Logistical Challenges in Camera Layouts

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Oct 20, 2012

The perfect spot for installing a camera may be infeasible or impossible to install. Lots of logistical challenges force cameras to be mounted in less than ideal conditions. In this note, we review the most common issues including:

  • Placing cameras on roof decks
  • Dealing with solid concrete walls, stucco and plaster
  • Ceilings that are too high
  • Aesthetic concerns
  • Handling glass atriums
  • Code restrictions

Elevation Issues

Not every camera can be mounted flush to ceilings or walls with elbow brackets. Due to architectural features like high ceilings, HVAC ductwork, and load bearing columns, specialized brackets are sometimes required to put cameras in optimal surveillance position. In other cases, cameras need to be located on poles to provide them proper height for use.

High Ceilings: Putting cameras at the right distance from the target scene is critical, but ceiling height is often at odds with this concept. In order to suspend cameras from great distances, pole pendant mounts are commonly used. The image below shows pendant mounts from cameras and public view monitors, as used by a large 'big box' retailer in the USA:

pendant

Pole Mounts: In order to break cameras free of obstructions or mount them high enough to be useful, they are commonly installed on poles. While a familiar sight, special considerations go into installing cameras on poles - a topic that we covered in several reports, including our "Pole Mounting Primer" and "Pole Selection Guide".

Tripod Mount: Planning cameras for roof installations are frequently a challenge. Anchoring standard camera mounts to roofs require holes to be drilled into decking - an activity that typically voids roof warranties and can lead to leaks. For these applications, 'tripod' mounts are used to secure the camera without damaging the roof. Notice the type depicted below is 'tied down' with guy wires through eyelets installed in existing deck bolts:

Mounting Surfaces

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

In addition to 'special' mounting surfaces like roofing materials, other common structural materials present installation issues.

Solid Concrete Walls: A common type of commercial construction makes use of poured concrete 'tilt-up' panels. While this form of construction is valued for being inexpensive and durable, it does not permit in-wall cabling. Concrete 'tilt-up' structures are a problem because they are constructed of solid concrete - while mounting cameras to the outside face is not a problem, boring channels inside the wall for cabling is impossible. Unless channels are planned and formed at the time of pour, running power and data to cameras can prove to be difficult. In the absense of cable channels, cabling must be run external to the wall through conduit or other external pathways.

EIFS/Stucco: Other materials, like EIFS (commonly called Dryvit) and plaster Stucco finishes do not provide a load-bearing, secure surface for placing cameras. While weather resistant and durable to the elements, it is a very brittle substrate with little tensile strength. Unless backer boards can be installed before the finish is applied (or reinforcement boards installed afterward), cameras cannot be successfully anchored to EIFS. Given the widespread use in commercial construction, it presents a common issue when planning camera locations.

Plaster/Lath Walls: Before the widespread use of modern 'drywall' gypsum paneling, interior walls were finished with a thin plaster coat over a sublayer of wood strips called 'lath'. This type of construction is notoriously brittle even when new, and given its appearance in older buildings, simply drilling mounting holes or fishing cable can cause extensive damage over a large area. Many installers choose to avoid installing cameras in this type of wall construction, while others price the work at higher rates than drywall work. Notice the small bullet camera mounted on the ceiling, and the adjacent damaged area in the image below:

Code Restrictions

Even before looking at a set of blueprints or doing a site walk, overarching code restrictions may exist that influence camera location by default. Especially when performing work on old buildings or special occupancy types, the designer should confirm that no codes or laws restrict locating surveillance cameras.

Historical Buildings: Structures deemed historically significant are often protected against modifications that change the building's appearance in any way. Even normally 'discrete' surveillance systems may not be approved and alternative mounting locations and equipment may be required. The designer should be aware of any historically significant (even informal sentiment) spaces when assigning camera locations.

Hazardous Areas: In addition to general codes, the designer should take heed of nearby 'Hazardous Area' designations. Cameras must be enclosed in special housings, and wiring must be run according to specific requirements. Even if cameras are not to be immediately located in such areas, when cabling or conduit must passes through these zones it must meet code requirements. For addition details on mounting cameras in Hazardous Locations, see our report.

Firewalls: One of the most common 'code restrictions' that installers face is passing cabling through fire rated walls. When this type of work is required, approved penetration materials must be specified and installed properly in order for a firewall to retain its rating.

Aesthetics

Ambiance and Architecture: Some facilities (or portions of a facility) may be designed specifically with artistic or architectural expression in mind. In these cases, locating surveillance equipment may be visually disruptive. As a result, cameras might be mounted in less than ideal positions or selected based on appearance rather than strictly performance. Aside from hanging housings, objects like conduit or illuminators may be subject to aesthetic scrutiny, and traditional installation methods may need to be adjusted.

Environmental Variables

Glass Atriums: Lighting, either too much or too little, is a traditional source of issues with surveillance systems. While features like Day/Night and WDR are designed into cameras to mitigate issues, the appreciable effect of these features greatly varies between camera models.

In other cases, like surveillance in highly glazed entries or atriums, the impact of lighting contrast can be so significant that even the best WDR features have problems normalizing images. In these situations, the problem can be best addressed by avoiding it with smart camera placement.

High Humidity: Certain environments are prone to fog and high moisture levels. Surprisingly, interior areas can also be prone to humidity problems, especially industrial environments or swimming pools. Even when cameras are equipped with blowers, wipers, or anti-fog coatings, visibility of the camera can be impacted by moisture-laden air. The phenomenon of small 'fog patches' can be noticed surrounding hot air exhausts or facility entrances. Taking note of proposed camera locations in relation to these sources may influence camera placement. If an certain location has a history of fog, then more than the typical number of cameras may need to be planned to account for reduced visibility.

Vapor/Smoke Plumes: In addition to humidity/fog, the location of cameras around exhaust vents, smoke stacks, or industrial machinery can be a problem. Even if the camera is not mounted adjacent to the source, windblown steam and smoke can create maddening, erratic problems for surveillance systems. Taking note of nearby emissions, and how the plume may impact visibility, is a critical part of determining camera location.

Cable Installation

Finally, when planning camera locations, the designer should take note of a few basic requirements of EVERY camera location: the need to run power/data cables to the camera. Even when aesthetics are not an issue, the ability to run conduit through walls or ceilings can vary widely in a facility. As part of planning camera placement, the designer should think: "How is this camera going to be connected to power and the network?" and confirm a workable solution is available before committing to a certain spot.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Installation Course - Last Chance - Register Now on Sep 12, 2019
Last Chance - Register Now - September 2019 Video Surveillance Install Course. Thursday, September 12th is your last chance to register for the...
Genetec Stratocast VSaaS Tested on Sep 05, 2019
The VSaaS market is rapidly expanding in 2019, with Verkada, Meraki, Eagle Eye, Avigilon and numerous startups growing their market share. When we...
Assa Acquires LifeSafety Power on Sep 04, 2019
Assa Abloy is acquiring LifeSafety Power, adding to their growing collection of access control brands like Mercury, August, Pioneer Doors, and...
Register Now - October 2019 IP Networking Course on Aug 28, 2019
Register now for the Fall 2019 IP Networking Course. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance...
Mobile Access Control Guide on Aug 28, 2019
One of the biggest trends in access for the last few years has been the marriage of mobile phones and access cards. But how does this...
ZK Teco Atlas Access Control Tested on Aug 20, 2019
Who needs access specialists? China-based ZKTeco claims its newest access panel 'makes it very easy for anyone to learn and install access control...
Milestone "GDPR-ready" Certification Claim Critiqued on Aug 12, 2019
Milestone is touting that its latest XProtect VMS is "GDPR-ready" with a 'European Privacy Seal'. However, our investigation raises significant...
Avigilon Blue VSaaS Tested on Aug 05, 2019
Avigilon says Blue is a "powerful integrator cloud service platform", easy to set up and configure, quickly scale business, by leveraging cloud...
Hikvision 4K Camera Shootout on Aug 02, 2019
With their latest Smart Series 5 cameras, Hikvision is claiming cameras "fully loaded" with "state-of-the-art technology for high performance and...
Responsibility Split Selecting Locks - Statistics on Jul 22, 2019
A heated access debate surrounds who should pick and install the locks. While responsible for selecting the control systems, integrators often...

Most Recent Industry Reports

ONVIF Suspends Huawei on Sep 20, 2019
Huawei has been 'suspended', and effectively expelled, from ONVIF so long as US sanctions remain on the mega Chinese manufacturer. Inside this...
Open Access Controller Guide (Axis, HID, Isonas, Mercury) on Sep 19, 2019
In the access control market, there are many software platforms, but only a few companies that make non-proprietary door controllers. Recently,...
Axis Perimeter Defender Improves, Yet Worse Than Dahua and Wyze on Sep 19, 2019
While Axis Perimeter Defender analytics improved from our 2018 testing, the market has improved much faster, with much less expensive offerings...
Directory of 68 Video Surveillance Startups on Sep 18, 2019
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known. 2019...
Uniview Prime Series 4K Camera Tested on Sep 18, 2019
Is the new Uniview 'Prime' better than the more expensive existing Uniview 'Pro'? In August, IPVM tested Uniview 4K 'Pro' but members advocated...
US Army Base To Buy Banned Honeywell Surveillance on Sep 17, 2019
The U.S. Army's Fort Gordon, home to their Cyber Center of Excellence, has issued a solicitation to purchase Honeywell products that are US...
Vivotek "Neural Network-Powered Detection Engine" Analytics Tested on Sep 17, 2019
Vivotek has released "a neural network-powered detection engine", named Smart Motion Detection, claiming that "swaying vegetation, vehicles passing...
Schmode is Back, Aims To Turn Boulder AI Into Giant on Sep 16, 2019
One of the most influential and controversial executives in the past decade is back. Bryan Schmode ascended and drove the hypergrowth of Avigilon...
Manufacturers Unhappy With Weak ASIS GSX 2019 And 2020 Shift on Sep 16, 2019
Manufacturers were generally unhappy with ASIS GSX, both for weak 2019 booth traffic and a scheduling shift for the 2020 show, according to a new...