If you have a surveillance camera set up and you'd like to record and archive footage, you have a number of options at your disposal. Choose the one that suits your surveillance needs best.
You can record video using a standard home VCR and VHS tapes. However, you can only record up to eight hours of footage at a time before you have to switch tapes. VCRs are relatively low-tech, so the only recording option is manual, meaning that once the VCR starts recording, it will only stop once the tape inside runs out of space. Moreover, since VCRs record continuously, there's the possibility that you may have to watch hours of meaningless footage before anything of note occurs.
Home VCRS are a good option for people who prefer an inexpensive and simplistic archiving method to a more pricey option with many features. The average cost of a home VCR is about $100.
Time Lapse VCR
VCRs with time lapse capability can record for a very long time on a single tape (up to 24-48 hours). In order to fit more content on a tape, the VCR records at a slower speed and lower quality, which means that your footage won't necessarily be as crisp as it would if it had been recorded with a standard VCR.
Time lapse VCRs are good for someone who wants to save tape space, is not primarily concerned with footage quality, and has a little bit of extra money to spend. A time lapse VCR costs about $400.
Dedicated Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
DVRs are more advanced and offer far more features than regular VCRs. The two main advantages of a DVR over a VCR are the high storage capacity -- since DVRs use hard drives or flash drives instead of tapes, they can record many more hours of footage than a VCR -- and the ability to use motion detection to trigger recording. Not only will you have space for much more footage, your footage will also be more meaningful since you can set up your DVR not to activate recording until motion occurs in front of your camera.
In addition to their functional versatility DVRs come in a variety of sizes, making them useful in many different applications. DVRs can be small enough to wear on your body and pair with a hidden surveillance camera, or as large as a personal desktop computer. Some DVRs can even be connected to a computer network for [[remote viewing]].
DVRs are ideal for someone who is computer savvy enough to use a DVR's myriad features, requires a large amount of storage space, and wants to record from multiple cameras at once. DVRs cost between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the number of cameras (channels) supported and the size of the hard drive.
Memory Card Recorder
The most popular way to record from a single camera is with a memory card recorder. Memory card recorders record your video from any surveillance camera directly onto a standard memory card. Memory card recorders, like DVRs, can be set up to record only when motion is detected. However, the storage capacity is significantly lower and you can only use it with one camera at a time.
Some cameras have built-in memory card video recorders, which is convenient because they don't require any external wires or wireless transmitters. However, there's not a wide selection of cameras with built-in memory card recorders, and it's often cheaper to opt for a standalone camera and standalone recorder.
Memory card readers are great for people who want the functionality of a DVR without the steep price, and only need to record footage from one camera at a time. They cost about $200-600, plus the cost of memory cards.
Portable Media Player (PMP)
The newest way to record and archive video is by using a portable media player. PMPs resemble iPods and have large LCD screens that allow you to view video. Since they are small enough to fit into your pocket, they're great to use with body-worn cameras. They lack motion detection recording capabilities and they're a bit on the expensive side, but their versatility can be worth it, especially for those who want to use the PMP for purposes other than recording surveillance video (for example, watching downloaded television shows and movies).
PMPs are good for electronics-lovers who might want a portable surveillance solution, but also have a use for a device that they can use to playback non-surveillance multimedia. They cost around $600-1,000.