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CCTV Consultant, Lambert & Associates

Author Bio ▼

Simon gained a degree in Physics and Electronics; always immersed in a technical career. Elected a Director of the Association of Security Consultants for 12 years, he is also a member of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (formerly IEE) and an accredited Assessor for the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) on CCTV and related security systems. He is Technical Lead on the CCTV National Standards Forum and sits on the British Standards Institution CCTV committee. As an Engineer with 27 years’ experience in commercial, military & security systems design, including technical sales for large and small security systems companies, Simon’s work focuses on surveying, design, cost estimating, specifications, tender processes and managing projects. In addition, he has provided expert witness services in CCTV and forensic analysis of video and audio recordings. Simon has developed 3D graphics techniques and software for the CCTV industry, as well as accepting speaking invitations for conferences, television and radio, with many commissions to create articles and graphics for industry periodicals. In 2005 and 2011 he entered the Security Excellence Awards and was a finalist in the ‘Best Security Consultant’ category.
May 28, 2015


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CCTV guide

CCTV Standard: BS EN 50132-7:2012 Demystified

Sixty-three pages of ‘Application Guidelines’ probably don’t sound too riveting.

More palatable, I hope, is this short summary I’ve put together; but why bother when you think you’re already doing the job right?

Installers don’t want customers complaining. Sales people want to win business. CCTV owners want to choose the right professional service. Consultants don’t want to risk criticism or accusations of negligence.

Each is so much better when your work agrees with international CCTV standards. So here is a bit-sized look at the best foundation: British and European 50132 part 7, with major update in 2012, “CCTV surveillance systems for use in security applications.”

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Its scope is pretty much ‘from soup to nuts’ and covers the selection, planning, installation, commissioning, testing and maintaining of CCTV for security. Its recommendations and requirements provide a framework for installers, customers and users to establish their needs.

After then assisting in selecting appropriate equipment, crucially, it helps evaluate the CCTV’s performance, thus addressing that common bone of contention.

cctv facesOperational Requirement (OR)

Summarising BS EN 50132-7, the procedure for implementing a CCTV system begins with a risk assessment, considering threats, likelihood and impact. Then an Operational Requirement (OR) formally records the justifications and purpose of CCTV, along with a site survey.

This feeds the system design including fields-of-view, detector coverage, controls, power, interconnections, etc. A test plan allows the installation’s fitness for purpose to be proven. All must be documented for the CCTV owner. So let’s briefly look at each step.

‘Operational Requirements’ is a vitally important document, describing what the customer expect the CCTV to do. It covers basic objectives and functions, legislative limitations, surveillance areas, then target types, speed, level of details (live & recorded) and detectors.

Performance, accuracy, operating hours, environmental conditions, resilience to failing parts, monitoring where by who, routines, alarms, responses, speed, workload, automation, training, data retention and procedures, remote sites, image export, plus any special factors.

Equipment selection should then meet the Operational Requirement! Cameras with sufficient image resolution, light sensitivity, signal/noise, fast shutter, PTZ rotation speed, presets, masking, etc. Housings to suit the environment. Lenses with best aperture for lighting conditions, clarity, zoom range, etc.

Their field-of-view affects level of detail: identification, observation, etc, (see earlier article: CCTV Guide – Setting your Objectives and Requirements). Don’t overlook problems from foliage growth, signage, bright lights, reflections, sun glare, etc.

Of course, scene lighting is vital: spectrum, scene/object reflectance, triggering, maintenance, mounting location, safety, direction, contrast ratio, weather, glare, etc. Tamper protection includes height, fixings, interconnections, automatic alarms from blinding, signal loss and changed field-of-view. Don’t forget to also protect controls and recording. Integration with other systems should be a detailed part of the OR too.

Display the images properly to meet the Operational Requirement. What level of detail must be conveyed as images, text or symbols? The screen size and its resolution, listed in a table of examples, govern the distance at which it is viewed. Brightness and contrast should suit the surrounding environment to avoid eye strain.

Transmission includes video, data and control signals. Classes of IP video performance are listed, plus interoperability methods preferred for IP systems. Wireless link options are briefly tabled but reflect 2012 when it was compiled.

Bandwidth, latency and delay

The importance of bandwidth, latency or delay, jitter or delay variation, packet loss and redundancy in IP transmission are outlined. However, details are recommended from sister publication EN 50132 part 5 “Video transmission”.

Video performance should be dictated by the Operational Requirement, and not the system’s storage limitations. Compression effects on image quality should be tested: live, recorded and exported at a resolution that meets its purpose. Each camera’s frame rates should meet the OR regarding activity in the field-of-view, even when alarm triggered, also if observed by operators. Annex D lists preferable frame rates in numerous common scenes.

Storage of video date must meet the OR, as you would expect having read this far now and spotted the thread running through. Simple calculations use multiplication of frame size (kilobytes) by frames/sec by operational hours by retention period by cameras for total data. IP streams are not illustrated. MJPEG could be likewise deduced but the effects of inter-frame compression, e.g. H.264, are acknowledged as requiring supplier’s advice.

