Lighting Up Lansing
Video surveillance solution provides more safety at night
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Mar 01, 2014
Each year in Lansing, Mich., the holiday
season unofficially begins with the
Silver Bells Parade. On Nov. 22, 2013,
approximately 80,000 people crowded
this city’s streets to see the parade that
ends in front of the Michigan State Capitol building
with a traditional tree lighting ceremony. The crowd
shouts along with the countdown from 10; the grand
marshals throw a giant ornamental switch; and the
tree lights are brilliantly illuminated, while a giant
fireworks display lights the sky.
This year, the parade was made safer and more secure
by the presence of a newly-upgraded, video surveillance
system featuring Samsung IP cameras at the
Michigan State Capitol, a fully-operational building
that is also a National Historic Landmark maintained
by the Facility Department.
“We determined that we needed additional views
in order to increase security at the Capitol,” said Steve
Benkovsky, executive director of the Michigan Capitol
Committee, Legislative Council Facilities Agency
for the state of Michigan. “Beyond that, we wanted to
improve our ability to identify individuals in video.”
Integrator Marches In
Detroit-based security integrator Camtronics has
a long history with the state of Michigan, having
handled the original video deployment at this capitol
four years earlier. The company worked with the
Metro Airport, designing systems for their operation,
and with the governor’s residence, during the Jennifer
Granholm Administration. Their long-standing
relationship was a prime reason for the selection of
Camtronics as an integrator for the Lansing Tree
Because of the historical value of this capitol
building, adding security cameras to it was a sensitive
issue, according to Mark Wellman, president of Camtronics.
It was important that any additions, such as
the mounting of security cameras, would preserve the
capitol’s historical appearance. Therefore, the building’s
illumination was designed with spotlighting,
making it less than ideal for identification of people
at night in a security application.
“We provided all of the technical expertise for systems
requirements and coverage, and helped the team
at the state capital by recommending solutions that
could easily be worked into certain types of architecture,”
Wellman said. “At the same time, we made sure
that nothing compromised the view they needed or
the video recording they expected out of these cameras
and their positions.”
Choosing the Right Cameras
Samsung IP cameras were Camtronics’ recommendation
for the deployment, rather than continuing to use
cameras from the manufacturer that had been used
for the original video surveillance system at this building.
According to Wellman, the switch was made primarily
for image quality.
“There was a high expectation for performance on
these cameras,” Wellman said. “The capital and state
police had very specific criteria that they were looking
to fulfill, such as the ability to see at night and to clearly
identify faces, especially because the lighting was designed
to enhance the historic appeal of the building.”
One year earlier, a third manufacturer’s IP cameras
had been put up temporarily at the building for a
specific event. Wellman said that the detail was so obscured
by the cameras’ inability to handle that type of
lighting in the darkness, the video was rendered useless.
“They weren’t able to make out faces or details
of anyone in the crowd,” Wellman said. “There was
nothing but glare from the lights.”
The video quality from the Samsung cameras did
not have that problem, though.
“In one instance, there is a camera looking right
at one of the ornate light fixtures, and you can still
clearly read the sign 20 feet behind it on the ground,”
Wellman said. “In fact, out of the cameras that we
have installed and looked at to potentially install, we
are moving closer and closer to making Samsung our
The temporary cameras were taken down after the
event, and the current cameras on the capitol building
will become the permanent solution.
Camtronics installed Samsung cameras: five
SND-5010s; four SND-5080s; and five SNP-6200Hs
on one of this capitol building’s balcony areas, maintaining
Ethernet IP communications from all the
new Samsung cameras back to the head end. The
only analog units remaining are the original cameras
that work through an encoder. Several of the
cameras mounted on this building’s exterior use fiber
and media converters to accommodate for distance
and environmental concerns, including water leakage
“That’s why we suggested putting fiber in, and all
of that comes back across media converters to their
main switch, which was provided by the capital. We
provided the server with expandable storage and the
VMS platform,” Wellman said.
These Samsung cameras provide coverage on the
east side of the building to view rallies and events on
the front lawn.
This installation has numerous unique qualities. The
sandstone exterior of this 143-year-old state capitol
building is original, requiring great care in mounting
each camera. The on-site team—Mark McEwan, maintenance
mechanic; Bob McDonald, assistant facility
manager; and Benkovsky—made each mount by hand.
“There was a lot of personal effort and soul put
into making those mounts,” Wellman said. “In some
cases, the gentlemen that made them were taking them
home at night and crafting them in their garages.
“There was a need to make the cameras swivel upward,
so they would be easy to maintain. They also
wanted to have them anchored to the existing light
brackets so there wouldn’t be any need for holes to be
put into the building. So, if the cameras ever had to be
removed, there would be only small holes that could
easily be filled with grout.”
McEwan designed the mount that made this possible
using a 1-inch-thick, 10-foot-long, galvanized pipe that
had enough weight to hold the cameras up and maintain
its position, even in windy conditions.
In all, it was a holiday gift of improved
security that will keep giving
into the future.
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Security Today.