Planning a network video installation

When you undertake a video surveillance installation, it’s easy to become mired in the vast array of details that go into the project. To stay on track, three documents are essential: the specification document; the video commissioning statement; and the acceptance test criteria.

Specification document – setting reasonable expectations

The specification document provides the framework for the system that the integrator is contracted to deliver. Usually created by the security system designer, it defines the system requirements for the video surveillance project, the scope of the solution and exactly what the customer expects to receive upon project completion. If there is no performance specification, the designer needs to sit down with the customer and create one before the project begins. Otherwise, timely payment for services rendered could be compromised.

Video commissioning statement – stipulating deployment milestones

The video commissioning statement is basically a master checklist that outlines the steps involved in deploying the system. It identifies the division of responsibilities between vendor and customer and verifies that the project is being delivered in accordance with periodic milestones. Like the specification document, you need to have the video commissioning statement in hand before you start ordering equipment deliveries and assigning a timetable for specific tasks so that each stage of the project will go smoothly.

Staging/programming/installation/commissioning tasks

Staging products relates to where, how and when the network devices get deployed in the project’s progress. Once you’ve verified that the performance specifications are doable, you need to develop a master bill of materials or list of equipment assemblies for each deployment location, such as the telecom room, the command center and the workstation.

For staging, consider grouping a sample set of products in each category – such as a network camera, lens, network switch, network video recorder and workstation – and get them to work together as a small test system on the customer’s network.
For pre-programming the camera’s image settings, you need to consider the environment in which they’ll be deployed. Outdoor cameras may be required to have a different white balance setting than indoor ones. It’s best to keep the camera’s network settings at resolution, refresh rate and image quality values applicable to the widest variety of applications as possible. For example, cameras used for forensic review and not typically operating in continuous surveillance mode should be set for as large an image size, low compression and high frame rate as possible, within the constraints of the end-user’s network or WAN connectivity. Make some sample recordings with your test system for your customer to review. You can always adjust the camera settings to balance the end-user’s needs and the constraints of the network.

Be sure to document these typical camera settings, along with the network connectivity information (IP addresses, communication ports, etc.) in a spreadsheet. You can simplify deployment by using the camera’s IP address or logical camera number in labeling the product groups prior to actual installation.

In addition to understanding how the products work together and any special installation requirements the customer may have, you also have to be cognizant of the consulting engineer’s specifications and all the local and national codes that have jurisdiction over the surveillance location. All the system devices and cabling will need to conform to the appropriate TIA and IEEE standards such as Power over Ethernet (802.3af) and Structured Cabling Systems (TIA/EIA-568-B). If you’re unsure how to interpret how these standards relate to the installation, it’s best to consult with a designer holding the RCDD ( credential prior to installation.

Division of responsibilities

To avoid the finger pointing that often occurs during project meetings when task assignments are left open to interpretation, draw up a straightforward division of responsibilities document to which all parties can agree. For instance, the security director who is the end-user on site might be held responsible for storing and protecting equipment prior to installation. The security contractor would be responsible for staging, programming, installing and deploying the individual devices.

But if the network surveillance system is going to be part of a shared network, the end-user’s IT department would shoulder the responsibility of programming the network switches.

Periodic milestones

While it would be nice to have all the equipment delivered at the start of the project, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to shoulder all the expense upfront. Especially in large surveillance installations, equipment typically gets delivered in stages. To avoid undue delay as the surveillance project unfolds, it’s important to schedule deliveries in accordance with periodic milestones. For instance, if the main cross-connect area is scheduled for completion before the other telecom rooms, you need to take delivery of the equipment associated with that location before receiving equipment destined for other peripheral sites. Periodic delivery lends itself to achieving periodic milestones, so you can bill in increments and receive payment as you complete each stage of the project.

Acceptance test criteria – delivering on a promise

Even if you intend to bill in stages, you need to establish some mutually acceptable testing criteria to demonstrate that the system you’ve delivered works as expected. These are measurable criteria designed to demonstrate that all the components and the overall network video surveillance system are living up to the standards outlined in the performance specifications. They serve as the checklist for the customer to accept the completed project and pay you in a timely manner for delivering what you promised. A typical acceptance test might demonstrate that a certain camera covers a specific field of view and operates at a certain frame rate and resolution level.

If you hope to streamline your path to system acceptance you need to comply with end-user specifications and IT standards, standards and guidelines for the end user’s industry, as well as authorities having jurisdiction. With extensive installation preplanning you’ll not only greatly simplify deployment but also allow yourself – whether you’re the installer, designer or project manager – to concentrate on delivering functionality while avoiding any costly delays.

Steve Surfaro is the business development manager and security industry liaison for Axis Communications, the global leader in the network video technology.


Installation Checklist

While no deployment is without its unique challenges, a detailed checklist can be a useful tool for keeping important details in the forefront as you progress through the installation process. The following is a sample to-do list for security technicians:

1. Verify system requirements during pre-install meeting with customer.
2. Verify that cable lengths comply with manufacturer’s specifications.
3. Verify PoE and non-PoE connections (cables and switch ports) for network cameras.
4. Verify site conditions and lens requirements (maximum aperture, light sensitivity, etc.) before ordering lenses.
5. Stage all network cameras for preprogrammed setup.
6. Program cameras for auto day/night operation, auto white balance setting, image size, quality and refresh rate according to available bandwidth.
7. Program preset positions for pan/tilt/zoom cameras.
8. Program static IP addresses according to customer’s IT department documentation.
9. Program time sync coordinates on all devices having built-in system clocks.
10. Program local connections according to product operating instructions.
11. Verify camera video quality and note any issues (backlight problems, digital artifacts, noise, washout, etc.)
12. General internal punch list.
13. Perform final inspection.
14. Set up system and complete installation.
15. Verify punch list compliance.
16. Execute acceptance test.
17. Train system operators.