Archive for the ‘ HowTo Articles’ Category



How to Setup a License Plate Capture Camera

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Thursday, February 13th, 2014
TP-LP700 License Plate Capture Camera

I often get asked how to best capture a license plate from a vehicle with a camera system. I generally tell the customer that it is done with magical leprechauns, the tooth fairy, and a dash of pixie dust! Then when I get serious I will go into the long explanation of the proper setup to capture the image. With license plate capture there are several things that need to be considered and in place to be able to capture a license plate on a vehicle. You need to be between a certain height and angle, need to be focused on a concentrated area, need speed control of the vehicles, and need the proper camera.

The Right Height and Angle

With any camera, the right angle and height are very important when trying to achieve specific shots. A license plate capture camera is no different, and actually it is more important than most. There are several schools of thought as to what is the idea height and angles for this application. The one that I have found works the best, is to ensure the camera is between thirty six inches from the driveway up to ten feet. The height of the camera plays a big role in how clear the image will be, if the camera is too high and the vehicle has some sort of plate cover on it, you can get an image that is too distorted to make out.

If you think about it, most vehicle license plates are between twenty inches and forty eight inches from the driveway surface, so you don’t want to create a crazy angle to try and capture a license plate from. Another important thing to remember is how far off the lane of travel the camera is situated, this plays into the angle created on the capturing of the image. Typical rule of thumb is to have the camera as close to the lane of travel as possible. So the closer to the curb the better!  Now, I know you are asking yourself, “what if someone comes up and vandalizes the camera?” Well, the way to help protect this is by having a camera that watches over the location of the license plate capture camera.

Focused Area of View

Another big factor in license plate capture, is not trying to do everything with one camera. In order to properly capture a license plate, the camera needs to be focused on one lane of travel. So, if you are trying to capture multiple lanes of travel you will need as many cameras as lanes you are trying to capture. A good rule of thumb is to have a camera per lane and a camera that gives overviews of the area. The overview camera will give you the description of the vehicle, while the license plate capture camera will get the license plates. If you try to do too much with one camera you will fail at doing anything useful except get a description of the vehicle. It may cost you a little more upon initial setup for the extra camera, but what you will gain with useful information is priceless!

Speed Control

A very important factor to be considered is the speed the vehicle will be going. If you have a vehicle that is traveling at a high rate of speed and you expect to capture it’s license plate you better plan to spend some very very big dollars on a camera. Now if you are realistic and have an area where a vehicle has to slow down or even better stop, you will be in tall cotton. The most ideal way to capture a license plate from a vehicle is to have an area where the vehicle will have to come to a complete stop. Whether that is at a stop sign, a severe speed bump, or a gate that has to open does not matter, as long as you can get a vehicle to stop. The next best solution is where a vehicle has to slow down extremely, ideally under ten mile per hour or so. Now if you do not have the ability to slow the vehicles down, you are going to have to look into the cameras that most interstate systems use which generally cost in the thousands of dollars per camera.

Proper Camera

Barring needing a specialty high speed camera that interstate systems use, you can generally find a good camera with a reputable company. The right camera will depend on several things. The first and foremost is the distance from camera to target. Why this is so important is because you need the right lens to narrow down on your target. If you are at thirty feet and trying to use a 2.8mm – 12mm varifocal camera and narrow the shot down to a eight foot by eight foot area, you will fail. This is because at a thirty foot distance to target and the camera zoomed all the way to it’s 12mm setting, your area of view is going to be over ten foot by eight foot. This generally will be too wide of a shot to capture a clean enough image. I personally would suggest going with a 9mm – 22mm lens for anything over twenty feet to about forty five feet. For any shot that is from about fifteen feet to about one hundred and twenty five feet you should use a camera with a 6mm – 60mm lens. If you are unsure of the millimeter lens that you will need, you can always use the lens calculator on Security Camera King’s website.

If your project meets all of these requirements, your license plate capture should occur with minimal issues. With every job and every location there are different obstacles that will be needed to be overcome, no two jobs will ever be identical especially when it comes to license plate capture. The best thing you can do for yourself is to survey the area, taking lots of pictures and measurements. Find any possible available power source and possible areas to burry conduit to get to the camera location. Keep in mind to always obey local codes and pull the necessary permits. The last thing you want to have happen is an inspector/ code enforcement officer to flag the site and cost you time and money.

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How to Troubleshoot Analog Security Cameras

Written By:
Friday, December 6th, 2013

Frustrated Man

Help my camera is dead and I don’t know what to do!!!! Relax the Camera is not going to cause a cascading failure and blow up the whole system or burn the house down. You will need a multi meter to verify voltages and amps.  Depending on where your cameras are located is how you may want to proceed. If the cameras are easy to get to the first thing I would do is break out a ladder if needed and get up to the camera.

