Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

FAQ Table of Contents:

  1. Basic Operating Instructions for DVR
  2. How to Change Your Password on Your DVR
  3. How to View Recorded Video (Search & Playback)
  4. How to Export Recorded Video to USB

  1. How to View Cameras on Andriod Smartphone
  2. How To View Cameras On Iphone / Ipod / Ipad
  3. Setup DVR To Your Network


How do I see pictures from a remote site?

You can view the camera video over the internet using a modem which is slow but can display 1 or 2 frames every 5 seconds. Better is a DSL or cable modem connection which can generally display 1 frame per second. When viewing remotely, the refresh rate is restricted by the communications medium (your internet connection speed). When viewing or playing back locally, the display is dependent of the unit’s frame rate (fps).

How much hard drive space will I need?

There are many variables that factor into how much hard drive space is used. The general rule of thumb is that each camera will use about 2 gig of space per day. So for example, if you have an 8 camera DVR you will use in the area of 16 gigs of hard drive space per day. If you are using motion detection the hard drive usage will likely be less (especially if there is little movement on each camera). The actual amount of hard drive space used varies widely and depends to a large extent on how much movement there is on the cameras. For example, a fast food restaurant (with a lot of activity) will use a lot more hard drive space per day than an office with a few employees. This is due to the way that the video is compressed for storage. As mentioned above, the embedded DVRs use much more hard drive space than the PC-based units, perhaps twice as much per camera, but again it varies from site to site. Also, on some of the embedded DVRs you can reduce the recording frame rate which will reduce the amount of hard drive space used (as well as the quality of the video). When the hard drive space is filled up, it will start over-writing the oldest pre-recorded video. Each of our PC-based DVRs comes standard with a read/write CDRom for saving video permanently.

Should I purchase the card and software and build my own digital video recorder or buy one pre-built?

It is much better to purchase a DVR system pre-built than to build one yourself. One reason is because the pre-built systems have more features and options than the cards that you can buy and install yourself. There are many compatibility issues with DVR cards and related software. They are very sensitive to the type of motherboard in the computer, the CPU, the memory, even the video card makes a difference! We had to test many different configurations to find one that worked reliably. You also don’t want to be running any other software on the computer that your DVR is running on so you need a dedicated computer anyway. We have had so many customers call us that have had problems installing cards in their own systems that we won’t even sell the cards separately anymore.

What features should I look for in a CCTV DVR?

The security digital video recorder that will work best for your application will depend on several factors including the number of cameras that you will have and the frames per second that you need. When determining the number of camera inputs, it is important to consider future needs as well as current needs. The frames per second (fps) relates to how many pictures it will record in a second. Real time recording is about 30 fps on each camera. To calculate the fps per camera take the total fps in the system and divide it by the number of video inputs. For example, a 60 fps digital video recorder with 4 video inputs would result in about 15 fps per camera. The technology is just getting to the point now where real time recording is affordable. If you are recording cash registers or something similar then you should invest in real time recording. The user interface should be easy to operate. Other features you should look for are the ability to view the cameras remotely (see above), motion-detection, easy and comprehensive search capabilities, and audio support.

How does a CCTV digital video recorder work?

A CCTV digital video recorder (or “DVR” for short) is essentially a computer that saves security video images to a hard drive. Most security cameras in use today capture an analog picture. The DVR converts the analog signal to digital and then compresses it. Digital compression results in a much better picture than analog compression and it is more efficient. Many cameras can be connected to one DVR. DVRs generally come with 4, 8, 16, or 32 camera inputs. The DVR will allow you to view all of these images at once or one at a time, and all of the video is saved to the hard drive. Additional switches, quads, or multiplexers are not required.

What If I Do Not Know How Far I Need To See?

Instead of going with a fixed focus lens you can go with a varifocal lens. With a simple adjustment you can manually zoom in or zoom out and focus the camera to the exact distance needed to get a clear picture. Varifocal lenses come in all different sizes : (3.5-8mm; 9-22mm; and 5-50mm) just to name a few. This is the best option for large commercial applications because you can adjust the focal distance to what works just right.

What is the difference between no iris and auto iris?

The iris controls how much light is let into the camera lens. In the old days, cameras came with no iris control. If you needed to control the light levels you would have to purchase a special lens. Nowadays, most cameras come with automatic shutters which perform the same function as the iris – controlling how much light is let into the camera. Unless you have an application with extreme light levels (like at a beach) you probably won’t need a special lens with iris control.

Which Security Camera Lens Should I Use?

How far you need to see will determine what security camera lens you should use to best fit your application. A 4mm lens will give a 70 degree angle of view with 35 feet of facial detail. This works great for residential or small office security camera applications. If you need to see further you would go with a higher powered lens. Keep in mind that the further you want to see will narrow the field of view of your picture. A rule of thumb is that a 8mm lens is like a 4mm lens zoomed in 2 times. Similarily, a 16mm lens is like the 4mm lens zoomed in 4 times. For example, a 16mm lens would give you about a 15 degree angle of view focussed at 35 ft. The further out the focus, the wider the angle of view.

