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What Cable Should I Use?
December 13, 2012
Mounting Your Security Cameras
December 14, 2012

Siamese Configurations and Paired Wires: I wanted to cover these first since the ideas of Siamese Cable, Siamese Configuration, and Paired Wire are applicable to all kinds, types, and gauges of wires. All these terms essentially mean the exact same thing. They all refer to a single cable that contains more than one wire. Closed Circuit Television (or CCTV) security camera installations typically use a three wire system. This system is commonly referred to as “Siamese Security Cable” or “Siamese Cable” and is simply 1 RG-59 cable and 1 18-2 cable (both explained below).

Connectors and Cables found in Security Camera Installations

Siamese Configurations and Paired Wires:  I wanted to cover these first since the ideas of Siamese Cable, Siamese Configuration, and Paired Wire are applicable to all kinds, types, and gauges of wires.  All these terms essentially mean the exact same thing.  They all refer to a single cable that contains more than one wire.  Closed Circuit Television (or CCTV) security camera installations typically use a three wire system.  This system is commonly referred to as “Siamese Security Cable” or “Siamese Cable” and is simply 1 RG-59 cable and 1 18-2 cable (both explained below).

Cat 3, 4, 5, 5e, 6, and (coming soon) 7: Cat cable, no matter what the rating, is physically the exact same thing.  Every cat rated cable is composed of 8 individual smaller wires.  These wires are usually sorted in pairs similarly colored, often one solid and one striped with white. This is done to help keep track of the individual pair.  Each similar pair is twisted around each other.  This is referred to as “UTP” or Unshielded Twisted Pair.  The term simply means two wires without any special casing twisted around each other. This twist is done to assist in the transmission of data or information across the wires. There are four of these pairs made from the wires in the casing.  This wire is very commonly used for data networks (IP systems).  In an IP system, a minimum speed rating of Cat5e is required.  Cat6 is usually installed if the application calls for “future-proofing”.  However in the event that you are going to be installing a CCTV system with Balun connectors (listed below), you will not be required to use wire with any specific speed rating.  This is due to the fact that the transmission of data is done via an analogue Radio Frequency (RF) method and is unaffected by the enhancements to the cable that would increase the Cat rating.  Therefore, you can use very old format Cat2 cable with the exact same effectiveness as brand new Cat6 cable.  Additionally these wires are common for camera control wire.

RS-232 6 conductor (3 pairs) cable: This type of cable is very similar to the Cat rated cable above.  The difference is that there (technically) aren’t enough pairs to support traditional IP solutions or (completely) Power Over Ethernet (POE) IP solutions.  It can be used for CCTV solutions in the same way that Cat rated cable is.  This cable is also used in some proprietary camera solutions and systems.  Systems that use it in that way are usually incompatible with Standardized security and network equipment.

RG-59 and RG-6: Both of these cables are very similar and upon first glance there appears to be no difference.  Both are a metal core wire cased in a non-conductive shielding, and then a braided metal layer, more shielding, and finally the outer casing of the cable itself.  The truth lies in the RG designation of each cable.  RG-59 cable has shielding relevant to frequencies used by low herz ranges such as cable TV and CCTV.  RG-6 cable has shielding relevant to shorter range high herz ranges such as Satellite TV, Ham Radio, and like devices.  The RG portion of the name dictates “Radio Guide” and refers to the military’s guide to specs used for certain radio frequency devices.  6 and 59 refers to the entry # in the guide.  Neither is better than the other until you apply a purpose.  We do NOT recommend using RG-6 cable for Security Cameras since it offers no shielding whatsoever from interference.  It may work, but there is a much higher chance of problems.  Additionally, there is a lot of confusion on the quality of these cables.  The truth of the matter is that most siamese cables sellers are retailing a low grade cable.  Security Camera Cable should be a mostly copper in the core and braiding.  This assures good and clean video signal from camera to recorder.

18-2: This cable is extremely common alone and as a siamese component.  It’s name is fairly straightforward.  It is literally 2 wires of 18 gauge width.  It is a paired wire and most commonly used as a power conductor.  18-2 with high amounts of copper is optimal for wire runs that are of an extreme length, as high conductivity helps reduce voltage drop due to distance.

24-2/24-4 (alarm wire): Also an extremely common cable in security applications.  It is usually found as either 2 or 4 wire configurations (thus the -2 or -4 designation).  Typically this wire type is very useful as connector wire in alarm systems for sensors.  In security camera applications, it can be used for control wire for a PTZ without problem, however you may run into issues if you connect baluns due to the fact that the wire is not twisted.

