The odds are pretty darn high that if you’re new to the security camera industry, you’ve had a metric ton of acronyms and phrases thrown at you that you’ve been left reeling with a migraine the size of the Grand Canyon. “WDR? IR? BLC? DVR? POE? What does it all mean?!” When you start shopping around for security equipment, regardless of whether it’s for your place or your employer’s, you have to get the lay of the land before you reach for your wallet. How else are you going to know if a camera is right for you if you don’t know what it does?
Don’t worry, I’ve been there and my monolithic headache is your gain. I’ve thrown together this video security equipment glossary to help you turn those hieroglyphics into a readable primer so you can start making informed decisions about your security needs. This is by no means an exhaustive list so keep your eyes open for new updates in the coming weeks and feel free to let me know of any terms / acronyms you want to know more about in the comments below!
Browse our video security equipment glossary by clicking the links below.
- Access Control : Type of perimeter security measure which requires a keycard or fob with expressed permissions to allow permission beyond specific access points (card readers / keypads) in a building or compound.
- AGC : Automatic Gain Control (AGC) is a type of technique found in many electronic devices that compensates the video signal when it falls below or exceeds a specific value.
- ANPR : Automatic Number Plate Recognition. See license plate recognition (LPR).
- Anti-Passback : Feature included in many access control systems that prevents a card from being misused. For every use at an entry reader, there must be a corresponding use at an exit reader. An anti-passback alert is triggered when a card is consecutively used at an entrance reader without an exit occurring between them.
- Anti-Tailgating : Tailgating is in reference to a person that “tailgates” a vehicle or person after they have swiped their card or fob at an entrance reader. The tailgating alert is triggered when a card or fob is swiped at an exit reader without a corresponding entrance scan occurring earlier in the day.
- Aperture : The opening on a camera lens that throttles the amount of light allowed to reach the sensor chip which can be controlled manually or automatically depending on the type of lens.
- Auto-Iris Lens : Type of lens whose aperture automatically adjusts to the amount of ambient lighting to ensure proper exposure in your video feeds so the video is not washed out or too dark.
- AWB : Setting on a variety of security cameras which automatically corrects the color balance on your video feed to ensure that it is not affected by the type of ambient lighting, i.e. fluorescent, incandescent, natural, etc.
- Balun : Type of electrical converter that allows a balanced signal, which is normally sent over coaxial cable, to be transmitted over a twisted pair cable, also known as category 5 or Cat5.
- Bullet Camera : A style of security camera where the internal components are housed in a cylindrical enclosure that looks like a bullet.
- BLC : Backlight compensation is a feature on many security cameras which compensates for strong background lighting, which would normally drown out features in the foreground, and makes details in the forgeround visible.
- BNC : Is a type of quick connect / disconnect adapter that is frequently used on coaxial cable. Comes in RG59 & RG6 variants.
- Box Camera : A type of CCTV camera that utilizes a rectangular form factor to house the internal components. Box cameras are one of the oldest types of security cameras and most of them do not come with lenses.
- C-Mount : A type of lens mount used on many security cameras that is typically 1″ in diameter with 32 threads per inch. C-mount lenses can be used on CS-mount cameras with an adapter.
- Cat5e : Category 5 cable is twisted pair cabling used for transmitted information at broadband speeds over an ethernet network. Cat5 cable can be used to transmit data, video, or phone signals.
- CCD : Charge-coupled Device is a sensor chip used in CCTV cameras which converts the electrical signal generated from the intensity of light into a digital signal to be transmitted by the camera to your video recorder. There are three types; frame-transfer, full-frame, and interline.
- CCTV : Closed circuit television utilizes video security cameras to capture and transmit video feeds to a central location on a specific number of monitors.
- CMOS : Complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) is a type of image sensor chip used in security cameras that is known to produce less signal loss and degradation in video quality from intense light sources than other image sensors.
- CMS : Central management software is used to manage multiple security camera systems from a central location regardless of their geographic distances.
- Coaxial Cable : A type of cable that is used to transmit signals over relatively short distances (~700 ft.) with minimal loss in quality. Coaxial cable can be identified by its copper core surrounded by an insulation layer wrapped in a copper shield and coated in a plastic jacket.
- Codec : Program that is capable of coding or decoding a digital data signal for transfer, storage, or playback. Certain recording devices require specific codecs to allow their video files to be played back.
- CS-Mount : An industry standard lens mount that has a 1″ diameter with 32 threads per inch and is typically used for formats 1/2″ and down. A CS-mount lens cannot be used with a C-mount camera.
- Day / Night : Refers to a feature that comes on many security cameras which allows the camera to see in low-light and zero-light environments without the use of infrared illumination by utilizing an infrared filter operated by a motor(True Day/Night) or by digitally altering the colors on the video feeds (Electronic Day/Night).
