The Ultimate Guide To Closed-Circuit TV (CCTV) Systems

Video Surveillance Facts, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) And Telecommunication Systems Explained In Detail

In the 21st century, there is one technology that is best linked to protection. It is known as the closed circuit television system, or in short, CCTV systems. Basically, CCTV is a system that has been established as a video surveillance technology that acts as a great complement to alarm systems and is the perfect addition to an integrated security system.

Nowadays, CCTV systems can be used for residential, commercial and industrial purposes. Their use is wide all around the globe and there are millions of providers that specialize in installing this technology and carrying out all of the delicate tasks that go with it.

In today’s guide, we will be talking about CCTV systems in detail – answering every question that you have and providing relevant information about their use, benefits, best practices and many other aspects.

So, let’s begin.

The Definition Of Video Surveillance And CCTV Systems

Throughout history, experts have always agreed that surveillance is one of the most important elements of advanced societies – and one of the most representative technological tool of the cities, companies and entities in the future.

The origins of video surveillance go back to the 1950s when information and communication technology started developing and expanding. In the very beginning, the cameras were used for traffic and bank surveillance. However, in the 1960s, they began to be used massively starting from the major cities in the United States, Great Britain and other developed countries. The use of CCTV systems was mostly centralized in the UK, which already had an average of 500 surveillance cameras installed per week in the 1980s.

For those of you who are wondering how did the acronym CCTV come to life, it is basically because of the term “closed circuit television” which refers to a visual surveillance system with one main function – to detect dangerous situations.

This is how video surveillance systems (or CCTV systems) were born – to deter potential criminals and serve as the first line of protection that captures images in the most strategic places. The only requirement for a CCTV system, however, is optimal light conditions and strategic positioning.

The images that CCTV systems capture can be viewed directly on central monitors as well as recorded for later consultation via logs. Thanks to the Internet, CCTV systems support cameras with IP networks that allow them to view images from any remote location in real time.

The images are then sent to a local network or directly online. In that manner, CCTV surveillance systems have emerged from being completely traditional (and used privately) to systems that are combined with IP video surveillance technology allowing remote access, loads of flexibility and easy installation.

What Should You Look For In Security (CCTV) Camera Systems In 2019?

As you may know by now, there is a great detail of customization when it comes to choosing CCTV camera systems for your needs. To get started, you should know the features when comparing your options.

In today’s modern era, the feature list of CCTV systems is quite lengthy compared to what we have seen in the past.

CCTV Camera Systems: Features Overview

Below, we are listing the most important features that will give you a rough idea of the options you have on the table when choosing a CCTV system for your needs.

Field Of View

This is basically a detail that ranges from 90 degrees up to 140 degrees on the vast majority of cameras. The more coverage you want, the greater it needs to be. For example, if you want to keep tabs on your backyard or need surveillance for a very large room in your industrial facility – you need a larger field of view to better monitor the entire area.

Night Vision

This is a very cool feature to have – and an extremely useful aspect to consider if you are interested in 24/7 monitoring. Night vision offers clarity of the image recorded during the night, is perfect for low-light areas and useful for anyone who needs optimal surveillance at all times.


Resolution varies from one camera to another. Even though there are CCTV systems which boast a high resolution and even some with 4K capabilities, the level of resolution also means a lot of bandwidth and storage space.

Therefore, the range of resolution that is optimal for security cameras is anywhere from 480p to 1080p for much better detail.

Lux Rating

Lux is a unit of luminance and a metric unit of measurement which represents the intensity of light. The lux meters are also known as light meters and are able to differently luminate the objects surveilled or monitored, based on their rating.

The lower a camera’s lux value, the more light sensitive its sensor is. However, there is no standard for measuring Lux – each manufacturer does its own testing and specifying which is why you need to be careful.

Wide Dynamic Range (WDR)

The WDR is a feature that allows the camera to simultaneously capture detail in both light and dark areas of the scene. It is most often needed for interior shots with large windows in the backgrounds (such as bank lobbies, grocery stores etc.).

CMOS Vs. CCD Image Sensors

CCTV cameras and systems can have two image sensors – a Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) used in analog CCTV cameras or a Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) that is used in most megapixel cameras.

The differences are that CCD sensors use a technology which offers great light sensitivity, higher wattage, exotic voltages, no onboard functionalities and a higher cost. CMOS, on the other hand, has improved light sensitivity, lower wattage, one voltage, onboard functionality and lower costs.

