Thinking about cameras


Active Member
For long rambling and not too well formed reasons I am thinking of adding cameras to my home, and would appreciate insight as to whether I am thinking of this in a rational fashion.
First, I want to do it myself, and slowly, so I want something that is expandable, and not (necessarily) all one vendor.  So the video software shouldn't be tied to one camera type.
Secondly - all hard wired of course, and all IP.  The hard wired is a bit of an issue near our boat dock, but am at least going to try.  And I see no point in analog at all in 2015.  
Third - I'm thinking of this at least at the beginning mostly from a software standpoint -- what can I do with the video to make it manageable, and to get it off site in the event of a break-in, so I've been concentrating more on the VMS' than on specific cameras.  What I plan to do is get one or two cameras early on while I get all the system and networking in place, and make sure it actually can do what I think it can.
My thought is to have a system which, on either M1G alarm, or certain motion events, will actively upload to an off site location periodic images in case a thief finds and destroys the actual system.  Most I have seen say they do that, but am going to actually experiment first and see it.
In that vein I first tried Zoneminder, as I like Linux and open source.  It's up, it works... but the user interface seems really buggy.  Some browsers (Firefox) seem to work better than others (Chrome), but even then controls that should work seem inactive at times, displays a bit flakey.  But it works.  I haven't put in postfix yet to do email, but it looks like I can hang any kind of hooks on alarms I want.  But so far not impressed.
After a lot of reading I decided to try Blue Iris next, just got it running last night and have not gotten too far, but clearly more slick.  But... 
The Fourth thing is where to put all this.  I am thinking a small headless PC (Like building my own) of in a closet somewhere.  Which means I want to figure out how to get displays elsewhere.  Was thinking of something like old tablets hung on the wall in the bedroom, as well as able to display from elsewhere.  I haven't tried either of these with remote displays (though zoneminder of course is always a remote display, haven't tried it on mobile browsers). 
Which finally brings me to hardware... I'm thinking I need about 6 cameras to cover the major portions of the exterior - (1) boat dock, (2) jet skis, which are just far enough away they probably need their own, (2) side with AC and some tool storage, (3) side with kayaks, (4) front approach, (5) garage itself (probably looking in from outside, in case there is ever a problem when we left it open, and (6) front door area where our dog stays, mostly in case there is ever a "dog event". 
And I want decent details.   A 2+/- MP camera for each requires decent processing capability (and maybe more since they get better and cheaper all the time), and I've mixed things about both Blue Iris and Zoneminder, some saying they are highly efficient, and some saying the exact opposite.  So I expect the ability to motion analyze all these may be a limiting factor.  Am I going to be able to do that on a modest PC? 
And on a related note -- many of the cameras now seem to do their own motion analysis and alarm settings.  None of the DIY oriented software seems to rely on outsourcing the analysis to the cameras, which seems a natural progression.  Am I missing anything -- are camera processing routines just no good?   It seems a waste to be buying cameras with significant smarts, and then using them as little more than a A2D converter. 
Am I thinking about the right things?   Obviously camera choice will come into this, placement, illumination, etc.  Need to understand how Florida bugs and IR work together (we have strangely few, probably due to mosquito spray, but still... not zero).   Not suggesting I am done with questions. 
But am I right to focus on the processing if I may eventually have about half a dozen cameras? 
I read the software list in another topic and looked at each, these two are the only ones that jumped out -- maybe Sighthound but it's even more pricey and had eve more mixed reviews.  Others I should consider?   Am I right that Zoneminder seems a bit dated and buggy? 
Basically would appreciate any pointers or suggestions on approach to the whole problem.  Not looking for answers per so so much as whether I'm off in a grossly wrong direction.
pete_c said:
Have a look here
I actually did before I posted and browsed the last few commits in git, and I see action and clearly there are people working on it.  It's hard to tell from that whether it's cleanup and bugs or whether there is substantial new work?   I am more referring to the actual UI.  "Dated" is perhaps the wrong term, but I spent a huge number of clicks trying to get controls to work.  For example, the progress bar under a display never does anything on Chrome, and only works half the time in Firefox.  The ability to review events requires looking at this huge long scrolling list of frame numbers.  When playing them there are controls for how it displays them, but nothing seems to tie what is shown in video with what it is displaying.  
I haven't deleted the build yet (it's temporarily in a VM).  I really do prefer something open where if I want I can add my own hooks (I'd rather not need to, but knowing I can is a safety net of sorts).   I will spend some more time with it.
