Choosing the right camera for a surveillance task can mean the difference between getting onto a task or not, read on the find out why?

Dig-Cam1Digital Camera Pro’s

Without doubt some digital camcorders can provide us with breath taking quality imagery, which will literally blow you away! The ability to extract stills from the footage is simple and can at times take away the need to have a camera.  Using the camcorder as a stills camera can produce some very high quality pictures indeed but the sensor is tiny and is no match for a DSLR.  There are some mind blowing zoom ranges but remember commercially we are only interested in optical NOT digital zoom.

Digital Camera Con’s

First and foremost the date time stamp (DTS) – The standard digital camcorder does not burn the DTS into the footage for us to view freely, this guys is a real issue, as the vast majority of clients want the DTS on the screen for obvious reasons. A DTS can be added with some models however firstly it is only an overlay, secondly it is a major pain in the backside to work out for the editor.

Commercially solicitors, courts etc are not familiar and in some instances dis-trust digital footage as it can be very easily manipulated during the editing process causing doubt from the outset.

Is digital camcorder footage evidential?

All digital footage taken is of evidential value regardless of where it has come from be it digital camcorder or iPhone, working behind the scenes is its digital finger print “Meta Data” however it boils down to how that evidence is preserved and presented.  The police have and use strict procedures, which ensure their footage will stand up in court, although not rocket science they have the resources and expertise’s to handle and manage this effectively as a governmental body.

We as surveillance operators by reviewing, copying & editing our footage in travel lodges for example leave our footage open to be scrutinized and as digital camcorder footage is easily open to manipulation it is easily brought into question.

Sony-Mini-DV1Mini DV Pro’s

The DTS is burnt into the footage which means in very basic terms if you were to be dishonest and attempt to chop out a potion of footage there would be an obvious time gap for everyone to see, including the police or the judge.

They are generally more robust although not designed for commercial use i.e. every day, very simple to operate and provide us with the correct outputs in the correct place e.g. LANC & Video out.  In terms of cost they are very cheap, batteries are freely available and tapes are less than £2.00

Mini DV Con’s

In terms of quality a standard definition camera at 720p is nowhere near some of the high end digital cameras, however 720p is industry standards so do we need any more than that?

Tape duration – 60mins standard, long play 90mins.  We try not to use the long play function as they generally can only be viewed on the machine it was recorded on, no good if your tapes go away for editing.  There is an alleged drop in quality but personally I cant tell the difference.

Old technology – Sadly Mini DV cameras are not made any more which means eBay.

Editing duration – If you are lucky and have 5hrs of usable footage that’s at least 5hrs converting to digital format before you have even thought about the edit not to mention the space in terms of memory…

Summary & Conclusion 

Both have pro’s and con’s however clients 99 times out of 100 want to see the DTS on the screen for lots of different reasons.  When I am presented with digital footage my heat misses a beat worrying how long if at all, it is going to take me to get the DTS on the screen.

I now make it very clear from the outset if its a standard surveillance task and there is any question as to whether or not there will be a problem with the DTS, I will find someone else for the job.  I dont have the time or wish to take the risk trying to explain to an angry client whom at the best of times will try to worm their way out of paying my invoice, why the basics have not been followed.

Until operators get to grips with the process there is still only one winner – Mini DV

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