Sensor Size

Sensor size is the diagonal measurement of the imaging array of a sensor – or the area with the pixels on which the lens is focused. The bigger the image sensor size is – the bigger the pixel size will be.

However, the higher resolution the sensor has, the smaller the sensor pixel size is. This is why sensors from ⅛ inches to ¼ inchs are used in cell phones, web cameras etc. – sensors from 1/ 3.2 to 1/ 1.8 inches are used in IP cameras and digital cameras – while sensors from ⅔ inches to 1” and 4/3 inches are used in DLRs.


Lenses are the “eyeglasses” or the sensor “eyeballs” of the camera – which means that they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be fixed focal (WYSIWIG), manual varifocal (known as “poor man’s zoom”), motorized varifocal (designed for remote lens adjustment) and motorized zoom (with pan/tilt/zoom features).

Frames Per Second (FPS)

Also known as the frame rate, frames per second (FPS) is the number of images that occur in a second of time. For example, the television broadcasts that we are used to are usually 30 FPS, movies are 24 FPS and animation is 12 FPS.

For surveillance, the choice varies anywhere from 1 FPS to 30 FPS. Most cameras are capable of frame rates that go up to 30 FPS but that does not mean that you need to record at the full 30 FPS – mostly because of data and storage issues. The average frame rate range is between 5 FPS and 15 FPS, accordingly.

Low Light Performance

Areas with dimmed lighting won’t benefit from night vision features – and need CCTV camera features that have low light performance and a wide aperture. Speaking of, this type of aperture allows the camera to absorb more light from dimly lit areas. So, instead of seeing shadows – you will be able to see more details and see what is happening at all times.

Motion Detection

Motion detectors alert you whenever one specified area has movement – whether that is delivery men, vandals or animals. Some of the cameras have motion detection that boasts 90 degrees – while others extend to up to 270 degrees. Generally speaking, motion boundaries can be set from a few feet to over 100 feet.

Source Of Power

Wiring your security system in a power line allows you to position your cameras anywhere you want, without any power cords. There are also battery powered CCTV systems which are easy to set up, install and place – but batteries mean that you will need frequent charges. So, it is important to choose your power source too and make sure that your outlet is in place (if choosing a CCTV with a power outlet).

Audio Features

Not all cameras are capable of recording audio – and not all laws allows audio recording. Aside from these things that you should consider, you should know that two-way audio is also a feature that lets you communicate with the person that is viewing the camera.

There are also cameras which can emit loud siren sounds to scare off intruders or animals.

App Support

Most of the modern CCTV systems come with app integration. This means that you can connect to the camera via your computer, tablet or smartphone. Thanks to real-time notifications, you can also benefit and track every movement directly, wherever you are and as long as you have an Internet connection.

Home Ownership

CCTV camera systems are perfect for protecting yourself, your family and your property. However, there are systems for homeowners only – as well as ones that work for both homeowners and renters alike.

If you own a home and plan or living there for a while, you might consider buying a permanent wired or wireless CCTV system. In cases like these, buying a CCTV system with its entire equipment is the best solution.

If you rent a home, you may consider renting a CCTV surveillance system as well. You will save from buying the entire equipment upfront – but on the other hand will continue to pay the higher monthly cost even after the initial cost of the equipment.


No one wants to end up paying for a CCTV camera system which is not compatible with their home or wireless equipment, right?

This is why compatibility is important when planning your CCTV surveillance needs. The best way to see this is to consult with a professional, get an on-site survey and make sure to know the two types of home security systems – Wi-Fi systems and hardwired ones – as the usual choices for homeowners.

Types Of Cameras

In times when there are thousands of CCTV cameras available online, you should make sure to choose a type that suits your needs in the best way.

Some of the common (and different from one another) CCTV cameras include nanny cams, pet cams, baby monitors, outdoor home security cameras, analog security cameras, network security cameras, wide-angle CCTV units, bullet cameras, dome cameras, pan-tilt-zoom cameras, night vision came, motion detection cameras, doorbell cameras and floodlight cameras.

Video Compression

Known as a series of mathematical algorithms that is used to compress video and image data, video compression is a crucial feature when deploying cameras on a network. As such, it is in a tight link with the storage.

