Can Security Cameras have Audio?

Published on October 19, 2018 by Matt Garnham in Blog Posts on Security Cameras

Can Security Cameras have Audio?

A common question that people ask us. Some cameras do have microphones built into them. We do not sell any cameras that do.

There are 3 main reasons as to why we don’t stock security cameras with audio on-board. These should give you a helping hand working out whether a security camera with audio really is the best solution for you:

  1. The ideal positioning of the camera and the microphone are not the same therefore one is compromised
  2. Compromising how weatherproof a camera is
  3. Legal Issues

1. Camera vs Microphone Positioning

Ideal positioning of Camera

Ideal camera positioningI will be covering the ideal positioning of a camera in full in another blog post, however in short, you want the camera to be looking head on at the person’s face and have the subject moving directly towards the camera.

This way you give yourself the best chance of capturing an image that will allow you to identify the person. As they get closer to the camera their face will fill an increasing portion of the screen. This results in more pixels being used to record their face. This is a greater resolution and gives better definition.

With varifocal zoom lenses, you can pick ideal locations for your security camera positions. With our most popular 2.8-12mm lens, this will allow you to identify someone at up to 50 feet. Our longest lens at over 200!

Ideal positioning of Microphone

Microphones should be as close to the subject as possible. There are 2 reasons for this. First – the level of the sound that can be picked up drops the further from the source. Second – the microphone needs to be able to differentiate between background noise and the speaker.

This graphic really demonstrates how quickly the ambient background noise becomes an issue [click for full size].

Background Noise for Microphone

You will see that by about 8 – 10 feet, the level of a person’s voice will be about the same as the background noise – possibly less (if the background noise is loud).

To get the best out of a microphone, it should be positioned as close to the source (person speaking) as possible.

If you want to read more about this, check out this great article from our friends at Biamp regarding microphone positioning. This is where the above image came from. They explain it in much greater detail than we possibly could!

Differences Between the two

Often the ideal position for the camera will be over 40 feet from where the person will be standing. This is to get the best image for the camera. The ideal position for the microphone would be within 6 feet (and ideally 4) of the person speaking.

If you position the camera where the microphone should be, you will end up with images that won’t identify the person.

If you position the microphone where the camera should be, you will end up with useless audio.

If you try to compromise and position both in the middle, you will end up with useless images and audio.

Obviously none of the above are particularly attractive!

2. Weatherproof-ness

Weatherproofness Dictionary EntryYep – I have just created a new word!

This isn’t necessarily an issue with all cameras with in built microphones. Some cameras we have evaluated with on-board microphones actually have a reduced IP rating. Upon further investigation, this is because the microphone used requires holes to be drilled in the camera body. This gives rise to the potential of water ingress.

I recommend reconsidering a camera with audio if it is to be located where it is likely to get very wet.

3. Legal Issues

Perhaps the most important issue, but also the most overlooked are the legal issues involved with having a security camera system recording audio as well as video.

It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the full legal details (and I wouldn’t want to start making specific comments as security camera laws do change on occasion). Not only that, but the laws often differ from state to state. Even some counties have different rules.

Please make your own investigations into the legality of recording audio alongside video in both local as well as Federal laws.

Dedicated Microphones

If after reading all the above as well as reviewing the potential legal concerns you still wish to go ahead, I would strongly recommend you investigate using a dedicated microphone instead of one on board a camera. These come in many shapes and sizes, including some very discrete mini microphones. I am sure that you could find something to work in your situation if you need to. If you are struggling to find a dedicated microphone, get in touch and someone from our team will be able to help.

Summary

  • Do you need to record audio as well as video? Probably not
  • If you want to, is a camera with an inbuilt microphone the best solution? Almost definitely not
  • If you really want to, is it going to be legal? Probably not – It depends on your local laws

The large majority of our customers would not benefit from having on board audio. For this reason when we specify our cameras, we specifically do not include audio as a feature we would want. For those customers of ours that do require audio, we always suggest and supply a dedicated microphone specific for the job. Doing it this way will produce a much better result all round.

If you require guidance as to whether you require a microphone and how to best go about using one to capture audio as well as video, our team will always help you out – Contact Us for more information.


about the author: Matt Garnham
Security Camera expert for many years. He is the founder and owner of Orange Security. Started life in the security industry in the UK. Relocated to Southern Florida and Orange Security was formed.

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