Thursday, May 28, 2009

Video Surveillance - Part 2: The Cameras

Welcome Back. Last week we introduced you to CCTV and talked a little about DVR's. Today we will cover the basics on cameras and lenses. Choosing the right camera and lens for your installation can be one of, if not the most important aspect of your CCTV system. Do you want color? Black and White (B/W)? Does it need to be able to see at night? Dome? Bullet? Weatherproof? Wide angle? There's a huge list of things to consider when choosing your camera/lens combo.

Let's get right to it:
Dome -
Domes are a great all around camera. They can easily be mounted to the wall or ceiling and are very economically priced if your looking to keep the overall budget down. They are available in different colors so you can match it to the wall/ceiling your installing it on.

Pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras allow you to move the camera for a complete 360 degree view, while also allowing you to zoom in and out. This can all be done remotely, but typically cost 4 to 5 times as much than a standard fixed camera. These are best used with on-site security that can monitor them 24 hours a day.


Box cameras are a popular choice due to their ease of use. Easy to mount, easy to aim and easy to maintain, they are among the most popular cameras for any CCTV system.
Looking for something a little smaller and less noticeable? Bullet cameras are a perfect fit, whether your looking to fit it in a tight area or just don't want it to be as noticeable as some of the other larger cameras.
Infrared -
IR cameras are a great idea if there's any chance you might have to see at night, or in low-light situations. The IR illuminators automatically turn on once the lighting is below sufficient and can see in complete darkness. This Security Camera is a very popular IR camera that is weatherproof and compact, ideal for outdoor installations.
Covert -
Need the cameras to be completely hidden? There is a full line of covert cameras that can fit any application you might have. Many popular covert cameras include;
- Smoke Detectors
- Clocks
- Radios
- Sunglasses
- Stuffed Animals
- Pens
- Cleaning Supplies
- And much more

Lenses -

A smaller lens value will show a shorter viewing distance and a wide field of view. A larger lens value will allow for a longer viewing distance but a narrower field of view. Here's a CCTV Lens Calculator that can help you figure out exactly what you need. All you need to know is the viewing distance and the size of the area you want to see.

Be sure to check back later this week and catch Part 3 of this Video Surveillance guide. We will be going over the best way to set up a system at a Retail location.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Video Surveillance Introduction - Part 1

At A Glance
Security is a big concern nowadays, with many people fearing this recession will bring higher crime rates. How can you help to protect your home or business? A CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) system is a good start. Let Discount Low Voltage help you make the right decision on what's best for you.

Getting Started
A CCTV system consists of a DVR, cameras and a monitor. Connect these three components together with the correct wire (see Coax or UTP) and a power supply for a do-it-yourself CCTV system. It's that easy.

Let's Talk DVR's

Digital Video Recorders (DVR's) were a huge step forward in video surveillance. Before the introduction of DVR's, you were forced to use VCR's with time-lapse capability. You'd program them to record "x" amount of Frames Per Second (FPS); a lower frame rate allowing more video to fit onto a single VHS tape. Recording higher FPS on VHS can get expensive very quick. In addition, VCR's only record one channel of video. For multiple cameras, you had to connect them to a multiplexer, which split the screen into 4,9, or 16 segments. But that's all in the past now. Let's get back to the good stuff. DVR's are essentially computers that record video to hard drives. They cost much less than their equivalent in VHS and can record multiple cameras. Depending on how many FPS you have it set for, they can record for days, weeks, even months on end. Many even have DVD burners built in so you can record the footage onto a DVD and keep it for future reference.

Not sure how many FPS to record? 24 FPS is considered "real time", while even 12 FPS looks close to real time. Many security installers use 7.5 FPS as the standard recording rate. To get this number, we take the recording rate of the DVR and divide it by the number of cameras you want to use. For example, a 16 channel DVR with a recording rate of 120 FPS, means each camera will have 7.5 FPS (120/16=7.5). If you buy a DVR with a recording rate of 480 FPS, those 16 cameras now have a rate of 30 frames per second (480/16=30). This is going to look very clean and flow nicely when viewing. If you want to view the cameras from your computer, you will need a PC based DVR. This allows you to access the DVR remotely from any computer in the world.