There are three popular forms of video compression, including:

  • MJPEG – A series of JPEG images where there is no actual “video compression” happening and each frame is a standalone compressed still image
  • MPEG-4 – A video compression unit where the camera generates a reference or “i” frames followed by set number of changed or “P” frames.
  • H.264 – The next-generation of the MPEG-4 and a compression which uses I and P frames to reduce bandwidth This technology uses more sophisticated algorithms and is designed to produce higher video quality than MPEG-4 at about 50% of the bandwidth usage.

Storage Plans

Storage is important for CCTV systems and most cameras come with additional storage plans so that any motion detection events are timely recorded and stored on the cloud. The common storage plans can range in size and come from a few gigabytes to more than 100 gigabytes.


Size is another factor when choosing a CCTV system and specific cameras. While some cameras have slim platforms and long necks (and can be pointed in any direction and installed anywhere) others are on flat platform without a neck and are quite limited when it comes to direction and durability.


Every CCTV system comes at a cost – and there are many upfront costs which need to be considered.

From the installation fees to the full house system setup, there are also monthly ongoing plans with support for the features you need. These go from as low as $30 to hundreds of dollars, based on the features that you choose.



Analog Vs. IP CCTV Systems: Full Comparison

Both analog CCTV systems and IP CCTV units have their pros and cons.

The best way to understand their differences is to first list the things that they have in common. These include:

  • Sensor and lens considerations
  • Camera from factors
  • Lighting considerations
  • Physical installation

The things that are different when it comes to IP and analog CCTV systems include the following:

  • Power and cabling – IP CCTV systems use power, while analog systems use cables
  • Scalability – IP CCTV systems are scalable, while analog systems are quite closed
  • Configuration – IP CCTV systems offer configuration from a web interface, while analog CCTV units require physically installation and configuration
  • Resolution – The resolution in IP CCTV systems is quite basic, which makes them inferior to analog CCTV systems and their enhanced resolution

Camera Architecture

Analog CCTV systems employ a closed architecture. Each of the CCTV cameras requires a coax cable going from the camera to the digital video recorder (DVR) which is a solution that has drawbacks when it comes to scalability, cost, management and security.

On the other hand, IP CCTV systems are a network solution where every camera has its own IP address and password. Since the cameras are part of a network, they are flexible, affordable, use lower cost (CAT ⅚) cables and offer remote viewing and management for maximum convenience.

Camera Resolution

Analog CCTV systems come with a maximum resolution of 704×480, which gives them some limits. Because of this, they are not scalable and use the same video standard that was designed over 50 years ago.

IP Surveillance (CCTV) systems are quite scalable and offer plenty of choices. They are digital and not limited in resolution, allowing for audio, motion detection, analytics and PTZ controls. This gives users more choices, greater resolution (720p and 1080p resolution), no signal loss, digital zooming and optimal clarity of 3 megapixels – or nine times better resolution that analog CCTV units.

CCTV Network Recorders (Storage)

For effective storage of the IP surveillance video, you need a network video recorder.

Now, there are a number of choices when it comes to such recorders – designed by various brands. The features that are built in these recorders include smartphone/tablet/web browser support, apps for iOs and Android devices, support for various cameras and storage capacities that go up to 8 terabytes (TB) or 10 terabytes (TB) in some cases.

In the more advanced models, there is multi-site client software support, HDMI Out outputs, remote access of the camera via portals and apps, smart search, compression in different formats and multiple NVR management and viewing software.

Video Management Software (VMS)

Video Management Software (VMS) is the heart of the IP surveillance system – and the central point used to view the cameras and playback their live video. From there, you can manage the user accounts, change camera settings and perform a lot of other tasks.

You need to know that every CCTV manufacturer has its own unique VMS software which comes with no licensing fee (if you choose their CCTV equipment) and is designed for the CCTV of your choice.

On the market, some of the leading names of third-party VMS partners include Video Insight, Milestone, NUUO, OnSSI and e-Watch.

Final Words

As you can see, choosing a CCTV unit for your home, business or facility is not an easy task. In fact, it is very easy to get trapped and end up choosing something that you don’t need – or not considering all of the options available to you.

This is why ever bachelor, family, business, industrial facility or organization of every kind needs to get their needs sorted and get a CCTV system which is tailored to these needs.

One of the best ways to do that is by hiring a CCTV professional and doing a site survey that covers all of the options, considerations, features and aspects of choosing a CCTV for that location.

We hope that this guide helps you choose the best CCTV system for your needs. If you have more questions or are finally interested in getting a CCTV in your property, feel free to contact us today via phone or email.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About CCTV Systems

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