Axis 3D Surveillance Design Tool

By Brian Rhodes, Published Feb 27, 2014, 12:00am EST

Want to layout your cameras in a 3D model showing how far, wide and at what angle they cover? Like so:

Axis has announced a free extension for a popular free 3D modeling software to do so.

IPVM has tested it out and found it useful for cameras generically, not just Axis. Inside this post, we share a video screencast review and analysis of this option.

Overview

There are two components of this: SketchUp and Axis Camera Extension for SketchUP. By itself, SketchUp has a global user base built during the time it was owned by Google and given away free. In recent years, Trimble has taken over ownership, but still maintains a free version that claims millions of downloads worldwide.

The major benefit to this offering is that it is a no cost CAD program with a no cost surveillance design module added.  While the depth of tools and features is not as powerful as JVSG or CCTV CAD, it does offer some useful features.

In the video below, we give a short overview of Axis' new Camera Extension plugin for SketchUp:

Recapping the key findings of our walkthrough: 

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  • Not Just Axis: While the tool is 'Axis-centric' and includes the full portfolio of Axis cameras and mounts, they included a 'generic' option that allows you to customize any box or dome camera regardless of manufacturer. The fields of view adjust according to the cameras details plugged in and the resulting coverage map is useful no matter whose gear is specified.
  • Sketchup Buildings Required: A key disadvantage for many users will be the need to create a base building model in SketchUp before placing cameras. Existing models can be exported from other CAD systems, or might even be available in the public domain, but otherwise need to be created beforehand.
  • Not Clunky: Usually freeware is half-baked or becomes unstable when heavily taxed. The Axis tool/SketchUp combo showed no signs of crashing or even slowing down even after we dropped 50+ cameras over three separate buildings in the same instance. The platform ran well on our standard laptop and did not need a special graphics card or hardware to be useful.
  • Novice Friendly: SketchUp and the Axis plugin are easy to pick up for non-draftsman. No prior CAD knowledge is needed to use either tool, and even a designer with no experience can hit up sample YouTube videos that will get them up to speed in just a few hours.

Drawbacks

However, those benefits may not be enough to dethrone full-cost design tools:

  • Nonstandard Filetypes: While SketchUp is a big thing with hobbyists, education, and small business crowd, it is not a mainstream CAD platform used in mainstream architectural and engineering groups. Even if building models are available, they might not be exportable in the '.skb' format needed by SketchUp, nor are the resulting models in the free version of SketchUp importable in most CAD programs.
  • More Details, More Time: The old saying 'garbage in, garbage out' applies to CAD models, and even travels a step further - models are not useful unless they have sufficient detail. Even experienced operators need time to develop the details that might affect camera placement or FoV planning. The simple omission of details like landscaping, facades, or window/door placement can ruin the utility of this solution.
  • No 'Backend' Details: Another drawback of the free solution is the lack of network design or server specification tools. Unlike 'for fee' software that often include generic bandwidth and storage calculators and even ethernet design tools, Axis' plugin for SketchUp does not include anything for backend design. 

Other Offerings / Options

Besides the aforementioned commercial surveillance specific options JVSG or CCTV CAD, there are also:

While many software options exist, using them require differing degrees of training and experience and range in cost from less than one hundred to thousands of dollars. 

 

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