Protecting the Corridor
Deployed cameras keep watch over a campus in the bustling area surrounding the nation’s capital
- By Del V. Salvi
- Oct 01, 2011
George Mason University is one of Virginia’s fastest-growing
higher education institutions, with four campuses
and 35,000 students. Located in the heart of Northern
Virginia’s technology corridor near Washington, D.C.,
GMU offers strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in
engineering, information technology, biotechnology and healthcare.
The GMU School of Law has been recognized by U.S. News and
World Report as one of the country’s top 40 law schools.
The previous video surveillance system at the university suffered
from poor video quality and a lack of standardization. This legacy
system could not provide sufficient image quality to identify
individuals, nor could it cover the necessary areas.
A new construction project included the required funds for an
initial investment in an IP-based surveillance system. The university
needed a system that could provide better video quality to capture
facial recognition and to offer a wider range of options.
Needed: A Megapixel Solution
This need for better image quality led GMU directly to IP-based
megapixel camera technology. The university evaluated several wellknown
camera suppliers before deciding on Arecont Vision.
“We have installed almost every variety of megapixel camera
made by Arecont Vision, from the 1.3-megapixel MegaDome to the
8-megapixel, 360-degree SurroundVideo panoramic camera,” said
James L. McCarthy Jr., the university’s director of physical security.
“The capabilities of various cameras are matched to the areas they
need to cover.”
Cameras have been installed in athletic facilities, including in
a facility with an Olympic-size pool, in academic buildings and in
parking garages, according to Brian Piccolo, senior account executive
at S3 Integration, the Baltimore company that helped the university
design its new system. Future installations will include GMU’s
Two panoramic cameras with a 360-degree view are positioned
over a broad plaza area to record activity there and at doors leading
into an adjacent building. Each camera’s 8-megapixel images—from
four 2-megapixel sensors—provides 360-degree coverage from a
The camera can view large areas while capturing megapixel detail.
Each camera provides up to 6,400x1,200-pixel images at 5.5 fps, or it
can be set for lower resolutions at higher speeds, such as 1,600x1,200-
pixel images at 22 fps.
Several 180-degree-view cameras cover the pools and gym floors
in GMU’s athletic facilities. The 8-megapixel, 180-degree panoramic
camera also incorporates four 2-megapixel CMOS image sensors to
provide 6,400x1,200-pixel panoramic images at 5.5 fps.
Covering long and narrow spaces such as hallways and driveways
are 3- and 5-megapixel cameras that use a half-inch CMOS sensor
to provide 2,592x1,944-pixel images at 9 fps. Light sensitivity is 0.3
lux at F1.4. The camera can put out multiple image formats, allowing
users to view simultaneously the full-resolution field-of-view in
addition to regions of interest for high-definition forensic zooming.
The 3-megapixel camera provides 2,048x1536-pixel images at 15 fps.
The images from the megapixel cameras are fed to a local
ExacqVision NVR, which is monitored by a central security
operations center. Signals from some of the cameras also feed to a
central server that downloads them with Exacq software. All video
data is transmitted over a secured, firewalled, standalone security
network within the GMU intranet.
The majority of the cameras are installed in areas with sufficient
light. Parking garages are monitored with day/night cameras that use
a motorized infrared cut filter. These cameras can also monitor license
plate numbers and increase the garage personnel’s productivity by
monitoring daily tasks such as credit card transactions remotely.
Any university department that wants to add video surveillance
can call on S3 Integration to upgrade and expand the system using
funds provided through departmental budgets.
“Advantages of the cameras over competitive products include
performance, versatility, price and ease-of-use,” Piccolo said.
The ability to pan, tilt and zoom virtually within an image already
captured by a fixed camera means that the new system has fewer
moving parts than traditional PTZ systems. This reduces overall
maintenance cost and the potential for system failure.
The picture quality and digital zoom capabilities of the Arecont
Vision cameras far exceed analog technology, and they allow GMU
to retrieve usable video. Using fewer cameras, in addition to recent
cost reductions in NVR storage and network switches, means that
the university’s transition to higher-quality video came at a minimal
“We now have better forensic capabilities and more flexibility in
the recovery of data,” McCarthy said.
Megapixel imaging represents a significant upgrade in system
functionality from standard-resolution cameras. In addition to lower
bandwidth and storage requirements, using fewer megapixel cameras
to cover larger areas can dramatically decrease costs related to other
elements of a system, such as fewer software licenses, fewer lenses and
a decrease in man-hours needed to install the system.
This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Security Today.