Looking to build a home security/camera system!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by GFLPraxis, Jun 29, 2010.

  1. GFLPraxis macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Hello everyone,
    Not sure what it is I need to look at here, so I was hoping for some advice :) I recently bought my first house and am currently having some work done on it; as the upstairs is unfinished, I'm working to get it finished off/insulated and drywalled, and in the process, adding CAT6 cable through the wall.

    Now, this is my first house; admittedly, the neighborhood I am in is not the safest. My next-door neighbor is pretty awesome and similarly moved in with the first time homebuyer's tax credit. He has set up cameras all over his home, wired into a special DVR system hooked to his HDTV, and reports people who dump things near his property etc. He even gave me web access so I can check up on it; though, unfortunately, the software requires usage of ActiveX, so I have to use a VM or go over to one of my Windows PCs (which I haven't unpacked yet). :(

    I'd like to set up some cameras as well, but I'm not sure:
    A) What hardware to get

    B) What kind of wiring I'm even going to need. Can I get power over ethernet? Is there a certain type of cable I should run out alongside CAT6 for the cameras? Should I use something other than CAT6?

    C) What's going to be the best system to work with Macs? Independent network cameras recording to a server? Dumb cameras hooked to a DVR?

    I'm self admittedly not very handy, but the guys working on the home remodel (I've also got them revamping the electrical, as the knob-and-tube wiring has to be removed/upgraded) are willing to help out.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
  2. MacVibe macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2009
    This sounds like a fun project and the perfect time to do it. If I was doing a big remodel I would get one (or more) of those multi-camera packages from costco. They come with something like 8 cameras and a h264 dvr. I believe some of them (the dvrs) are web accessible but the cameras all use dedicated power/signal cables- not cat6.

    For your second question, yes there are security cameras powered by ethernet cables, I have a Panasonic BL-C210A. It is standard def but the image quality is very good and the camera's pan and tilt can be controlled through a web interface (accessible by remote computer, iphone, etc.) Going this route would be more expensive but probably more future proof given the standard cabling. The panasonic web interface works with macs for video, but the audio portion only works worth IE for some reason.
  3. HappyCheese macrumors newbie

    Apr 24, 2010
    There are many configurations. Sorry I wasn't around when you first posted this GFLPraxis. I make AV systems (mostly for commercial and government clients and a few friends homes) and could have been helpful. If anyone else runs in to wired or wireless video system questions, just PM me. Many websites can answer basic questions about options but remember everyone is trying to sell you their own product. Nevertheless, surfing for an hour or two at least gets you an idea of whats out there and what features you want. You'll have to decide quickly what type of DVR, cameras, wired or wireless, IR or not, etc. When you know what you want, you can check out distributors and find components. Try protransmitters, google product search, orebay to start.
  4. AustinMac macrumors newbie

    Oct 9, 2010
    Cameras and Software

    I am in a similar situation--I have purchased an older house and am running wires including cat 6 and 110v ROMEX. The neighborhood is moderately OK but the house has been broken into twice in the last four years. So, I would like to put in some monitors (especially external) to watch the house. Oh, and I should add that my wife will be looking at new houses if we get broken into again so there is a hard requirement that something be done).

    Lights and Cameras: I am thinking that most of the cameras should have close to fish-eye lenses with built-in infra-red and should connect via wired Ethernet to a Mac Mini I have. I just want the cameras to sit there and watch the house and supply video that can be recorded on a 500GB drive. After initial review eight cameras is probably enough. Six cameras should have fish-eye lenses and two with normal optics that could be positioned to read license plates. The two cameras used for license plates should be color as well and have good resolution. Two of the cameras that are fish-eye will be mounted near the ground (to capture faces of someone with a cap on) and should be fairly weather proof and reasonably good graphics as well). All of the cameras should have infrared capability and at least some should be stored behind protective plastic bulbs. As far as power goes, I would rather go ahead and run a separate 110V box right behind each camera than have a separate "power over Ethernet" setting. This separate 110V wiring for the cameras would be on a dedicated circuit and would plug into the uninterpretable power supply that is next to my computer. My guess is that this would also "future proof" the system and make cameras easy to replace if ants or pellet guns damaged them. So, every camera gets a separate outlet and its own Ethernet port. For the backyard, it might make sense to have one or two separate infrared lights that blast IR from a couple of different directions to minimize shadows. Finally, some of the cameras should announce their presence--maybe one reasonably sized one in the front and one in the back. The logic here is that a burglar who takes any time to plan will see the camera and move on to another house. Both of the previous "smash and grab" jobs were clearly pre-meditated... In fact, I plan on putting these bigger cameras up as a first-step in the project--like having a big dog in the backyard.

    Mac Mini and Ethernet Hardware: On the mac hardware side, I've got a Mac Mini of relatively new vintage (Intel 1.66GHz proc) with 1GB memory as well as a 500GB internal drive and a 640GB firewire drive assigned to TimeMachine. I've also got a medium-sized uninterpretable power supply that I plan to connect to the PC, the baby un-managed 10/100 Cisco router, and the power network for the cameras to. I have an old KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) that would be connected to this PC and would collect dust until needed. I'm sure that this is not government regulation but I'm hoping it's enough horsepower and redundancy to take care of a small home.

    Software: Sound does not seem important at all. The cameras are static--I think they should just sit and record so no need to move them or manage them remotely. I do not think it is even worthwhile to shut video feed down when there is no movement--let the feed continue to fill up the hard drive at all times so even if someone thought they might out-smart the system by moving painfully slow they would still be seen. Even with eight cameras, I'm thinking 500GB is still a good month of data (maybe more). My main hope for the software is that it will record over the oldest records and send me an email if there is a problem (a camera stops providing feed or the computer sends a failure alert or re-boots). It would be nice if the software stamped the video feed with some sort of time that is created in a way that the law authorities would respect it as accurate. I don't even think the feed needs to be hooked up to the Internet although I can imagine times when this would be a "nice to have" feature.

    Questions: Any guidance on what sort of cameras and software to buy? While I think the mere existence of the cameras will be more of a deterrent than anything (again, big backyard dog), I would like for them to have reasonable quality so that they might help track down someone after the fact. Also, any sort of infrared light recommendations so that I might hook up a couple of these that switch on automatically at dusk to fill the yard with IR? Is there any reasonable software that works on a Mac or should I just get a DVR or some other appliance for this purpose? Any other thoughts on the above-described security system?

    Feedback: I am thinking this will probably be a fairly low-cost option (maybe $1,000 for cameras and software) that someone with a little cable-running expertise and some old equipment could copy. If someone can help me out with the "where to shop & what to buy" part of the discussion, I'll be happy to provide updates and lessons I've learned as I get the system installed. Many thanks.
  5. wnorris macrumors member


    Feb 16, 2008
    Check out Lifehacker.com for some great tips.

    I have not gotten around to testing these, but they are fairly simple to try and test to get a feel for what you are looking at.

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