Recorded video shall comply with standard formats (as of 2012) with publicly available playback tools and time, date and camera ID embedded. Tamper detection methods are ok but encryption disallowed.

Enhancement tools leave the recording unchanged. Export shall be in native format, with playback tools, onto media practical for the data amount. Playback shall offer all usual ‘VCR’ controls, correct image size, time/date search, stills export, multi-camera synchronization, export to common file formats, and use on standard Windows computer.

cctv spectrum

The Home Office camera test card

Control rooms

Control rooms for live CCTV viewing must consider the number, purpose, size and distance of each image for operators. The table here smacks of PAL CRTs with modern screens described in the earlier ‘Displays’ section.

The number of operators and workload factors are: risk of missing an event, purpose of viewing, type of activity and targets, response, frequency, peak demand, viewing duration, other tasks and training/competence. Goods ergonomics, comfort, power protection and security are important.

The test plan helps every party by supporting acceptance of the CCTV. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) should be written alongside the OR. Technical Acceptance Testing checks images along the chain for quality, frame rate, etc. Test day and night where required. The Annexes contain methods and test images for contrast, resolution, colour, facial identification (UK Home Office approved) and vehicle licence plate.

Documentation from the pre-installation phase shall include: the Risk Assessment that justified CCTV, the Operational Requirement giving the purpose and benchmarks for the CCTV, the Design Specification, the Site Plan and Test Plan. These set everyone up to succeed from the start. That way, the bill gets paid without a fuss.

Installation and commissioning suggests a Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) if there is customization, discovering non-conformities and giving hands-on training before delivery. Certificates of conformance to the appropriate standards shall be issued.

After passing a full UAT (User Acceptance Test) and sufficient user training the CCTV is considered commissioned, compliant with the Operational Requirements, and the owner signs a formal acceptance document.

Final documentation for handover of the CCTV shall be accurate, complete and unambiguous, including details on installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance, recommended spares, plus any changes made to the original plans.

Drawings shall show equipment locations and system interconnections. Include also: test results, UAT reference images, certificates, compliance with legislation, user manuals, login credentials, interface details, training materials and maintenance contract and schedule.

Maintenance service agreements require companies to have sufficient trained CCTV technicians. Corrective maintenance demands timely arrival on site, diagnostics, repair or replacement, report and customer sign-off.

Preventative maintenance visual inspections include: compliance with specification (as amended), lamps, labels, cables & containment, mounts & fixings, enclosure seals. Functional checks include: picture quality, lighting, displays, recording, readjustment, automatic/remote controls and interfaces.

Put simply, the CCTV should continue to meet the Operational Requirements.

Acceptable video formats 

The Standard concludes with some informative Annex sections. The first, Annex A, lists acceptable video formats according to sister document EN 50132-5 “Video Transmission” whilst others are acceptable. The list is: H.264, H.263, MPEG-4 part 2, and MPEG-2 for video and for still images: JPEG 2000 and JPEG.

Test protocols for CCTV targets are in Annex B for images designed to identify people and vehicles. Two human face targets (from nine in UK Home Office standard) according to the Operational Requirement are viewed by an operator under normal conditions, both live and recorded, in motion if necessary. Similarly, for vehicle plates. Correct identification scores points according to the stated rules and the test is a ‘pass’ if the score is high enough.

Test method of image quality is in Annex C. The A3-sized test target is from the UK Home Office. Placed according to the Operational Requirement it is viewed under normal conditions both live and recorded. An image’s level of detail is shown by the distinguishable chart features according to their size. Colour rendition can be judged, along with contrast over black to white greyscale steps.

A useful guide to specifying CCTV parameters is in Annex D where a simple table lists typical locations and activities likely to warrant CCTV. Suggested are target details (Identify, Recognise, Observe) to achieve. These are given for each of the risk categories of high, medium and low, along with frame rate, e.g. 6fps, 12.5fps, etc. This helps both owners and installers make better informed choices.

Testing operators’ visual detection of a person in response to an alert is described in Annex E. It assesses the speed of the task, false and nuisance targets, acceptable delay, PTZ searches, observer prompts, test design, target camouflage, moving targets, test conditions, ‘live’ circumstances plus a results table. The Operational Requirement shall define success criteria.

The final page is bibliography, citing CCTV, installation, testing, IT, earthing, integrated systems, lightning protection and risk management resources.

Putting 63 pages of dense CCTV practice into this summary forces it to appear as a protracted checklist. You’ll really need to read the original to benefit properly. So, if this piece prompts you to read more, when otherwise you had no intention at all, then both you and your CCTV projects will be much better off.


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May 16, 2016 2:05 pm

I am this field for since 6 year.But here in KSA we dont much care about OR because the government have no clear security standards.Any way the article was very informative even though  it seems quite difficult to implement.