Check back next week for part 2 of this 3 part article. We will cover camera options and what's best for your particular application

Monday, May 18, 2009

HDMI Cables - Featured Product of the Week

Discount Low Voltage certified High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable is the latest generation in audio/video connectivity. HDMI is the first and only industry-supported, uncompressed, all-digital audio/video interface. These version 1.3 cables can be used with HDTV's, DVR's, DVD players and gaming consoles.

What is Version 1.3?

- Higher speed: Although all previous versions of HDMI have had more than enough bandwidth to support all current HDTV formats, including full, uncompressed 1080p signals, HDMI 1.3 increases its single-link bandwidth to 340 MHz (10.2 Gbps) to support the demands of future HD display devices, such as higher resolutions, Deep Color and high frame rates. In addition, built into the HDMI 1.3 specification is the technical foundation that will let future versions of HDMI reach significantly higher speeds.

- Deep Color: HDMI 1.3 supports 10-bit, 12-bit and 16-bit (RGB or YCbCr) color depths, up from the 8-bit depths in previous versions of the HDMI specification, for stunning rendering of over one billion colors in unprecedented detail.

- Broader color space: HDMI 1.3 adds support for “x.v.Color™” (which is the consumer name describing the IEC 61966-2-4 xvYCC color standard), which removes current color space limitations and enables the display of any color viewable by the human eye.

- New HD lossless audio formats: In addition to HDMI’s current ability to support high-bandwidth uncompressed digital audio and all currently-available compressed formats (such as Dolby® Digital and DTS®), HDMI 1.3 adds additional support for new lossless compressed digital audio formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio™.

- Lip Sync: Because consumer electronics devices are using increasingly complex digital signal processing to enhance the clarity and detail of the content, synchronization of video and audio in user devices has become a greater challenge and could potentially require complex end-user adjustments. HDMI 1.3 incorporates automatic audio synching capabilities that allow devices to perform this synchronization automatically with total accuracy.

- New mini connector: With small portable devices such as HD camcorders and still cameras demanding seamless connectivity to HDTVs, HDMI 1.3 offers a new, smaller form factor connector option.

- Why buy your HDMI Cables from Discount Low That's simple. Because your getting the same thing you would find on the shelves of Best Buy for a fraction of the price. Don't be fooled into thinking you have to buy a $50 HDMI Cable to get High Definition. We Guarantee our cables to work just as good or your money back.

100% Satisfaction Guarantee

If your not completely satisfied with our HDMI cables, you can return it to us for a full refund of the product price - no questions asked.

Click the following link for our complete stock list of HDMI cables.

Through our many manufacturer contacts we have access to other types of audio and video cables that are not listed on this website. There are too many part numbers to list, but we can get you almost any type of HDMI, DVI, component video, audio cable, digital coaxial cable, toslink audio cable, and other types of RCA audio and video cables.

For more information and pricing on any of these, email us at

When you order this and other items from, you're benefiting from our combined 20+ years of vendor relationships, so you will be rewarded with great pricing and service on high quality products.

Friday, May 1, 2009

How to Fish Wires Through a Wall or Ceiling

Today were going to talk about how to fish wires through a wall or ceiling. If you have never done this before, it can be extremely irritating. If you need to snake wires often, it'll help to visit a new construction site, which will help you visualize what's behind the drywall and what problems you might run into. Throughout this article I'll show you some diagrams and pictures to better visualize what we are talking about, as well as give some key pointers to help you along the way.

To start off, here are some Quick Tips:

- 99% of the time, the roof line will run the opposite direction as the rafters
- Load bearing walls are more apt to have cats (wood braces) inside them that will prevent snaking a wall
- Outside walls will have insulation inside them
- For easier wire fishing, use the MagnePull

Now to the tools. There are some basic tools and materials you'll need for fishing wires. The first and most important is a FISH TAPE. Depending on the application, you'll want the tape to be 1/8" and around 50-100ft.

