Home Video Surveillance Setup

A frequent request we receive from our users is for a quick and easy overview of what is required to set up a home video security system. Our SecuritySpy Installation Manual is a great place to start, as it provides information on all the topics involved, however for many users the selection of available IP cameras can be bewildering, and the setup can be daunting. Therefore, we have created this guide to provide clear and easy-to-follow advice that can be used by anyone – technical or not – to create a highly effective video surveillance system for their home.

1. The Mac

Most users already have a Mac in use at their home, and if you just need a few cameras you can simply run SecuritySpy on your existing Mac without significantly affecting its performance. For this purpose a Mac mini, iMac or Mac Pro is perfect (you can also use a MacBook, however due to the fact that recording will only take place when the Mac is awake and at home, a laptop is less suitable than a desktop for this purpose).

For more than 4 cameras or so (at 1 MP resolution each), the processing power becomes significant and you will probably want to use a dedicated Mac for your home video security system. For this purpose a Mac mini is perfect: small, inexpensive and powerful, a basic dual-core Mac mini is capable of recording up to 8 cameras (the previous-generation quad-core models are about twice as powerful, so consider obtaining one second hand if you need between 8 and 16 cameras).

2. The Network

Your Mac will be connecting to the cameras over a wired (ethernet) or wireless (WiFi) network. Wired ethernet offers much greater reliability and performance than WiFi, so we recommend using it wherever possible. If this is not possible, then WiFi will provide an adequate solution provided that the devices aren’t too far from the wireless access point.

If connecting the cameras using ethernet, use a high-quality switch (for example a Netgear GS105 or GS108), and connect the Mac, cameras and internet router all to this switch using ethernet cables.

3. Choosing Cameras

Go for trusty manufacturers such as Axis, Canon, Samsung and Vivotek. If you are confident with network setup, also consider Dahua Technology or Hikvision. Beyond our 10 Recommended IP Cameras 2015 blog post, here are a few suggestions for network cameras that are easy to set up and will work well in a home setting:

axis-m1054

 

Axis M1034-W or M1054: these compact low-cost cameras sport good features sets, including night-vision, audio, and a 1 MP resolution. The M1034-W has WiFi capabilities while the M1054 is wired only.

 

samsung-snhp6410bn

 

Samsung SNH-P6410BN: this is a small low-cost camera with high image quality and a great feature set including WiFi, night-vision, audio, and a maximum resolution of 2.1 MP.

 

 

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CaptureSync Case Study – Trio Iguaçu

Trio Iguaçu is a talented group of musicians, playing a delightful blend of tango and bossa nova music. We set up a recording session with them in order to produce promotional videos for the trio, as well as to demonstrate the power and flexibility of our CaptureSync multi-camera video recording software.

CaptureSync is software for the Mac that records video and audio from multiple cameras simultaneously, with all feeds synchronised together and saved to a single QuickTime Movie file. CaptureSync is perfect for recording interviews, scientific experiments, psychological research, musical performances, market research, lectures and presentations.

The setup consisted of one main camera to capture the whole group, as well as three auxiliary cameras to provide close-up views of each musician. These close-up views are useful for analysing playing technique or for editing in Final Cut Pro in order to produce an edited movie that switches between multiple camera angles.

Main Camera

As the quality of the group view was the most important, we used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera with a 35mm lens. This camera provides high-quality 1920×1080 resolution 30fps video via HDMI, which can be recorded by CaptureSync using Blackmagic HDMI input hardware. As we were using a Mac Pro computer, we used the PCI version of their Intensity product, which is part of a range that also includes Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 HDMI-input devices.

Nikon D3200 DSLR

Nikon D3200 DSLR Camera

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10 Recommended IP Cameras 2015

Since our initial 10 Recommended IP Cameras post, network cameras have been improving steadily, with many new models released. Therefore it is time to update the list with our picks for 2015. As before, the cameras listed here are in no particular order (they are quite varied in terms of cost and feature set, which makes them difficult to rank as a “top 10″ list), however they are all cameras that, due to their impressive features, we recommend to our customers for use with our SecuritySpy video surveillance software for the Mac.

Some abbreviations used below for camera features are as follows:

  • MP – Megapixels – the number of millions of pixels in the image sensor. The higher this value, the more detailed the image, but note that optical quality of the lens system also makes a huge difference, so resolution isn’t everything.
  • PoE – Power-over-Ethernet – when using a PoE switch, the camera draws power over the ethernet cable and therefore doesn’t need a separate power supply. This is very useful for easy installation and ongoing reliability.
  • IR – Infra Red – some cameras include Infra Red LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for night vision.
  • PTZ – Pan Tilt Zoom – mechanical movement of the camera that can be controlled by SecuritySpy.

Dahua Technology IPC-HFW4100S

dahua-ipc-hfw4100s

For a simple high-quality 1.2 MP outdoor bullet camera, this model is ideal. It features PoE and good night vision thanks to its bright IR LEDs, and it is outstanding value at only USD $100. Minor downsides include the lack of audio, and somewhat awkward initial setup (due to pre-set static IP addresses – but we have instructions for the setup in these cases). For a higher-resolution model, have a look at the 2.1 MP IPC-HFW4200S or the 3.1 MP IPC-HFW4300S. Continue reading

A Field Study Using CaptureSync

In a now-famous experiment initiated by the Washington Post, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell performed undercover in a busy metro station. Using a priceless Stradivarius violin, Bell performed music that he normally plays in front of large concert audiences around the world. The result? Hardly anyone paid much attention to the violinist, or tossed many coins into the open violin case by his feet. The experiment provides a fascinating insight into the importance of context in our experiences of the events around us.

