Being a Pro at Video: Important Concepts, Resources & Latest Tech

Tech expert Bob Dolph shares some of his favorite resources to help professional video specialists test equipment performance.

I still get a chuckle thinking about my early days selling video security. I would ask a prospect, “What do you want to see?” They would reply, “Everything.” Then it was my task to describe what equipment was needed to view what items, events and areas.

While in many ways today’s video security equipment and services have greatly improved, the fundamentals have not. If you are going to be a true video security professional, you must do your homework and truly understand both the physics and technology of today’s video security systems.

This month, we will look at some important concepts, terminology and latest tech of video security. Also, as we often do in Tech Talk, I will list some valuable trade resources available to the dedicated video security professional.

As we go through our video security journey, keep in mind three major goals. They are observation, forensic review and recognition. A good system will properly cover all of these.

Security video today comes in many flavors and looking back a few years ago, it would seem that IP cameras would rule everywhere. That is not the case thanks to higher resolution analog camera and recorders.

While digital IP camera technology is everywhere, today’s tech must also understand analog technology such as HD-TVI, HD-CVI and AHD technologies. These are especially valuable if upgrading older system cameras and utilizing existing cabling.

I have always emphasized that one of the best tools a tech can have in their pouch is trade knowledge and the resources to gain that knowledge. Keep this in mind as we go forward.

It is apparent that video is a technology minefield. One would think that one great resource would be the video equipment manufacturers. Sadly, this is not often the case. Since the market is so fiercely competitive, camera manufacturers have been known to embellish on occasion.

This is why it is important for you as a professional video specialist to independently seek and test equipment performance. This is not always an easy task, but the good news we have some great expert resources below.

LEVA — This organization is committed to providing advance training and certification in the science of forensic video analysis. Learn lessons on what forensic experts expect of your video evidence. Read publicly available publications on best practices and digital multimedia evidence from companion organization Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE).

ViDi Labs — One of the most valuable video resources you will ever find. This is the CCTV workspace created by one of the leading international experts in video security systems. His name is Vlado Damjanovski and he is from Australia. Some key points of the website are: ViDi Labs Test Charts allowing for independent testing of cameras. One can test for resolution, minimum illumination, gamma and transfer curve, color accuracy, white balance, total signal/noise, and dynamic range. Many do not know that if you purchase Damjanovski’s test chart you can send a video capture or exported JPG images of a camera you may be evaluating in for analysis by their proprietary software. It is free of charge. His book, “CCTV: From Light to Pixels,” is the ultimate CCTV bible. A must for any serious video professional’s bookcase.

Pay attention! Here’s a real gem for you. One can download a free PDF copy of the 2009 Level I NICET Study Guide, “Videosecurity Systems Technician,” written for SIA and co-authored by Damjanovski with Howard Kohnstamm. This is a free valuable reference for any video tech.

Also, don’t forget to take note of the ViDiLabs calculator. This phone app is specifically designed for cameras used in surveillance. It will help with camera and lenses applications from a large database of video equipment. It also calculates things like blurriness for better facial and license plate applications. This mobile app can be purchased for a minimal fee at the Google Play Store. Finally make sure to check out the free PDF manuals for using the test charts and calculators.

IPVM — Here is a real den of video experts. If you are serious about video equipment this is a resource to check out. These guys have been around for a while and the extent of their content is impressive. They now have a video performance testing facility in Pennsylvania spanning more than 12,000 square feet. Paying members have a large number of reports and documents available to them, including detailed reviews and analysis on the latest cameras and other video equipment. Take a look at the advanced camera calculator for members’ use as well.

Tool of the Month

You cannot be serious about best practices on security video applications without a serious multifunction video systems tester.

That is why this month I have selected the multifunction video test monitor from Uniview Technology. The tester, favored by fellow techs, will help to make sure systems are performing as expected.

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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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