Some other items you'll need:

- Electrical Tape
- Flashlight
- Drill
- Wood spade bits
- Wire Staples
- Hammer
- Drywall Keyhole Saw
- Lineman's Pliers
- Wire Strippers

Note: You may not need everything listed here, this is just for general reference. It really depends on where you''ll be snaking the wire and what type of materials are involved.

So lets get started.

For this example, lets say your going to add a center light in a room where there is no light, but there is a switch that controls a receptacle. I'm going to assume we have an accessible attic above the room we are adding the light in.

These next two photos will help you get a better understanding for what your doing.

(Note: Before doing this next step, make sure you have turned off any electricity to this circuit. The fish tape is metal and can easily become energized by touching a wire or the switch).
First thing we need to do is open the switch and pull it out. When the switch is pulled out, you'll want to see if you need to push a knockout out in the back of the box on top. The idea here is you are going to go in the attic and drill into the plate above the switch so you can snake a wire down.

Before you go to the attic, you need to find a way you can find the top of the plate. If there are any A/C vents in the ceiling, that is the easiest way to get some measurements. If not, then look for something that goes through the ceiling that you can use as a reference point. If you can't find any way to locate the plate where you need to drill, a last resort is to stick a long thin screwdriver through the ceiling, directly above the switch. When you have your location in the attic and have found the top of the plate, you will need to drill a hole. I recommend a decent size hole. A 3/4" or 1" drill bit should do the trick.

Drill in the center of the plate and drill straight down. If your doing this with a friend, your ready to snake the wire.

Have your friend shine a light into the light box. Then from the attic you will be able to look down and see the hole you drilled. Now its just a matter of sending the snake down and guiding it through that hole. Once you do, your friend can tie the wire onto the snake and you can pull it up. When you have the wire in the attic, it should be an easy matter to run it over the the location you need.

If you are by yourself, here's a tip:

- Drill another hole next to the one you just drilled. It can be smaller, like 1/2". This will be a hole to shine your flashlight down.

So if you don't have anyone to help, shine your flashlight down the second hole and guide the snake through the hole in the switch box. You will have to then go down and attach the wire. It's important that you make a smooth nose on the snake since you will not want it to get hung up when pulling it from the attic. This part can go much smoother if you can get a helper for a few minutes. When using the steel fish tape to pull the wire from point to point, you may be tempted sometimes to just tape the wire on. DON'T DO IT!


- Do it right the first time

Sounds like a no brainer, right? A lot of people will be tempted to save time by cutting corners at this step. Imagine the frustration when your pulling the wire through successfully, only to have the fish tape half way through your pull. Attach it correctly. Below is an illustration of how this is done.

One last precaution to take is to tape the end of the fish tape and the wire your pulling with electrical tape. This will insure it doesn't get snagged on anything or come loose. Below is the illustration of how this is done.

What if there's no attic space above the area your working in? Your screwed.

Not really, but it does require more work. You will need to notch some drywall and know which way the studs or ceiling rafters are running. If the direction you need to go runs parallel to the beams, you'll be able to snake a wire in that direction very easily. If the beams are running in the opposite direction, this requires even more work. You'll need to cross the beams. The best way to do this is cut a strip of drywall out that is about 4" wide and the length you need to get to. After that, you can drill a hole in each stud and run the wire through the studs or ceiling joists. The illustration below shows what this should look like.

There may be times when cutting back and patching a big section of ceiling just isn't practical, such as an old plaster ceiling. Another option then, would be to make small notches and pass wire through each hole to pass around the stud. If you do this, you should also notch the beam so the wire is recessed or get metal plates to protect the wire. If the beam is notched, it must not be cut to deep as to affect the structures strength. The below illustration shows what this notching should look like.

In some cases you may have to notch around the studs or joists. The ceiling or wall would look like the illustration below.

If your not comfortable with one of these alternative, you can always run the wires along the wall and cover them with a Surface Raceway. They come in different sizes and are paintable to match whatever color wall you might have.

We hope this article was helpful and your wire fishing goes smoothly.

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Related Posts:
MagnePull - Use the Power of Magnets to Help Fish Wires