The Basics of CCTV: Understanding Surveillance Systems

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) has grown significantly in popularity over the years, especially with advances in technology. But what exactly is CCTV, and how does it work? Let’s delve into the basics of CCTV to provide a clearer understanding.

What is CCTV and Its Origins?

CCTV, or closed-circuit television, refers to a surveillance system where video cameras are used to transmit a signal to a specific, limited set of monitors. Unlike broadcast television, the signal in a CCTV system isn’t openly transmitted but is monitored for surveillance and security purposes.

The origins of CCTV can be traced back to the 1940s in Britain. It was first used as a security measure in rocket launching sites to safely monitor the launches from a distance. With technological evolution, it rapidly found its way into various industries and is now a ubiquitous feature in urban landscapes, businesses, and even homes.

Different Types of CCTV Cameras and Their Uses

Modern CCTV systems boast an impressive array of cameras, each tailored for specific requirements. Understanding these types can help potential users make informed decisions about their surveillance needs.

Dome Cameras

As the name suggests, dome cameras are housed within a dome-shaped casing, often making it difficult for onlookers to discern where the camera is pointing. This element of uncertainty acts as a deterrent in itself.

Usage: These cameras are typically used in retail environments and shopping centres, providing a discreet yet effective surveillance solution.

Bullet Cameras

These are the cylindrical, long cameras you might often see mounted on walls or ceilings. They are particularly useful when a specific point of focus is required.

Usage: Ideal for monitoring long corridors or exteriors of buildings, bullet cameras are commonly found in warehouses and outdoor environments due to their robust design.

PTZ Cameras (Pan, Tilt, Zoom)

These cameras offer the flexibility to move the lens in various directions and even zoom in on specific activities, providing comprehensive coverage.

Usage: Employed in large public spaces like concert halls or stadiums, they allow operators to monitor large crowds and zoom in on any suspicious activity.

C-Mount Cameras

Distinct due to their detachable lenses, C-mount cameras can be fitted with special lenses to adapt to varying distances, making them versatile.

Usage: Suitable for industries that require monitoring over a greater distance than standard CCTV cameras can offer.

Infrared/ Night Vision Cameras

Using infrared technology, these cameras can capture video in complete darkness, making them essential for 24/7 surveillance.

Usage: Primarily used in areas that require round-the-clock monitoring, like car parks during night-time or warehouses without lights.

Wireless CCTV Cameras

While most CCTV cameras require cables for power and transmitting data, wireless cameras utilise either battery power or solar panels and transmit data wirelessly.

Usage: Homes and offices often employ these for ease of installation, especially in places where laying cables might be challenging.

The Core Mechanism: How Does CCTV Work?

A basic CCTV system comprises the camera, a monitor, and a recording device, all interconnected. The camera captures video footage, which then gets transmitted to the monitor for live viewing. For future reference, the recording device (often a DVR – Digital Video Recorder or an NVR – Network Video Recorder) stores this footage.

Advancements in technology have also introduced IP cameras (Internet Protocol), allowing for footage to be accessed remotely via the internet. This feature has revolutionised the way CCTV systems are used, especially for businesses and homeowners who wish to monitor their properties while they’re away.


Understanding the basics of CCTV provides a foundation for anyone considering the implementation of such a system. From its origins in Britain to the diverse range of cameras available today, CCTV continues to be an indispensable tool in security and surveillance. As technology continues to advance, it’s exciting to envisage the future enhancements and capabilities of CCTV systems.