For the first installment of our Hey Kev series, a Question and answer post, I’m going to take on a question someone asked me last night on Facebook; Hey Kev – “what do you use for security cameras” @Jermoo I’m glad you asked and sparked an idea for content. We’ve been robbed a few times in the past, and I personally have safety and security issues as results of life things. The system we have now I like to call Version 3 . The first version was cheap and simple and honestly / sadly was stolen at our LAST, better not happen again, break in. Version two was an education system for us, and our current version 3 system is pretty stable and always growing. We currently have about 12 cameras around the MillFam compound managed by two separate DVR instances.
Short Answer || Foscam cameras, and Blue iris software. The higher the resolution on the cameras the better. 720p should be the MINIMUM you buy. My current generation cameras are 1440P = All of the words below pretty say this same thing
More Detailed Answer
The Generation camera setup here was a 4 camera Q-see model we picked up from woot.com for about 99$ once. When our domain was limited to the 14′ x 14′ shed the system was sufficient for us. As the compound has grown to encompass 20+ acres the CCD based system was not going to be enough. When I say CCD based I mean the cameras utilize BNC cables like these that are limited to about 60 or 120 feet before you need power at the end for the camera. Luckily, always looking for the positive, someone broke into our shed, took the cameras, and tore the DVR out of the server rack and took it with them.
HUGE hole in the system all of the BNC cables lead back to the DVR making it simple to find, and the DVR was onsite only for the most part. Wanting to solve this problem research happened, and lead us to Blue Iris. Blue Iris supports over a 1,000 different cameras from CCD, to full competitor DVR’s, to USB web cams, Cams built into laptops, and network addressable cameras like the Foscam cameras. Only requirement for blue iris to work is that it needs to be able to connect to the camera somehow.
Kitchen screen and the screen above the couch bed on the ceiling to watch the cameras
Blue Iris Basics
Blue Iris runs on two core I7 Lenovo laptops in the MillFam house. For remote access we use a Windows phone app for Michelle, an IPhone app for me and the provided web interface. For about 60$ the Blue Iris Full version, hardware permitting, will support up to 64 cameras on a single instance. I say hardware dependent; depending on your camera resolution, recording setup, and motion tracking needs the installation can become CPU intensive. We’ve balanced the motion tracking down to a few cameras, which trigger groups of cameras when they alert, and we’re only configured to record when the system is armed and alerting. We solved the huge hole by storing all camera data on a Microsoft OneDrive synced volume, that is also synced locally to our vault storage. As soon as an image or video has been captured it’s replicated to another location on property, and out to the cloud. Stealing the DVR might net you a nice laptop but it does nothing to remove evidence, oh and the big laptop has lowjack it – I love living in the future.
Blue Iris recommendations || Run it on a computer out of reach, sync all of the data to the cloud, and motion track / trigger only on the cameras you need to track.
Why two Blue Iris Instances
For those who have read might be thinking Hey Kev – why do you have two laptops? Well that’s a great question. We live in an ICF concrete home with 12″ thick walls, and the house is below grade on three of those walls. Our drive ways is a bit over 1/4 mile long and the nearest neighbor cannot be seen or heard from the house. For the most part we are the opposite of NYC, the property is quiet, and it’s silent in the house. We’ve had delivery drivers drive up and we’ve not noticed them at all. Back to love of safety and security, we have a blue iris instance installed in the server rack always armed and watching the drive way cameras. The Server is attached to the house speakers and it plays an audible alert when there is movement at the end of and on the driveway. Because of this we are normally waiting outside for delivery drivers before they reach the house. HUGE boost to safety and security feelings.
The driveway setup is also configured to email myself and our neighbors 2 images and a 10 second video ever time there is movement. We also have a camera group setup on the rack our neighbors can login to view the cameras on their phones. We all share a cul-de-sac and monitor it as a team. There are two cameras at the end of the driveway right now. One is a 720p PTZ camera mounted in a dome and the second recently added is a 1440p fixed camera mounted right below the dome camera. The 1440p camera is capable of capturing enough pixels to clearly read license plates. The downside is the big HD picture has caused me all kinds of frustration tweaking the motion capture / alerting to be accurate and void of false alerts. It’s close now minus all of the falling leaves it’s captured this week, not to mention the web our neighborhood spider likes to constantly build right on the lens.
The other Instance of Blue iris is the main system that monitors all of the cameras and displays them in the kitchen on the ceiling above the couch bed. We went low tech for the screen and split a VGA cable with a Y. Pretty impressed how well it works. 6′ to a Y to 100′ run to the kitchen and a 30′ run to the ceiling above couch bed and the pictures are clear. The control laptop for that is in the train loft and we use a wireless keyboard and mouse to access it. Works out great. Both laptops are hard wired into a GIGe switch. The main loft setup is wired to the Egress switch in the mechanical room, and the Rack setup is wired to a GIG switch in the Rack – DUH, all racks have switches = ]
How can haz Mount Cameras
Hey Kev — “how do you have your cameras mounted?” best answer is “depends” the dome camera above the server rack is screwed into a beam and powered + connected with POE. The HD camera in the server rack is hooked directly to the laptop with USB and mounted with a ZIP tie. The camera in in the kid’s bedroom is set on top of a wall powered with an extension cord hooked to transformer and connected with wireless. The driveway cameras are both hardwired network to a GigE switch in a steel security box at the base of the pole hooked up to a fiber transceiver on fiber the runs 1000′ up the drive way into the shed to another transceiver, hooked to shed GigE switch hooked up to a 290′ Ethernet cable in a conduit running from the shed to the house attached the GigE egress switch in the mechanical room. The camera watching the yard from the shed is an indoor PTZ camera mounted under the roof eve power with an extension cord hooked to the network via the Ubiquiti access point in the shed. – Here is the power of Blue Iris and the network cameras – as long as the two devices can find each other TCP/IP wise over the correct ports you can use the camera and mount it however is most appropriate for the location.
But Kev – “what if someone steals the camera” What is someone steals cannot rule your life it’s a fear that will mean you miss out on things and be sad face all the time. If someone steals your camera chances are, hopes are, that you have that person on camera in a video stored in the cloud and you’ll be able to find them and say “not cool dood” The cameras located in high traffic areas we have backed up with hidden high resolution game cameras just in case. The higher you mount a camera to make it more out of reach the better, when you can’t back them up with a game camera. Before we had the high resolution camera at the end of the driveway we used the game camera to capture license plates. Great budget solution while all our money was going into building the bunker.
I’ll work on some more posts about the specific settings I have for cameras and blue iris later. For now this should answer the root Hey Kev – “what do you use for security cameras“