A Guide to Effective Video Surveillance System Planning (August 2020)

Video Surveillance Systems (Otherwise known as CCTV) are an important security measure that can be used to ‘harden’ or increase security for a site and provides the following benefits:

  • Deterrent factor – a site with visible surveillance cameras projects a vision of a hardened site with good security.
  • Detection – live monitoring of a video surveillance system can be used for early detection of suspicious activity or a criminal act taking place.
  • Visual Alarm Verification – On activation of an alarm, video surveillance can be used to visually determine the cause of the alarm. This can be helpful when the site is unattended or in order to monitor a vulnerable perimeter for intrusion.
  • Audit Trail – An important tool for investigations as well as a backup tool to complement access control logs. The system can also provide evidence in the event of an incident.

Careful planning and design will increase the operational lifetime as well as the effectiveness of your video surveillance system.

Install Cameras based on a Security Survey

No alt text provided for this image

Camera placement should be made based on a security survey of the facility and the resulting set of needs identified by the survey.

  • Don’t install cameras just for the sake of installing them.
  • They should be installed to provide protection for assets identified during the survey.
  • Remember security cameras are a mitigation measure and should be allocated accordingly around the asset which needs to be protected, vulnerabilities that face the site and possible threats that need to be targeted.
  • A security survey can still be done around a plan drawing and with the client even if the site has not been constructed yet.

Place Cameras by Purpose

Every camera installed should have a purpose and a required field of view as an example i.e general coverage of the perimeter, coverage of the fire escape door, focused identifiable images of individuals entering, coverage of the roller-shutter, situational awareness etc.

No alt text provided for this image


3D Modelling Helps Provide Accurate CCTV Designs

3D CCTV software modelling is an essential tool in assisting with the following design aspects:

3D Camera Model of Hotel Entrance (EagleCCTV)
  • Ensuring correct camera mounting heights.
  • Reducing the risk of camera blindspots.
  • Optimising camera placement.
  • Assists with the correct camera lens fitment.
  • Provides the correct identification levels for each camera.
No alt text provided for this image

Good Lighting is King

Cameras, regardless of the technology need sufficient lighting to provide usable images. Facilities should not be recording the night-time image of a day/night camera as this lacks identifiable colour features (i.e the suspect was wearing red pants & a blue cap).

No alt text provided for this image

Choose a Suitable Recorder & Data Equipment Location

Depending on the size of the facility, the recording system should be placed in a central location to help cable distances, while at the same time balancing the need for a secure area with suitable ventilation or cooling.

No alt text provided for this image
  • Choose a suitable room as a server or data room. The minimum recommended size for a server room would be 2 x 3 metres to allow suitable space for the data cabinet/s, reticulation and a space to work around the cabinets.
  • Recorder HDD storage is very susceptible to failure due to overheating.
  • The recorder storage location should be ventilated with some moving air and ideally an air-conditioned or have an extraction fan with a cool air intake duct.
  • Access control into the room where the recorder is located is important.

Choose Proven Technology

Be wary of overzealous camera salespeople over-promising solutions. Rather choose a product which is proven and widely available from several sources.

  • Choose a well-known brand which is well supported in your market.
  • Avoid complicated propriety technology such as cable range extenders, signal multiplexers and single-source signal transmission technology.

Cable Reticulation Planning

One should carefully plan the cable reticulation, especially for existing buildings or sites.

No alt text provided for this image
  • All new buildings must have a suitably sized dedicated data riser. If one doesn’t exist make sure you fight with the electrical contractor or architect to provide one.
  • Consideration should also be made for future requirements such as spare conduit capacity or extra wire ways.
  • Individual conduits should be installed to each camera end-point.
  • All exposed cabling outside of the data or server should be protected by conduit or trunking.
  • Bosal metal conduit should be used for external surface wiring that may be exposed to vandalism. Reticulation that is to be buried in the ground should be PVC with a preference for irrigation type sleeving that is less susceptible to damage or cracking.

Fibre For Perimeter, External Cameras & Long Distances

Don’t be afraid to use fibre optic cabling for any cabling running from inside to outside a building, especially between different buildings and where cables will obviously exceed the recommended distance for copper UTP or co-ax cabling. Fibre optic cable installation costs have dramatically decreased due to the popularity of FTTH (Fibre to the Home).

  • Fibre optic cabling protects against surges that could travel over a copper cable from outside to inside a building, especially from a pole-mounted perimeter camera.
  • Fibre optic cabling is also ideal for existing applications where cable routes may already be congested with mains electrical cabling and no alternative routes are available.
  • Fibre can be used to interconnect network switch nodes for distributed networks with copper (CAT5e/CAT6) installed to edge devices (cameras).

