CCTV Glossary

Here you will find a list of common CCTV terms with as little techno-babble as possible. Educate yourself so when the time comes for you to install a CCTV system, you will make a smarter decision for your particular home or business needs. In other words, your eyes won’t glaze over while looking online or some slick salesman talks you into something you don’t want, need or doesn’t work the way you were promised (this happens more than you think). You’ll be better informed and armed with valuable information that will save you a lot of time, confusion, stress and keep you from wasting a lot of your money.

4K- 4K Ultra High Definition, UHD 4K, Ultra 4K. 4K refers to a display device or content having horizontal resolution on the order of 4,000 pixels. Just like 1080p before it, 4K technology came from the TV broadcast industry. Right now, 4K cameras are not ideal for use in poorly lit areas where they are less sensitive than 1 or 2MP cameras. However, recent improvements in CMOS sensor (see below) technology has improved sensitivity for all MP cameras, making 4K far more effective in low light than it was. 4K uses 8MP (3840×2160) and 12MP (4000×3000) cameras and delivers exceptional scene coverage, clarity and detail, with four times the resolution of 1080p hi-def. Cameras are now starting around $500.00.

960H- 960×480. This is the highest resolution that standard/analog CCTV can record and the resolution/pixel dimensions are 34% larger than D1. 960H Effio CCD cameras (700 TV lines) and 960H DVRs must be used together to record and view this higher resolution format. Can be used on existing coax cable so upgrades from standard CCTV systems are much easier and affordable. Can be referred to as WD1 (wide D1).

1080p- I wanted to mention this because you see this everywhere: flat screens for your home, PC, Blu-Ray discs and in digital video surveillance products. Just know that 1080p (1920×1080 progressive scan) is the standard for all true hi-def display technologies. If your CCTV system boasts 1080p recording, playback, real time view, etc then this is hi-def.

ASC- Auto Signal Compensation. Applies to the new HD-CVI format (see below). One of the many exciting innovations of HD-CVI is the ability to run long lengths of video cable (over 1500 ft) which would easily lend itself to all kinds of interference and noise, etc. Well, simply put, ASC does not allow that to happen and is a very important consideration to have in place when dealing with cable runs over ¼ mile in length.

AHD- Analog High Definition. Developed by Korean chip-set manufacturer NextChip, AHD is able to deliver uncompressed 720p and 1080p high-def video over coaxial cable up to 1600 feet! AHD is similar in concept to CVI ad TVI (below). AHD, like HD-TVI is a open source platform that allows many manufacturers to produce AHD products. Buy from reputable companies only.

Amazon- You’ve heard of the GIANT online retailer Amazon that sells everything, including CCTV products. The problem with this is that many of these products may be bootlegs, knock-offs and a lot are unbranded no-name items. Reputable companies warn about buying CCTV products on these sites and will refuse to offer warranty protection unless bought from an authorized installer or re-seller. Be careful if you must by your CCTV products from Amazon.

Auto Iris- A lens in which the aperture automatically opens or closes to maintain proper light levels.

Bullet Camera- A camera with a round, tube-like shape. These cameras can range in size from a tube of lipstick to can of soda. There are indoor and outdoor designs and some come with infrared features.

CCD- CCD stands for “charge-coupled device”. First invented in the 1970s, this technology uses a shift register combined with photodiodes to create the modern day imaging device. The size of the CCD chip is normally 1/4″, 1/3″ or 1/2″. As a rule of thumb, the larger the size, the higher the quality of the image and the higher the price. However some of the higher density 1/4″ and 1/3″ CCD chips can now produce as good an image as many of the 1/3″ or 1/2″ chips.

CCTV- Closed Circuit Television. Simply put, this means that the video (cameras) is on a closed circuit-it goes to one place only (the DVR) and is viewed by one person or authorized persons. In contrast, broadcast TV, for example, is “open” and the video being shot is blasted out to a million people. Think of a live news program. Technically speaking, CCTV today really refers to analog (D1, 960H) video surveillance systems but I use it to refer to any and all video surveillance systems (IP, HD-CVI, 4K, etc) and companies and you should, too.