Can you speak to the performance aspect.  on a modest PC (I have one about 4 years old that was a top level CPU at the time) with new but rotating media (not SSD) keep up with a half dozen HD cameras? 
It's hard to tell from that whether it's cleanup and bugs or whether there is substantial new work?
It's everything.
You can mod the perl scripts in ZM to suit your fancy.
Personally here only utilize Firefox.  The base Firefox doesn't include the right settings for being able stream multiple IP HD stuff.
Install this client for use with ZM.  Thinking you can utilize it with Chrome too.  It's a one button configuration of your browser.
The more memory and faster CPU the better ZM will do with HD streams. 
That said just recently helped a UK person (well on staff) in a large university (he's a fixture these days) configure a RPi2 with an Axis Server for 4 SD streams for his own CCTV stuff.  He is a happy camper.
Well too there are really no more at work bottlenecks with his ISP connection these days.

A couple of years ago helped a bit with a CT user accessing his vacation home (in the mountains in CO) with HD IP cams via a very slow link.  It worked but not well.  There are mobile phone templates you can modify for cell phone use and today the current version of ZM has built in I-Dat stuff stuff called EyeZM.  You can stream OK with an LTE connection these days.  The bottleneck though will always be your ISP uploading speeds.  The math is getting closer these days.
Many folks do run ZM on VMs these days.  My personal preference here though and relating to HD stuff and multiple recording of same said is to keep the box separate.  That is me.  Today my MythTV box that records multiple live streams is on it's own box as well as ZM.  I am playing two two other ZM boxes these days; one using a fast AMD and another a fast Intel.  Both boxes have 16Gb of memory.
I wasn't planning to leave it on a VM, but rather dedicated hardware.  It's just a lot easier to experiment with a VM.
I've been going back and forth trying things on ZM and Blue Iris all morning.  Firefox works much better than others, and I tried the plugin mentioned.  Not sure if it made a difference or not, but I do notice now things like fps rates are actually shown instead of blank.
There are two things I have had no luck with.  one is finding a way in ZM to playback and select times with all camera views shown at the same time (or a select group).   Is there such?   I appear only to be able to do one camera at a time (and the darn timeline bar just doesn't work -- I click on a spot and the shaded area comes up to 3" to the left). 
The other is mobile support.  I tried the skin=mobile, but just had no luck.  For example, the montage doesn't display with two cameras (on my android, nor in firefox on my pc).   There's a lot of inconsistent (probably out of date) info in the wiki on whether there are purpose built mobile clients that actually work.  I tried two, one has a pro version not updated since 2012, the other I could not even get to run (on Android 4.4).  Are you using the standard interface for mobile (with the skin), or have you found a client?   (IOS or Android or other?)
I really want to like ZM.   But I'm a much better experience whenever I switch back to Blue Iris.  I'm going to also download Sighthound I think -- it's pretty pricey ($250 + $50/year) in comparison but at least want to see how well its people vs. other motion detection works.  Wish I could find someone who's done an objective comparison of performance (e.g. for a given PC how much can each reasonably process).
Blue Iris is a very nice Windows program.
one is finding a way in ZM to playback and select times with all camera views shown at the same time (or a select group).   Is there such?
Not built in.  That said somebody did write a script that takes the entire days events and make one little video. You can take the autonomous little videos and make one video if you want modifying the script.
There are two mobile clients / templates.  You can connect to them automatically based on your user settings.  I do not know which one it defaults to these days.  The montage thing is related to the cache pieces configured in firefox.  There is now a new wiki (or help document) based on the current version of ZM.  It is not a wiki though the person updating / maintaining ZM V128 and above is just updating the ZM document.
There is a ZMView application in the Google Play store.
I would say try them all and see what fits your needs. 
It your time and your money and your resources and you do want to be a happy camper eh?
Personally here it's been so long that I have used ZM don't really bother to look much as it fits my needs.  I have it checking for updates and its now been over a year and the updates all have worked fine for me.
I have gone to just using Grandstream IP HD cameras mostly and play with the Grandstream software and have the Grandstream DVR in a bot as I haven't looked at it yet (its been many months now).
Thanks, Pete, I had not run across that documentation wiki.  I did try the Android viewers, one worked OK (need to spend a bit more time with it, but it's the one not updated in the pro version since 2012). The other just plain wouldn't work. 
Maybe you should send me that box to open.   :huh:
I am not in a real hurry.  I have found software to let both the android devices (IP Webcam) and windows tablet (iSpy server) that let them emulate IP cameras, so I can at least experiment.  I suspect their workload is not representative as it's straight HTTP not something a smarter camera could use, but at least I can experiment with video and recognition side by side. 
