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Video Surveillance Systems – How to Choose

Video Surveillance Systems – How to Choose

Video Surveillance Systems 

Analog, IP & TVI

Video surveillance systems are changing and changing fast. It’s not easy keeping up with technology or to decide on what type of equipment to use in your home or business. In this blog, we’re going to talk about the different types of video surveillance systems on the market and the pros and cons of each system.


Analog camera systems either use coax or cat5 cables for the picture and typically an 18/2 wire for power. Coax is what you’d see running from your wall to your cable box, cat5 is what you’d find between your internet modem or wireless router and 18/2 stands for 2 – 18 gauge wires. In our industry, we use a cable called “Siamese” which has a coax and 18/2 together in the same jacket making it easier to pull wires. Cat5 can be used with video baluns to transmit the video signal. Cat5 and video baluns are typically used for longer distance wire runs and baluns go on each end of the cat5 to transmit the proper signal.

With analog camera systems, you’ll also find a power supply for the cameras; either 12 volt dc or 24 volt ac. There are a couple different types of power supplies including single wall plug ins and regulated power supplies with multiple channels. Typically you’ll find single wall plug ins with inexpensive camera systems and with these, you’ll need a few power strips. For a more professional installation, we usually recommend a multiple channel regulated power supply. A regulated power supply has fuses to protect each individual camera in case of some sort of short or power surge.

Let’s talk about picture and recording quality. Analog camera systems are only capable of recording at 720 x 480 lines of resolution. You can purchase cameras that boast a high resolution of 700 lines or even greater, but this will only give you a better viewing picture, not recorded picture. Even with the 720 lines of resolution, boasting “HD” produced by the camera, only 480 lines of resolution will actually be recorded.

Some of the pros of an analog system are that they are very affordable (because distributors want to get rid of inventory) and have many different camera styles, lenses and accessories. For most applications, an analog system will work just fine as long as it’s properly designed and installed, but don’t expect amazing recorded picture quality.

IP Network Cameras / Megapixel Cameras

IP cameras are the way of the future. Just like a computer, tablet or phone connects to a router, an IP camera communicates the same way. The recording devices that IP cameras connect to are referred to as a NVR, network video recorder. Most NVRs act like a router, where they will assign an IP address to each camera. Once an IP address is assigned, the NVR will log directly into the camera and capture the picture.

There are many types of IP cameras on the market and it can get a bit confusing and there can also be a number of compatibility issues. Some NVRs will work with only specific brands of IP cameras or maybe only their own, making the system proprietary. The majority of IP camera manufactures are finally starting to play nice with one another. They’ve come out with an industry standard called ONVIF. This is something that you’ll want to look for. However, do not be fooled! Just because it is ONVIF conformant, doesn’t mean that the camera will have all the same features amongst the brands. For example, one IP camera brand may not be able to have the motion recorded area adjusted using a another NVR brand. The motion recorded area is where you can tell the NVR not to record bushes or tree branches swaying in the wind eating up all of your hard drive space.

IP cameras usually have a much higher video quality depending on the amount of megapixels. For instance a 1.3 megapixel camera will have a resolution around 1280 x 720, a 2 megapixel around 1920 x 1080, 3 megapixel around 2048 x 1536 and a 5 megapixel camera can have a resolution of up to 2560 x 1920. When I say, “can have a resolution around” it depends on the camera manufacture and also the frame rate that the NVR is set to record. Frame rate is how many pictures per second.

So why is resolution so important? Your HD picture is going to be more than double the picture quality of analog and if you ever have the need to zoom in on a picture you’ll have a lot less pixilation. Keep in mind though, I’d recommend having an HD monitor if you’re going to use HD cameras.

Now for the installation of IP Cameras. In most situations, you would run a cat5 from the NVR directly to the IP camera and the NVR will have what’s called a POE power supply built in. POE stands for Power Over Ethernet. Ethernet is another term for a cat5 wire. POE will actually power the IP camera using the one cat5 wire that is also sending the data / picture. POE will typically only go as far as 350 feet so it does have its limitations.

A huge pro to using an IP camera system is when you have a large project that may be in a significantly large size building. With an IP camera system you can run a single cat5 wire to the other side of the building, plug it into a POE switch, then simply plug in the cameras on that same side of the building to the POE switch. The NVR will be able to find the cameras on that same network and assign an IP to the camera to add it to the system and receive the video input. I’m sure you agree that this could potentially be a huge time and money saver. Recently on a project at a well know hotel in Seattle, WA we were able to install a IP camera on the very top floor of the hotel simply by tying into their existing network. This was able to save the hotel a significant amount of money because they didn’t have to pay us to run a wire through 47 floors of concrete.

There are some things to be mindful of when installing an IP system. Sometimes you may run into bandwidth issues causing lag in the video or interruptions and you’ll have to be able to design a network.


TVI systems are able to use coax cable to send High Definition picture up to 1080p. If you have an existing analog camera system with coax wires ran, this would be an ideal system if you don’t want the expense of having to run all new cat5 wires for an IP based system. They also use the same type of power supplies as an analog system.

The benefit to using an TVI system is that you can have a true HD picture with no network design, lag time or interruptions that you may experience using an IP based system. Also, all TVI cameras are compatible with a majority of DVR manufacturers. Now they make Tribrid DVRs that support TVI, Analog & IP!

Written by: Jimmie Beem

If you have any questions or are looking for an estimate, contact Freedom Systems at (206) 274-9946 or

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