CMOS- Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor. CMOS refers to both a particular style of digital circuitry design and the family of processes used to implement that circuitry on integrated circuits (chips). CMOS circuitry dissipates less power than logic families with resistive loads. Did you get all that? CMOS chips are used today in the image sensors in CCTV cameras and replacing CCD (see above) chips as the norm because they are cheaper to produce. The most important thing to know about CMOS chips is that they are showing up more and more (i.e. a lot) in CCTV cameras and they require less power to operate (300-400 mA) which means that smaller power supplies can be used (less than 1 amp per camera).

D1- 704×480. Used to be the norm. Good quality recording and playback if done right. Anything less than D1 is really a waste of time. D1 (a.k.a. “analog”) is still popular today but a lot of companies will claim full (30 fps) D1 recording but you are really getting VHS quality CIF recording or a reduced, yet useable, D1@7 fps. Resolution maxes out at about 600 TV lines.

Dahua Technology- Dahua Technology Co., Ltd. is the world’s 2nd largest video surveillance provider. Dahua was the first company in China to launch an 8-channel real-time embedded digital video recorder in 2001. That’s a big deal. Investing nearly 10% of sales revenue every year, Dahua has a more than 2000 engineers in their R&D team and owns 442 patents, including 20 owned invention patents. Dahua has offices or sales representatives in Asia, the Americas, Europe, Oceania, Africa and others. In the fall of 2012, they released HD-CVI systems (see below).

DH-Vision- U.S. based company with offices in Maryland and New York. DH-Vision offers HD-CVI and IP products only to authorized resellers and installers. They manufacture their own HD-CVI cameras overseas claiming to be as good if not better than the leading brand. DH-Vision is known for their 3 yr. warranty coverage on all products sold.

Dome Camera- A camera with a dome-like shape usually mounted on ceilings and walls. They are very unobtrusive and some come with infrared lighting and weather and vandal proof designs.

DVR- Digital video recorder. Similar to a computer in that it has a HD, software and GUI and mouse, it converts the incoming analog signals from video cameras to digital, compresses it, and stores it on the HD. The DVR replaces the function of a multiplexer (or quad or switcher) and a time-lapse analog VCR. The advantages of a DVR over VCRs include remote view internet capability, burning video to CD-R or DVD-R and not wasting hours locating footage.

Ebay- Like Amazon above (maybe worse), Ebay offers the same bootlegs, knock-offs and unbranded CCTV products (why did you think you were getting such a “good deal?”). Here as with most online sites, CCTV manufacturers warn against buying these products and will refuse to offer warranty protection. Only after you have a problem or need support will you realize that it’s too late and you got scammed and ripped off. It’s real simple: do business with an authorized re-seller or installer and stop being a cheapskate.

fps- Frames per second. For CCTV this refers to the number of video images that can be recorded and/or displayed in one second. Also referred to as the “frame rate” or “refresh rate”, 30 fps is considered “real time” and uses more HD space.

Firmware- Firmware is like a small software update or codec, that is installed, for example, on your DVR if it develops a problem. A DVR or NVR is an embedded electrical device (like a Smartphone, iPad, cable box, etc.) and may need a firmware update from time-to-time. You can only get a firmware update from your authorized installer or re-seller (not so much on Amazon, Ebay, Aliexpress, etc).

GB- Gigabyte. Digital info is stored in binary code, or lots and lots of 0’s and 1’s. All CDs, DVDs, digital cameras and digital video surveillance is stored this way. Eight (8) 0’s and 1’s make a byte. 1 Gb = 8 billion bits of information. Hard disc drives in PCs and DVRs usually express size in gigabytes (250GB, 320GB, 500GB) and terabytes (see below).

H.264- MPEG-4 Part 10. This is one of the most commonly used codecs (computer program) for recording, compressing and distributing video as in Blu Ray DVDs and videos on YouTube. As far as CCTV is concerned, this allows the recorded video files to be compressed onto the HD to save space, but without losing quality for later viewing.

H.265- High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). New compression algorithm to replace H.264 (above). HEVC offers about double the data compression ratio of H.264 at the same level of video quality, or substantially improved video quality at the same bit rate. It supports resolutions up to 8192×4320, including 8K UHD. So, as CCTV cameras ad DVR/NVRs adopt higher resolutions, a new compression standard is needed. H.265 looks like it is.