I may take a break and pick at least one real camera just so I can start experimenting more seriously.  I also need a POE switch as nothing I have now is POE. 
I'm thinking of trying one from Hikvision, the DS-2CD2332-I, which right now is selling for $92 on Amazon.   It's got the IR a bit separate from the camera so no reflection from it directly, and I can experiment outside with IR and see how the bugs react here.  opinions welcomed.
Yup; take your time.  I had the Amazon Echo in a box for a couple of months and just stared at the monolith looking box for whatever reasons.
I do connect today to the IP cameras via ZM and other stuff to play with.  (software right now).
The cameras with the higher MP resolution do more relating to multitasking multiple streams. 
I am guessing right now but do think that the Grandstream NVR only works with Grandstream cameras.  It is reasonably priced on Amazon.
Well too that is the issue with CCTV NVRs with firmware....IE: they only work with said companies IP cameras which takes away from getting multiple vendor IP cameras.
Too if you look at the HTMLs / RTSP streams from different cameras the RTSP stream is the same but the GUI link is different as the OS is different.  Each mobile application has a unique configuration for whatever camera.  It's not really generic except for the RTSP / MPEG streaming.
There are bells and whistle little adds to the different cameras making them a bit unique.  IE: the Grandstream OS / base camera boards all have RTSP and MPEG streaming.  Still JPGs of whatever size you want.   Connectivity for USB SD cards.  Telephony.  The Grandstream camera boards all have an RTC / CMOS with a battery. 
Look at what you get with whatever camera you purchase.  I mean IP HD streaming is just that.   Just noticed here on the newest Grandstream OS a section for time lapse photography.  I was already sort of doing this via software but now its built in which is a nice feature.
Here originally started with smaller POE (8 port switches) cheap and not so cheap.  I really liked the smaller 8 port mid stream/regular Tycon POE injector / switch combos.  I then went to a 24 port Tycon midstream injector.  It is not a switch rather it's the pure meat of POE that you can manage. 
I can tell this is something you have to spend some time with to figure out what really works.   That's one reason I don't want to go by 8 cameras and a NVR in some big box and find I hate the whole thing.
Of course, the distressing part of all this is that it's June, I'm in Florida, and running Cat5 through the attic is not a very attractive thought.  Florida.  Summer.  Why didn't I start this is December. 
Anyone need to loose weight, want to sweat a bit?   I won't charge you for it -- much cheaper than hot yoga, and you have to twist and squeeze just as much in the same temperatures.   Most places make you pay big time to torture you like that!  Such a deal!
I have done similar in Florida adding a bit of wiring in the attic post build.  It's a PITA.  I prewired before the home was completed.  I though I had covered everything and I did not.  Originally I played a bit with the cameras just tacking them to the deck.  Mostly just to see if I liked them.
I haven't yet read the entire thread, but I am currently running BI with 4 cameras; I have installed it with as many as 6 with other installations, and plan for my own to grow to as many as 9.
I currently have all 4 cameras (1920x1080) recording 24/7, recording direct-to-disc, all running motion detection. My i7 processor is at about 25% currently. I have the machine in my utility room; I RDP to it for management, but otherwise view it via app (usually) or via browser from my LG smart TV. Anything with a browser should be able to at least pull up the .jpeg based HTML page. I MAY end up running a HDMI cable from the NVR to my MBR TV - still undecided at the moment, but also considering getting a HDMI splitter and branching that to my great room TV as well. With all LG TVs, and multiple category cables run to each, I have the capability to control them via RS232 (using the category conductors)... I've previously had our MBR TV automatically change input when the doorbell was rung (via Elk).
drvnbysound, that's encouraging.  I need to find the old PC I was considering and see exactly what's in it, but it may be simpler to get a new one as that one has a large chassis and I am struggling with finding placement.  But it is good to hear such resolution can be processed well. 
I spent some time last night with an interesting product called oDrive (from a company called Oxygen).  It's a way to link a windows folder to cloud storage, and is one of two ways I found to connect to Amazon Drive from these VMS systems.  It means I can just have BlueIris write to a folder, and that is immediately uploaded to Amazon Drive, which by being a Prime member gives me unlimited image storage for no extra cost.   in experiments last night with jpg captures, it was almost instant - I would watch the file get created, and almost as soon as it was there it was marked uploaded. 
While this won't directly work with linux, I can probably script in linux to do something similar if I use zoneminder.
