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Important Information about CCTV Camera Systems

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) systems are an important weapon in the modern fight against crime. There are, however, some common problems that users need to be aware of.

The variable standards of CCTV systems have prompted the Met's Anti-Terrorist Branch Branch to launch an advertising campaign to ensure systems are properly set up and maintained. CCTV has been particularly useful in the fight against terrorism, as demonstrated by the way it helped the Anti-Terrorist Branch to catch racist nailbomber David Copeland. It is also a proven deterrent against other forms of crime but it will only go on being effective if users ensure their cameras are producing useful footage.

Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Sir John Stevens told a recent press conference: "CCTV is a powerful weapon in preventing and detecting crime just look how it helped us catch the nail bomber in a matter of days. But without proper maintenance, clean lenses and decent tapes it's a bit like looking at things through a snowstorm."

The picture below is an example of what can happen when things go wrong. If the CCTV system that recorded this image had been correctly adjusted and properly maintained then it could have provided vital information that would have helped to catch a terrorist.

Ensuring this sort of problem does not occur is equally important whether it is a matter of stopping terrorists or a question of protecting your business or your home against robbery and theft. If you use CCTV to protect your premises you should check your system.

There are a few simple rules to ensure that CCTV is not rendered useless:

Change tapes daily
Use them no more than 12 times
Keep tapes for at least a month
Use good quality tapes and check them by playing them on a different machine
Ensure that the picture is clear - it needs to be clear enough to identify people and vehicles
Check that the time and date displays are correct
Check that the picture is covering the right area
Make sure there is enough light for the camera to give a proper picture
Your CCTV provider, security officer or local police crime prevention officer can help you improve your system.



How to Choose a Closed-Circuit TV System for Your Home

To supplement your home security system, you may want to consider including a closed-circuit television system (CCTV). Such a system includes a surveillance camera or cameras, lenses specially selected to watch particular areas of the home, and a videocassette recorder that records what the camera or cameras see.

CCTV Conduct Preliminary Research

1. Survey your home. Determine which areas you might want to monitor via CCTV. Some areas outside the home might include the garage, backyard, an adjacent alley, or outside a gate or fence.

2. Decide if you want to put more than one camera inside your home. You may, for example, want to monitor how a nanny watches your child during the day.

3. Decide on the size of the scene you wish the CCTV system to observe. This will determine the size and type of camera and its lens.

4. Decide on the camera format. There are five choices: 1-inch, 2/3-inch, 1/2-inch, 1/3-inch or 1/4-inch. It is most cost effective to select 1/2-inch, 1/3-inch or 1/4-inch, because those cameras can use the widest range of lenses.

5. Determine what type of lens you wish to use. There are four types of lenses for CCTV use: fixed aperture, manual iris, auto iris and zoom. If the area you wish to observe experiences infrequent changes in light, use a manual iris lens, which can be adjusted for light only by hand. If the area the CCTV system will be observing experiences frequent changes in light, use an auto-iris lens. These lenses adjust to light changes automatically. Auto-iris lenses come in Video or DC, and cameras generally support one format or the other. Be sure your lens matches the camera. To perform closeups, get a zoom lens. Motorized zoom lenses are available.

6. Based on the camera format you chose (1-inch, 1/2-inch, etc.), choose the lens format.

7. Ascertain how many cameras you will need. This will determine whether you will need a switcher, a multiplexer or multiple monitors.

8. Determine the monitor size. The larger the monitor, the bigger the object will appear. Available sizes include 9-inch, 12-inch and 17-inch.

9. Decide if you will have to show more than one scene at a time on one monitor. If so, you will need to include a quad switch that allows up to four cameras to be viewed simultaneously on one screen.

10. If you plan to record more than 4 to 6 hours, you will need a commercial grade recorder. Otherwise, you can use a standard VCR.

11. Determine if you want to record all cameras at once in full screen mode if you intend to use a multicamera CCTV system. If you want full screen recording of all cameras, you will need to include a multiplexer.

12. Use a measurement wheel or slide chart to determine the focal length, or the distance from the camera to the subject, and the height or width of the subject in the usable picture.

13. Write down all of the information you gathered doing these steps.

One of the most popular lenses in use today is the Vari-Focal lens, because it's adjustable.

Manufacturers or suppliers of lenses have measurement wheels or slide charts that can figure out a missing variable as long as the other two variables are known. There are also charts to assist you in determining what size lens would be required to view a certain size scene.

Choosing the CCTV Components

1. Confer with a home security advisor.

2. Discuss your preliminary research findings with the consultant and select components.


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