Danger lurks everywhere and opening the front door can be a very scary
experience. It's not so much the knife-wielding criminals you fear-they
generally don't ring the doorbell. No, it's those fund-raising
neighborhood kids selling $10 candy bars, or, worse yet, that political
action group that wants you to sign their petition. They're getting so
bad that finding a mailman at the door with a registered letter is
almost a relief.
If you're up-to-date, you've already installed an intercom or
telephone-based door box to help you avoid those face-to-face
confrontations. But even with an intercom, you still have to answer the
call and come up with a believable excuse not to come to the door. Want
to avoid the entire situation? Add video surveillance to your system.
Fish Eyes are So Yesterday
Sure, video intercoms have been around for a while. But most are
dedicated systems that require proprietary hard-wired interior phones.
Each interior phone has its own small screen. Not only are these systems
costly, but the image quality is less than optimal. Here's why. Most of
the door mounted consumer designs are offered as a single unit-voice and
video in a single box, mounted at eye level. Unfortunately, mounting at
adult eye level means the unit is too high for children to operate. So,
many times, the user compromises, mounting at mid level. That results in
a belt-buckle shot of an adult visitor.
The single box concept does help simplify installation, but it also
forces the manufacturer to compromise on video optics. With an average
distance between camera and visitor of less than 2 feet, the camera must
be fitted with a fish-eye wide angle lens. And, as most photography
buffs know, a fish-eye lens produces an image with incredible
distortion. So, when a visitor activates the intercom, all you see on
your screen is a gigantic nose, chin, or belt buckle, depending on
mounting height. If the visitor is standing more than 2 feet from the
camera, their image is so small, that you can't recognize them. What's
the solution? A remotely mounted high-quality CCTV camera.
High-tech Doesn't Mean High Buck
Remotely mounted bullet CCTV cameras have come down in price to the
point where you can buy a high quality model for under $100. For about
$50 dollars more, you can upgrade to features like color, higher
resolution, auto focus, a shutter for still shots, and integral infrared
LEDs for night viewing. At that price, you can install a camera at each
door and one at your front gate.
Most bullet cameras come with a sun/rain shield and mounting
hardware. That makes them perfect for wall or under-eave mounting. At
that distance you can get a distortion-free image of the person at the
Multiple Cameras, Cordless Phones, all Viewable on Your Nearest TV
Installing your own non-proprietary bullet camera frees you from
wired proprietary phones and lets you to view your visitor on any TV in
your home. By installing one of the newest CCTV controllers, you can
install multiple cameras and multiple door boxes and connect them to
your TV system. Here's how it works: The controller monitors each door
box and as soon as one is activated, it automatically switches the
camera associated with that door box to your TV feed. You can route that
feed to a single TV, or to your main cable feed, so you can view the
visitor on any TV in your home. If you choose the main cable feed
option, you will need an inexpensive RF modulator with automatic signal
switching (Radio Shack #15-1214). The CCTV controller will keep the CCTV
video feed connected to the RF modulator as long as it senses that door
box is active. Once you end that conversation, the controller will
cancel the video feed to the RF modulator and the modulator will switch
back to your regular cable video feed.
offers two models of CCTV controllers. The VC-1000 is a free standing
unit and works with any brand of telephone-based door box. It monitors
the phone line to two door boxes and switches two CCTV cameras. The unit
also has an inactive mode that allows you to conduct video surveillance
without an active door box conversation. In the inactive mode, the
VC-1000 can be programmed to provide video from the last camera
activated or it can alternate between the two cameras. Two VC-1000's can
be stacked to provide coverage for up to four cameras and four door
C-1000B Door Entry and CCTV Camera Controller provides all the features
of the VC-1000, plus it provides complete full featured door box
operation. Standard features include:
--One or two door boxes share house phone line so door calls can ring
and be answered on any interior phone (wired or cordless). Custom
ringing option identifies door call versus phone call.
--Door bell mode rings regular home door bell, but door can be
answered on any interior phone (wired or cordless)
--Regular telephone calls can be placed on hold when visitors
activate the door box and the resident can then speak with the visitor.
--Door strike operation from any interior phone.
--Postal lock/Proximity Card/Keyless entry operation allows letter
carrier to open gate or allows family and friends to open gate or door
with keypad or proximity card. (keypad and proximity card reader not
--Auxiliary contact output to turn on lights, etc.
Whether you're sleeping in, or watching TV by the pool with a
Margarita in one hand and your cordless phone in the other, this type of
audio/video door intercom system lets you maintain your privacy. With a
quick flick of the TV channel you can see who's at the door and decide
whether or not to answer. The neighborhood fund raisers may not like
your new system, but they weren't all that crazy about your reasons for
not buying their overpriced candy either.