Building a DIY Security Camera System

Design and install your security camera system to save money and ensure full security coverage. Don't worry - It's easier than you think! We're with you every step of the way.

  • Call EZWatch to find the correct components for your system.
  • Save hundreds of dollars in installation costs.
  • Get the latest in home security camera system technology.

 


Getting Started

By Ben Cornett - Last update January 28, 2015

Designing and installing a DIY Home Security Camera System is made easy with a little help from your supplier in selecting the correct components. This can also result in a superior system and saving lots of money when compared to an installation from a Home Security Company. And the savings keep getting better because there is never a monthly fee. The best suppliers, such as EZWatch, provide lifetime technical support by telephone and there is never a charge.

The system consists of a Digital Video Recorder (DVR), Security Cameras, Power supplies, and Cables and connectors. Our guide walks you through every step of the decision-making process and can help you build the best home security camera system, while staying on your budget. If you are not sure which components are best for your needs our well trained experts will be happy to assist you to insure you have everything you need to build the system you need. If you want to build your own security system, there are you few things you need to ask yourself:

  1. How many cameras will you need?
  2. Where will the cameras be placed?
  3. What is the distance, width, and depth you need to view with each camera?
  4. What viewing angles you need for coverage of areas you want to view?
  5. How many of those cameras will be indoor and how many will be outdoor?
  6. How far will you need to see with night vision, if any?
  7. How much cable will you need?  This distance will be determined by how far the cameras will be from the DVR. 
  8. How many days of recording do you want your DVR to store?
  9. Do you want Remote Viewing?  If so, then you will need to run an internet cable to the DVR or have the DVR located close to your internet Router.
  10. How close will I be placing my security cameras to my DVR?

Systems

There are 3 different complete camera systems you can choose from: Analog, IP or HD-SDI. Choosing a type of system depends on what you are looking for and what type of budget you are working with. When building your own DIY security camera system, keeping price low is a usually a big factor. We’ll help you do that by walking you through the features and benefits of different system types below.

Types of Complete Systems

Analog systems use an analog signal to broadcast the video signal directly back to the DVR using Coax cable, where the recordings are stored. Analog cameras are offered with various levels of resolution from 420TVL up to 700TVL (TVL = Horizontal Lines of resolution). The higher the resolution, the better the video image when viewing live. Recorded Video resolution is limited by the recording capability of the DVR and is usually limited to 480TVL. If budget is an issue, analog systems are usually the best option but are less than ideal quality-wise when compared to IP or HD-SDI Systems.

IP systems use a digital signal over Cat5 cable where the signal is broadcasted back through the network and then into a Network Video Recorder (NVR). IP systems are able to utilize Megapixel Resolution which offers a clearer picture than Analog systems. IP Security Cameras are substantially more expensive than analog and require at least some knowledge of IP Networks to properly install and maintain. Video quality is usually better than that of analog cameras, but it depends on the Megapixel rating of the cameras in question. Live viewing IP Cameras with less than 2 Megapixels will deliver footage at a resolution of 720P while IP Cameras with 2 Megapixels or more will deliver footage at a resolution of 1080P for live viewing. As with the analog systems, the playback of recorded video is limited by the NVR. Generally speaking, we don’t recommend IP Cameras for a DIY home security camera installations because of the up-front installation time and complexity.

If you are looking for the best video quality possible for both live and recorded surveillance footage, the only option is an HD-SDI System consisting of both HD-SDI Cameras and HD-SDI DVR. This system will provide real time 1080P Video (exactly like watching TV in high definition) and does not require any special knowledge of networks to install and maintain. HD Security Cameras can provide up to six times higher resolution than standard video cameras, giving you much clearer video quality on your home camera system. HD-SDI Systems are the state of the art and while the cost is more than the basic analog systems it is substantially less than a comparable IP System. The only downside is that, because of the much higher resolution these security cameras record at, they require about 3 times as much hard drive storage capacity as standard analog systems. When it comes to enterprise level security, the benefits far exceed the costs on an HD-SDI system and it will provide you with some of the the highest quality recordings that the surveillance industry currently offers.