Bell Wire: Bell wire is essentially phone wire.  It can be used for PTZ connections, but may or may not work well in balun applications with cameras.

Plug and Play Cables: The realm of plug and play cables is wide and varied.  There are network plug and play cables and camera plug and play cables.  These cables are almost always non-rated inferior grade wires that have been fitted with connectors appropriate for a task.  They are designed to work, but usually offer no shielding and are of such a lightweight nature that damage to the cable is very easily done and often can not be repaired.  These are fine in some circumstances, but we often recommend minimizing the usage of them in favor of heavier solutions.  The advantage is there is no cable prep required, as the connectors are already fitted.
Speaker Wire: Common speaker wire is not often found in security systems, but it can be used for mic signals or PTZ controls in a pinch.

25-Pair: This gargantuan cable is exactly what it sounds like; 25 pairs of wire.  It comes in twisted pair, and non-twisted varieties.  When making your decision whether or not to use a portion of 25 pair cable for your analogue or IP installation, you should first find out whether or not it is a twisted pair (or UTP) variety.  In the event that it is indeed twisted, you can proceed to treat it like any other twisted pair cable and it should work excellent for your IP or analogue install.  However, be cautious using non-twisted cables.  The end results could be less than desirable, or non-functional at all.

Fiber Optic: The wave of the future is fiber optic.  Fiber is essentially a light conductive tube of glass that forms an enormous lens.  Unfortunately, fiber requires a bit of expertise to customize in your own home or business making self installation almost impossible;  but the data rates for an IP system are far superior to any metal wired connection.


BNC Twist: This is the most common type of connector for home installation.  Many find it to be the easiest to place on the end of a cable.  It requires no additional tools beyond wire strippers to prepare the wire itself.  Attaching the connector simply requires the installer to push the wire into the connector and twist the connector a few turns.  The threading inside the connector acts like a nut and cinches it to the wire end.

BNC Crimp: Amongst professional installers, this connector is widely found.  It slides onto the end of a coaxial cable and then it fitted with a special “crimping tool”.  Essentially a metal sleeve holds the final connector on when it is pinched onto the wire.  These fittings are still inexpensive but offer a more permanent alternative to twist connectors which are more likely to come off.  However, for a one time installation, it may not be worth purchasing a special tool.

BNC Compression: These are the heaviest and most permanent of the connectors used for coaxial cable.  They are also the most expensive, and require a special compression tool (and a little bit of practice and skill) to fit onto a cable.  They work by sliding a cylinder onto the cable and with the special compression tool, a second cylinder is forced over the first creating compression down onto the cable and essentially creating a pressure lock.  Many professional installers go this route and believe this connector to be the most superior.

Passive Baluns and Balun Hubs: When using any twisted pair for video or audio transmission, you must attach a balun.  There are several different kinds and styles of balun, but they all do the same job.  The least expensive and most common styles use screw terminals or clamps to clamp onto bare wires. Some versions also provide connections for audio and some even provide power as well.  There are also “gang baluns” or balun hubs.  These units are simply many single baluns arranged together into a single housing.  This is done for organizational, visual, or convenience reasons.

Active Baluns and Balun Hubs: In the event that an extremely long wire run (over 1000 feet) is required and power can be provided from another source; you can use Twisted Pair wire for the video connection.  The device required for this connection is a type of active (amplified) balun.  The active balun is a powered device and will require to be connected to power at both ends.  The advantage to powering the connection is the ability to send your video signal 3000  feet (depending on the balun) over the twisted pair connection.   There is no good way to send power over multiple twisted pairs for these kinds of distance.

Network connectors: Essentially a giant phone jack.  Phone connectors only have 2 pairs of wire and are referred to as a RJ-11 connector.  In the case of the 3 pair RS-232 cable, a 3 pair connector called a RJ-6 is used.  Finally in today’s typical installation you will find mostly 4 pair RJ-45 connectors.  In all cases, the connector simply lines each of the individual wire in the cable up, so that they may touch the corresponding portion of the jack its plugged into.

S-Video, DIN, and Bus Pin connectors: These connectors are all composed of a metal circle with a series of small pins inside.  They are typically non-standard and are often implemented by a company that seeks to lock the end user into only their equipment.  It’s often found in very inexpensive systems, so that when the initial budget-price components fail, you have no choice but to replace it with more of their equipment, often at a higher price for the single components.  We highly recommend staying away from not only these style systems, but any non-standardized system.

