The Golden Rules
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The experts at Backstreet Surveillance have decades of experience. We have taken our knowledge and simplified it into this easy to understand advice.

Keep in mind an effective system is “designed” to meet the challenges of the environment and the goals of the owner. While each video surveillance system is unique, the majority of systems follow basic concepts and best practices.

Wired or wireless

Only consider wireless if running a single cable from the camera locations to the video recorder is not possible. The main benefit of wireless is convenience, not performance or reliability. If you question this, simply read some reviews of the wireless systems on the market. We see this rule proven everyday; many of our new customers are replacing wireless systems.

Selecting the right lens

  • - If the viewing area is under 60 feet from the camera, select a camera with a 2.8 or 3.6mm fixed lens.
  • - If the viewing area is 60-180 feet from the camera, select a camera with a zoom lens (manual or motorized).
  • - If the area is 200-900 feet from the camera, consider using a PTZ camera with a 4-84mm motorized zoom lens.

Selecting the right resolution

- Use 3K resolution cameras with a fixed or zoom lens depending on the distance.

- Use 4K Cameras on high priority locations. The larger format provides twice the digital zoom capability of a 4mp camera.

Selecting the right night vision

Select a camera that’s night vision range is no more than double the expected viewing distance. For example, if your desired viewing distance is 60-80 feet from the camera location, we would select a camera with a 120 foot night vision distance. If your desired viewing distance is 30 feet, we would not recommend a camera with night vision distance stronger than 60 feet. In short, the “sweet spot” is 50-80% of the camera's maximum night vision distance.

Don't ask one camera to do the work of two

The most common mistake customers make is trying to get one camera to do the work of two. We all want to get the most out of each camera, but if you try to get one camera to do too much, you may have wasted your money. We have all seen video of some crime being committed, but because of the lack of detail in the video, the person cannot be identified. There are two aspects to ensure this does not happen with your 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 30-50 feet horizontally at the preferred distance.


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 calculating. Simply use cameras with a zoom lens. A motorized zoom lens allows you to adjust the cameras field of view right from the NVR or your smart phone, providing a prefect field of view every time.

Leave room to grow

Nationwide video surveillance systems grow 35% after installation. This is due to two reasons, 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 video recorder you have to make sure will support your future needs. Surveillance recorders are built to support four, eight, sixteen and thirty two cameras. If you initially purchase four cameras with a four channel recorder and then later find you absolutely need a fifth camera...that one camera is going to be expensive. Out goes the four camera recorder and in comes a new eight camera video recorder. Lesson, it’s wise to purchase a video recorder one size larger than you initially need.

Why your system should be designed

Every single day, we replace big box store and Lorex prepackaged systems. The story is always the same. The customer buys a one size fits all kit, they install it, then they take it out, then they return it and buy a Backstreet Surveillance system.

Here are some facts about packaged kits from big box stores, Lorex, Swann, Uniden, Zmoto, Amazon etc.

  • - 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 a 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 offer ZERO installation and programming support. We have learned over the years that no matter how simple you make a system, the customer needs some level of support or help setting up remote viewing, motion activated recording, or some other customization.

Selecting camera locations

The following tips are suggestions, they may not apply to every installation. Before you start installing, walk the areas where you plan to install the cameras. If possible, stand at the location each camera is intended to be located. Pay attention to what you see. Can you see everything you want to at that location? Whatever you see, the camera will see. If the answer is no, or there is an obvious blind spot, look for a better location for the camera.

Indoor Cameras - Indoor cameras can be installed just about anywhere, wall or ceiling mount is fine. Typically cameras are installed in a corner of the room opposite the entry point. This usually provides the best coverage and requires anyone who would want to tamper with the camera to be recorded before they have access to the camera. The best height for a camera is usually around the 10ft level. This is high enough to keep people from accessing the camera unless they have a ladder. Also understand, if you aim a camera at large exterior windows or an exterior door, the view may be somewhat limited during bright or sunny days. All cameras are equipped with an auto iris, and they work extremely well, but they still have their limits and will have to adjust to either the light level in inside or the light level outside. Whichever one it adjusts to, the other will be less than optimal.

Outdoor Cameras - Outdoor cameras follow the basic guidelines as indoor cameras. While they are designed to weather the elements and can operate in extreme conditions, it is still desirable to protect them if possible, they will last longer. If the choice is to mount the camera directly on the roof taking the full brunt of the sun, rain, and wind, or on the side of a building where it is somewhat sheltered...choose the side of the building.

Pre-made cables

Consider using pre-made cables, this eliminates the need to make fittings that are likely not going to match factory quality. The only caution using pre-made cables is to make sure you measure correctly, and it is best to order a cable slightly longer than you may need. There is nothing more frustrating than being 5 feet short. The excess cable can be spooled up and left in the ceiling or behind the work station. If you are short, you can plug two pre-made cables together (a connector is required). Caution about CVI pre-made cables. Before you start pulling the cable, pay attention to the markings on each end of the cable, they are not identical. One end is specifically for the camera and the other end is specifically for the video recorder. This is not a problem with network, Cat5, or Cat6 cables.

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