to camera or not to camera? there is no question
About a year before I started working for Vivint, I was actually in the market for a new home security and home automation solution for our home. In my research, I found that in general there wasn’t a whole lot of information available about how the products were technically set up, how they worked together, or even how they could be managed (or not managed) proactively day by day. As such, this will be the first in a series of “how-to” tutorial posts to help the other geeks out there, like me, that want to get the most out of their Vivint home. You can check out other posts about how to set motion detection parameters and notifications here and here. First, let’s discuss your camera options briefly:
- Fixed indoor camera: This camera is the smallest camera offered by Vivint at 1.1″ deep, 3.5″ wide, and 3.5″ tall. It only offers one viewing angle, but can easily be hidden on a bookshelf, cabinet, or in a ceiling corner. It is powered with a 12V DC plug and can connect to your network by Ethernet cable or wireless.
- Pan/tilt indoor camera: This camera is the larger of the two cameras. While close in height and width to the fixed camera (3.3″ wide x 3.9″ tall), it is 3.2” deep making it a bit more difficult to conceal. However, this camera does offer multiple viewing angles that can be preset, making it extremely flexible. This was the camera I opted for in my home. It is also powered with a 12V DC plug and can connect to your network by Ethernet cable or wireless.
- “Unofficial” fixed outdoor camera: While outdoor cameras are not officially installed or supported by Vivint, they are easily installed with the help of an experienced electrician (more info to come in future posts). This camera is sealed to be resistant (not proofed, but resistant) to the elements. This camera has a decent viewing angle if positioned far enough (and close enough) away from the area being monitored. It also has infrared technology for improved viewing at night or in low-light circumstances. Conveniently, this camera is powered through the Ethernet cable (PoE). There is currently not a wireless option. If you’re looking into this solution, be sure that the camera you select is Alarm.com compatible (like the ADC-V700X).
Once you have selected the camera that best fits your family’s needs, setting up a security video camera with your Vivint home is literally as easy as 1-2-3. OK, I’ll admit that step 1 is a little long, but the rest will be a breeze. Bear with me, and let’s get you going on a fun and useful part of your home security solution. Connect to Vivint: Even if you plan to use your camera wirelessly, you must first connect the camera to your router. This will establish a relationship with the Vivint system. To connect the camera to your Vivint account center, complete the following steps: a. Click the “Video” tab. b. Click “Camera Settings” link. c. Click “Add Camera” at the bottom of the list of options. Here’s what it looks like: d. On the next screen, you will click “Find Cameras.” e. On the following screen, you’ll enter the MAC address found on the bottom/back of the camera. Enter this code here: The MAC address is a 12 character code that looks like this: (0002D11XXXXX). f. Click “Continue” and name your camera. g. Click “Continue” and your camera will be configured with default settings. h. If you are not planning to set your camera up with wireless, click “setup wireless settings” and add your SSID and network password. That’s it. Now the hard part is done, let’s get to the fun part. Find a location: You’ll want to find a location for your camera that gives you the best possible viewing angle and lighting. You’ll also want to decide what location you will want to observe and record. It should be an area that you want monitored so if movement is detected, you can be alerted. Common locations to monitor are entryways, play rooms, safes, etc., and common positions are bookshelves, mantles, and cabinet tops. The tricky part is concealing the power cord. If aesthetics are important for you (like me) and you are willing to get a little dirty (attic) or drill holes (carefully), it is pretty easy to conceal the power cord. I chose to mount our camera in our kitchen above our cabinets. It provided a bird’s eye view into the kitchen, family room, and two entrances into the house. We didn’t have any power above the cabinets and already had some lighting running through the cabinets, so I drilled a second small hole below line of sight into the cabinet. This allowed me to plug the camera into the microwave outlet. Depending on your home, you may be able to run your power cord into the attic, or down through a wall to the closest outlet. If you really want it to look nice, you’ll find a way. This is also why I chose the pan/tilt camera. The location I selected required a more “flexible” camera to facilitate a less conspicuous position. Once you have picked a location and concealed the power cord, plug in the camera (and Ethernet if you are not using wireless) and the camera will do the rest. Check out the pic of my final installed camera to the right. Enjoy your new camera: Log in to your Vivint account center and go to the Video tab. The default tab “live video” will let you start playing with your new camera. If you have the pan/tilt camera, you’ll want to complete this one final step to get the most out of your new camera. 1. Go to “Camera Settings” under the video tab. 2. Select your newly created camera from the drop down labeled “Camera. 3. Click “Pan/Tilt Presets.” 4. Use the arrows on the video preview to navigate the pan/tilt features and position the camera in unique positions you want to observe. 5. Save 4–5 presets that give you the best viewing. 6. The only limitation is that your “home” preset is the only preset that can actually record.