Video Surveillance With Linux?

Brandon Beattie brandon+plug at
Mon Apr 21 13:37:33 MDT 2008

On Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 01:01:43PM -0600, Kimball Larsen wrote:
> We are moving into a new building, and want to set up some video  
> surveillance both inside (in our warehouse) and outside (on the back  
> wall/property of the building).
> We purchased an all-inclusive solution from Costco:
> However, the web-based features of it ONLY run in IE, and require you  
> adjust your browser to accept unsigned active-x controls, etc.
> Plus, the power supply that came with the cameras was DOA, and the  
> interface is horrid.
> So, I'm hunting for a better solution.

If you're doing a "serious" security system you should hire it out.  If
you want something that's decent but requires normal tweaking and
monitoring like most OSS apps then you may want to take a look at
ZoneMinder.  It's an OSS surveillance system that does motion detection,
scoring, archiving, and many other features.  The downside is it takes a
little while to set up the "zones" and if you're monitoring outside
locations it can take weeks to get zones setup correctly so people will
trigger events but clouds passing over don't give false alarms.

Good cameras can be expensive if you need decent night vision distance
(50+ feet).  I've spent several hundred on a single camera to get the
540x720 resolution and great night clarity but if I had to do it over
again I would put in two lower cost cameras for half the cost.  Camera
quality does very greatly but try to find something around 480 lines of
verticle resolution, many cameras like the ones from costco area super
cheap 380 lines and the quality isn't great. Cameras with the Sony HID
chips are really good, sharp chips are okay (it's sometimes hard to find
out which chip cameras have).  

One of the most limiting factors in picking a camera will be the lens.
Most cheap cameras don't have a wide angle on them so design out how
you'll aim them before you buy the cameras.  Cameras with lens that can
be swapped usually start around $200 each.  

If you don't need the highest quality cameras you can go with super
cheap ones and it may work fine.  The higher cost cameras buy you
distance, clarity, color, and the ability to get wider angles so if 
you don't need those you can get away with cheaper cameras.  

As for security tuners, I bought my 16 port card from for
around $170.  They have cards anywhere from $40 for a 4 port and up.
(There's also a discount if you're a zoneminder user, so check
zoneminders web site)  The key thing to remember with stacking multiple
cameras on a card is multiple cameras use the same tuner chip so a 16
port tuner card that gets 120FPS can do 4 30fps cameras but if you say
had 8 cameras it will only get about 7-8fps, 12 cameras would be 3-5fps
and 16 cameras would be 2-4fps.  

Zoneminder does support network cameras like axis or other models (even
usb cameras).  The axis cameras have great picture and can get 640x480
or even up to 1024x768 video at 30fps per camera if you system is fast
enough to write for all your cameras.  Don't get the "no moving parts"
axis cameras if you're going to use with ZM, they require custom
software and the cameras run $1500 or so each with the outdoor

If you have any specific questions let me know.


> Here are basic requirements:
> 1) Provide a way to connect to at least 4 (more is better!) cameras  
> around our building.  We do not have cameras yet, so could purchase  
> whatever will work best.
> 2) Allow continuous or motion-activated recording on all camera  
> locations.
> 3) Web-based access to real-time footage as well as review of recorded  
> footage that will run in any browser - We mostly use Firefox on OS X  
> here.
> 4) Auto-rotate of video files, so that as the available disk space is  
> used up, it erases the oldest videos to free up space for future  
> recording.
> 5) Other spiffy ideas anyone can suggest?
> 6) Host it all on one of our linux servers.
> Further, I'll need a bit of an education on how the physical  
> connections are set up from cameras to software - ie, what plugs into  
> what and where?  What exactly do I need to buy?
> Thanks in advance for any input!
> - Kimball
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