Surveillance with old CCTV Cameras

It seems that most of the time I go dumpster diving, I find a CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) camera or two. Or three. I've picked up quite a few, and left many, many more to rot in the landfill. Some have worked well. Others haven't. We're going to have some fun with them. As more and more companies go high-tech with snazzy digital recording systems, you can often find older CCTV cameras on eBay and Craigslist for cheap. Or in dumpsters for free.

The Broken Ones

There are always broken ones. You can get them for cheap or free as mentioned above. Surf eBay for "Parts only" when looking at CCTV cameras and you'll find a suitable one. The easiest thing to do is to make it look like a real CCTV to give would-be bad-guys the impression that they're being recorded. While this is much akin to security through obscurity, making a fake camera out of one that used to work is a lot more convincing than this:

Compare that piece of crap to my finished product at the end of this section.

First, take the old, broken CCTV apart and gut it to make room for a battery and LED. See the following photos.

Then, drill a hole in the front plate for the LED.

For the next part, I taped a low-brightness 1.7v red LED to a AA battery. Let's face it, this whole fake camera idea is pretty shifty. There's no point in putting a whole lot of finesse into it. LEDs like this one usually drain between 10 and 20 mA, so a plain old AA battery without a resistor should keep this LED lit up for more than a week.

Then, tape the battery/LED down inside the chasm left in the camera and re-assemble it so that the LED sticks out.

It looks real because it IS REAL (well, it used to be!)

Hang it up somewhere and hook all the cables up. They don't have to be actually hooked up to anything on the other end, just tuck them into the ceiling or run them to a wall plate. No one could tell this isn't real by just looking.

The working ones
Although these cameras all have BNC connectors on the back, the signal they put out is typical composite NTSC -- The same thing most VCRs put out. You need a BNC-to-RCA adapter (shown left) and then an RCA video cable and a monitor to view it on. This can be an RFU-adapter hooked up to a TV, or in my case a portable DVD player with A/V inputs. You could just as easily get a video capture card or USB adapter to record the video straight to your hard drive if you felt so inclined.

First, hook up the RCA adapter, RCA cable, and power cables to the camera and mount it somewhere.

Then, hook the other end of the RCA cable up, and enjoy your working CCTV system!

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