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

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 Camera Calculator User Manual / Guide on Oct 16, 2019
Learn how to use the IPVM Camera Calculator (updated for Version 3.1). The guide below includes instructions, images, gifs, and videos...
Camera Focusing Tutorial on Oct 14, 2019
Camera focus is fundamental to quality imaging. Mistakes can significantly reduce details, making cameras less effective. In this guide, we...
PlateSmart LPR Profile on Jan 31, 2019
PlateSmart Technologies claims to "turn any conventional surveillance camera into a license plate recognition camera" We spoke with PlateSmart to...
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...
Lens Focal Length Tutorial on Jul 10, 2019
3mm, 6mm, 2.8 - 9mm, 5 - 50mm, etc. Camera specifications often list lens lengths but what do they mean? These metrics are important in...
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...
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...
Hidden Camera Detectors Tested on Nov 18, 2019
Hidden cameras are a growing problem as cameras become smaller, cheaper and easier to access. However, some companies claim to be able to detect...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Video Surveillance 101 Course - Last Chance on Feb 20, 2020
This is the last chance to join IPVM's first Video Surveillance 101 course, designed to help those new to the industry to quickly understand the...
Cheap Camera Problems at Night on Feb 19, 2020
Cheap cameras generally have problems at night, despite the common perception that integrated IR makes cameras mostly the same, according to new...
Milestone Launches Multiple Cloud Solutions on Feb 18, 2020
Milestone is going to the cloud, becoming one of the last prominent VMSes to do so. Milestone is clearly late but how competitive do these new...
Video Surveillance Architecture 101 on Feb 18, 2020
Video surveillance can be designed and deployed in a number of ways. This 101 examines the most common options and architectures used in...
UK Stands Behind Hikvision But Controversy Continues on Feb 18, 2020
Hikvision is exhibiting at a UK government conference for law enforcement, provoking controversy from the press, politicians, and activists due to...
IronYun AI Analytics Tested on Feb 17, 2020
Taiwan startup IronYun has raised tens of millions for its "mission to be the leading Artificial Intelligence, big data video software as a service...
Access Control ADA and Disability Laws Tutorial on Feb 17, 2020
Safe access control is paramount, especially for those with disabilities. Most countries have codes to mandate safe building access for those...
ISC West 2020 Removes China Pavilion, No Plans To Cancel Or Postpone on Feb 17, 2020
ISC West plans to go on next month, amidst concerns over coronavirus. However, the Asia / China Pavilion has been removed, show organizers...
Hanwha Wisenet X Plus PTRZ Tested on Feb 14, 2020
Hanwha has released their PTRZ camera, the Wisenet X Plus XNV-6081Z, claiming the "modular design allows for easy installation". We bought and...
PRC Warns Against China Video Surveillance Hacks, Hikvision Targeted on Feb 14, 2020
Hackers are targeting China video surveillance manufacturers and systems, according to the PRC's main cyber threat monitoring body. The hackers...