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wingless

wingless’ DVR / Camera System

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My Airbnb rental property has been active for over a year. There have been fewer problem tenants than I can count on one hand. This is a beautiful home, recently remodeled, in a nice residential area and even though my neighbors are great, I’ve found I cannot count on them to contact me if things get out-of-hand. My house rules specify: “No parties or events”. IMO, the system I installed will permit me to remotely determine if the tenants / rental requires a personal visit.


The solution I am currently implementing is a set of exterior cameras / microphones connected to a local online DVR. I went this route because I didn’t want to get involved with another annual subscription, instead purchasing / maintaining the equipment myself, with no ongoing fees.


The Airbnb rules permit cameras / microphones, except in bedrooms or bathrooms. The rules also specify those recording devices must be disclosed. Both cameras are fully visible and both are properly fully disclosed in the listing, all in complete compliance with all the rules.


In my case, one camera is pointing out at the sidewalk, leading to the front entrance, the other camera is on the garage, pointing out at the driveway.


Being a self-affirmed troglodyte, I selected and installed a wired system. The DVR is connected to the router w/ a CAT5 network cable. The cameras / microphones are connected with three cables each, for BNC video, RCA audio and barrel jack 12VDC power. There are wireless options to replace each wire (except power), but that is not my way…


Careful camera placement selection is critical for acceptable results. One thing that can cause problems are early morning / late afternoon direct sunlight onto the lens. That can kill the image for hours. The direct sunlight impingement can be a seasonal event, fine at one time of year and unacceptable in a different season. The camera lens must also not be illuminated by a spotlight, to also not get a usable image killed.


Another important aspect is getting a great close-up face shot. Frequently cameras are placed very high, providing a great scalp view, but not so good for the face. The trade off is the camera must be high enough to be out-of-reach for easy tampering by a tall person. I like to place the camera at 8 to 9 feet above ground. The best placement for face capture is 5 feet above ground, pointing directly at the face as they walk towards the camera.


An ideal camera placement has each camera including the other cameras in their field of view, to image / record any potential tampering.


My preference also includes weather protection, from sun / wind / rain, to reduce deterioration over time. Wind protection is important for the microphones, to avoid rumbling from wind.


The equipment must be secured. This includes physical security, having the equipment locked to be secure and inaccessible. That includes cameras, microphones, DVR, power and cabling. The other important security aspect is the network, to prevent remote access.


Always, always, always change the default password(s) to restrict network access to the equipment. Anyone can examine the manufacturer’s default password and destroy the system security.


The DVR system I selected is this TigerSecu H.265+ 4-Channel DVR w/ 1TB HDD. This is a complete DVR recorder system, w/o cameras, microphone(s) or camera / microphone cables or power supply. The DVR does not include, but requires, a monitor. The monitor must have either a VGA input, a HDMI input or a composite video (CVBS) input. The DVR system includes: the DVR; the external 120VAC/12VDC power supply brick (only to be used for DVR, NOT also for cameras); the hand-held IR remote control; the wired USB mouse; the User Manual; a Quick Start Guide and a CCTV warning decals sheet.


The DVR is easy to setup. There is an application for iPhone or Android. There is software for PC and for Mac OS. The iPhone is VERY easy to configure. Select the QR square bar code from the DVR software menu to be displayed on the DVR monitor and scan that square bar code with the iPhone, done. The PC software setup is also easy, but I couldn’t figure it out w/o a call to the manufacturer. They provided the answer to get my remote / home PC up and running for complete system access. The manufacturer provides excellent support.


My system has the standard 1TB hard drive. I have this set for continuous recording at the highest quality from two cameras. It looks like I get about two weeks of storage, before the hard drive overwrites the oldest data. It looks like the system consumes about 60GB of hard drive daily for these two cameras / microphones. That amount of storage days is perfect for my usage. The recording storage may be increased using these methods: swapping to a larger internal hard drive; lowering the recording quality from High to Medium or to Low or change from continuous recording to event recording or to scheduled recording.


One camera is this 5MP dome camera. This provides excellent application flexibility. In my case I mounted it onto the vestibule ceiling, in the corner. The cabling is completely concealed. One thing I didn’t like about the camera was there is no UP mark on the sphere, requiring video observation to do a rough and fine setup. Another thing I didn’t like is the VERY FINE threads on the locking collar. I was unable to properly assemble after installation w/o first covering those threads w/ white lithium grease, then it was fine.


This camera has a manual zoom recessed screw adjustment and a manual focus adjustment. The camera is delivered w/ the zoom set to show the widest image in perfect focus. If the zoom is manually adjusted, w/ a jeweler’s screwdriver, then the focus is immediately blurry, requiring also adjusting the focus adjustment to restore perfect focus.


Once everything is set, the large locking collar is tightened while holding the dome camera stationary. A small set screw is tightened to retain that setting.


This camera has a ring of IR LED devices surrounding the lens, to provide B&W images during night operation, automatically changing from day mode (full color), to night mode (B&W).


This camera has a large circular mounting base ring. I slightly modified that base ring to increase the width and depth of an existing cable slot so that it would accept the microphone, for a secure / protected / concealed mount.


The other camera is this TigerSecu 2MP stalk camera. The mount permits complete mounting / pointing flexibility. The cabling is completely concealed. This was mounted on the garage soffit. The overhang provides environmental and solar protection.


The microphone is placed in a nearby through hole, also through the soffit. It is retained w/ a squirt of RTV adhesive.


A pair of these microphones were used, one for each camera. These have a DC wye cable, with a plug / jack to accept power in from the DC supply and provide power out to the camera. That feature is very handy. The audio pickup is facing out the end of the bar, great for placement within a hole.

 

Other system parts are: an old flat screen VGA monitor I had been using to collect dust; an external 120VAC/12VDC 3.33A power supply brick I also had on-hand, for the cameras, microphones and local speakers; a powered PC speaker set I had on-hand, for the audio output, not required but handy during setup; a stereo RCA audio cable set, split to run to each microphones at the far end and to the DVR audio inputs at the other end; a pair of RCA video DC plug / jack cables and this Eight way DC power plug splitter, to use one 12VDC brick for all the cameras, microphones and speakers. I modified the AC/DC brick and the eight-way splitter so the plug on the end of the brick would plug into the splitter input and so that one plug would fit into my powered speakers.

 

My property has LED floodlights illuminating the sidewalk and part of the driveway, dusk to dawn. What I’ve noticed is that the night time camera does an excellent job imaging in the dark before the illuminated area and illuminating that lit area, but the far dark area, past the floodlights, doesn’t have great imaging. That is not a problem because that is far from the home. 

 

The DVR PC software is fine. It takes a little learning to get the hang of usage. The fast forward / play / rewind is a little clunky, but I’m thinking it is from the remote distance delay. It is very usable as-is. The DVR iPhone software is also fine. I can do what I need using the phone.

 

The DVR permits exporting video clips by selecting a date / time range. The manufacturer recommends usage of a local USB thumb drive, but it may also work remotely over the Internet, but the amount of data is reported to be time consuming. I just leave an empty USB thumb drive in the empty USB slot for local or remote permanent storage.
 

 

 

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