Hangzhou Jufeng Technology Co., Ltd- One of China’s top 3 leading video surveillance solution providers, headquartered in Hangzhou, China. Established in 2008, Jufeng is focused on research and development, sales, service and production of high quality, low cost video surveillance products.

Hikvision- Hikvision Digital Technology Co., Ltd. (pronounced “hick”) is the world’s largest supplier of video surveillance products and solutions. Established in 2001, Hikvision employs over 13,000 employees, including a R&D staff of more than 7,000 and has expanded to a globally covering the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, as well as joint ventures in India and Russia and a maintenance center in Hong Kong. In the Fall of 2014, Hikvision introduced HD-TVI systems (see below). Hikvision is headquartered in Hangzhou, China.

HD or HDD- Hard drive/hard disc drive. Identical to a PC, this is where all surveillance footage is stored on a DVR. HDs come in different sizes measured in either megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes and you want (1) to get a HD for surveillance use and (2) one recommended by the DVR/NVR manufacturer.

HD-CVI- High Definition Composite Video Interface. 720p (1280×720) and 1080p (1920×1080) standards. This revolutionary technology allows users to send uncompressed, high-resolution video over coaxial cable–up to 1600 feet! A CVI DVR must be used with CVI cameras (720p would use 1-1.3 MP cameras, 1080p would use 2-2.4MP cameras). These hi-def formats can be less costly and easier to install and maintain than IP systems.

HD-SDI- High Definition Serial Digital Interface. 1080p (1920 x 1080). Ever heard of BETA? HD-SDI CCTV cameras and DVRs were capable of hi-def 1080p resolution. The SDI technology behind HD-SDI CCTV cameras was the same as the video cameras that capture video footage for “high def” movies and TV. This platform was great for those with existing CCTV systems because you didn’t have to replace your existing coax cable to upgrade to HD-SDI. Excellent video quality but never really got a strong mass market. Gone, finished, his-tor-ree.

HD-TVI- High Definition Transport Video Interface. 720p (1280×720) and 1080p (1920×1080) standards. This revolutionary technology allows users to send uncompressed, high-resolution video over coaxial cable–up to 1600 feet! A TVI DVR must be used with TVI cameras. HD-TVI and HD-CVI (above) are basically the same concept. The only real “problem” with TVI is that it is licensed out (open source) to many manufacturers so the quality varies. Only buy HD-TVI products from reputable companies.

HD-XVI Camera- A new development (2016) in hi-def over coax solutions. An XVI camera is an analog hi-def dome or bullet camera capable of recording and displaying 4 different analog CCTV formats (all by the flick of a switch). These include HD-CVI, HD-TVI, AHD and analog. Also known as an “4-in-1 camera” these are designed to cover any DVR format and/or hi-def over coax set ups.

HD-XVI XVR- A new development (2016) in hi-def over coax solutions. An HD-XVI XVR is capable of recording and displaying 4 different analog CCTV formats. These include HD-CVI, HD-TVI, AHD and analog. Also known as an “4-in-1 DVR” these are designed to cover any hi-def over coax camera formats and/or set ups.

IK Ratings- For CCTV cameras, this is the vandal resistant rating (IK) code. It is an international standard for defining levels of resistance for a security camera’s housing in regards to the protection it offers the camera’s mechanical and electronic components. A very common rating for vandal-proof cameras is IK10 which allows for protection from a 5Kg object dropped from 40cm.

IP- 720p (1280×720) and 1080p (1920×1080) standards. IP cameras (also called “network cameras”) are most often used for video surveillance which is a digitized and networked version of CCTV. IP cameras and systems are very popular and can give absolutely stunning results if done correctly. IP cameras (with or without an NVR) must be set up over a network to view. Camera resolutions range from 1 to 5MP. But please remember: higher (more pixels) resolution does not always mean you will get a better (more detailed) image. It all depends on the quality of the camera, image sensor and lens, for example. Can be troublesome and costly, but many people swear by IP systems.

IP Ratings- Ingress Protection. The IP rating is a simple code that covers a range of international standards for enclosures and electrical equipment to indicate their suitability for installation in different indoor and outdoor environments. The IP rating tells you how resistant the equipment is to dust and liquids. IP66 and IP67 ratings are widely used on indoor/outdoor cameras and means they are “weatherproof.” An IP68 rating, for example, would mean the camera could stand full immersion in liquids.