Infrared Security Camera

They are also called Night Vision cameras because they can ‘see’ at night. However, do not confuse “Night Vision” with “Day/Night Cameras” which do not have infrared leds build in. More about those types of cameras below.

An infrared security camera has infrared lighting (light from a different region of the electromagnetic spectrum than we normally use to see) installed around the outside of the lens of the camera. This lighting allows the camera to capture a good image in no light at all. With a little bit of light (called low light) the infrared camera can capture a picture that looks just like daytime. Keep in mind that even at nightime there is a normally some light from the moon, stars, or street lights.

Infrared cameras do not do well in outdoor housings because the infrared light reflects off the glass of the housing. Some people get acceptable results if the camera is absolutely flush with the glass. An alternative solution is to use a day / night camera which has an extra sensitive imaging chip that allows it to capture a good picture in low light situations without using infrared lighting. This works well for example if there are street lights outside or an exterior light that can be left on at night. Keep in mind that cameras without infrared lighting will not capture an image with zero light.

The level of light required to capture a good picture is referred to as a camera’s lux, the lower the lux the better the camera can see in the dark. For example a camera with 0.003 lux is better than a camera with 0.2 lux. Infrared cameras are also compared by how far they can see in total darkness. Our Super 70′ infrared night outdoor camera can see an amazing 70 ft. with no light at all!

People use infrared security cameras for businesses that have the lights out at night (in case of break-ins). Or for outside, nighttime viewing.

The image that infrared cameras capture is black and white – however some cameras will capture color images during the day when light is available and will automatically switch to black and white when light is low. For example, see our High Resolution Color Weatherproof High Resolution Infrared Camera or our Color Armor Dome Infrared Security Camera. This feature gives you the best of both worlds!

Dome Cameras

The dome camera is obviously named for its dome shape. Everyone has seen these security cameras in businesses and stores. Because of its shape, its difficult to tell exactly where the camera is aiming unless you see it up close. Dome cameras are generally used inside buildings, although the armor domes can be used outside as well (more about the armor dome below). You can mount them on the ceiling or on a wall. They are available in black and white (b/w) and color, and the basic unit has good video resolution (400 lines for b/w, 380 for color).

Our varifocal dome cameras feature the highest quality SONY 1/3″ Super HAD CCD sensor and excellent resolution (420 lines). The 5-8mm model has an adjustable lens focus from 5mm to 8mm. The 9-22mm model can adjust its lens focus from 9mm to 22mm. Refer to the security camera lens FAQ for more information about lenses and focus.

One of the most exciting cameras we carry is the Color Infrared Armor Dome Camera. This amazing camera is virtually indestructable. It’s hi-impact reinforced polycarbonate tamperproof armor dome can withstand a blow from a 10-pound sledgehammer! It’s a color camera which automatically switches to infrared black and white in low light level conditions. It can be installed inside or out and includes all of the required mounting hardware. This is one of the most popular cameras we carry.

CCTV Maintenance

Maintenance of your CCTV system is vital to ensure the effectiveness of your security camera system. The type of maintenance required varies depending on whether you have an analog video system or a digital video system.

The most common problem for analog systems is the degradation of the videotapes. All too often this problem isn’t recognized until a problem occurs and the tape is unusable. When a videotape degrades the picture becomes grainy and blurry – this can make it impossible to make out important details.

The effective life of a videotape depends on the time-lapse speed of the VCR. A general rule of thumb is to take the number 2000 and divide that by the speed of the recorder. For example, if the recorder is set to tape in 96-hour mode, then the videotape will start to degrade after only 20 uses. And the VCR itself should be overhauled every 10,000 hours. This is precisely why many business owners are switching to digital video recorders (DVR) instead of VCRs.

Since digital video recorders have very few moving parts they require less maintenance than a VCR. Also when there is a problem with the DVR it is usually more evident. For example, the system will start crashing a lot or it will stop working altogether.

Cameras can go bad over time as well. But again, these problems are usually fairly evident. Periodically take the time to review all of your cameras and make sure that the picture on each one is crisp and clear.

Experts say that the biggest problem with many security camera systems is that they are not well enough designed to begin with. Many times a business owner is so concerned with cost that they cut corners on their camera installation. As a result there may not be enough cameras used or they might not be the right kind of cameras or lenses. Your camera system should cover all of the vulnerable or important areas of your site. Don’t overextend the camera by using lenses with a field of view that is too wide. Test out your cameras and recording equipment to ensure that it is effective for identification – not just verification that someone is there. If nighttime or low light is an issue make sure your infrared cameras are up to the task.

Take few moments to ensure that your camera system is designed and working properly today – you’ll be glad you did if you ever are in the situation to depend on it!

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