Member Discussion

PTZ Operator Training And Testing

How much of an art/skill is good PTZ'ing? The same as crimping cables?

How much better are the best operators, and do they get compensated for it?

What's the best way to evaluate their skill?

What's the best way to train them, how long does it take?

Subjective answers only please...


The most difficult-to-teach skill we have is training operators to leave the PTZs alone when viewing an incident. Many tend to continuously zoom/pan/tilt during the entire incident, causing the viewers of the resulting clip to reach for a bottle of Dramamine...

The second most difficult-to-teach skill is fine control. Good operators can follow movement from a slow walk up to vehicles travelling at 25mph or higher. Others tend to overshoot action constantly, like the PTZ only has two speeds: fast and stopped. Related is zooming while panning/tilting.

Thanks Carl.

What model 'sticks' do you use? Do you control your PTZs through direct IP or IP encoders or serial? Is the IP ptz interface that you have used (if any) degraded much compared to direct serial?

IndigoVision's own keyboard/joystick. Analog cameras are controlled through the IV encoders via RS422 while IP PTZs are controlled direct via the network.

I have to say that control via IV's joystick took some getting used to. Initially, IV only had 5 discrete steps for each function in each direction. That made control a bit loose because in some instances, the steps were too fast or too slow. IV later reprogrammed our system to give 10 speed steps in each direction and that helped quite a bit. Still, it almost feels like our original Pelco matrix control was less touchy. My guess is that Pelco's steps were logarithmic while IV's are linear. It seems that the movement speed ramps up quickly with the first pressure on the joystick, then it takes inreasing motion of the joystick to induce PTZ speed increases.

Good operators begin with good selection. In addtion to the usual backgound/reference checks, etc, you can test a candidate for the poistion. There is a company that specializes in testing CCTV operators. Leaderware is owned by a Craig Donald, a PhD and a very smart guy. Seems he has developed these testing instruments for the diamond mine CCTV operators in South Africa. I would be interested in how it works out if anyone tries it. Not very costly, and the test available on line.

I would think hiring those with demonstrated experience in the use of surveillance cameras is a good strategy. I don't have any data to support this, but, I'd assume that one who has used these systems in a mall/store/airport/large hospital security environment would be considered to be some of the "best operators". Like an experienced police officer, that sixth sense or intuition gained from experience can be valuable in the use of surveillance cameras. In policing, this used to be called "windshield time" meaning the number of days/years an officer spent in a patrol car led to more success in detecting crime and criminals. If I was hiring an operator, I would be quizzing them on their level of experience, successful cases they started/cleared and positive information in prior performance appraisals indicating strong skills in this area. As for training, I would say a minimum of 8 hours woiuld be necessary and hands-on practical training in the real world is preferable.

I have a few friends here who are PTZ operators at a oil company that got asked during interviews if they were good at First person shooter games (Call of duty) etc. I assume because of the fine hand eye movment.

LOL. I consider myself to be very good at PTZ control: I can follow vehicles moving in any direction at speeds up to at least 30mph but I suck at using a PS/3 controller.

I guess that is the difference between verticals. We typically test our prospective hires on their knowledge of casino games and Policies and Procedures in a gaming environment, then train them on operation of our specific system. It would be somewhat pointless to look for seasoned operators from other verticals as the knowledge of gaming is far more valuable and takes much longer to teach than basic operation of our system.

That is one aspect we tested each prospective system for when evaluating systems in 2012/2013 - ease of learning/use.