ISO 9000- International Organization for Standardization, is a series of standards, developed and published by the ISO that define, establish, and maintain an effective quality assurance system for manufacturing and service industries. The ISO 9000 standard is the most widely known and has perhaps had the most impact of the 13,000 standards published by the ISO. It serves many different industries and organizations as a guide to quality products, service, and management.

IR- Infrared. Infrared cameras (a.k.a. night vision cameras) have special infrared lights (LEDs) installed around the camera lens. This provides special light that the camera uses to capture a good picture in the dark by providing IR light only visible to the CCTV camera and invisible to everyone else. IR illumination can work well even at ranges over 1000 ft. Very common on CCTV cameras today and they look cool at night.

Lux- The amount of light needed for a camera to capture a good image. Infrared cameras usually have very low lux ratings. The smaller the number, the less light is needed. A 0.0001, for example, lux rating would “see” in complete darkness.

MP- Megapixel. Digital images are made up of thousands of tiny, tile-like picture elements. The more pixels, the higher the image resolution should be. This depends on the quality of the CCD sensor, lens, camera, etc. 1MP (megapixel) is one million tiny colored dots in an image, 2MP is two million and so on.

Motion Detection- The software feature in DVRs to only record video if something moves or changes. Because of this, you don’t have to look through hours of recorded video. It also saves space on the hard drive. With higher MP cameras (which translates to more pixels) the motion detection on today’s DVRs is more sensitive. The light change on a single pixel (1 in a million, 1 in 5 million, etc) can trigger motion detection recording.

NVR- Network Video Recorder. Used with IP cameras. The easiest definition is that this is like a DVR (above) in that it looks like a DVR and acts like a DVR and can even have a hard drive like a DVR, but, is not a DVR. Unlike a DVR, an NVR does not need to be in the same area as the cabling of your cameras but can be, well, anywhere as long as it is on the same LAN (local area network) as the IP cameras. Video is encoded and processed at the camera, then streamed to the NVR for storage or viewing/remote viewing. Hybrid NVRs use both IP and CCTV cameras and this allows for easy upgrading from the later to the former.

Network Switch- a.k.a. “Ethernet switch”, “switching hub”, “bridging hub”, etc. Briefly, a network switch is a device that electrically and logically connects together other devices, such as IP cameras and NVRs over a local area network (LAN). Think of a network switch as a fancy router. You might add one of these to your IP camera system if you did not have PoE (see below).

ONVIF- Open Network Video Interface Forum. ONVIF is an organization started in 2008 by Axis Communications, Bosch Security Systems and Sony. This is a global and open standard for how IP products can communicate with each other. There are several different “profiles” (S, C, G, Q) and the most common is ONVIF Profile S. This addresses common functionalities of IP video systems, such as video and audio streaming and PTZ controls, for example. In a nutshell, if you see the ONVIF logo on an IP camera and NVR from different manufacturers, they will work together.

Outdoor Camera- “Indoor/Outdoor camera”, “weather-proof camera”, etc. Cameras in special weatherproof housings that allow them to function in tough weather and temperature conditions. A best bet, if outdoor cameras are needed, is to go with a camera that has an IP rating (see above).

Pentabrid XVR- A new development (late 2016) in hi-def over coax solutions. A Pentabrid XVI is capable of recording and displaying 5 different CCTV formats. These include HD-CVI, HD-TVI, AHD, IP and analog. Pentabrids can handle every CCTV format known to man and will replace Tribrid DVRs (below).

PoE- Power over Ethernet (IEEE 802.3af-2003 standard). Several standardized systems which pass electrical power along with data over Cat5/Cat 6 cable. This allows a single cable to provide both data and electrical power to devices such as IP cameras. The easiest and most popular way to do this is to connect the Cat5/Cat 6 cable from the camera to an NVR that has built-in PoE ports. PoE allows for 15.4 watts of DC power.

PoE plus- PoE+ (IEEE 802.3at-2009 standard). Same as above, but allows 25.5 watts DC of power.

Power Supply- In this instance, the power supply refers to the wall mounted unit that powers all cameras. 12V DC ad 24V DC models.