If your camera has IR or infrared cup your hand around the camera to trick the sensor so it thinks it is night then see if the IRs do come on.  If they do good, I know the camera is getting power. I would still test power output regardless if IRs comes on.  The infrared does not need much to power up so there could still be an issue.  If this camera is a DC then you should get at or above 12 volts DC. Should the camera be AC the reading should be at or above 24 volts AC.  11.7 volts is close but not enough 23.9 volts is close but not enough. The voltage must be at or above the required amount. It has been my experience that “almost” in voltage needed is not enough. Almost only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.  The camera may give you a video feed during day but as soon as the Infra-Red led come on the camera will act very strange, or the camera will act strange to begin with.

Now at this point let us say you have less than required or no power at the camera.  You now need to go to your power supply to test it also taking the camera down at this point is advisable. Check the connections on the coax cable. Twist on BNC connectors is convenient but they do get loose if they move or shake for whatever reason they will make the camera have grainy or lines or a waviness to the image produced. BNC Twists are an unreliable connection. I like them for bench testing since they are so convenient. For installation I avoid them if I can. In the early days of computing there was a phenomena called chip creep. Ram chips would get hot and cold and slowly work themselves out of the slot on mother board. It is logical that the same would happen with the twists over time.

Crimp on BNC connectors and compression fittings are the best. Some people will swear by crimp on BNC other people will swear by compression BNC. In either case they typically do not become loose preventing video loss or poor images. For both types of connectors you need the specified tool to install the ends. Pliers will not get the job done they will only create a problem.

Now that we have the camera in question down it is time to go back to the power supply and do some testing. Check output on the channel of the power supply is do you get 12vdc or 24vac. If we get the full output needed at power supply connect camera directly to power supply and DVR. Does the issue go away in day and night mode? If it does then you now know something is going on the cable.  If not we know for sure the camera is not operating correctly. This could be from any number of reasons. To prevent the cameras from going bad a surge protector is always recommended. If you can get a battery backup and conditioner, the conditioner cleans up feedback or interference on the power side that can cause cameras to act very strange.

For cable issues there several ways to go about determining what to do next. First is how long of a cable run do you have? Coax cables have limitations on distance. The common cable RG59 which most people use for CCTV has the highest attenuation or signal loss. It is never recommended to use RG59 above a distance of 1000 feet. Some people do not recommend to use RG59 over 750 feet. Having a cable that has an impedance of 75 ohms is crucial. If the impedance is outside of that you will get more signal loss.  If you are using RG6 this coax cable has lower attenuation so you can get more distance before running into problems. Normally you can get up to 1500 feet. RG6 is recommended for use between 1000 – 1500 feet. As there is a price difference I would not use RG6 unless distance required it. RG11 is the thickest of the cables used. It does have the lowest attenuation of all coax cable. You can get up to 2000 feet on a home run.  With all cable bending and pulling cable can and will damage the cable. Using a lubricant helps in preventing damage from pulling. When it comes to bending any cable you cannot bend, twist, or roll up cable tighter that the radius of the cable itself. If you do, get a new piece of cable because you just damaged that cable. The cable may work but the longer the run the more likely you will have a bad video feed. Once you bend the cable that far you put a kink in the wire and add to the resistance. Another issue I have seen is failure to ensure there are no jagged edges for the cable to get caught on or sliced into. For example running cable in an attic there are old rusty nails and screws everywhere. If a screw gets in contact with cable you can inadvertently add an extra ground the “POOF” no more video or you get static if you’re lucky. Sometimes it just is not possible to measure resistance on a cable run end to end that is why I say take the camera down so we can isolate the issue.

With the steps I have outlined you should be able to troubleshoot your system when issues arise. I can tell you that most issues in CCTV arise from to long of cable runs with the wrong cable type. Power is especially problematic as the thinner the wire the higher the voltage drop at distance.

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Why Home Security Should Be At The Top Of Your List

Written By:
Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

About Security by Casey Sardos Imagine you’re leaving work early and upon arriving home, surprise burglars who are making off with your prized possessions. They are just as equally surprised that, with-out a second thought, they pull the trigger and release the bullet that kills you. All because you got home early. This happens more often then you would think. Now you’re thinking, “How can I possibly protect myself from this?.” In order to do so, you have to learn about security and various ways security can prevent this from happening to you and your family. Security is a word that is widely used as a method to protect yourself from harm or harm to others. There are many different reasons you would want to protect yourself and your family from the various criminal acts that can occur in our world today. The information provided below will give some insight into different methods that can deter crime, those who would commit criminal acts, and grant you and your family with a means of protection from a nasty situation that an easily spin out of control.