PoE Power Requirements

The majority of IP cameras used in the security industry today are powered by PoE (Power Over Ethernet). Three main standards exist each providing a certain maximum current output per channel:

  • 802.3af (PoE) – Provides up to 15W
  • 802.3at (PoE+) – Provides up to 30W
  • 802.3bt (Hi POE) – Provides up to 60W

The video surveillance designer needs to ensure that appropriate planning is provided in terms of camera power requirements and the network switches provided for the project. Certain IP video cameras such as PTZ speed dome cameras require more than 15W (i.e PoE+ or Hi PoE).

Power Protection

As the old saying goes, power is the route of all evil. Steps should be taken to protect the electrical circuit feeding the site’s video surveillance system.

  • IP network video systems should have network switches and recorders protected by inverted based UPS units.
  • 12VDC coax CCTV systems should have battery backup power supplies and UPS units for recorders.
  • Dedicated circuits are best to avoid interruption of power caused by other electrical appliances.

CCTV in Elevators

CCTV Laptop Theft Suspect Image

Elevators are an excellent ‘Choke Points’ for capturing hi-quality focused video images of individuals entering or exiting a building as can be seen by this video screenshot of a laptop theft suspect. The small area of focus and the time spent in the elevator allows sufficient images of the person to be captured.

  • Elevator cameras are worth considering for any apartment, mixed-use or corporate office buildings.
  • Planning is however required to cater for transmission of the video signal off the elevator car for these cameras.
  • For IP cameras a UTP CAT5e or CAT6 cable inside the trailing cable would be required or alternatively some type of 2-wire converter module.
  • Wireless is not recommended.

Plan for Video Monitoring Locations

The greater number of people that watch video cameras the more effective they become. It also assists in early detection of camera faults. Video systems at sites should be placed in locations such as admin officers, with the site caretaker and if available also in a security control room or guard room.

  • Smaller Locations would require HDMI over CAT6 converters for extending or splitting the HDMI monitor signal from the recorder to other locations.
  • Other sites would utilise windows PCs as video client monitoring stations. Be careful about specifying the PC to have the correct specifications (i.e CPU power, memory, gigabit network port, dual monitor graphics card etc).

CCTV Control Room Planning

No alt text provided for this image

It is important to ensure a suitable control room location is selected at the design stage of the site (if applicable to the project).

  • It should have sufficient space to allow comfortable monitoring by one or more security officers.
  • Monitors should be placed carefully at a certain distance away from the operator and within natural eye level.
  • The number of cameras being monitored should be kept to the minimum. Key cameras should always be monitored and other cameras either monitored on an event (via a pop-up as an example) or only after an incident.
  • Ideally, ablution facilities should be adjacent to the area with a suitable coffee/kitchenette area.
  • Dimmable lighting is important as well as an allowance for ventilation and/or airconditioning.
  • The system planner should cater for network and power points for client PCs (if applicable) as well as conduits for wall-mounted video monitors.

Don’t Overcomplicate the System Design

Try and keep the system as simple as possible for the end-user.

  • Complicated systems are costly to maintain, are never normally completed and require constant adjustment by outside contractors.
  • Video analytics systems have improved over the years, but a balance should be allowed for in terms of what is practical at the site and what works. 

Design for Vandalism & Tampering

It’s unfortunate but the world we live in is plagued by theft and vandalism. Any planning of your CCTV video surveillance system needs to take this into account.

No alt text provided for this image
  • Vandal dome cameras are not as easy to tamper with, compared to bullet or box cameras.
  • All exposed cabling, especially outside your facility, should be protected from cutting or damage.
  • Your recorder needs to be in a secure enclosure to protect it against theft or tampering. It will be very difficult to prove the chain of evidence when a recorder is in the open with no physical protection. Many sites, unfortunately, have recorders placed with the security officer to make monitor installation easier but this puts the recorder at risk of being stolen in the event of an incident.
  • Power points for CCTV equipment should be out of reach of individuals that could switch off the system. This includes access to the DB board and the circuit powering the video surveillance system.

Firm Scope of Work with Your Contractor

Ensure the scope of work is firm on the appointment of the installation contractor. This would include

  • An agreed camera location drawing.
  • An agreed recording retention period.
  • An agreed recording resolution and recording speed.
  • Confirmation of which cameras will be recording on motion detection and which cameras will be on a continuous recording schedule.
  • An itemized quotation with camera and equipment model number that will be supplied.
  • An agreed product and installation warranty with service call-out response time.
Scroll to Top