- Digital Zoom : The ability to zoom in on a specific area of a video feed through a video recorder’s software. This function is typically featured only on network IP cameras as they capture video footage at a significantly higher resolution than analog security cameras.
- DNR : Digital noise reduction is a standard feature on most CCTV cameras that performs a variety of functions. DNR decreases the amount of noise (static) present in your video feeds and thereby produces a clearer quality image as well as helping your video recorder accurately determine what is actual motion in the camera’s field of view and what is noise. This allows your motion detection recording to only trigger on true action and not static in your video feed.
- Dome Camera : A type of camera that is known for its dome-like shape and one of the most commonly used security camera types. Their sleek, inconspicuous profile makes dome cameras an ideal camera for discrete video surveillance.
- DVR : Digital video recorders capture and store video feeds produced by analog security cameras onto a hard drive. DVRs come in two types, standalone units similar to your cable box and PC-based towers that are specifically built computers with a DVR card to convert the video signal into data to be stored on a hard drive.
- Effio : Type of specialized sensor chip manufactured by Sony that is known for capturing higher quality and higher resolution video feeds in all lighting environments.
- Ethernet : The standard type of data transfer network used for local area networks (LANs) that runs at a maximum speed of 100Mbps over 100 meters of cabling.
- F-Number : Also known as the focal ratio, this is the ratio of the focal length of a camera lens to the diameter of the iris aperture that indicates the amount of light being allowed to enter the camera. A brighter image indicates a smaller F-number.
- Fisheye Camera : Type of camera that utilizes a fisheye lens to create a 360° field of view around the camera.
- Focal Length : Normally notated in millimeters (mm), this is the distance from the center of a lens to the point where an object in the camera’s field of view is clear and in focus. Focal length is a vitally important factor when choosing a lens as focal length and field of view (FOV) are inversely related, meaning that a small focal length will produce a wide FOV and a large focal length will produce a narrow FOV. Typically, small focal length lenses are used to monitor areas in close proximity to a camera’s position and large focal length lenses are used to view areas over long distances.
- FOV : Field of view is produced by the camera lenses focal length and is effectively the camera’s line of sight. This is the horizontal angle to a given distances from the camera.
- FPS : Also known as frame rate, frames per second is the number of images captured per second by a video camera. The higher number of FPS that a camera can capture, the more fluid the resulting video will be. 30fps is considered real-time as it is the same rate at which the human eye views the world.
- Gamma : A measure of luminance is relation to the magnitude of brightness of a video or image.
- Gamma Correction : Feature that automatically corrects a camera’s video feed to balance the brightness to a desired level. Increasing
- H.264 : Type of video compression standard which is used to record, compress, and distribute video feeds. H.264 video compression greatly reduces the overall size of a video file and maximizes the video recorder’s storage space.
- HDCCTV : Also known as HD-SDI, High Definition Closed Circuit Television is an industry standard for transmitting uncompressed HD video (up to 1080p) over coaxial cable which allows for IP quality video over an analog infrastructure.
- HDD : Hard Drive Disc that stores video files from the DVR to be played back at a later date.
- HD-SDI : See HDCCTV.
- Hybrid : Type of video recorder that allows the use of both analog and IP cameras in a single system. Can refer to a hybrid DVR card, hybrid standalone video recorder, or hybrid PC based video recorder.
- IK Rating : Vandalproof rating standard that identifies the magnitude of force a camera or camera housing may withstand without suffering a catastrophic failure.
- Illumination Range : The effective distance at which an infrared security camera can monitor in complete darkness due to the amount of infrared LEDs present on the camera or on a supplemental infrared illuminator.
- IP Rating : Weatherproof rating standard that notates the type of weather a camera or camera housing may protect against. The IP rating ranges from none to complete submersion in water.
- IP Address : This is the location of an IP camera on a network which can be used to locate said camera on a PC or browser as well as being used to configure an IP camera to function properly on a particular security camera system. IP addresses typically abide by the following format: 126.96.36.199
- IP Camera : Type of security camera that can be viewed by entering its IP address into a web browser or PC. IP cameras are typically multi-megapixel cameras that capture high resolution video feeds.
- Iris : See aperture.
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- LAN : A local area network is a series of interconnected computers in a smaller geographic area that do not use telecommunication lines. They may be as small as an apartment or as large as a commercial skyscraper.
- LED : Light emitting diodes are used to emit infrared light to aid security cameras in seeing clearly in low-light and zero-light environments. Typically, the more IR LEDs there are on a camera, the better it is able to see at night.
