How to Position Video Surveillance Cameras

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jan 14, 2009

This report shares best practices for positioning surveillance cameras and is based on standards I developed as an integrator.

Figuring out the right number, placement and views of cameras can save significant money and provide a much more effective system. This is a critical element regardless of using IP or not. Moreover, this is an important skill set that IT techs coming into video surveillance must ensure they develop.

Here are the 4 steps I recommend:

  1. Determine Places for Cameras
  2. Determine Camera Types
  3. Determine View of Cameras
  4. Verify with Customer

Places for Cameras

Cameras should be placed in two types of places:

  • Where there is an asset you are trying to defend
  • Where there is a choke point toward an asset you are trying to defend

You place cameras looking at assets because you want to record anything adversarial that might occur to the asset: theft, destruction, tampering, etc.

You place cameras at choke points so (1) you can get notice as soon as possible of a potential threat and (2) so you can get a clear shot at the person (or vehicle's) characteristics.

This works the same whether it is a military base or a grocery store. Obviously the assets and location of choke points differ but these guidelines remain.  

For example, at a convenience store, the assets are typically the cash register, safe, liquor section and stockroom. You would normally expect a camera to be placed to cover each of these assets.  In addition, at a convenience store, the choke points are usually the front entrance (customer entrance) and sometimes the back/service entrance. You would generally expect to see cameras covering these locations.

Camera Type Selection

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

You have 3 general types of cameras to choose from:

  • Fixed cameras: the view is locked on to a specific area
  • Mechanical PTZs: the view can be manually adjusted by an operator over great distances but the system can only record the current area viewed
  • Panoramic cameras: the view can be manually adjusted by an operator over small area and the the system can record the entire area covered

Fixed and mechanical PTZs are the two traditional options. Panoramic cameras are an emerging category and are almost always megapixel IP.

Here are guidelines in choosing:

  • Use fixed cameras if there is a very specific area of interest and you do not have an operator watching in real time
  • Use PTZ cameras if there is a large area of interest (more than 200 square feet/25 square meters) AND you have an operator watching in real time
  • Use Panoramic cameras if you have a small area and you do not have an operator watching in real time.

Views of Cameras

Picking the general location of cameras is only half of the solution. For example, you know you want to protect the safe or cover the front door.

Additionally, you need to make sure that the camera is set up so it properly captures the target. It matters if the camera is too high or too much to the left or right. It also matters, it the camera is zoomed out too much so that you cannot make out detail or the opposite that it is zoomed to far and you miss part of the person or object in question. Such issues happen all the time and is a primary concern of integrators.

Technically, you need to determine and optimize the Field of View (FoV). Below is a good webcast on Field of View from Peter Brissette:

Verify with Customer

Before you install any cameras, you should prepare and provide the following documentation to the security manager:

  • Take a photo of the approximate FoV of the camera
  • Take a photo of the place where you plan to mount the camera. Mark the exact spot on the photo
  • Prepare a map of the facility. Mark the location of each camera on the map
  • Submit all of this in a report

This may sound time consuming and wasteful but I think it is critical (1) to ensure that the objectives are met and (2) to eliminate re-work and changes after installation.

Without pictures and plans, it's very hard to imagine how exactly cameras should be placed. It is also very easy for misunderstandings to occur ("I thought you were going to mount in on this side rather than that side", etc.). 

A careful planned and documented design is a key tool in deploying optimized video surveillance solutions.

Related Reports on Panoramic

Camera Application Selection Guide 2017 on Aug 23, 2017
Entrances, hallways, rooms and parking lots are perhaps the 4 most common areas where surveillance is deployed. But what is the best type of camera...
IP Camera Specification / RFP Guide 2017 on Aug 14, 2017
RFPs are hard. Do them 'right' and it takes a lot of knowledge and time. Do them 'wrong' and you can be (a) unwittingly locked into a specific...
PTZ Usage Declines 2017 - Statistics on Jul 03, 2017
PTZ usage is declining, now at ~6% of all cameras integrator use, down from ~10% of cameras used in 2014, according to new IPVM...
Panoramic: Fisheye vs Multi-Imager Usage on Jun 09, 2017
Panoramic cameras are a growing trend within video surveillance. The two main options are fisheye cameras using a single imager with an ultra-wide...
48MP 180 Camera (Digital Watchdog) Test on May 10, 2017
Camera resolution continues to advance, with Digital Watchdog offering the MegaPIX PANO 48MP 180° camera, the highest resolution mainstream camera...
Hanwha 9MP Fisheye Camera Tested (PNF-9010R) on May 09, 2017
12MP sensor fisheye panoramic cameras are becoming increasingly common. We have tested Hikvision's DS-2CD63C2F as well as Panasonic's SFV481 4K...
Panoramic Camera Usage Rising 2017 on May 08, 2017
Panoramic camera usage (including fisheye and multi-imagers) continue to rise rapidly. However, the race to the bottom is hindering even stronger...
Vivotek 3MP 180 Wall Mount Camera Tested on Feb 28, 2017
Purpose-built wall mount panoramics have become an attractive niche to cover entranceways. In 2013, we bought and tested Vivotek's 1MP...
Axis 15MP Multi-Imager Tested (Q3708-PVE) on Feb 07, 2017
Axis continues to expand in the multi imager market, adding to a segment started with the 33MP Q3709. We bought the Q3708-PVE and tested it...
Lux Rating / Minimum Illumination Guide 2017 on Dec 23, 2016
Lux ratings are one of the poorest specifications to use in selecting cameras. Now, with the rise of integrated IR, they are increasingly...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Avigilon Touting 'Made In America' on Sep 18, 2017
Canadian manufacturer Avigilon, who completed a US manufacturing facility in 2015, is now running a marketing campaign touting 'Made In America',...
Cloud Guy Prints Book, Misses Irony on Sep 15, 2017
On-premise security systems are dead. But $75 print books are alive and well. Such are the lessons from Brivo's CEO new book "The Five...
Forgotten Password Problem Importance on Sep 15, 2017
Forgotten passwords has become a major industry topic. For example, Hikvision has been emailing admin passwords in plain text until IPVM's...
September IP Networking Course on Sep 14, 2017
LAST Chance - Registration is ending. Register now. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals...
Hikvision Launching Ezviz Pro on Sep 14, 2017
Hikvision is launching Ezviz Pro. In 2015, Hikvision expanded Ezviz, a direct to consumer offering, to North America. Now, Ezviz 'Pro' is...
Genetec Launches Community Connect Examined on Sep 14, 2017
Genetec has done best in large-scale, enterprise systems and relatively worse in smaller systems such as SMB. Now, Genetec is launching...
Master Keying Tutorial on Sep 14, 2017
Mechanical keys are the most fundamental, albeit unsophisticated, form of access control. Like access control, Master Keying allows large scale use...
Startup Turing Video Segway-Based Security Robot Profile on Sep 13, 2017
If security robots can not replace guards, perhaps the next best thing is a robot the guard can actually ride.  Turing Video has raised $5...
Fail Safe vs. Fail Secure Tutorial on Sep 13, 2017
Few terms carry greater importance in access control than 'fail safe' and 'fail secure'. Access control professionals must know how these concepts...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact