School Camera Coverage Critiqued

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Jan 03, 2012

In this update, we examine a December 2011 article from Campus Safety Magazine [link no longer available], intended to provide guidance in camera placement to K-12 facilities. Aside from the article essentially being a lightweight fluff piece, written by a manufacturer, we fundamentally disagree with many of the tips given.

Parking Lot Coverage

The first recommendation the article makes is placement of cameras in parking lots. Left at that, this is not a bad recommendation, as numerous incidents occur in parking lots, whether fights, vandalism, collosions, or others. However, it then goes on to state that "From high up on the rooftop of a school building, they [administrators] can zoom in and get a clear image of a license plate way across the parking lot. Plus, they can cover an entire campus from fewer locations." We find this flawed for two reasons:

  • First, placing cameras at roof level on most buildings is not recommended, unless the camera will only be used for object detection. High angles provide more of a top-down view of the scene, which may result in more footage of the tops of heads and vehicles and less of faces and license plates. Cameras are typically best located as low as possible while being outside the reach of vandalism, usually 12-15 feet above ground.
  • Second, covering an entire campus from a few locations will do little aside from provide a false sense of coverage. Historically, this notion is one of the most dangerous in the surveillance industry. Driven by a trained operator, PTZ cameras can provide more detailed recordings of subjects and incidents. However, even under manual control, they are still not seeing the rest of the scene outside of the current frame, which can and will result in missed incidents.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution for parking lot surveillance in many cases. Oftentimes, they are simply too large of an area to be covered with any sort of pixel density. Multi-megapixel cameras, while still unable to cover the entire scene in detail, will likely provide a better record of incidents than PTZ cameras on tour. Users should pay attention to where the chokepoints of the lot is, and target these areas, along with providing an overview of the area. In this way, vehicles and subjects can be followed on the overview through the scene to the choke point, where better resolution or a smaller field of view may provide identifying details.

Hallway Coverage

The second recommendation we disagree with is this: "Where 360 degrees of viewing are preferred, such as in the central junction of four corridors, the PTZ cameras are placed. Individual hallways use fixed position cameras, which cost less." Again, placing a PTZ at the intersection of hallways is likely to provide nothing more than video that's worthwhile 25% of the time or less. With a PTZ camera on tour, looking down four hallways, missing incidents is nearly guaranteed.

A higher number of fixed cameras is a better option, though it will indeed likely be slightly more expensive, when installation labor, licensing, and the cost of the cameras are taken into account. In some locations, a 360-degree multi-imager camera, such as Arecont or Avigilon's offerings may be useful, as long as lighting levels are even, which interior hallways often are.

Day/Night Overstatement

Finally, the piece goes on to state the benefits of day/night cameras, as such: "By being able to produce clear images in low light conditions, school districts save the expense of installing additional lighting."

As we have seen in our low-light tests, clear nighttime video is hardly guaranteed. What's worse is that camera features such as automatic gain control and slow shutter likely will produce brighter video, providing users with a false sense of security. Yes, the image will be brighter, but subjects will appear blurred if the exposure is set too long, and the gain control introduces additional noise into the image, adding up to video that is often useless. Ultimately, there are no tricks or tweaks that can replace decent lighting in exterior areas. 

Live Operators Cannot Be Assumed

Taking all of the above into account, the biggest mistake in this piece is the assumption that live operators will be on available to control multiple PTZ cameras. As we discovered in our Fall 2011 survey, users are eliminating operators, making it unlikely that many small-to-mid-sized school districts would have operators available at all times. For this reason, two trends have developed:

 

  • Higher numbers of fixed cameras are being installed, in order to cover more area, and/or more angles, with no operator intervention required. 
  • Sales of panoramic and multi-imager cameras have increased, in order to attempt to cover more ground with a single camera, still generally priced below the cost of a PTZ. Unfortunately, though, our tests have shown that neither of these options is yet ideal. 

 

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Phone Camera Calculator Released on Mar 10, 2020
IPVM has released the first-ever Phone Calculator, video surveillance design software that you can use on your phone, without installing an...
Last Chance - Camera Course Winter 2020 on Jan 30, 2020
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training exists...
2020 Camera Book Released on Jan 10, 2020
This is the best, most comprehensive security camera training in the world, based on our unprecedented testing. Now, all IPVM PRO Members can get...
IPVM Opens 12,000 Sqft Testing Facility on Dec 16, 2019
IPVM is proud to announce the opening of the world's first video surveillance testing facility that will allow us to significantly expand our...
Camera Field of View (FoV) Guide on Nov 13, 2019
Field of View (FoV) and Angle of View (AoV), are deceptively complex. At their most basic, they simply describe what the camera can "see" and seem...
Biggest Low Light Problems 2019 on Nov 08, 2019
Over 150 integrators responded to our survey question: "What are the biggest problems you face getting good low-light images?" Inside, we share...
Lens Iris Tutorial on Aug 08, 2019
Cameras, like humans, have irises, controlling the light which hits the imager and impacting image details. However, cameras have multiple types of...
Kidnapping Victim Rescued With Video From Ring Doorbell Camera on May 24, 2019
A kidnapping victim was rescued within 24 hours, with the police crediting video from a Ring Doorbell camera as key to solving the case. A girl was...
Covert Facial Recognition Using Axis and Amazon By NYTimes on May 20, 2019
What if you took a 33MP Axis camera covering one of the busiest parks in the US and ran Amazon Facial Recognition against it? That is what the...
China PRC Government New National Video Surveillance Standards on May 14, 2019
The People's Republic of China (PRC) government has released a new set of overarching standards for authorities to follow when they install video...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Viakoo Presents Cyber Hygiene for Cameras on May 28, 2020
Viakoo presented its 'Cyber Hygiene' and 'Service Assurance' products at the April 2020 IPVM New Products show. Inside this report: A...
Seek Scan Thermal Temperature Screening System ReTested on May 28, 2020
Now that IPVM has tested Dahua, Hikvision, and Sunell, we are returning to Seek, the first blackbody system we tested and retested it with our...
Directory of 106 "Fever" Camera Suppliers on May 28, 2020
This directory provides a list of "Fever" scanning thermal camera providers to help you see and research what options are available. There are...
Fever Cameras Are Medical Devices, Per The FDA, Dahua, Feevr, Hikvision, InVid Contrary Claims Are False on May 28, 2020
Fever cameras are medical devices, despite what euphemisms various sellers use. The US FDA clearly categorizes them as medical devices and...
Wyze Raises $10 Million And Seeks Services Expansion on May 27, 2020
Wyze has raised $10 million, the company's first disclosed raise since the $20 million announced at the beginning of 2019. Inside this note,...
Startup Videoloft Presents Cloud Storage on May 27, 2020
Videoloft presented offsite cloud storage at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. A 30-minute video from Videoloft including IPVM...
Directory of 300+ Fever Camera News Reports Globally on May 27, 2020
This global directory tracks 300+ articles about thermal cameras used to detect fevers in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Articles are...
Integrators Rising Against Coronavirus on May 27, 2020
IPVM integrator statistics make it clear - Coronavirus's impact on business is lessening and many are anticipating even better news in weeks...
Netposa Stock Surges 46% After US Human Rights Abuse Sanctions on May 27, 2020
Last Friday, the US government announced it would sanction PRC video management provider NetPosa for being "complicit in human rights violations...
LILIN Presents NDAA-Compliant P2 Cameras on May 26, 2020
Merit LILIN presented its NDAA-compliant P2 camera series at the April 2020 IPVM New Products show. Inside this report: A 30-minute video...