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Introduction to the Different Technologies

This guide is designed to educate you on basic system design and application. It is intended to help you make the right choices when designing a video surveillance system that will meet your expectations.

The first step is to understand the different technologies, their operations and benefits. The technology is cutting-edge "Digital". Your goals and what you want to accomplish will dictate which technology is right for you.

There are 2 types of surveillance technologies to consider. They are:

PC Based Systems Hardware Based Systems

There are a few acronyms which you may or may not know. Just for the record, here are the ones that matter.

  • CCTV: Closed Circuit Television
  • DVR: Digital Video Recorder
  • BNC: Fitting used to connect coax cable to cameras and equipment.
  • RCA: Fitting used to connect coax cable to cameras, equipment and power supply.

PC Based Digital Video Systems

A PC based DVR is comprised of a computer, video capture cards and custom written software. These systems are considered to be the best bang for the buck. They are easier to use and more flexible than Hardware DVRs. These units are available as kits which you install on your PC or as complete factory built recorders. Some factory models can be expanded as your needs grow.

8 CH PC Based System 32 CH PC Based System 16 CH PC Based System
PC based DVRs are available in 8, 16 & 32 channel configurations:

PC based DVRs are programmed and operated with a keyboard and mouse. The video is recorded to the computer's hard drive in a compressed format. This compression allows a huge amount of video to be stored. On average, a four camera system recording continuously should record at least 30 days of video for all 4 cameras on one single 80G hard drive. To double the recording days simply add another 80G hard drive.

These systems are designed so they do not require any scheduled action to maintain the video recordings. They record video to the hard drive until a certain amount of disk space is left. Then the system will delete the oldest clips and record the new video. This provides a continuous 30+ days of recordings at anytime.

The video is played back on the computer monitor or is saved to a floppy or burned to a CD. Some systems such as the ZMODO system save the video so it can be played back on any PC with Windows Media Player (a real nice feature). You can also print or save a jpeg image of any specific video frame. These systems allow you to view and playback any combination of cameras without interrupting the systems recording process.

ZMODO Pro is the most powerful, yet easy to use software on the market. Unlike hardware based DVRs, the software is flexible, easy to understand and simple to operate. Using our automatic searching options, playback is a breeze; saving you huge amounts of time compared to the various hardware DVRs on the market.

Cable & Maximum Distance:

CCTV video coax cable is used to transmit the video from the camera to the front end. The maximum distance the cameras can be from the front end is a function of the cable rather than the camera itself. Using RG59 coax, you can extend the camera out to 600'. Using RG6 coax cable, you can extend it to 1000'.


Any professional grade camera that uses RCA or BNC connectors will work with these systems. Please see the "Cameras" section for detail on the various cameras available.

PC Based Digital Video Recorder Overview:
  • High Resolution Recording (640x480)
  • Easy to use and flexible
  • Save time on playing back video
  • Store large amounts of video or recording days
  • Little or no maintenance
  • Easy network integration
  • The system runs on a PC with the Windows Operating System, users must have average computer skills

Hardware Based Digital Video Systems

A Hardware based DVR is built specifically for video recording. These units are built from the ground up to perform one specific function, record video. While they do operate some software internally, the video processing is hardware based. It is this hardware which provides the live viewing and high resolution recording.

Hardware DVR's are available in two different versions. The older style looks much like a VCR but has a hard drive built into it to record the video. A TV or CCTV analog monitor is used to view the video. Their programming is much like a VCR and can be quite confusing. The basic rule with this type of unit is, the more features they have the harder they are to operate. Most are programmed with a hand held remote much like a regular VCR. They do provide high resolution digital recordings which match the quality of a PC based DVR.

