Video Surveillance in HD How-to Security Videos
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Do's & Don'ts

Take care when selecting your cameras and DVR

Some cameras and technologies are not compatible with certain DVRs. The following chart will help you keep your selections correct.

cameras and dvr compatability

Don't ask a camera to do to much

The most common mistake customers make is trying to get one camera to do the work of two or three cameras. We all want to get the most out of each camera, but if you go too thin with the coverage, you may be throwing your money way. We have all seen video of some crime being committed, but because of the lack of detail the video provides, the person cannot be identified. Sadly the money spent on such a system was wasted because the video it provides is useless. There are two aspects to ensure this does not happen with your surveillance system. First go with top quality equipment (Backstreet Surveillance) and second be conservative with the coverage you expect each camera to provide. As a general rule each camera should not be expected to view more than 30 feet horizontally at the preferred distance. The following example explains.


If you are using a 3.6mm lens (which is considered a very wide lens) the chart below shows the view at 30 feet from the camera will be 29 feet wide (horizontal). This is the maximum distance you should expect this lens to provide detail. Yes the camera will see further, but the objects become very small and the view will provide less detail as the distance increases. If you need to see detail at a longer distance you simply use a larger lens such as a 6, 8, 12 or 20mm lens. Don't worry if this sounds confusing, there is a simple way to eliminate all this calculating. Simply use cameras with a manual zoom lens. It allows you to mount the camera and then manually zoom the camera in or out until you see exactly what you want to see.

lens distance

The beauty of a Manual Zoom Lens

Our most popular cameras are equipped with a manual zoom lens. This allows you to mount the camera and then, using the zoom knob on the camera, adjust or “zoom” the viewing area in or out until you get the perfect view.

Leave room to grow

Nationwide video surveillance systems grow 35% after installation. This is due to two reasons; first, the customer did not use an adequate number of cameras to provide the coverage they desired. Second, the customer found the system to be so effective they expanded the system to provide additional security and surveillance benefits.

The lesson here is to allow the system to have expansion capabilities. You can always add cameras; it’s the DVR you have to make sure will support your future needs. Surveillance DVRs are built to support four, eight, sixteen and thirty two cameras. If you initially purchase four cameras with a four channel DVR and then later find you absolutely need a fifth camera...that one camera is going to be expensive. Out goes the four camera DVR and in comes a new eight camera DVR. Lesson; it’s wise to purchase a DVR one size larger than you initially need.


Video surveillance is one of those industries where you get what you pay for. We all want the lowest price for top performance. The problem is there are so many options on the market and so many uneducated retailers selling surveillance; two things happen.

First the customer becomes confused with all the endless hype and finally says..."I'll just go buy a system from Home Depot, at least I can return it if it doesn't work out." That thinking has nothing to do with getting a system that will meet your needs. Second, retailers just want to sell a box and move on. They don’t want to educate their sales people on the right techniques or customize a kit to fit your needs and they definitely will not provide installation and programming support. There is no way this scenario is going to produce an effective video surveillance system.

Every day... we at Backstreet Surveillance replace these types of systems. The customer buys from Costco, Lowes, Home Depot, Amazon, Lorex, Swann, Zmoto, Office Max, Uniden and the list goes on. Then they install it...then they take it out...then they return it or sell it on eBay...and then they buy a Backstreet Surveillance system...this happens EVERY DAY! We would like to encourage you to by-pass the first four steps of this scenario and let us design the right system for you...we do it every day!

Here are some facts about packaged kits from Big Box stores:

  • What you see is what you get. The kits have specific length cables, if you need to extend a cable...good luck, you’re on your own.
  • The cameras have fixed view lens. What looks good in the store is not likely to produce the view you need when the camera is 15 feet up looking 50 feet away.
  • They hide the fact the system produces low quality video. They promote “high resolution cameras” but what they don't list on the sales hype is that the DVR cannot record the cameras in high resolution. Often they do not even list the recording performance of the DVR.
  • They offer ZERO installation and programming support. Our years of experience have proven that no matter how simple you make a system, the customer always need some support. Most of our customers need some level of help setting up remote viewing, motion activated recording or some other customization.

The draw backs of buying a “boxed system” from a Big Box store goes on and on and in the end, as we stated in the get what you pay for.

Wireless DON'Ts

CCTV Wireless cameras have been on the market for quite a long time. We are all attracted to the promise of easy “no wires” installations. If the technology would have performed as expected they would have dominated the video surveillance market. But they have several fundamental flaws that make this technology a failure. Analog wireless cameras use radio frequencies to transmit the video signal to a receiver. The receiver converts the signal into a digital picture. Most wireless cameras use the same frequencies as a wireless phone 2.4 or 5.8 GHz. There are various products that have adapted different versions of this technology and they all have one thing in common…they are not reliable! There is also a security issue you should be aware of. Anyone with a Radio Shack $90 video tuner can drive down your street, tune in on the signals and watch your cameras. They offer zero transmission security and can actually help a thief case your home or business.

Wireless CCTV

Truth is analog CCTV wireless cameras has never lived up to their hype and is inherently unreliable. They require constant tuning and adjusting to keep a stable picture. We as professional surveillance suppliers understand the attraction and demand for this type of technology. Our goal has been to find reliable wireless equipment we can offer our customers. Our backstreet technical department has tested nearly every brand on the market and come to this conclusion. “Due to the low quality and unreliable performance, this technology should only be considered for residential low priority surveillance applications".


Why have two?

Often times a customer already has a PC work station at the location where the DVR is going to be located. One option to save space and money, is to use one of our Hot-Switch units to connect both the PC and surveillance DVR to one Keyboard, monitor and mouse. At a touch of a keyboard button you can instantly switch form the computer to the DVR and back again. The one draw back to this convenience is the video being viewed on the monitor will not be HD; the "Hot-Switch" uses the standard VGA connections found on all PC's and DVRs. If you want to keep the system completely HD, use a monitor with a HDMI input and connect it to the DVR HDMI output using a HDMI cable.

2 Device Hot-Switch

Don't Break the Law

Most states have some form of video or audio surveillance laws. 99% of all surveillance equipment uses are legal. But using these systems for some sort of malicious intent is most likely illegal in your area. Check a listing of the local laws regarding the use of video and audio recording in your state.

State Laws

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