Cameras

Resolution:
When choosing cameras, you have a few different resolution options available: 420, 550, and 700 TVL for analog cameras and 1080p (or greater) from IP or HD-SDI cameras.

Analog security cameras generally range from 420 to 700 lines of resolution and transmit analog video signals within a specified “closed circuit” area to a monitor for viewing from one location. They are generally the most cost effective security camera you can buy, but cannot deliver the outstanding 1080p resolution of cameras like HD-SDI security cameras.

IP Security Cameras typically range from 1.2 megapixels to produce a 720P image up to 2.1 megapixels to produce a 1080P image for live view.

HD-SDI Cameras from top suppliers output a full 1080P high definition output for both live viewing and playback of recorded video. 1080P requires 2.1 megapixels to produce images at 1980 X 1020 which is the best possible video quality you'll find in the industry today.

We are one of the very few companies that sell products with 1080 lines of resolution. Most companies max out around 720 lines of resolution. Our top-of-the-line HD-SDI DVRs and HD-SDI cameras record at 30 frames per second AND at a cinema-like resolution of 1080p—the highest ranking on any consumer DVR system you will find. Other Security Cameras and DVRs may boast that they record at 30 frames per second, but be aware—they don’t always do it at 1080p resolution, which means a noticeable drop in picture clarity. If identifying suspects, their facial features, and other potentially admissible evidence is important to you, we have the systems that can provide it.

To truly see the difference between analog systems and HD-SDI systems, one must look at the full picture. HD-SDI records at full 1080p, that is, a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. Most standard analog cameras record around 400-420TVL, or around 600x400. To see what a difference that makes in recorded video quality, check our video and comparison screenshots below. 

Analog Video vs 1080p HD-SDI Digital Comparison

Comparison of 420 Line Resolution Analog Video, 700 Line Analog Video, and 1080P HD SDI Digital Video from Security Camera Recordings


Camera Types:
There are several different types of security cameras to meet your needs in today’s market. The large majority of security cameras we sell come night-vision ready in both a dome and bullet option. The differences between these two are explained below. For more specific needs, there are also PTZ cameras, license plate recognition cameras, wide dynamic range cameras, IP cameras, and spy/hidden cameras.

Bullet cameras are typically used for outdoor surveillance, such as parking lot cameras and yard cameras. They are great for DIY home surveillance as they can be used indoors and have a wide viewing angle, to capture the best footage possible. They come in many shapes & sizes and will fit almost any application. Bullet cameras are designed to view farther than most Dome cameras and are usually both weather and vandal resistant.

Dome cameras are typically used for indoor and outdoor use, such as exits and entrances, doors, rooms and offices, and smaller areas. They are generally one of the “go-to’s” for DIY home surveillance systems as they usually come equipped with a narrow, yet focused, field of view for hallways and other others where you need to view big distances within a narrow space. Outdoor-ready dome cameras should always be weather-rated to withstand extreme temperature conditions at the install location, and should also come with night vision so you don't miss any critical details. We also recommend choosing outdoor security cameras that are waterproof and vandal resistant for maximum protection on your investment.

PTZ cameras have uses for all the above. PTZ stands for Pan Tilt Zoom. This function will allow you to have control of the camera, usually allowing for a 360 degree field of view, and be able to move the camera from the DVR or Remotely and have control of the camera at any time. Most PTZ cameras also come with preset cruising tracks so it automatically follows a set path you tell it to. Built-in motion detection technology will also detect any abnormal movement within the recorded picture and trigger an alarm that can be sent to your email/phone to alert you of intruders. 

License Plate Cameras have commercial as well as law enforcement applications. Many of these devices are programmed to capture license plate data from both parked and moving cars. This data may be stored, erased, or forwarded to third parties as needed. Many advanced LPR cameras can filter out blinding headlights and night and will always capture high quality images, even in inclement weather. If you need stringent monitoring of cars moving through your business property, a license plate security camera gives you exactly what you need.

Wide Dynamic Range Cameras have built-in technology which digitally creates a middle ground between the brightest and darkest areas within the camera's field of view. The enhanced color image is carefully balanced and transmitted to the digital video recorder assuring all areas within the field of view are perfectly exposed at all times. They are ideal for any environment that has large windows or glass doors such as office lobbies, convenience stores, and restaurants. They are also designed for areas that may be affected by bright bursts of light like elevators, stairway entrances, warehouse doors or parking garages.

