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

Hikvision PanoVu Mini Tested (Multi-imager + PTZ For ~$500) on Aug 07, 2018
Hikvision has released their first PanoVu Mini multi imager, the PanoVu DS-2PT3326IZ-DE3, with four 1080p imagers, including a PTZ and integrated...
Panasonic 9MP Panoramic Fisheye Tested (WV-X4571L) on Aug 02, 2018
Panasonic has released their latest fisheye camera, the WV-X4571L, with 12MP sensor and 9MP resolution, claiming "extreme image quality" under...
Panoramic Fisheye Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Oncam And Vivotek on Jun 27, 2018
IPVM tested Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Oncam And Vivotek 12MP panoramic fisheye cameras head to head, as shown in the test setup...
Dahua 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested (NK8BR4) on May 16, 2018
Continuing our coverage of 12MP sensor fisheye cameras, we bought and tested the Dahua NK8BR4, examining: Default vs. Optimized...
Axis 12MP Stereographic Camera Tested (M3058-LVE) on May 10, 2018
Axis has released the M3058-PLVE, a 12MP sensor, stereographic panoramic camera and Axis' first with integrated IR claiming images "sharp to the...
Vivotek 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested (FE9391-EV) on May 08, 2018
Next in our 12MP fisheye camera evaluation, we bought and tested Vivotek's latest generation FE9391-EV, a new model claiming improved smart IR...
Avigilon 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested on May 03, 2018
12MP fisheye cameras have become mainstream, with nearly every major manufacturer offering their take on this segment. To see how these new higher...
Best and Worst ISC West 2018 on Apr 16, 2018
ISC West 2018 had strong attendance, modest overall new products, and a surge in Artificial Intelligence marketing. First, here are 20+...
Axis Launches First Stereographic Panoramic Camera on Apr 05, 2018
Fisheye panoramics have not had much innovation in the past few years, with their multi-imager cousins getting most of the advances, e.g.,...
Camera Form Factor Guide on Mar 16, 2018
When selecting surveillance cameras, users may choose from a number of different form factors, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses,...

Most Recent Industry Reports

2Gig Gun Lock / Motion Detector Tested on Aug 17, 2018
Safer guns for families and an opportunity for security dealers to sell more services? That is the aim of Nortek's 2GIG 'Gun Motion Detector'...
Video Analytics Integration Guide on Aug 16, 2018
Video analytics is hot again (at least conceptually) but integrating video analytics with VMSes can be challenging. This is especially significant...
Hikvision IP Camera Critical Vulnerability 2018 Disclosed on Aug 16, 2018
The same day that the US government passed a prohibition on Hikvision cameras, Hikvision disclosed a critical vulnerability for its IP...
ISS VMS / Video Analytics Company Profile on Aug 16, 2018
Who is ISS? In the past few months, they had one of the craziest ISC West promo items in years. Then, they hired industry veteran and ex-Dahua...
Chinese OEM Avycon Gets ADI Push on Aug 15, 2018
Who is Avycon? An American company? A Korean company? A couple of guys relabelling Chinese products? The latter is the best explanation. While...
Backboxes for Video Surveillance Tutorial on Aug 15, 2018
Backboxes are a necessity in surveillance, whether for managing cable whips, recessing cameras, adding wireless radios. But it can be confusing to...
Genetec Stratocast / Comcast 'Motion Insights' Examined on Aug 15, 2018
Comcast recently announced "SmartOffice Motion Insights", an extension to their Genetec OEMed cloud video service (covered by IPVM here). This...
SimpliSafe Violating California, Florida, and Texas Licensing Laws on Aug 14, 2018
IPVM has verified that DIY security system provider SimpliSafe, founded in 2006 and acquired in June of 2018 at a billion dollar valuation, is...
Ban of Dahua and Hikvision Is Now US Gov Law on Aug 13, 2018
The US President has signed the 2019 NDAA into law, banning the use of Dahua and Hikvision (and their OEMs) for the US government, for US...
Cut Milestone Licensing Costs 80% By Using Hikvision and Dahua NVRs (Tested) on Aug 13, 2018
Enterprise VMS licensing can be quite expensive, with $200 or more per channel common, meaning a 100 camera system can cost $20,000 in VMS...

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