FBI CCTV Recommendations

Author: John Honovich, Published on Mar 10, 2012

The United States FBI provides a CCTV Best Practices guide in a unique form of a TV show episode. In this post, we review the FBI's recommendations, providing feedback and commentary on what is realistic and what can best be done to improve commercial surveillance systems.

The video, watched over 60,000 times, is embedded below. At 21 minutes long, we found the most useful CCTV recommendations between minutes 3 and 12:

While the video is interesting and the recommendations are worth considering, the biggest challenge we see is the cost of them. If money was no object (as it is for the FBI), many of these recommendations would be great. Unfortunately, many are hard to justify economically.

In the rest of this report, we analyze 13 key recommendations made by the FBI, providing our input.

WDR

One of the first things the FBI notes is the common problem of washed out images at entrance doors. The snapshot below from the FBI video demonstrates this:

The category of camera that addresses this problem is called WDR or Wide Dynamic Range. WDR is definitely a valuable feature to use especially for outdoor entrances.

Making the best use of WDR can be challenging. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • Expect to pay a premium: Cameras with WDR tend to be $100 - $250 USD more than cameras that do not.
  • Beware of marketing claims: Any vendor can claim their cameras have WDR and many do even when the performance benefits are minimal or nonexistent.
  • MP cameras have the best WDR: If you want the strongest WDR, our tests show that top MP cameras significantly outperform their top SD counterparts.
  • Stay Up to Date: Our ongoing testing series has a MP WDR shootout as well as comparisons of new cameras claiming WDR - Pelco SureVision and Axis Q1604.

Obscuring Cameras

Next, the FBI comments on problems with cameras being obscured, demonstrated in the clip below of a marketing sign blocking out a suspect's face.

From time to time this does happen. Typically, no obstructions exist when the system is first installed. At that time, the security manager usually reviews and adjusts camera angles and signs to eliminate this problem. However, later on, new signs or furnishings may be installed. For instance, Christmas decorations can be an issue. Often the employees setting this up have no knowledge of nor awareness of the impact on the surveillance system.

The best way to minimize obstructions is to:

  • Train the people who watch the surveillance system to take note and make an issue of any obstructions.
  • Have an integrator / service company conduct periodic maintenance.

Out of Focus Cameras

Another problem the FBI raises is cameras being out of focused as demonstrated in the screencap below:

This can happen from time to time. Two common steps are taken to mitigate this:

  • Periodic maintenance - A technician will come on site every 3 to 6 months, check the focus and refocus each camera as needed. See our support / maintenance guide for recommendations.
  • Auto back focus - A feature available on many new cameras allows for automatic re-focusing to eliminate this problem. Auto back focus (also called ABF) is increasingly popular. Even mid tier cameras now have this as a feature. Pay attention to cameras with ABF and prefer them if everything else is close.

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***** *** ***** ** *********** *** *** *************** *** ***** considering, *** ******* ********* ** *** ** *** **** ** them. ** ***** *** ** ****** (** ** ** *** the ***), **** ** ***** *************** ***** ** *****. *************, many *** **** ** ******* ************.

** *** **** ** **** ******, ** ******* ** *** recommendations **** ** *** ***, ********* *** *****.

***

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****** *** **** *** ** *** *** ** ***********. **** these ******** ** ****:

  • ****** ** *** * *******: ******* **** *** **** ** ** $*** - $*** USD **** **** ******* **** ** ***.
  • ****** ** ********* ******: *** ****** *** ***** ***** ******* **** *** *** many ** **** **** *** *********** ******** *** ******* ** nonexistent.
  • ** ******* **** *** **** ***: ** *** **** *** ********* ***,*** ***** ******** *** ** ******* ************* ********** ***** *** ** ************.
  • **** ** ** ****: *** ******* ******* ****** *** *** *** ********** **** ** *********** ** *** ******* ******** *** -***** ***************** *****.

Obscuring *******

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*** **** *** ** ******** ************ ** **:

  • ***** *** ****** *** ***** *** ************ ****** ** **** note *** **** ** ***** ** *** ************.
  • **** ** ********** / ******* ******* ******* ******** ***********.