IP Cameras use internet protocol to transmit video, making install a lot easier than standard security cameras. They also capture higher quality images than most analog cameras, usually between 720p and 1080p. As long as IP cameras are within 500-750 feet of the DVR the quality will be top notch. Whether your installation requires one or two cameras or hundreds, IP Cameras produce enhanced quality video, provide greater flexibility, and are easier to install than tradition analog cameras.

Hidden Cameras, also known as spy cameras or nanny cameras, can be placed in unexpected places so you can monitor the unfiltered behavior of employees, caretakers, or contractors. Our hidden camera offering ranges from pinhole cameras to self-contained cameras such as our covert tissue box camera. While no one likes to think their employees, caretakers, or contractors are misbehaving on the job, a strategically placed covert camera can be used to eliminate worry or provide proof of wrong doing. Hidden cameras are easy to install and come in a variety of styles and options that produce quality video so you can capture every moment while you are away.

DVRs

When protecting your home or business with a surveillance system, the data you collect is only as reliable as the system components. Security cameras are very reliable when installed properly, but another essential component to keep in mind is the surveillance recording method. There is little point in observing if you can't review the footage in a time of need. Security DVR systems are invaluable for this, allowing you to easily access your recorded footage across multiple cameras on your system.

There are four different types of DVRs.

DVR Types

  1. Standalone DVR -  This is the simplest and most trouble free. Basic functions of recording, live/remote viewing, motion detection, and playback footage.
  2. PC Based DVR -  This is a Custom Built PC tower with a Video Capture card and expanded Hard Drive.
  3. PCI Video Capture Card -  A card that you insert into your PC tower which transforms your own computer into a DVR.
  4. HD-SDI DVR -  When only the best will do you should select a HD-SDI and HD-SDI Cameras to build the best system possible.

Most DVRs are available as 4, 8 or 16 channel systems and support one camera per channel. PC Based DVR's can be custom built as high as a 48 camera system. If you’re building a DIY surveillance system for a large business, warehouse, or distribution center, PC DVR’s offer amazing upgradability down the road if you ever need to expand your number of security cameras. Be sure to keep this in mind when building a custom security system for your home or business.

Storage capacity for recorded video is important. You need to determine how long you wish to save recorded video to determine how much Hard Drive Storage you will need. Our DVR Storage Calculator can help you do just that. Just choose options from the drop-downs on the system you are looking at and get a quick, accurate estimate of how much hard drive space will be needed. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend starting with 1TB hard drive for 1, 2, and 4 camera systems and a 2TB hard drive for more than 4 cameras.

Cables & Connectors

Pre-Made Video and Power CablesHaving selected your system type, security cameras, and DVR, all that's left is to determine what wiring and accessories you will need to get your DIY security camera system up and running.

For small installations, or for those who don't feel comfortable with running and terminating bulk cabling, we generally recommend pre-made video and power cables. These pre-made cables are available in three lengths (25ft, 65ft, & 100ft) and are a plug-and-play solution for getting your security cameras powered and transmitting video to your DVR.

If you are dealing with a very large security camera installation where these pre-made cable lengths will not suffice, check out our Wiring Guide for Bulk Cable and Custom Cable Lengths. Our guide will walk you through the steps of using bulk wiring to install several security cameras at your home or business.

Need help piecing together your DIY Security System?

We hope you found our article very informative and helpful while researching how to build your own DIY security system. If you're interested in having us price out a custom security system tailored exactly to your needs, just enter your email below. As a special thank you, we'll even give you 17% off our normal prices.

About Ben Cornett

Ben Cornett - CEO of EZWatch

Ben Cornett, CEO of EZWatch, is an expert in security camera systems and video surveillance. Ben is recognized as a leader in the security industry and has spent his career growing businesses and greatly contributing to their achievements. Prior to joining EZWatch, Ben served as President of Honeywell Security Group for over 7 years, a $3 billion entity in the security industry. Ben also worked over five years with ADEMCO Group from 1995 to 2000, serving as Executive Vice President of Sales and as President later in his tenure.