This is something I get asked about a lot. How can I roll a custom Network Video Recorder (NVR) that will accept any camera and not be cloud dependent. Well, any camera that adheres to standards such as RTSP and ONVIF. I will be discussing BlueIris here but there are other options. This is in no way an endorsement. Same thing for the hard drives and cameras. This is all simply gear I use.
First things first, you need a PC that can run said software. It needs to be an Intel CPU with QuickSync and 4GB+ of memory running Windows 10. Actual spec depends on number of cameras and resolution – see here for some helpful info: https://ipcamtalk.com/wiki/choosing-hardware-for-blue-iris/. I picked up a cheap refurbished HP workstation on eBay. You will then need storage for recordings. An SSD for the OS and database plus a Western Digital Purple drive for video is ideal. Continuous video record is hard on drives but the purples are meant for that.
Once you have the software up and running (it’s rather simple) you need cameras. PoE cameras are BY FAR the best option for reliability and security. They use a single CAT5/6 cable to provide network connectivity and power. You can also provide backup power from a single location if so desired.
When it comes to Power over Ethernet (PoE) you have two choices – a PoE switch or PoE injectors. If you have a few cameras injectors are fine, if you have a lot a switch is far easier. Either way, you need some way to power the cameras and provide connectivity to your network.
You can mix in wifi cameras (assuming they meet the above standards) but you should limit use of them unless you have a robust wifi deployment. Wifi cameras can really be hard on your network especially if you have a cheap Internet provider’s router.
Ok, so how do you pick a camera? This is a tricky question and there isn’t a right answer. There is a right camera for every particular need but there isn’t a perfect camera across the board. You almost NEVER need a Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) camera and are typically better off with multiple fixed cameras. A PTZ camera is never looking in the direction it needs to should an event happen.
Some things you might want to look for depending on the specific need:
- Wide Dynamic Range(WRD) – This helps with drastic lighting differences in a single frame.
- Highlight Correction (HLR) – This helps with the light bloom shown below by bringing down the exposure of specific pixels.
- Night vision/IR – You are usually going to want to see in the dark so this is a pretty standard feature. However, your ability to configure or disable it altogether is very useful.
- Pan/Tilt/Zoom – I mentioned above this is rarely needed. However, in specific cases (large property for instance) you may consider it to augment fixed cameras.
- Variable focus – This is where you can zoom in/out and the camera will focus as needed. While more expensive this can give some flexibility without having to know the exact focal-length you need.
- Audio – Do you need to hear or talk through the camera? Keep in mind you laws may be rather restrictive on recording audio so if you intend to make sure you know the legalities.
- High resolution – 4k and greater cameras are becoming normal and produce outstanding quality during the day. You can suffer quality loss at night though because more pixels in the same space means less light to each one.
This is far from a complete list but should help get you going.
For my system, I have a mix:
- Ubiquiti G3 (bullets and domes) – they are ok but not great. Unless you are buying into the Ubiquiti koolaid pick something else.
- Reolink RLC-420 – quality camera at a good price. Not a big fan of the dongle but they get the job done.
- Wyze Wifi – Super-cheap and OK quality. But you are going to be running an unsupported firmware to connect them to an NVR.
- Dahua starlight – My newest camera, these are *amazing* cameras for the price-point. They have a stupid dongle too…
- Raspberry pi running MotionEyeOS – kinda cool but not a really surveillance tool. I use it to watch my bearded dragon.
Other companies to consider include Hikvision and Amcrest. They both make quality products as well. Axis is considered pretty much top of the line but is rarely going to fit within an individuals budget.
At the end of the day though each requirement and location is going to need a different camera. If you stick with a vendor-agnostic NVR you can pick the proper camera for each situation and not have to worry.
I’ll give an example with my driveway, the Ubiquiti G3 bullet camera was terrible with light bloom when a car pulled in:
Switching to a Dahua Starlight (IPC-HDW5231R-ZE) made an incredible difference:
Once you have all the hardware picked out, configuration it next. How you bring every vendors cameras into BlueIris is beyond this blog post. You can typically just pick the vendor, plug in the IP address, and hit find/inspect. I STRONGLY suggest you opt for continuous recording (24/7). Motion recording can miss important events. You can use the motion alerting but always record 24/7.
Once you have everything up and running I suggest you setup AI with your BlueIris deployment to help with false positive. It’s easy (and free) and will help ensure your alerts are relevant. Read through the forum thread here: https://ipcamtalk.com/threads/tool-tutorial-free-ai-person-detection-for-blue-iris.37330/ You can filter down to just person or vehicle detection and send you an alert via Telegram. There are paid options with more flexibility but I’ve found this free software works well enough.
A setup of a system like this isn’t easy, or cheap, but you have full control over it and there isn’t any cloud access required where someone may possibly have access to your video feed/recordings.
If you have any questions/comments/suggestions please let me know.