How to Record Surveillance Video

Tips on choosing the right recording technology

If you have a surveillance camera system and you'd like to record and archive footage, you have a number of options at your disposal. As technology has moved from analog to digital, most older technologies have become obsolete or less efficient than their contemporary counterparts. Hopefully, after reading this article, you'll be informed enough to choose the right recording method for your unique needs.

 

Dedicated Digital Video Recorders (DVRs)

DVRs are an extremely popular way to store surveillance video. They have the capacity to store hours of footage 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.

Recording to Your Computer

As long as they have relatively large hard drives, newer home computers make decent video recorders, but there are some caveats associated with them.  First, digital video takes up a lot of storage space, so if you’re trying to record multiple cameras recording multiple hours of video per day (in a business setting, for example), you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll run out of space.

Second, in order to record and archive video through your computer, you’ll need to install dedicated software to manage the process. Many digital video cameras come with their own software packages, but their feature sets tend to be fairly rudimentary and are usually limited to four channels. You can also purchase dedicated, standalone software packages with more capabilities and more channels.

Most video surveillance software enables motion detection to keep from recording unneeded video. The real difference in sophistication among software offerings lies in video archiving and management features. Some software offers cataloging functionality that lets you label, manage and store your clips. Higher end software will also send you text or email alerts based on specific activity (when the camera detects motion, for example). That way you’ll know in real time if someone has entered your home or office.

Cloud Recording

Over the last few years, “the cloud” (a catchy way to refer to storage of digital data by a third party on the Internet) has become an increasingly popular method to record and store surveillance video. There are several advantages to cloud storage, and only one downside.

The pros: By recording, storing and backing up your footage in the cloud, you’ll know your video clips won’t be lost or deleted by accident -- and you won’t have to use up storage space on your computer or a standalone recording device. Even more important, cloud storage enables you to access your video from computers, tablets or smartphones no matter where you are, as long as you have an active Internet connection.

The cons: To get the convenience of cloud storage, you’ll usually have to pay a monthly fee to the service provider. The fee will vary based on the provider, the number of cameras in your system, the features available and other factors. Click here to learn about the BrickHouse Video Monitoring Platform.   

Memory Card Recorders

The most popular way to record from a single camera is with a memory card recorder. Like DVRs, memory card recorders can be set up to capture video only when motion is detected. However, the storage capacity is significantly lower and you can only use a memory card recorder with one camera at a time. Many cameras (including our new Camscura Micro) have built-in memory card video recorders, which is convenient because they don't require any external wires or wireless transmitters.

Memory card recorders 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.

Portable Media Players (PMPs)

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 (watching downloaded television shows and movies, for example).

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.


Home and Time Lapse Videocassette Recorders (VCRs)

They’re quickly disappearing from the marketplace, but VCRs and videotape are still popular among certain groups, particularly senior citizens.. 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.

 

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 and isn't concerned about sacrificing a bit of recording quality.