Safely Crossing the Great Security Video Divide

Get more information about CCTV fundamentals, including digital technology and networking.

It’s been awhile since we have discussed video, and so much is happening in this market. While the majority of existing CCTV systems are still analog-based and use coaxial cable for signal transmission, almost all new CCTV installations are digital-based and use Category network cable for signal transmission. The performance of digital video can be impressive. Committing to and journeying across this great CCTV analog to digital divide can be both challenging and rewarding if one has the knowledge and technology to safely move forward. Let’s take a look at some new resources and technologies to help in this venture.

Many of you know that when it comes to video, I’m a big fan of expert, system designer, author and lecturer Vlado Damjanovski. While much of Damjanovski’s work is international, he did in 2008 produce the first CCTV certification manual, Video Security Systems Technician Level 1 Study Guide, for the Security Industry Association (SIA) using NICET certification standards. His first extensive book on CCTV – simply titled CCTV – was published in 1995 and recently it was released in its fourth edition, CCTV: From Light to Pixels.

This latest edition does a great job of explaining CCTV fundamentals in basic terminology, and it has added new chapters on digital and networking. I wanted to share some of Damjanovski’s commentary that I believe is important for every security dealer to understand.

Shedding Light on Important Specs

For starters, to achieve good video you need to know about light. Light sources fall into two categories, one being primary such as the sun, and the other secondary such as reflective light. Take time to learn about light intensity and such terminology such as lumens, lux and candela. You can now purchase lux meters for less than $50, or consider a lux mobile application program for your smartphone. Did you know you can also use a DSLR camera with a conversion chart to obtain lux level readings? Understanding the limitations, such as less than 1 lux, of these test instruments is important.

The performance of today’s SD/HD cameras is impressive. That being said, however, these performance specifications and promises  should be taken with a grain of salt. I have seen many a dealer’s reputation ruined by overpromising and underdelivering to customer’s expectations of CCTV system performances. It is best to take some time to review and yes, even test, the performance of cameras you will be selling and servicing.

One of the features of Damjanovski’s latest edition is the inclusion of what is deemed to be the world’s first CCTV SD/HD camera test chart. This colorful and informative tool includes many detailed diagrams and illustrations for testing a camera’s performance (if you go to the ViDiLabs Web site – vidilabs. com – you can freely download a very informative and illustrative instruction manual for this new test chart).

Manufacturers’ camera specifications can often be confusing. According to Damjanovski, the most important specs are:

Camera Sensitivity – The minimum iris opening that produces a full 1V peak-to-peak video signal. This is often confused with the minimum illumination specification. The gray scale on the test chart is used for this test; the camera with the highest lens iris setting wins.

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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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