New FBI Video Can Help You Sell CCTV

When selling to and installing CCTV for prospects, wouldn’t it be nice to have your expert recommendations endorsed by one of the most prestigious law enforcement organizations in the country? Well stop the presses! One of the best CCTV selling and training tools has just crossed my desk and I want to share it will all of my special “Tech Talk” readers.

I have always found one of the biggest CCTV application challenges to be getting the customer to spend the money for a solution that would provide the image quality necessary for strong crime scene evidence. After all, isn’t that what the customer wants and needs for a good return on investment?

Many years ago law enforcement gave CCTV cameras the appropriate nickname of “the silent witness.” With that, the technology gained a valuable and important reputation as a tool in helping apprehend criminals. That is of course, if the images produced by the CCTV cameras provided a good clear image of the suspect. Today, with the progression of inexpensive cameras and digital imagery, the disappointing part is that the images are often pixelated when enlarged — and may even be worse than previous analog recorded video.

If you are a long-time reader of this column you know that I typically discuss video quality at least once a year. However, get ready to be blown away with a new bit of video intelligence that can also help you actually sell quality CCTV. Do I sound excited? Well, I am!

The organization referenced in the introduction is the FBI and the new CCTV tool is a 20-minute video named “Caught on Camera.” This professionally produced (see photo) video has much of the excitement and flair of popular TV shows such as “24.”

As you can imagine, poor quality evidentiary video has been a real sore spot for law enforcement organizations like the FBI for some time. Producing a valuable tool such as this video will go a long way in helping security dealers and integrators better aid crime-fighting efforts while also best serving their customers.

Let’s take a look at some of the technical items discussed in this video:

Image resolution — Do your cameras provide enough resolution for facial recognition? The better the quality of the image, the more you can do with it. The larger the camera chip, the better the image quality. Minimum horizontal camera resolution should be 480 lines.

Camera position — Are the cameras positioned for a clear view of the subject? Make sure you always have a clear field of view (FOV). Is there any serious background light and can you compensate for it with a different angle or camera type? Are the cameras positioned low enough on the wall to get a good image of a person’s face and not be blocked by a baseball cap?

Lighting — Is the lighting adequate to capture a good image of the subject; both day and night? Be careful of video with a bright background that can turn the image into a dark silhouette. Place complementary lighting to allow for changes in outside sunlight at different times of the day and night. Window tinting can also help with bright sunlight.

Image detail — Is your recorder set up for the best image detail? The FBI likes to refer to recorded video as “capturing video data.” Achieve a good depth of field (DOF) by using a faster lens and letting more light in. Remember for good detail a person’s head should cover at least 15 percent of the screen. Using low recording frame rates to save on storage space can cause you to miss evidentiary detail.

Maintenance — As a provider, are you maintaining your system so that it can do its job when really needed? Periodically inspect cameras to make sure they are working, are in focus, and have not been bumped or moved. Adjust seasonally for outside lights on timers.

Good sight plan — When you sell a system do you assist the customer by providing a well documented sight plan? Where are all the cameras looking? What are the specifications of the camera and lens? Are key areas such as registers, back and front entrances, primary aisles, hallways, and vending machines covered by cameras? (See this month’s Tool Tip for software that can help with sight plan layouts.)

Replaying usable images — If your customer is not able to quickly and easily supply good “native” images they may lose the entire recording system if it needs to be submitted for evidence. You should be able to provide the video easily in the system’s native format with a copy of the system’s reader software and also in a more standard version such as AVI format. Another issue to consider here is how often the recorded video is overwritten.

(Note: There is a really good digital multimedia evidence (DME) whitepaper called “Best Practices for the Acquisition of Digital Multimedia Evidence.” A recently updated version is available from the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association at

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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