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Why Are CCTV Images so Lousy?

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  • Why Are CCTV Images so Lousy?

    At one of our accounts, they had a theft where the persons doing the stealing were captured on CCTV. The client is using state-of-the-art digital ethernet cameras.
    We pulled up the images, and printed them for police. The pictures were horrible, considering the outrageously high price they paid for the system. They were pixelated to the point of being almost unrecognizable. The suspects passed within 8 feet of the cameras, so I think they should be able to get a clear picture.
    Luckily, this is a small town, and it took me 10 minutes to find someone who knew the suspects. If it wasn't for the fact that this is a small town, how could we identify anyone?
    Is there something they're doing wrong? Or something that they can do to fix this? Or do they have to live with $2000 cameras with fuzzy vision?

    When is the last time you ever saw a CLEAR surveillance photo on the TV news?
    "Striking terrific terror in the hearts of criminals everywhere" Since 1977.

  • #2
    How big were the printed pictures? Full sheet of paper? Photo size?

    I assume the live picture is good, and that's what you expected?

    If so, forget the camera for now. You need to look at the recording settings. What's recorded isn't what you see on the live monitor feeds.

    It sounds like it's probably set for 320x240 or CIF. This is the number of pixels in the picture. When viewed small, say 4"x3", it looks fine. But blow that up to even twice that size and you start seeing the pixels (blocks) that make up the digital image.

    The bigger the recorded image (setting 640x240 or 2CIF, 640x480 or 4CIF, 720x240, 720x480 or D1) the better the image, especially as it gets blown up or zoomed in. Many people set it at the lowest, to get a longer recording time, when they should be getting a bigger hard drive.

    I prefer to set it at its highest setting, and that's how I sell them, based on using the highest setting. Unfortunately, some people will tell you anything just to make a sale. "Sure, you can record 6 months on this 80 gig hard drive". A crappy picture every 4 seconds and you have 8 cameras so you get 2 pictures a minute per camera.

    BTW, if it's an older recorder, or a cheap one, it may only record at 320x240.
    sigpic
    Rocket Science
    Making everything else look simple, since 1958.


    http://my.opera.com/integrator/blog/
    One Man's Opinion

    The Future. It isn't what it used to be.

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    • #3
      Badge 714, how did the images look on the monitor prior to printing them? If the monitor's representations are also of poor quality, have you examined all the connections to assure the problem is not there?
      If you are assured the connections are in good condition and solidly in place, determine if noise is the problem? Bonding, grounding and shielding are critical components to good imaging.
      Enjoy the day,
      Bill

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      • #4
        If the recording size is too small, then the picture is going to look lousy no matter how expensive the camera is.

        Of course, the bigger the image size, the more storage space it's going to take up.

        A common error is trying to save money on the storage, and then compressing the image as much as possible to get as much time recorded as possible. Add storage and lower the compression.

        A lot of customers tell me "all the CCTV video I see on the news sucks, so why should I get CCTV?" And I tell them "you never see the correctly exposed and properly recorded video on the news, because the cops can recognize everyone on the video without having to go to the media".
        The CCTV Blog.

        "Expert" is something like "leader". It's not a title that you can ever claim for yourself no matter what you might know or might have done. It's a title that others bestow on you based on their assessment of what you know and what you have done.

        -SecTrainer

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        • #5
          Thank you for the good advice. I understand about trying to blow up a small digital file, as I am heavily into digital photography. I should have made the connection since the cameras are also digital. I blame that on my advancing age!
          I think their main problem is that they're having a sophisticated CCTV, card access and fire system, costing tens of thousands of dollars, installed by electricians, and not professional alarm/CCTV installers. When they started their building project, I asked the POC why our electronic security division wasn't given a chance to bid on the CCTV and access control systems, and was told that they wanted to "bundle" those along with electrical and comm lines with ONE contractor to make it easier.
          Now I have nothing against electricians, my dad was an electrician for 50 years. I helped him wire everything from new houses to installing 150 hp electric motors in sawmills from age 10 until I moved out on my own. I learned enough to know that being an electrician doesn't necessarily qualify a person to work on sophisticated electronics.
          I went to the electrician who put the system in, and asked him the questions you gentlemen asked me. My answers were: "Huh? What difference does that make? RF interference?" He did mention something about how that the IT dept didn't want the cameras hogging their bandwidth, so THEY set up how the cameras send data. AH-HA!
          I asked him why he just didn't have some cameras record only when motion was detected or if they get an alarm on the card access system to reduce traffic. "You can do that?" "Gee, I don't know, can you?"
          Finally, the electrician shoved the installers manuals and operating manual at me and I took the hint to go away. I think they're still sore at me for pointing out they installed a set of double doors backwards. They installed the doors with the delayed egress bar on the OUTSIDE of a secured area!
          This weekend, I intend to lock myself in the basement with those manuals, my coffee pot, and my internet connection. Then, I am going to do the same for the card access system. I guarantee you I will know more about those systems than any of the electricians by the end of the month. (I'll probably be asking you gentlemen a lot more questions)
          Then, when construction is finished, and the installers are on their next job site, I am going to offer my services to our POC to handle his system. (he hates dealing with security issues, so that shouldn't be a problem.)
          Thanks again!
          Last edited by Badge714; 09-10-2008, 08:36 AM.
          "Striking terrific terror in the hearts of criminals everywhere" Since 1977.

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          • #6
            I swear, I have started, erased, and restarted this reply so many times my keybaord is starting to heat up.

            So I'll just say this. Please, please, please let us know how you're doing, so we can help out.
            The CCTV Blog.

            "Expert" is something like "leader". It's not a title that you can ever claim for yourself no matter what you might know or might have done. It's a title that others bestow on you based on their assessment of what you know and what you have done.

            -SecTrainer

            Comment


            • #7
              That's one of my big pet peeves in the construction process. It's all done through the contractor, and it does the customer an injustice. Once a building is built, you can hire any qualified person to fix things, because generally speaking, the electrical and plumbing, etc, is pretty standard. These are also things that don't take much interaction.

              But your security & fire, access control, video, a/v systems. That's an ongoing relationship. It can also be very proprietary. Sadly, most customers don't realize this until it's too late. And even then, they make the same mistake on their next building, and complain about it after.

              If the customer's not happy, maybe you can get them to bring in a pro to straighten it all out.

              One more thing, it was built for network cameras, they had a concern of bandwidth, and they didn't run a seperate network??? The price you pay to save money.
              sigpic
              Rocket Science
              Making everything else look simple, since 1958.


              http://my.opera.com/integrator/blog/
              One Man's Opinion

              The Future. It isn't what it used to be.

              Comment


              • #8
                Saving money is a lot more expensive than doing it right the first time.
                The CCTV Blog.

                "Expert" is something like "leader". It's not a title that you can ever claim for yourself no matter what you might know or might have done. It's a title that others bestow on you based on their assessment of what you know and what you have done.

                -SecTrainer

                Comment


                • #9
                  Badge 714, this is not the first time I've heard of an electrician taking umbrage when questioned about their installation methods, that is not their game. Many of the older electricians or those taught by older ones are still in the linear mode when we have moved to non-linear switch mode power supplies. Are electrical breaker panels broken down by technical and non-technical loads?
                  Running low voltage DC wiring versus AC wiring requires a different mentality. If you run into continuing difficulty, contact Herb Goldstein at [email protected] or Jack Gin at [email protected] for guidance.
                  It may come down to a power and interference surveys. If you can check to see if there are six inches of vertical separation and 12 inches of horizontal separation between DC low voltage and AC wiring, that would be a good starting point.
                  Enjoy the day,
                  Bill

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                  • #10
                    OK. I talked to the IT guy and found out that they did separate the CCTV system from their network. They are a contracted company and own the computer servers and related equipment, and didn't want anything other than their own stuff on the system. The guy is one smart cookie, and said he'll walk me through how the whole thing works when things settle down a bit.
                    Yesterday, I was told to leave the electricians alone. I was also told that we will address whatever concerns I have once the construction has been completed. I can live with that, I guess. But I like talking with the electricians about electrical stuff in general. I like to learn new things, and try to learn something my old man doesn't know. The last time I saw him I was telling him about the new AFCI breakers required by MN electrical code for new bedroom circuits. I installed 4 of them in my house. He knew all about them! Even though he hasn't wired anything in 8 years, yet he still reads the NEC updates!
                    The last time I stumped him was when I told him that the ground system for my TV tower had to be bonded to the house ground. He didn't know that!
                    Dad: 1,000,000 Me: 1.
                    "Striking terrific terror in the hearts of criminals everywhere" Since 1977.

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                    • #11
                      You mentioned they are IP cameras. It's worth pointing out that a standard IP camera typically outputs VGA resolution (640x480). For facial recognition or license plate capture or other detailed imaging this is typically insufficient - you want a megapixel camera. There are megapixel surveillance cameras readily available from 1-5 megapixels (up to 2596x1944 resolution).

                      Of course in order to take advantage of this, you need NVR software capable of recording megapixel resolutions (most NVR solutions are VGA only, but there are some megapixel ones out there [such as NUUO]). Be warned that recording at such high resolutions will chew through storage very rapidly.

                      And, as already mentioned, compression codec and quality setting can also make a big difference.
                      Mark McPherson
                      PolarisUSA Video - Developer
                      www.PolarisUSA.com - Security cameras for all applications.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by PolarisUSA View Post
                        You mentioned they are IP cameras. It's worth pointing out that a standard IP camera typically outputs VGA resolution (640x480). For facial recognition or license plate capture or other detailed imaging this is typically insufficient - you want a megapixel camera. There are megapixel surveillance cameras readily available from 1-5 megapixels (up to 2596x1944 resolution).

                        Of course in order to take advantage of this, you need NVR software capable of recording megapixel resolutions (most NVR solutions are VGA only, but there are some megapixel ones out there [such as NUUO]). Be warned that recording at such high resolutions will chew through storage very rapidly.

                        And, as already mentioned, compression codec and quality setting can also make a big difference.
                        Mark, more than 1/2 volt on common mode can still ruin your day. Noise bars will drive you up the wall and a difference in potential almost causes one to give up.
                        Enjoy the day,
                        Bill

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