Progressive Scan- For video surveillance, the main advantage of progressive scan is that motion appears smoother and more realistic. It is also a way of displaying, storing or transmitting moving images in which all the lines of each frame are drawn in sequence (different from “interlaced video”). Progressive scan produces a higher quality video frame every time, because it is using every line of the recorded image.

PTZ Camera- Pan/Tilt/Zoom. PTZ cameras allow panning (side-to-side), tilting (up-and-down) and zooming (move in/out) the camera body and lens using a remote controller. Due to the features, they cost more than non-PTZ cameras and are used outside to cover large areas (mall parking lots) but are great for large inside areas, too. You see those domes hanging over the edge of a department store or hospital building? That’s a PTZ camera.

Remote View- Viewing your system (live or recorded files) over the Internet, your iPad or Smartphone. You must have an Internet connection at the same location of your system to do all this and this is a standard function on all modern CCTV systems.

Real Time- (see above fps). Real simple: “real time” means 30 fps. Be careful on what you’re buying. “Real time” may only apply to the live view and not the actual camera recording. This is important if you need 30fps recording on all channels.

RG 59 Cable/Siamese Cable- This type of cable combines the power and video cable. The RG59 Siamese video cable can be run reliably up to 300 ft. (I’ve done 1000ft. with analog but I wouldn’t recommend it). Made of a copper center conductor insulated with Teflon surrounded by copper braided shielding all protected by an outer rubber jacket. Only use 100% copper cable.

Shenzhen RDS Industrial Co., Ltd- RDS was established in 2006 and is a professional security equipment and solutions provider integrating R&D, manufacturing, sales and service and has an ISO 9000 certification. RDS supplies Catch a Crook CCTV with several HD-XVI (“4 in 1” CVI/TVI/AHD/analog) cameras.

Sony 960H CCD- Traditionally, the maximum resolution from an analog CCTV camera was about 600 TV lines. Sony’s 960H CCD chip allows camera resolutions of 700 TV lines (960×480) for a more natural detailed image.

Sony Super HAD CCD- Super HAD CCDs provide 2 times better sensitivity and 6 db better smear rejection ratio than the formal traditional type of CCD. Two micro lenses on top of each photo diode are able to collect more photons from incoming light than the old CCD made by SONY and any other maker. In short, a better CCD chip.

Sony EXView Super HAD CCD- Compared to Super HAD, Sony Ex-view CCD has 4 times better sensitivity near the infrared zone. Used properly, it is excellent for night vision. If not, it can become a drawback because the infrared will cause color distortion and blurred images.

Sony Effio CCD- Sony’s DSP (Digital Signal Processor), known as Effio, further enhances video quality. With the use of Sony’s 960H CCD (see above) and with features from the Sony Effio, more detailed resolutions of up to 700 TVL can be achieved.

Surveillance- (1) a watch kept over someone or something, esp. over a suspect, prisoner, etc.: under police surveillance. (2) supervision or superintendence. From French-surveill(er) to watch over (sur + veiller ) Latin-vigilare (to watch).

TB- Terabyte. 1 Tb = 8 trillion bits of information. See Gb above.

Techpoint- A fabless semiconductor company headquartered in San Jose, Calif. that designs, markets, and sells mixed signal integrated circuits for high definition analog video products using HD-TVI technology for the security surveillance and automotive markets.

Tribrid DVR- Tribrid DVRs are capable of recording and displaying 3 different CCTV formats. Dahua’s Tribrids include HD-CVI, IP and analog whereas Hikvision’s Tribrids include HD-TVI, IP and analog. With the new Pentabrid XVRs (above), Tribrids are being phased out.

Uniview- Zhejiang Uniview Technologies Co., Ltd. They’re the second largest player in the high-end video surveillance segment in China and the third largest in the overall video surveillance market in China. Uniview has more than 1916 employees and owns R&D departments in Hangzhou and Shenzhen. They have applied for more than 600 patents and apply for a new one every two days. Basically, Uniview is a heavy player in IP cameras and NVRs and have recently entered the U.S. market. U.S. based company, overseas manufacturing.

Vandal-proof- Very simply, this is a camera that can take more abuse than a standard camera. Some features might include a vandal-proof dome or metal housing. Look for a vandal-proof camera with an IK rating (see above) for the best results.

Varifocal- A camera lens in which the focus is not fixed, but can be manually or electronically adjusted.