I got through enough of Blue Iris last night to understand its alerts and am pretty sure I can make it do what I want there.  I wasn't able to test Axxon yet as it won't handle a generic IP camera (only brand/model specific).  I tried iSpy until I saw its subscription model (quite expensive now for the better features -- like email).  I briefly tried Sighthound, hoping for better image recognition, but didn't actually see it do much at all in terms of alerts.  This morning going to play a bit more with zoneimnder and the new documentation provided.
I spent some time last night with an interesting product called oDrive (from a company called Oxygen).  It's a way to link a windows folder to cloud storage, and is one of two ways I found to connect to Amazon Drive from these VMS systems.  It means I can just have BlueIris write to a folder, and that is immediately uploaded to Amazon Drive, which by being a Prime member gives me unlimited image storage for no extra cost.   in experiments last night with jpg captures, it was almost instant - I would watch the file get created, and almost as soon as it was there it was marked uploaded. 
While this won't directly work with linux, I can probably script in linux to do something similar if I use Zone Minder
Very nice.
Here have not taken much advantage of my Amazon Prime membership.
Many folks are very happy using BlueIris these days.
Here I am doing a hodgepodge with a new software Automation box running in Ubuntu 14.04 64 bit. 
I like Microsoft SAPI and Kinect stuff (well now too Amazon Echo) such that I have a Windows 32 bit mini VM running on the Ubuntu box talking automation to the Ubuntu mothership (same box).
I also have four Securifi automation products today connecting to the Amazon cloud stuff and the response times are excellent.  (and I am personally not really an automation cloud person here nor into using my telephone as a remote to my automation nor using wireless automation products nor using my wireless tablets just mostly sitting unless I am not home - but that is me).  Well I did give my parrot a 4.5" Android tablet to see what she would do with it in her cage a couple of years ago.  Both grandkids have their own tablets and netflix accounts today (< 3 right now).  By the time they are 4 they will know how to automate their environment with their tiny tablets.  Imagine what they could do having a temper tantrum and using automation.  I watched oldest have a temper tantrum last Sunday.  Funny that adults have different temper tantrums. The psychological origins seem similar though to an infant sometimes.
Relating to using the Kinect I purchased a new mini Atom Baytrail computer that runs Windows 8.1 lite.  The combo Kinect / Baytrail computer will be talking to the automation computer running on Ubuntu as I am only using the MS Kinect pieces those are inserted in the transport to the mothership.  Concurrent with the Kinect in house TTS/VR using MS SAPI for automation will be the Amazon Echo integration to my software. 
You could do similiar with Ubuntu / ZM and Blue Iris to test the two NVR applications rather than build separate autonomous VMs or use a separate box for running BI.  IE: the Wintel VM does talk to the Linux drive and vice versa with no issues.
BTW here I was always able to get ZM to work with any IP SD / HD camera such that I gravitated towards playing with the Grandstream OS on camera boards in the last few years.  I have bits and pieces today of a variety of these camera boards.  One of my endeavors here is to update my combo Optex cams to IP from analog. The design of these has never been matched to date.   They are very modular and the standards they used for the camera boards inside of them allow for an easy retrofit IPHD camera.  It's only been a few years now that these camera boards have shrunken down in size to fit though.  I have an early model IP HD camera (taken apart) and their are 3 stacked boards in it doing separate things.  They are though 38mm round in size though.
Checked out Oxygen Cloud - note that the name turned me OFF and I wasn't going to even look.

Oxygen Cloud's mission is to usher businesses into the cloud era and empower IT professionals to transform their companies. 
Cloud storage delivers better access, better security with zero management overhead. And with Oxygen, your storage never runs out. It's unlimited. Free yourself from the shackles of traditional storage limitations. We developed progressive sync so you can easily access as much as you need without any constraints.   We'll take care of your storage so you can focus on taking care of your business.
Really what makes this company different from any other start up doing the same?
pete_c said:
Checked out Oxygen Cloud - note that the name turned me OFF and I wasn't going to even look.

Really what makes this company different from any other start up doing the same?
I'm not using their cloud services at all (and I can't answer that question).  They happen to have only one of two companies I could find that would sync to it, and I just realized the other (Goodsync) was pressured by Amazon to remove the feature.  So at present, they are the only company that has a client that syncs that I can find.
It goes, as best I can tell, directly from my PC to Amazon Drive, their own cloud services do not play a role. 
They are also into enterprise systems, which have license fees, but (at least at the moment) oCloud as an individual client is free.
I wonder if Amazon will pressure them same as Goodsync.
As best I can tell Amazon has purposely made it difficult to upload files so you will have trouble using your "unlimited" storage. They had their own sync program and disabled it a while before announcing the unlimited feature.