RS-232, Serial, and Parrallel Ports and Jacks: These couplers and connections are often a series of pins protected by a trapezoidal connector housing.  Its an older style format that has mostly disappeared from the technology world, having been replaced with newer connection and technology types.  These connectors typically have a push in and lock mechanism and are used for data communication from one device to another.  Typically this process is accomplished via network in modern systems.

Bare Wire Connections: In IP security, the use of bare wire connections has been almost completely replaced by over the network communication and power (PTZs often require more power, and are therefore almost always hardwired in these instances).  However in analogue transmission it is still common to find screw down terminals and various clamps for communication.  It’s even fairly common to find bare wire to bare wire connections.

Flying Power Leads and Pigtails: This term is applied to all connectors that consist of a standard connector on one end, and open wires on the other.  They are most often found with 2mm ends for power adaption from a camera or power supply to a bare wire (for twisted pair, 18-2, or other wires involved with power often).

Phoenix Connectors: This is a connector that has two screw terminals or clamps for a bare wire connection on one end, and a connector of some sort directly on the other.  They fairly uncommon, but are sometimes used to adapt a camera with a 2mm power plug directly to an open wire.

Punch Down: These connectors are still found in use by network wiring companies mostly.  They are long strips of screws or clamps designed to organize and connect long runs of network or phone wires (twisted pair).  It’s often recommended not to use them, but when necessary they are ideal to connect or crosswire multiple single wires at one time.

RCA Connectors: Still widely used for analogue TV and audio today.  In CCTV they are uncommon for video.  However audio devices and inputs are still often found to connect with this classic connection.

T-Connectors and Splitters:  Any analogue transmission, and even some digital ones, can be split without problem.  You can even split power in most cases without issue.  This generally the signal slightly each time it is split without additional signal amplification.

B-Gels, Beanies, Wire Caps, and Electrical Tape: With the need to connect bare wire to bare wire fairly common in CCTV, the need to do it safely and correctly also exists.  With most security solutions being low voltage, the connection style is wide open.  Basically, if the connection is weatherproof with good connectivity, it should work just fine.  Therefore any standard wire shield-connector should work without trouble.  In the event that you are patching 110, we recommend you consult a licensed electrician before attempting the fix.  High voltage connections can be very dangerous.

Ground Loop Isolators: This device is used in the uncommon circumstance that interference is involved with your wire run.  Sometimes there is noise (static) or rolling (picture flipping) caused by something along the way.  Sometimes by simply adding a standard or balun style ground loop isolator, the issue will clear up.

BNC to VGA or HDMI Converters: Analogue video transmission and video display is low resolution when comparing to digital transmission and display.  When connecting cables from the recorder to the display (monitor, television, etc) we recommend using the highest resolution connection type first.  This mean connecting with a DVI or HDMI cable first if available.  The next option would be VGA.  In some events (due to availability, installation limitations, or distance) you have no choice but to run an analogue transmission line for video.  When this occurs there are devices that will convert your signal from analogue to digital (BNC or RCA to VGA, DVI, or HDMI often).  Its imperative to remember: When using a converter, your resolution remains the same as the lowest level.  This can result in fairly poor video quality.

VGA Connectors: This most common display in the computer world, previous to HDMI/DVI.  It’s a multi-pin trapezoidal shaped connector.

HDMI/DVI connectors: The current standard for transmission of high definition video imagery.  Essentially the connector types are different, but for all intents and purposes; are exactly the same with the exception that DVI does not carry audio.

Analogue Wireless: In CCTV analogue wireless from camera to DVR a lot of things must be considered.  These connections are very susceptible to interference from common household devices.  Additionally, there can be loss of signal from walls, trees, or other solid objects (like tall vehicles, people, etc).  We strongly recommend using wire for analogue, and only using wireless if it absolutely requires it.  Remember;  Even wireless analogue still requires power.

Digital Wireless: Digital wireless (wireless IP) is the most dependable way to connect devices in the event that cabling is not available.  When considering wireless IP you simply need to make sure that your devices will support the amount of data (video) you want to transmit on it, and that you will have good signal.  It comes in wide area (wifi) versions and line-of-sight (which requires that the devices be able to clearly “see” each other).  DVRs, NVRs, and IP cams can all be connected to networks and the internet in this way.  Often, the most affordable way to cover two or more buildings is to put separate systems in each and connect them all via the internet or using wireless IP to create a separate network.

1 Comment

  1. Donovan Daniel says:

    The cable is commonly connected using punch down blocks and modular connectors . Most Category 5 cables are unshielded , relying on the twisted pair design and differential signaling for noise rejection.

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