Network Camera - Frequently Asked Questions
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What is a network camera?

Also called "IP cameras"or "ethernet cameras", a network camera transmits its audio/video (A/V) signal via standard computer networking CAT5 cable. It has software built-in on its chip that allows anyone on the network to view the A/V data - just like a computer on a network. There is no special software needed to view the camera. You can view the images in an internet browser by pulling up the ip address assigned to the camera. To record the video, you can use software such as our Optiview-IP Virtual DVR software on any computer on the network.

What is the difference between an analog camera and a network camera?

An ordinary security camera transmits its A/V data via RCA or COAX cable to a monitor or a recording device (either a VCR or DVR). If you want to view this data remotely you would need to purchase a special kind of DVR that converts the image data to digital and has networking software to broadcast this digital data over a network.

What are the major features to look for in network cameras?

The features to look for in a network camera are MPEG4 compression (see below), quality of construction, resolution, frames per second (fps), chip type, cost, and availability and quality of the software. Other features to look for are audio support, motion detection, and time stamp text overlay (critical if used in court). Also, look at the warrantee and technical support.

What are the advantages of MPEG4 over MJPEG?

The newer lines of network cameras are using the MPEG4 protocol over MJPEG to broadcast its A/V data. This is because the compression quality of MJPEG is so poor. A 16 camera system using MJPEG would need about a Terabyte of hard drive space to store only 5 days of video. Also, the remote transmission rate of MJPEG is very slow for the same reason. The same 16 camera system using MPEG4 could store about 20 days of recording on a Terabyte. And the transmission rate of the MPEG4 video is fantastic, check out our demo to see for yourself.

What are network video servers?

A network video server allows you to use a standard analog CCTV camera and connect it to a network. Basically, the network video server converts the analog output of the camera to digital and then, just like the network camera, has the software on its chip that broadcasts the AV data to the network.

We offer two kinds of network video servers, a network video server without pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) support. And a network video server with PTZ.

How are they installed?

The network camera (or server) needs power plugged in, and a CAT5 cable plugged in. For power, you can plug in the power adapter directly if you have a power outlet handy. In some locations it may not be convenient to run the power to a plug so instead you can use a Power Over Ethernet (POE) adaptor. A POE adaptor will allow camera power to run up to 300ft through the CAT5 cable.

After you have connected the power and the CAT5 cable, there is a software utility that comes with the camera to help set it up properly on the network. This is very much like setting up a new computer on the network and assigning it an ip address. The documentation that comes with the camera explains this in detail.

What applications are good to use network cameras for?

Any site that already has a network in place (and networking cable already run) is a great opportunity to use network cameras. In large sites such as office buildings and schools you can save a lot of money by not having to run CCTV cable in addition to networking cable. Another kind of application that lends itself well to using network cameras is when remote viewing is essential - since network cameras provide remote connectivity by design. Examples of these applications are daycares or schools.

What are the major advantages / disadvantages of network cameras?

The advantages of using network cameras are obvious. They save you from having to run special CCTV cable, and they provide instant and easy connectivity to everyone on the network, including remote connectivity via the internet. You don't have to purchase a special VCR or DVR for recording but can use any computer on the network (you do need software however).

The disadvantages of network cameras is that they're digital and they use your network resources. The camera's analog signal is converted to digital just like with a DVR. Compression algorithms are used to reduce the total bytes required to store and transmit the information over the network. This digitization process reduces the quality of the image very slightly. And the AV data will use bandwidth on your network. Usually these minor disadvantages are far outweighed by the advantages, however it is important to be aware of them.

How do I record network cameras?

The Optiview-IP Virtual DVR Software will allow you to view multiple cameras at a time, to record the cameras to a hard drive, and to playback existing recordings. You can also select a segment of recorded video and save that to an AVI formatted file. The AVI file can then be burned to a CD and shared with any third party (such as law enforcement). The Optiview-IP software comes in 4, 9 or 16 camera versions.

How much bandwidth does a network camera use?

Our Optiview network cameras and servers broadcast their video in MPEG4 format. This is the same protocol used in the Optiview DVRs so the bandwidth use is comparable. Also, there are several tuning options available in the network cameras. You can adjust the frame rate, and the size and quality of the video. There is even an option to set a fixed bit rate for each camera.

Do you offer wireless network cameras?

We do not offer wireless network cameras for the same reason that we do not offer wireless analog cameras - we can't find any that work well. Wireless cameras are most often used in homeowner applications so they tend to have cheaper construction and poor picture quality. But the biggest problem with wireless is that almost all wireless devices run on the same bandwidth (2.4 gigahertz) including wireless phones so there is often interference. Our customers have had so much trouble with wireless systems that we do not offer them for now (until we see improvements in the technology).

Can I put my network camera outside?

They can be installed outdoors if you put it in an outdoor housing. Another alternative is to use an outdoor camera and then connect it to your network via a network video server. Give us a call and we would be happy to help you decide the best approach for your situation.

Why should I buy my network cameras from Discount Security Cameras?

We build our cameras to last with heavy gauge steel housing and brackets. Our resolution is great and our fps is the highest available (30 fps). We use a CCD chip, not CMOS which is cheaper and less reliable. We have all the features you look for including MPEG4 format, audio support, motion detection, alarm input / relay output, and time stamp text overlay. Our Optiview-IP Virtual DVR software is simple and easy to use yet contains all the functionality you need. All of our products are competitively priced and backed with a full year warrantee and free software upgrades, and full time in-house technical support.