Video Surveillance in HD How-to Security Videos
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General Advice

Chapter Video Surveillance Made Easy e-book

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 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 away. 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.

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

Installation Tips: The following tips are just suggestions, they may not apply to every installation.

Camera Locations

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 guide lines 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 for sure. 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 the BNC video fitting as required when using the spooled cable. The only caution 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 let in the ceiling or behind the work station. If you are short you can plug two pre-made cables together. Keep in mind your will need one BNC barrel fitting and do not exceed 250 feet with the total length.

Also 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 DVR. It's a huge pain to re-pull the cables because it was installed backwards.

Remote Viewing

Before calling our support representatives for remote viewing setup it is helpful to first connect the DVR to your router with a network cable. Each of our DVRs has a standard network connection just like your PC or Mac. The DVR connects to the internet just like your computer; by simply plugging it into your router. All remote access is performed through this internet connection. Once this connection is made a couple of access settings are required which our support representatives are more than willing to help with. Keep in mind they cannot help until the DVR is connected to the router. If you have questions about making the connection give us a call and we will help.

Please note; all DVRs require a true broad band internet connection for remote viewing. HughesNet and other satellite internet services do not provide the support needed to configure the remote viewing features in the DVR. This is not a limitation of the DVR but rather the satellite service provider. Confirm your internet service provides a minimum of 3 meg UPLOAD speed to insure reliable remote viewing.

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