- LPR : License plate recognition is a type of security camera coupled with software where the camera is able to capture video of a vehicle passing through its field of view (FOV) where the software will intuitively identify the license plate, store it in a log, and cross-reference its database for any associated information about the plate number.
- Lux : Standard for determining the luminance, or brightness, of an area where a single lux is equal to a single lumen per square meter. 0.0001 lux is a moonless night and 1 lux is a full moon on a clear night.
- Manual Iris Lens : A type of lens where the iris, or aperture, must be adjusted manually. Typically used indoors or in areas with constant lighting.
- Megapixel : 1,000,000 pixels and also the measure of the amount of display elements in digital display or camera. Megapixel and multi-megapixel security cameras capture video footage at a significantly higher resolution than their analog counterparts, i.e. a 1.3 megapixel IP camera captures 1,300,000 pixels in a single frame (1280×1024), 2 megapixel captures 2,000,000 pixels in a single frame (1920×1080), etc.
- Monofocal Lens : Also known as a fixed lens, this is a type of lens that has a single focal length and cannot be adjusted.
- MJPEG : Type of video compression where each video frame is sequentially compressed as a JPEG image. Also known as Motion JPEG.
- Motion Detection : Type of recording method where video is only recorded when motion is detected within the camera’s field of view. Helps to significantly reduce the amount of video stored and prolong the life of your video recorder.
- MP : Abbreviation for megapixel. See megapixel.
- MPEG-4 : Method for compressing digital video data for storage and playback.
- Multiplexer : Type of device that allows video cameras to display their footage on a monitor without storing the video data.
- NTSC : Type of standard video format that is used on TVs in most of the Americas and many countries in the Pacific Rim.
- NVR : Network video recorders capture and store video feeds produced by network IP cameras. Most NVRs come with software which allows immense versatility through a variety of features that can be used to automate aspects of your security operations. NVRs come in standalone units and PC based video recorders.
- ONVIF : Global industry forum and standard for the interfacing of IP security products. All ONVIF products are compatible with each other regardless of the manufacturer’s brand.
- Optical Zoom : Is a true, mechanical zoom which allows a camera to enlarge object at great distance. Unlike digital zoom, optical zoom does not suffer from pixilation, but it cannot be performed on video playback via the video recorder’s software.
- OSD : On-screen display is a feature on many security cameras which allows you to locally configure every setting on a camera’s as you are installing it without having to run back and forth between the camera and DVR.
- Pixel : A single point in a digital display device or the smallest element of a picture. Used as a measure of video resolution.
- POE : Power over ethernet is a method in which power can be sent to video security cameras over the ethernet network rather than running a secondary power line to each individual camera. Though normally reserved for IP cameras, recent technological developments have allowed PoE to be used for analog security systems by using a PoE / RG59 converter.
- PTZ : Pan tilt zoom is a type of security camera which allows the manual articulation along the camera’s X & Y axis as well as the enlargement of specific areas in the cameras field of view.
- Quad : See multiplexer.
- RG59 : Industry standard of coaxial cable which is used to transmit video signals over distances up to 700 feet with minimal degradation.
- RG6 : Type of coaxial cable that is typically used to route cable TV video signals to residences, but can be used to transmit video signals within security camera systems.
- RJ45 : Type of connector used on Cat5 / ethernet cabling.
- Sensor Chip : Flat electronic chip that converts a visual input into an electronic output to be used in imaging devices. Two types used in security cameras are CMOS & CCD.
- Siamese Cable : Type of CCTV cable which couples RG59 coaxial cable to transmit video from a camera to a recording device and an 18AWG power line to transmit power from a power supply to the security camera. Siamese cable is sold in spools and pre-cut cable kits which are typically used in analog security camera systems.
- TB : Also known as terabytes, TB refers to the size of a hard drive and how much data it can store before reaching maximum capacity.
- TVL : The specification of the number of vertical lines of resolution an analog security camera captures horizontally. The higher the TVL specification, the clearer the captured video will be.
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- Varifocal Lens : Type of camera lens with two focal lengths, typically seen in an x-y mm format, which notates that the lens may adjusted so the camera’s field of view can be altered to suit the environment. Though this allows a camera’s “zoom” to be adjusted, it does not occur automatically or with the push of a button. The camera’s focal length is altered locally to provide a wider field of view with a nearer target area or a more narrow field a view with a further target area.
- WDR : Wide dynamic range is a more effective version of Backlight Compensation where details in the foreground which would normally be drowned out due to intense background lighting are clearly visible. This features is especially useful around entrances, exits, and near windows.
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- Zoom : To enlarge or reduce the focus of an image by use of a mechanically variable focal length lens or digital video enhancement by way of NVR / DVR software.
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If you think of or find any terms that you’d like to know more about in this video security equipment glossary, let me know about them in the comments below.