Old Hardware Based DVR System

  • 640x480 High Res Recording
  • Live Video Viewing
  • Remote Access via Internet
  • Motion Recording
  • Automatic Schedules
  • PTZ Control
  • Alarm Monitoring
  • Email Paging
  • Password Protection

A newer version of hardware based DVR is quite innovative. A high quality PC monitor is equipped with the DVR hardware and a hard drive built right into the back of the monitor. The cameras, internet and other connections are located on the side of the monitor. This design saves space, reduces cost and completely eliminated the need for a PC or old style DVR case. These units are programmed and operated with the buttons on the front of the monitor or with a hand held remote. While they are considered easier to operate than the old style hardware DVR they do have some pros and cons. The technology right now only supports a maximum of 4 camera inputs and 1 audio input for recording, and if the monitor goes out the entire system may have to be replaced

Hardware Based DVR Trend – Monitor & DVR Combined

  • 640x480 High Res Recording
  • Live Video Viewing
  • Remote Access via Internet
  • Motion Recording
  • Automatic Schedules
  • Multiple Audio Recording
  • Password Protection
  • Saves Space
  • Cost Effective
  • Optional Wall Mounting
Hardware Based Digital Video Recorder Overview:
  • High resolution digital video recordings (640x480)
  • Live Camera Viewing, No delay
  • Programs with handheld remote, much like a VCR.
  • Little or no maintenance
  • Save Space
  • Harder to program and operate than PC based DVRs.
  • Non-expandable


Different Types of the Cameras

Camera Technologies

Indoor Cameras:

Indoor cameras come in all types, sizes and styles. The most popular is the smoked mini dome camera. The dome camera can be mounted on the ceiling or wall and adjusted to view any angle. Although the dome is designed to protect the camera inside, they are not weatherproof and should not be installed where they are exposed to moisture or extreme temperatures.


Camera Technologies

Outdoor Cameras:

The only difference between indoor and outdoor cameras is that the outdoor cameras are in an environmentally protected housing. Some housing has heaters and blowers to keep the temperature inside within the operating parameters of the camera. Others such as the mini outdoor bullet cameras generate their own heat for operation. All outdoor cameras discussed in this guide are designed to operate in -5F to 120F temperature.

Day/Night or Night Vision:

Affordable night vision cameras are the latest innovation to the video surveillance industry. There are many types and styles to choose from but they all have one thing in common, infrared LED's. Small LED's that transmit out infrared light surround the cameras lens. The LED's cast out light the camera can see but the human eye cannot. The distance a camera can see in the dark is based on how many LED's the camera has. As a rule a camera with 10-20 LED's can see 20 feet in complete darkness. Some cameras such as the one below can see up to 70' in complete darkness. Notice the LED's surrounding the camera lens.


These cameras provide high quality color pictures during the day and when the light levels drop past a minimum level, they automatically switch to night vision or black and white pictures in complete darkness. When the light levels increase the camera automatically changes back to color video. These cameras are very reliable and flexible and should be considered when designing your system.

High Resolution Cameras:

Security cameras come with higher resolution Sony chips. These cameras feature 480 to 540 lines of high resolution for applications where you require the crispest picture possible. They are available for indoor, outdoor, night vision, and harsh environment use.

Hidden Cameras:

Because cameras are so small now they can be hidden in almost anything. It's common to see cameras in pictures, clocks, radios, smoke detectors, motion detectors, books, ties and anything else we can dream up. The cameras are the same cameras used with standard indoor cameras. The only difference is the housings used.

Pan Tilt Zoom Cameras:

PTZ cameras, as they are called, are considered "top of the line" in security cameras. They can pan 360 degrees, tilt 90 degrees, and optically zoom in as much as 27 times. They are controlled and programmed with either a desk top joy stick control or through the software of a PC based DVR. They come in both indoor and outdoor versions, can be wall or ceiling mounted, and can be equipped with color Day/Night cameras or night vision.


The cameras can be programmed to automatically run preprogrammed tours, automatically panning, tilting and zooming to predetermined locations. They can also be programmed to pan, tilt and zoom to a specific view if motion is detected or a pre-defined alarm occurs. A user can override the automatic operation and control the cameras as needed. Up to 16 PTZ cameras can be installed on most DVR systems (as long as the DVR supports 16 cameras). The cameras are controlled with a two wire communication wire which loops from one camera to another. Each camera has dip switches which are used to set its address. The comm. wire can have a maximum distance of 3000 feet. In addition to the communication wire each camera also required a video cable to transmit the video signal back to the front end.

