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.
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 →
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.
Firstly we will consider the layout of the space, and where the best camera angles will be:
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 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:
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 has permission only to view the camera that you want to use. Finally, determine the camera number for the camera in question – this is shown in the Camera Info window (highlighted in red below). If you don’t see this column, click the header bar where you see the column names, and a menu will pop up that allows you to add it.
Three methods for embedding the video feed into a web page are outlined below. In the examples shown, the address of the SecuritySpy system is “demo.viewcam.me”, the port is 8000, and the camera number is 1.
Authentication is supplied via an auth parameter, which is the the Base64 representation of the string user:pass (i.e. the username and password, separated by a colon). Use an online Base64 encoder to generate this value: simply enter your user:pass string, click the Encode button, and copy and paste the result.
If you want to specify a particular size for the image, add width and height parameters, for example the URL in Method 1 would become something like this:
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:
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.
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.
Note: these instructions are for SecuritySpy versions 4.1.5 and later, with the location of the SecuritySpy folder being within the Home folder (i.e. at ~/SecuritySpy/). If you are using an earlier version, note that your SecuritySpy folder will be at ~/Documents/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.
SecuritySpy is our flagship video surveillance software product for Mac OS X, and as of version 3.2, SecuritySpy supports the ONVIF protocol. Here are the answers to some common questions, and information about this new feature.
What is ONVIF?
ONVIF is an open industry standard for IP-based video surveillance products. In the past, SecuritySpy would have to be pre-programmed with profiles for each camera it supports, containing information about the supported streaming formats, audio capabilities, communication ports, resolutions, frame rates, Pan/Tilt/Zoom features etc. This is inconvenient and time-consuming for us as developers, and also bad for customers because there is an inevitable delay between a new camera coming on the market and an update to SecuritySpy to officially support it.
With ONVIF, all this information can be obtained from the camera automatically. Therefore, any new ONVIF-compliant camera hitting the market can be immediately used with SecuritySpy using the ONVIF setting built into the software.
The IP camera market is changing rapidly, and while we do make some specific camera recommendations in our SecuritySpy Installation Manual, we are always coming across new noteworthy cameras, and there are simply too many to list in the manual. So we have put together our current 10 recommendations for network cameras in this blog post – the cameras described here are in no particular order (they are quite varied in terms of cost and feature set, which makes them difficult to rank in a “top 10” list), however they are all cameras, due to their impressive collections of features, that we recommend to our customers. All the cameras featured here are capable of MPEG-4 and/or H.264 compression, which can be directly recorded by SecuritySpy for optimum quality and efficiency.