Video Surveillance

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ryan Wright, Jan 2, 2002.

  1. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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    Does anyone here have experience with video surveillance?
    I'd like to stick a tiny camera out front overlooking my driveway one of these days. I have no problem finding & selecting the appropriate camera, but my issue lies in recording devices. I have experience with time lapse VCRs, but they're spendy as hell, and I don't want to change tapes every day.
    Are there any other options? What about computer equipment - something that can capture x frames per second from one or more cameras, store 'em on a hard drive, and overwrite the old stuff after, say, a week or so? Would be even better if it could take input from sensors to determine which camera to record and it's framerate.
    Also, tiny cheap LCD screens... if I recall correctly, someone here got a nice one off EBay for about $100. I'd like to stick one on my nightstand and setup perimeter sensors around my property, so if someone enters my yard in the middle of the night the LCD will come on and show me what's going on. Does anyone know where I can find these at a good price? I don't mind buying off EBay but prefer an actual store where I have a reasonable chance of buying more of the same item 6 months down the road...
    Any video surveillance/home automation people, chime in! [​IMG]
     
  2. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    You might want to checkout the web server cams that Axis makes. You can pick one up for ~$500. They have built in web servers so all you need to do is plug it into your home network (via ethernet) and boom you're good to go.
     
  3. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Get a stand-alone TiVo. Seriously. I’ve done exactly the same the same thing as you’re planning.
    Find a 30-hour, single-drive TiVo, and you have a 30-hour circular video buffer. Drop a 100GB drive in it, and you have a 6.5-day circular video buffer. And even with the disk upgrade, this is way cheaper than a time-lapse VCR, unless you can find a used one for a substantial discount. A TiVo will also outperform a time-lapse VCR by recording full-time, actual video, while the time-lapse VCR will record only snapshots or video snippets. And the TiVo, even at its highest compression setting, will record surveillance video at a much higher resolution than any VHS VCR. The playback on a TiVo can also be frozen with crystal clarity, unlike the playback on most VCRs. And the playback on a TiVo is random access. Even with time-code displays on the higher-end time-lapse VCRs, finding the spot on tape you want to view can be a very tedious process.
    In my system, I’ve got a video camera fed directly into my surveillance TiVo which is programmed for around-the-clock recording in its 6.5-day FIFO buffer. The output of the surveillance TiVo is connected to a modulator whose signal is combined with the video feed which is distributed throughout the house. So any TV in the house can tune to The Driveway Channel and check out current or past events. (I can even turn the driveway lights on and off from the remote. [​IMG])
    I have motion detectors on the driveway that, at least, make an entry in a computer log file when triggered, and, at most, flash lights, turn on the TV, and tune it to The Driveway Channel automatically. If the activity on the driveway is recent, all I have to do is tune to The Driveway Channel and press the Rewind button on my remote to see what happened. If we’ve been away from the house and the computer log indicates activity in the driveway while we were gone, I just need to call up the appropriate recording from the surveillance TiVo’s 6.5-day-long play list and position the cursor on the time code corresponding to the log entry, and I can see exactly what all the ruckus was about while we were gone. If I need to document something, I just turn on my VCR and record The Driveway Channel as the event is replayed from the TiVo’s buffer. The date and time of the recording are conveniently displayed and recorded by the VCR. If necessary, I can pause the TiVo while the VCR is recording so I can capture a crystal-clear freeze-frame on tape. I can even program the TiVo to save a recording forever (or until I delete it), in three-hour increments, in the event I need to save “evidence” that is of higher resolution than VHS can provide. (However, doing this will subtract from the circular buffer capacity.)
    It’s not what the pros use, but I like it much better. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better surveillance video recorder than a stand-alone TiVo. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
    How’s that for a start?
     
  4. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    That's sounds wicked man! Do you have any pics of your setup? Honestly though, web access to the video feed would be more important to me.
     
  5. PatrickM

    PatrickM Screenwriter

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    Brian,

    I have to agree, that's one hot setup but I have to ask, is there a reason you need to have such sophisticated surveillance?

    Patrick
     
  6. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  7. Shayne Lebrun

    Shayne Lebrun Screenwriter

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    There's software available for webcams that will do motion detection; store one or two frames per minute if there's nothing happening, and jump to whatever you'd like if there IS motion. Should also be provisioning for making a note of said times for your review.
     
  8. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Quote:



    I'm going shopping for a cheap Tivo... Thanks for the excellent tip!