The performance was recorded, but only by a single low-quality camera. What if we wanted to record the experiment properly, from multiple angles, in order to analyse every aspect of the event and people’s reactions? This is the kind of task that CaptureSync is perfect for, and the setup of this hypothetical recording is detailed below.

Layout

Firstly we will consider the layout of the space, and where the best camera angles will be:

Subway Layout

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How To Achieve Effective Motion Detection

SecuritySpy’s motion detection algorithm employs many techniques in order to accurately detect real motion events while minimising the rate of false-positive detections. But besides an effective algorithm, there are many choices about the setup and configuration of your video surveillance system that will help achieve reliable motion detection – these are outlined below.

1. Camera Angle

How you position and point the camera, as well as the focal length of the lens (how wide-angle it is) makes a big difference to the effectiveness of motion detection. The key points to consider are as follows:

  • The activity you want to capture should be relatively large in the frame. Don’t use a camera with a very wide-angle lens, as this will make objects and people appear very small – too small to trigger motion detection or make out any important features such as faces.
  • Point the camera downwards and don’t include any sky in the frame. At certain times of the day the sun may glare into the camera which would impair the its ability to render the scene with good enough definition, and may even damage its sensor.
  • Include just the area you want to capture in the frame; don’t include any irrelevant areas as this simply wastes the resolution of your camera.

Here is an example of a bad camera angle for motion detection:

Bad Camera Angle

Bad Camera Angle For Motion Detection

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Adding Live Video To Any Web Page

This tutorial will show you how to add live video from SecuritySpy to your own web page. This does involve editing the HTML of your web page, but it’s relatively simple. Our favourite tool for this is TextMate.

Firstly, you must set up SecuritySpy for remote monitoring, so that it can be accessed over the internet. Next, create a special user account in SecuritySpy that only has permission to view the camera that you want to use. Finally, determine the camera number for the camera in question (this is shown in the Device map window in SecuritySpy, accessible via the Window menu).

Three methods for embedding the video feed into a web page are outlined below. In the HTML examples shown, the address of the SecuritySpy system is “demo.viewcam.me”, the port is 8000, and the camera number is 1. The authentication is “user” and “pass” for the username and password; you should substitute the actual username and password for the account you set up.

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SecuritySpy Screensaver Tutorial

The SecuritySpy screensaver allows you to view live video from one or more SecuritySpy servers, as a full-screen screensaver on your Mac. This can be a convenient and useful way to monitor your cameras, and this tutorial will show you how to set this up.

The screensaver works by connecting to SecuritySpy’s web interface to obtain the video streams. If you are connecting over a local network, you simply have to enable the web server feature within SecuritySpy, via the Web Server Settings window. If you are connecting over the internet you will first have to set up SecuritySpy for remote monitoring.

Once you have enabled SecuritySpy’s web server, download the SecuritySpy screensaver, double-click on it, and you will be asked to confirm that you want to install it on your Mac. Once installed, you will see a SecuritySpy item in the list of available screensavers in the Desktop & Screen Saver system preference. On the right side of the Desktop & Screen Saver window, click the Screen Saver Options button to configure the screensaver:

 

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Customising SecuritySpy’s Web Interface

SecuritySpy has a built-in web server that allows remote viewing of live camera streams as well as access to previously-captured footage and settings. We sometimes get asked by customers how to customise the appearance of these web pages for various reasons, such as to change colours, add branding, modify text etc. The procedure is quite simple, though it does require some knowledge of HTML and CCS.

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How to purchase and install an SSL certificate for SecuritySpy

SecuritySpy has built-in support for HTTPS (HTTP Secure), which allows you to set up an encrypted web connection to your SecuritySpy server over the internet.

In order to set up any HTTPS server, an SSL certificate is required (SSL being the protocol that provides the security features to HTTPS). With some web servers this can be a complicated process, but we have designed SecuritySpy’s HTTPS server to be a simple as possible to set up: you simply enable the HTTPS option in the Web Server Settings window and SecuritySpy will do the rest for you. SecuritySpy will automatically create and use a “self-signed” certificate for this purpose, which gets you up and running immediately and provides a fully encrypted connection. The downside of such a certificate though is that it won’t be automatically trusted by any client software that you use to connect to SecuritySpy (e.g. a web browser such as Safari), so you will get a warning message to this effect. In this case though, as you are the one setting up the server, you can be assured of its authenticity, so it is safe to ignore such warnings.

The other option is to purchase an official certificate for your SecuritySpy server from a recognised Certificate Authority (CA). Any web browser connecting to SecuritySpy will automatically trust such a certificate, so the person viewing the web interface will see the reassuring padlock icon and no warning messages. This may be preferable, for example, if your server is to be viewed by people outside your organisation. Below are instructions on how to do this.

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Raspberry Pi Camera to SecuritySpy

Below is a guest post by one of our users, Wayne Jacobsen, who is using a Raspberry Pi computer to turn a USB webcam into an IP cam that can stream video to SecuritySpy, in order to expand his Mac video surveillance system. Wayne is an Art Glass artist  – you can see some of Wayne’s work on Pinterest. Wayne has contributed the following description of his setup:

The Raspberry Pi can make a nice security camera in a SecuritySpy system with surprisingly little effort. I wanted a way of seeing what temperatures my kilns were, especially when they were cool enough to open and take the glass out. I had a Raspberry Pi (RPi) equipped with USB WiFi dongle and an old Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 webcam sitting around from my old PC days. A little research on the web led me to many ways to use the RPi with the webcam and I used the instructions on this page as the basis of my setup. Someone has done all the software development work for us in a program call Motion.

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