Out ** ***** *******

******* ******* *** *** ****** ** ******* ***** *** ** focused ** ************ ** *** ********* *****:

**** *** ****** **** **** ** ****. *** ****** ***** are ***** ** ******** ****:

  • ******** ***********- * ********** **** **** ** **** ***** * ** 6 ******, ***** *** ***** *** ******* **** ****** ** needed. *** ********** / *********** ******** ***************.
  • **** **** *****- * ******* ********* ** **** *** ******* ****** *** automatic **-******** ** ********* **** *******. **** **** ***** (**** called***) ** ************ *******. **** *** **** ******* *** **** **** ** * feature. *** ********* ** ******* **** *** *** ****** **** if ********** **** ** *****.

[***************]

*******

*** *** **** **** ******* ******* *** ******* *****.

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**********

*** *** ***** *** ********** ** **********:

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Depth ** *****

*** *** ********* ********** *** ***** ** ***** *** ** this *** **** ********* ***** * *****. *** ********* ***** demonstrates *** **************.

** ******** ** **** ************** ********:

  • ** ***********, ********** ***** ** ************** ****** * *****. **** *** * ******** **** ****** ** ************ - terrible *** ***** ****** - ** ****** * ***** ******** light *****. ** ****, ***** **** ** *** *********.
  • ***** ** ***** **** **** *** * ***** ** ****** a ********* *******. *** *** ***** ********* ** **** ** resolution / ***** ****** ******* **** **** *** ****** *** that ** ****** ******* ******* ****** ********** ****** **** **** adjustments.

Width ** ***

*** *** ***** *** *** *** "**% ****" *** ********* detailed ****** ***** ** ********:

**** ** **** *********** *** ** ******* **** *** ***** flaws:

  • *** *****: ** **** *** **% ****, *** ***** *** ***** has ** ** *-* ****. **** ** *** *** ***** to ******* ******** ** **** **********. ** ********, *** ******* FoV ***** ** ****** ** **-** ****. ***** **** ** often *** **** ** ******* ****** *******, ** ** ***** necessary *** **** *********** ********* *******.
  • ********* *******: *** **** *********, *** *** **** ***** **** ** a **** ******* ********** ** * ***** *** ***** ******* facial *******. *** ********, ******* *** ******* **-** **** **** FoV *** ********* ** **** ** **** ****** ******* **** a **** ******** **** *** ****** *******.

Camera ******

*** *** ********** **** ** ******* ** ***** *** ******** of * *********** ***** ** ***** ** *** ****** ***** below:

*** *** ********* **** ** *** ****. *********, ** * facility **** ****, ** ***** ****** ** *** ***** **** the ****** ** ******* *** *** ********** (*-** ** *** interior). ******** *** ****** ** ******* ***** ** **** ** justify.

Overlapping ********

** *** *** ***** ** *** ********* *****, *** ****** they ********* ** **** ******* ** ** **** ********** *********** camera ******** **** ** **** *****:

***** **** ** ** ********* *** ***** ****, *** ******* remains *** ****. ****** ** ********** ********** ******* **** ***** of ******* *** ** ** ***** **** ***********. *********, **** the ****** ** ******* ** '**** ******'.

Offsetting ******

*** *** ****** *** ***** **** ******** ****** *** ***** problems *********** ******** ** ************ ** **** *********:

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Adding ******

*** *** ********** ****** ** ****** ** *** **** ***** on ************ *****.

**** *** ** ****** *** **** ** **** * *** practical ******:

  • ***** ****** **** **** ****** *** ******* ******** *** ******* of *** ********. *********, **** **** ** * *** ******** as ******* ****** *** ******* **** ******* *****. ***********, ****** shades ******* *** ****** ******** *** **** **** ** ** approved ** ****** / *********** ******** (******* ** ********).
  • **** ** ****** *** *********, ****** **** **** ** ** raised ** ******* ** * ***** *****. ** ** ********* that ******* ******* *** ****** *********.

Native **** ******

*** *** ****** * ****** ** *************** *** ******* ***** with *** ***********:

**** ** * ******* *** ********* *****. *** ******** ** ******* ************ ***** **** *** ********* ******** ***************.

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