One of the many ways that you can protect your household from crime is to invest in a security system. A security system can be made up of many different components ranging from door sensors to security cameras. Determining your budget, location, and the crime levels in your area can give you a starting platform as to what you truly need for appropriate home and family protection. Lets start with the basics, the alarm systems. This is a great first step in protecting your home from burglars and preventing crime from happening. An alarm system is made up of many different sensors that can be attached to windows, doors and walls. The door and window sensors are put in place to track if someone enters from and door or window entry. Not only will they let you know if an intruder has entered, but they will also let you know if the kids or the dog have slipped out the front door while your making dinner. Now this is important part to any security system because doors and windows are the most common entry points. The only downside to a window sensor would be breaking the window, ban act that will not trip the sensor. That is why they offer motion sensors that track any movement in a specific area and can complement what the window sensor lacks. You can also place sirens and strobes so that he intruder will flee the premises before they draw to much attention or can cause permanent harm to yourself or your family.

Purchasing an alarm system is a very good way to start a adequate security system in your home and is one of the most effective ways to prevent crime from occurring. To take your security system to the next level, the next step would be to purchase a security camera system. There are many options available to consumers, so deciding on a system for your home may be overwhelming. You need to take into account the camera placement in and around your home, how many cameras you need, and what camera system offers all of the latest features. Many camera systems can be installed yourself, whereas others will require professional assistance to ensure the system is installed properly to get the cameras up and running as soon as possible. The most important thing you should do is to research what system would be best to suit your needs. Once you have found the right system, you need to consider the best places to put the cameras. You would want to cover every entry point on the exterior of your home to ensure that if there is someone breaking in you can see who it is and what they are taking. Its also good to install a camera in the front door area so that if your not home you can see who come by or even make sure the package you are expecting has been delivered. If you have a camera facing the driveway you can also prevent car break-ins. The next thing you want to consider would be an inside view for your children or personal items. The reason for an inside view: the best crimes are usually done right in front of you. Security camera systems can help you to prevent crime from happening and also help figure out who committed the crime.

Security camera & alarm systems are great at prevent crime but sometimes that isn’t enough. A lot crime happens in public places such as; schools, grocery stores, and street. Personal protection is one of the only ways to protect yourself out in the world and also when you system fails at home. If you want to start small then consider buying a can of pepper spray. Pepper spray has been around for quite a while and is an excellent method of protecting yourself, should you get attacked. If pepper spray doesn’t seem like enough, a stun gun is another way to put someone down safely or even scare them off. They work by using a high, but safe voltage, that when touched to the skin delivers a shock through the body that will stun, and then stiffen the muscles. This will cause the attacker to drop to the ground, allowing you to get away safely. Just the noise that it creates will make the attacker think twice about going for your wallet or handbag.

The most efficient way to protect yourself from any attacker or intruder is to purchase a firearm. Despite the current controversy concerning firearms, if you train yourself as to the proper use, cleaning, ways to store it in your home to prevent accidents from happening, and to learn to respect the weapon, then a firearm will only provide protection. If you are going to own a firearm for your own personal protection, then the firearm to consider would be a pistol. They come in different shapes and sizes, and talking to someone with knowledge and experience will help choose one that fits yourself and your current situation. Before you purchase your firearm, you should take a course that will teach the proper care and usage to give you have a better understanding on how weapons work. Once that is done, you should purchase your firearm and corresponding safe that it will be placed in and take it out to a gun range to understand how to fire it and how to safely handle it when doing so. Doing all of this will help you to respect the firearm and better understand what sort of power you now have in your hands. Lastly, keeping it safe from children and others that do not have knowledge and experience with it is the most important step. You want to keep it unloaded in a safe or a locked gun case and hide it that only those who are able to use it can find it.

Following these steps and talking to knowledgeable people in the industry can help you figure out how to protect yourself from intruders and attackers and keep yourself and your family safe.

by Casey Sardos

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Set up on Ultimate Mini-series DVRs

Written By:
Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Set up on Ultimate Mini-series DVRs The big brown box just arrived. After inspection of the box and its contents you are assured everything you have ordered is accounted for. Great, now you can start running cable and hanging cameras. You can figure it will take anywhere from one or two hours to run the cable and hang the camera. If you have to roll out the lift truck it will probably take a little longer. Of course this estimate is considering that you have some prior knowledge of cameras. Crawling through attics and swinging on ladders is not for everybody.

After you get all your cameras installed you go to the DVR itself. You connect all your cameras to the DVR and hook up power. POWER ON!  Now it is time to wrap up the install and use the new system. You cannot wait any longer finally dessert is served.  Once the DVR comes on you see on the monitor that there is a configuration wizard and a grid view of the channels on the dvr, but you do not see any video…

Before you pick up the phone and call tech support take a look at the back of the DVR and make sure that you have the BNC connectors hooked up to the video IN. There are several BNC connections on the back of the DVR that are not for video in. Some are for audio in or out and some are video out.  As you reconnect the cameras to the correct BNC ports the video feeds come up and you feel that victory inside.  YES I DID IT, but what is with this wizard that will not go away…