    You’re welcome, Ryan! However, you’d better be prepared to buy two TiVos. Once you discover how cool TiVo is when used as intended, you won’t want to draft it into surveillance duties. It’s best to plan on buying two to begin with. [​IMG]

    Quote:



    That's sounds wicked man! Do you have any pics of your setup? Honestly though, web access to the video feed would be more important to me.




    I posted pics of my Home Automation closet in a thread about zoned HVAC a while back, but I don’t have any pics of the video surveillance system. But I’m not sure they would be very intersting. It just looks like a regular motion detector from the outside of the house, and it’s just a TiVo on the inside of the house. Also, Don, I understand the desire for web access. Although I’m not really working on it at the moment, I plan on using my ATI TV tuner video card to capture video stills for uploading to (or better yet, serving from) a web site.

    Quote:



    I have to agree, that's one hot setup but I have to ask, is there a reason you need to have such sophisticated surveillance?




    Patrick, it’s because people are EVIL! In my neighborhood alone, there are TEENAGERS and PEOPLE WITH PETS and other despicable Riff-Raff. Why, the guy who lives behind me is a LEAGUE BOWLER! He’s the most evil of all!

    Okay, seriously, I really live in a great neighborhood with wonderful neighbors. All the reasons that Ryan cited are valid, but Laziness and Peace of Mind top the list for me.

    However, other thoughts occur to me:

    * I find it amazing that people will spend tens of thousands of dollars to fill their houses, garages, driveways, and back yards with all kinds of neat stuff, but not spend even a hundred dollars to protect or secure it. Security is a part of any business’s operating budget, so it makes sense that it should be at least a small part of a household budget as well. Even with my modest collection of material possessions, my surveillance system is just a drop in the bucket compared to the relative cost of all that I own. I consider it cheap insurance.

    * Things don’t happen until they do. It’s always good to be prepared, especially if the cost of preparation is modest and the payout can be significant. As I said, I live in a great neighborhood, and I have absolutely no fear (for instance) that my child will be abducted from my back yard. But if it ever does happen, I stand a very decent chance of learning the culprit’s identity if I have a video recording of the abduction. Again, it’s just cheap insurance.

    As for the sophistication of my system, keep in mind that it’s a combobulation of many different things that I slapped together for purposes other than video surveillance. Being able to control the outside and interior lights with my Pronto remote, for instance, is just a small aspect of my Home Automation hobby. (For the record, my HA hobby actually now saves me an average of $75 a month since incorporating zoned and automated HVAC control. If I don’t spend any more money on HA equipment, it will finish “paying for itself” – including the video surveillance equipment – by the end of this year.) Allowing my Home Automation system to control my television sets (and tune them to The Driveway Channel) is a consequence of my quest for better automation and more intuitive control of my Home Theater through two-stage IR control and state memory. Distributing video throughout the house was actually a cheaper alternative to purchasing more receivers. All these things I did for convenience, for fun, and to save money, and it’s these pre-existing systems that add that “sophisticated edge” to my surveillance system. Integrating a video camera and an expanded TiVo to my existing system cost less than $600. But I easily got more than $600’s worth of “sophistication” since I was able to take full advantage of my existing infrastructure. I could have spent five times as much money on a stand-alone video surveillance system (except for my computer, that’s more money than I’ve spent on all my automation equipment combined!) and still not have anything nearly as capable, controllable, or programmable as I have now. So the sophistication of my system is a result of the fact that I’m involved in a hobby that I think is fun, cost effective, and convenient, not because I’m paranoid. (Although I still think people are Evil! [​IMG])
     
  9. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    Brian - Regarding the 100GB drive you plopped into the Tivo...Is it a special Tivo drive or can you use any off-the-shelf drive? Is it a Firewire or SCSI drive?
     
  10. Paul E V

    Paul E V Stunt Coordinator

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    Brian,

    That sounds awesome, I'm interested in doing something like that myself.

    Email me the details of what you had to do to acheive this (or just post them here and I'll check the email note box)

    The only problem I would have is ---- animals --- we've got cats, the neighbors have cats, other neighbors have dogs, and then there's the family of racoons under the deck.

    I'd also want to do multi-zone --- back-deck, front-deck, driveway, and side-yard (someday to be side-deck)
     
  11. Paul E V

    Paul E V Stunt Coordinator

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    After re-reading your post it seems quite simple .........

    camera - TiVo - distribution system

    How does it log 'disturbances' though?
     
