.
You can also use motion detection to trigger alerts that are sent to your smart device as a push notification or email with snapshots attached. Many cameras have smart detections built-in such as line-crossing detection and intrusion detection that allow you to specify zones by drawing virtual lines or boxes. The detections can be set on hourly or daily schedules as well. For example, you may want to disable line-crossing detection from 6am to 9am when you leave for work to minimise false alerts. Using a combination of these different techniques you can setup an effective perimeter defence of your property with your own custom surveillance strategies.
Best Security System Features
Take a look at some of the top features you should ideally have when choosing a security surveillance system for your needs:
With most intrusions occurring at night, you'll naturally want a camera that clearly captures movements and activity around your property in pitch darkness. Look for cameras with infrared LEDs for clear night vision. The camera will automatically switch to a monochrome infrared picture when it's dark enough. Most cameras offer infrared ranges of 30 - 50 metres.
Many cameras now have "starlight" technologies that allow the camera to remain in colour in the dark, with only a minimal amount of ambient light needed. Some cameras have 24/7 colour, however these will often have dim white LED lights that allows the camera to do this. Colour footage at night can be useful for identifying features such as the colour of an intruders clothing, whereas normally you'd only see it in black and white with infrared.
Remote Access – Smartphone, Tablet Or PC
You will want to view your property in real-time no matter where you are; so remote access via a mobile app is all important. Different security surveillance companies have different computer software and apps to enable remote access.
Large investments in research and development by leading surveillance companies have enabled the development of ultra smart security cameras. Advanced detection technology in cameras makes it easier to capture critical events as they happen. With most of these detections, you’ll be able to set up real-time alerts via push notifications or email with snapshots. Some smart detections and features include:
- Tripwire or line crossing detection
- Face Detection
- Motion Detection
- Intrusion detection (virtual boxes)
- Auto Tracking (PTZ - Pan Tilt Zoom cameras)
- Object Removal Detection
- People Counting (Great for business analytics)
- Defocus Detection
- Heat Map
- Audio Detection
- Tamper Detection
This is an example of Line-Crossing detection by Uniview. The user can draw a line across the screen which the camera will monitor for intrusions. This is excellent for use in home or business surveillance.
Certain cameras from other manufacturers, such as Dahua and Hikvision, are often equipped with similar technology.
Face detection is an excellent tool for business and transport-industry surveillance.
People Counting is a useful analytics tool for businesses. The camera can identify how many people enter and how many exit. You can review the results by specific time periods on a graph. Suitable for stores or places with high traffic.
Consider choosing a system with extra channels so you can add more cameras in the future, instead of having to buy a whole new system.
Power Over Ethernet (PoE)
If you prefer DIY systems, then you’ll want an IP surveillance system that uses Power over Ethernet. PoE uses a single cable to connect your camera and NVR – providing both power and data at the same time. With PoE, you’ll need only one cable, saving you both money and time in the setup process. This is not possible with analogue systems as each camera needs it's own power supply.
Getting Started With Security Surveillance
When it comes to buying a surveillance camera system you can purchase cameras, cables and recording devices separately or you can choose to buy pre-assembled kits. But whatever you choose, you should consider these factors to ensure your surveillance system best fits your needs:
- Consider the type of camera and style that works best for your premises (bullets, turrets, domes, motorised VF varifocal, PTZ's)
- Identify the number of cameras you need based on your property size and entry/exit points
- Outdoor cameras should be weather-resistant and in some cases vandal-proof
- Establish your storage requirements – whether on a hard drive, memory card and how many days footage
- Ensure you have the right cables based on your security system
- Establish the light conditions in and around your home or office. Areas with poor or fluctuating light need cameras with strong low-light performance, or with WDR Wide Dynamic Range which helps balance out bright light and shadows
- Consider any existing camera surveillance setups if you already have analogue or IP cameras. You may be able to use a hybrid NVR to migrate from analogue to IP easily
Determining Your Security Surveillance Budget
Security surveillance cameras can range from $50 to $5,000 depending on the type of camera, features and quality you're looking for in your home or business. Online cameras are certainly available at low-ball prices, but security should never be treated as a compromise. In your research beware of cheap fakes as the internet is littered with them. The truth is that you do get what you pay for, so if you're looking to protect your family, your property or what means most to you, then you need to invest in a good quality product.
— Spy Monkey Surveillance offers the best names in security around the world at the most competitive prices without compromising on quality. All our products are original Australian stock and held in local Australian warehouses with full manufacturer warranty and support; no grey imports. Check out our wide range of high-quality security cameras and surveillance kits.