Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Process of Soil Works: CCTV cameras on camera

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Look Ma, the camera is on camera! Here is a test image of the field monitor with the cctv camera I got for my works in the PYT show. It seems that surveillance or CCTV cameras generally fall into two lots - covert/hidden cameras vs OBVIOUS CAMERAS (because sometimes knowing you're being watched is all you need, and the actual watching is less important for the purpose of 'surveillance').



Sim Lim Tower has a load of fake CCTV cameras mixed up with their real CCTV cameras. There are even ones with motion detection with cameras that follow you when you move.


At the 24hr Mustafa Centre there are pallets full of these $5 fake realistic cameras which look just like the real shells and even have a little red LED "activation light" for realism. (In my house I sometimes get mixed up between my collection of REAL CCTVs cameras and the fake CCTVs... I mean, the manufacturers who are producing the plastic shells for CCTV camera housings must be doing a great sideline in these... maybe it is even their mainline....)

But I wanted to find a working camera that was a patently obvious CCTV camera. At first I searched for anything from high end blackmagic studio cameras (out of budget) to even regular consumer webcams (logitech has some pretty decent ones) and the choices seemed honestly bewildering. Eventually I decided on this China-made Vanxse CCTV Camera with varifocal lenses because to me it looked like the most "generic" CCTV camera.



True enough, on the week of the setup I saw this picture on social media (Yes I browse it once in a while although I don't post anything personal on it) and I don't even watch Netflix or Maniac (probably never will!!!!) but when I saw this picture I was like... I KNOW THAT CAMERA FROM SOMEWHERE.... because I've been staring at it the back end of this equipment very intently recently.



Ho ho ho! I think this here is affirmation that the equipment I have chosen will likely be visually recognised by general audiences as a surveillance camera!

It costs USD50 (About SGD66 from Amazon) and to get a HDMI output for it you just need a BNC Adaptor + Yellow composite video cable + standard composite AV to HDMI converter. Its quite a standard 1/3" camera with a CS type lens mount so you can buy different lenses for it. The camera itself uses as Sony Effio-E Imaging Sensor / processor - "Effio" stands for "Enhanced Features and Fine Image Processor". This Effio-E is supposed to be a Sony signal processor which is able to capture high resolution and good colour reproduction (as well as having a high signal-to-noise ratio).

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When I bought the camera I realised it required a BNC connector (Bayonet Neill–Concelman connector), which can be cheaply bought so you can get the AV video output. Based on the design of the camera's ports at the back, there is actually very little space left to execute the quarter turn required to lock the BNC coupling nut, and when you are trying to plug in your generic 12V adaptor then you really need to squeeze everything in together much harder than you would imagine. I was reading that the BNC connector was used in many early computer networks (eg ARCnet) and that there were also specialist tools devised for inserting these tough nuts in very small spaces - they often appeared on tightly packed boards which left no space for fat human fingers to turn the coupling nut on the connector.



RCA is an analog format so the final image when converted to a digital HDMI signal with the HDMI converter the video image will still tend to be grainy visually. Since I am producing images of landscape through these feeds, I'm actually okay with the grain as it lends to the overall visual effect.

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Furthermore getting a cctv camera means its also produces good images in "total darkness" especially when combined with infrared lights that are completely invisible to the human eye!



What am I building with all this?



A terrifying closed circuit contraption! (There are other cameras in the work too!) Come and see it in person! Soil works was produced for the President's Young Talents 2018 show and is on now until 27 Jan 2019.



8Q @ Singapore Art Museum
8 Queen St, Singapore 188535
Gallery 3.12 (Level 3)
4 Oct 2018 - 27 Jan 2019

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