CCTV cameras on camera


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).


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.



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

Converting CCTV surveillance camera system videos from .264 to .AVI on Mac OS X

My challenge for today was to convert footage from a CCTV security camera into AVI format. The footage format was .264, a format mainly used by security camera systems, and this format apparently lacks headers and so cannot be read in any of the usual programs such as Quicktime or VLC. What it needed was a wrapper of some sort but I’m not advanced enough to know how to do it on my own, since video is not my speciality. A search of the internet and online forums revealed there was ONE small obscure utility that did the trick (AVIGenerator), but the utility was Windows based. Since all the computers in my house are Macs and I haven’t yet dug up my Parallels cd, another solution had to be found…

And the solution is to use Wine.

“Wine lets you run Windows software on other operating systems. With Wine, you can install and run these applications just like you would in Windows. Wine is still under active development. Not every program works yet, however there are already several million people using Wine to run their software. Wine is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2.1 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.”

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I downloaded WineBottler cos it came with Wine compiled for Mac OS X.

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I used Wine to run the installer and then the AviGenerator program, available here.

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To summarise the process:

How to convert .264 to .AVI on a Mac

1. Install Wine or WineBottler
2. Install AVIGenerator app using Wine. Alternatively, use WineBottler to package into a standalone Mac OS app.
3. Run the installed AVIGenerator and use it to convert the .264 video into .AVI

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Successful Surveillance Camera Video Conversion!
Is there any other easier way to convert surveillance camera videos? Probably not. I’m surprised that the process was not as straightforward as just downloading and viewing it on my computer. The surveillance camera dvr is likely to be able to read the .264 format but without the conversion to avi it will be difficult for a casual home user to view the .264 format on their mac or even pc.

Alright and while I convert the rest of the videos, in the meantime, do head on down to BAN—FAM’s ‘1 Dimensional Society’, now on at Lasalle’s TriSpace (Basement 1, #B1-05) until 14 Aug 2013! (More updates on the 1ds site in a bit…)

‘1 Dimensional Society’ by artists BAN—FAM is an homage to the social theory of Herbert Marcuse’s ‘One Dimensional Man’.

Marcuse theorised that the ‘one dimensional society’ was one that subscribed to a totalitarian democracy – a system where the state is said to maximise its control over the lives of its citizens using the dual rationale of general will and majority rule. The beanbags abstractly symbolise and facilitate satirical social criticism towards ways of operating; this work is a critical commentary on the role of choice in society.

BAN—FAM (Vanessa Ban and Andrea Fam) is a practice that spans across contemporary art, graphic design, typography, curation and critique.