Selecting Video Cable
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Selecting Video Cable

There are two factors that govern the selection of cable: the location of cable runs, either indoor or outdoor, and the maximum length of the individual cable runs.


Video coaxial cable is designed to transmit maximum signaling energy from a 75 ohm source to a 75 ohm load with minimum signal loss. Excessive signal loss and reflection occurs if cable rated for other than 75 ohms is used. Cable characteristics are determined by a number of factors (core material, dielectric material and shield construction, among others) and must be carefully matched to the specific application. Moreover, the transmission characteristics of the cable will be influenced by the physical environment through which the cable is run and the method of installation.


Use only high quality cable and be careful to match the cable to the environment (indoor or outdoor). Solid core, bare-copper conductor is best suited to video applications, except where flexing occurs. In locations where the cable must be continuously flexed (i.e., when used with scanners or pan & tilts), use cable intended for such movement. This cable will have a stranded wire core. Use only cable with pure copper stranding. Do not use cable with copper-plated steel stranding because it does not transmit effectively in the frequency range used in CCTV.


The preferred dielectric material is foam polyethylene. Foam polyethylene has better electrical characteristics and offers the best performance over solid polyethylene, but it is more vulnerable to moisture. Use cable with solid polyethylene dielectric in applications subject to moisture.


In the average CCTV installation, with cable lengths of less than 750 feet (228 m),RG59/U cable is a good choice. Having an outside dimension of approximately 0.25 inches, it comes in 500-and 1,000-foot rolls.


For short cable runs, use RG59/U with a 22-gauge center conductor, which has a DC resistance of about 16 ohms per 1,000 feet (304 m). For longer runs, the 20-gauge variety which has a DC resistance of approximately 10 ohms per 1,000 feet will work well. In either case, cables with polyurethane or polyethylene as the dielectric material are readily available.


For installations requiring cable runs between 800 (244 m) and 1,500 feet (457 m),RG6/U is best. Having the same electrical characteristics as RG59/U, its outer dimension also is about equal to that of RG59/U.RG6/U comes in 500-,1000-and 2000-foot rolls, and it may be obtained in a variety of dielectric and outer-jacket materials. Due to its large-diameter center conductor of about 18 gauge,RG6/ U has a DC resistance of approximately 8 ohms per 1,000 feet (304 m) and can deliver a signal farther than RG59/U.


Use RG11/U to exceed the capability of RG6/U. Once again, the electrical characteristics of this cable are basically the same as the others. The center conductor can be ordered in 14-or 18-gauge sizes, producing a DC resistance of approximately 3-8 ohms per 1,000 feet (340 m). Being the largest of the three cables at 0.405 inches, it is more difficult to handle and install.RG11/U cable usually is delivered in 500-,1000-and 2000-foot rolls.


Because of special applications, variations of RG59/U, RG6/U and RG11/U frequently are introduced by manufacturers.


Due to changes in fire and safety regulations throughout the country, Teflon and other fire-retardant materials are becoming more popular as outer-jacket and dielectric materials. In case of a fire, these materials do not give off the same poisonous fumes as PVC-type cables, and therefore, are considered safer.


For underground applications, direct burial cables, made specifically for that purpose are recommended. The outer jacket of this type of cable contains moisture-resisting and other materials that protect the cable, allowing it to be placed directly into a trench.


With numerous choices available, finding the right video cable for each camera application should be easy. After the installation has been properly assessed, read the equipment specifications and complete the appropriate calculations.


Cable Runs


Although coax cable has built-in losses, the longer and smaller the cable is, the more severe the losses become; and the higher the signal frequency, the more pronounced the losses. Unfortunately this is one of the most common and unnecessary problems currently plaguing CCTV security systems as a whole.


If, for example, your monitor is located 1,000 feet (304 m) from the camera, approximately 37-percent of the high frequency information will be lost in transmission. The unfortunate aspect of this condition is that it is not obvious. You cannot see information that is not there and may not even realize that information has been deleted. Because many CCTV security systems have cable runs that exceed several thousand feet, unless you are aware of this characteristic of cable, your system may be providing a seriously degraded image.


So, if your cameras and monitors are separated by lengths greater than 750 feet (228 m), you should check to make certain that some provision has been made to guarantee the video signal's transmission strength.


Cable Termination

In video security systems, camera signals must travel from the camera to the monitor. The method of transmission is usually "coax" cable. Proper termination of cables is essential to a system's reliable performance.


Because the characteristic impedance of coax cable ranges from 72 to 75 ohms, it is necessary that the signal travels on a uniform path along any point in the system to prevent any picture distortion and to help ensure proper transfer of the signal from the camera to the monitor. The impedance of the cable must remain constant with a value of 75 ohms. To properly transfer power between two video devices with acceptable losses, the signal output from the camera must match the input impedance of the cable, which in turn must match the input impedance of the monitor. The end point of any video cable run must be terminated in 75 ohms. Usually, the cable run will end at the monitor, which will ensure that this requirement is met.


Usually the video input impedance of the monitor is controlled by a switch located near the looping video (input/output) connectors. This switch allows for either 75 ohm termination if the monitor is the "end point”, or Hi-Z for looping to a second monitor. Check equipment specifications and instructions to determine the proper termination requirements. Failure to terminate signals properly usually results in a high contrast, slightly grainy picture. Ghosting and other signal imperfections also may be evident.

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