On DVR's the communication cable terminates on a PTZ Netcom control board installed in the DVR. This control board interfaces the software and mouse commands with the cameras. On time lapse and other systems the cameras are controlled with a desk top joy stick control. One down side to the joy stick control is it does not provide the ability to control the cameras remotely.

Wireless Cameras:

We have been very careful about recommending and supporting wireless products. In the past wireless security cameras have been notoriously unreliable and seldom meet the expectations of the consumer. However, with the development of wireless networks and IP technology, new products have emerged which do provide a level of performance acceptable for small and mid-sized video surveillance applications. This new technology uses a Digital "Spread Spectrum" technology which provides reliable wireless video transmission up to 300 feet and secures the video signal so it can not be viewed by others outside the building or home.

The following chart details the main differences between the old wireless technology (2.4 Ghz - Analog) and the new technology (2.4 Ghz - Digital):

IP Network Cameras:

Free yourself from long video wires and enjoy the convenience of wireless technology with the IP cameras. These cameras can connect to your wireless router and record straight to your computer's hard drive. The advanced, built-in chip enables features such as recording triggered by motion detection, email alerts, and remote access from popular web browsers. IP configuration is easy with the included software.



Customizing Your Own Kit

Once you have your cameras and system chosen, you have two options to purchase. You can purchase each part of the system individually i.e.: recorder, cameras, power supplies, wire. Or you can customize a prepackaged kit to meet your needs. We offer several different kits based on all two technologies (PC Based & Hardware Based). Based on the cameras you have chosen you can now customize the kit which best meets your needs with the cameras you want. This approach will save you about 5% compared to buying the parts individually. The kits include everything you need including easy to follow installation guides.

Wiring and Powering Cameras

Video Cable & Maximum Distance

All of the systems use video coax cable to transmit the video from the camera to the recorder. The maximum distance the cameras can be from the recorder is a function of the cable rather than the camera itself. Using RG59 coax cable you can extend the camera out to 600 feet. Using RG6 coax cable you can run up to 1,000 feet. Cable is available in 500' boxes or pre-made cables 25', 50', 65', 99', 130', 165' lengths.

Pre-made Video + Power Cable 500' Box Video Coax Cable BNC Connector BNC & RCA Twisted-on Fitting
For Pre-made Cables:

BNC fittings are used to connect the cable to both the camera and the recorder, or monitor. You simply push the fitting on the video port and turn it, it couldn't be easier.


RCA fittings are used to connect the cable to both the camera and the power supply. You simply plug-in it to the power supply. Cameras can be powered in two ways. You can power each camera with its own plug in power supply, or you can wire multiple cameras back to a multi-camera power source. Both options plug into a regular 110V electrical outlet and then step the power down to 12V DC to feed to the camera.

Plug-in Power Supply Multi-Camera Power Supply

Plug in power supplies are usually located within 6-10 feet of the camera. The multi-camera power supplies are installed in a closet or somewhere out of the way and then a two conductor power wire is pulled to each camera. When designing a surveillance system you may want to use a combination of plug in and multi-camera power supplies. This will depend on where your power outlets are located and how easily you can pull a wire from a multi-camera power supply to each camera. Multi-camera power supplies have one fused, dedicated power output for each camera. This design provides excellent protection from power spikes and surges.

Possible Tools Needed:

Making a BNC Fitting

  • Strip away all of the cable and shielding so you have 1/2" of the center conductor exposed.
  • Then strip away the black covering so you have 1/4" of the shielding exposed. Do not allow any of the copper shielding to touch the center conductor
  • Insert the cable into the fitting and gently find the hole for the center conductor before you press the fitting on the wire. Now just twist the fitting on the wire while firmly pressing down until the fitting has been firmly twisted onto the cable