  12. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Bill, it’s just an off-the-shelf Maxtor 5400 RPM, EIDE drive. (It’s not SCSI, USB, or Fire Wire.) But you can’t just plop it in. You must “bless” the drive so that the TiVo will accept it and allow it to be “married” to the primary drive. Additionally, you should back up your primary drive, because you can’t “divorce” the drives (in the event of a secondary drive failure, for instance) and expect the primary drive to ever work again without restoring it to “virgin” status. (This is all true. I’m not making it up. Really.)
    You can use smaller drives, if you wish. It all depends on how big a buffer you want. I wanted to have a week’s worth of video buffer, since that’s usually the longest time I’m away from the house.
    And you can add a drive to a “regular” (non surveillance) TiVo just to hold more/higher-quality recordings using it the way it was actually intended. This is really cool.
    CAVEAT: I’m referring only to the Stand-Alone TiVos, not the DirecTV receivers with TiVo built-in (often referred to as “DirecTiVos.”) A DirecTiVo will NOT serve as a video surveillance recorder since it has no MPEG encoder and does not accept video input from any source, such as a camera. I know people have successfully added hard disks to DirecTiVos, but I’m unfamiliar with the process and don’t know if it is indeed different from that of a Stand-Alone TiVo.
    Paul, I use outdoor X-10 motion detectors to send an X-10 signal over the powerline when motion is detected. My Ocelot Home Automation controller sees these signals and relays them to my Windows 98 computer, which is programmed to log a different message for each detector triggered (among other things). This is actually a completely different system from the video distribution system, but since the Ocelot is capable of firing off IR signals under computer control (or in response to X-10 signals), I can very nicely integrate my Home Automation system with my Home Theater and all my IR-controlled equipment. And, yes, I have been known to watch videos of cats fighting in my back yard just because my computer indicated a lot of “activity” at 3:30 in the morning. [​IMG]
    The multi-zone system I was referring to earlier was an aside in reference to my air-conditioning and heating, not my video surveillance. Although I have additional cameras around the house, they aren’t connected to any kind of recorder. Modulated to their own channels, they allow me to see who’s at the front door and to check on a different area of the back yard. I’m debating whether to get a TiVo for every camera, or to get a video switcher and let my Home Automation system switch which camera gets recorded based on detected motion. I haven’t decided yet which way to go. One way would save money, but the other way would be way cool. [​IMG]
     
  13. Randy Tennison

    Randy Tennison Screenwriter

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    When I was security director for several high rise office buildings in downtown KC, I bought almost all of my equipment from Direct Low Voltage
    Click Here
    They are a "box house" and their prices can't be beat. If you want to buy good quality professional equipment, rather than the cheap crap sold on X-10 etc., check them out.
    I have no monetary interest in them. They just always did right by me!
     
  14. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Thanks, Randy. That's a great site. And I share your opinion on X-10 products when it comes to video. While X-10 is adequate for convenience automation features in retrofit situations, I'd never use X-10 video equipment for surveillance, or for any other purpose for that matter. And I'd certainly never depend on the X-10 protocol to be a critical link in any security system. If I gave the impression that I was using X-10 video equipment (which I would never do), that was not my intention.
     
  15. Paul E V

    Paul E V Stunt Coordinator

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    I actually Laughed Out Loud when I read about watching the cat fight [​IMG]
    I think it was X-10 I was reading about that says something about the recorder recording whatever camera was on (which was determined by detected motion) ---- or something like that
     
  16. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  17. Paul E V

    Paul E V Stunt Coordinator

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    I've not yet experienced anything X-10 and I doubt I ever will but the capabilities sound good

    Here is the multi-zone stuff I had read ----

     
  18. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    Paul - I don't see how a multi-zone system would work if there was movement in two zones at one time. What happens when subject moves from zone 2 to zone 3 and more movement occurs in zone 1?

    Ryan, Brian, and others - Are there security cameras available that can switch between night use (not really night vision, but ultra-sensitive to light) and day use with a photosensor? Or instead of switching, they have a self adjusting apature to get good exposure, even in very low-light to "no-light" conditions?

    Brian - Where can you find the procedure to "marry" a new drive to a Tivo? (You're just adding a second one right? Not replacing the original?) Is this procedure found in the owner's manual?
     
  19. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  20. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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