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

Sentosa: Island under surveillance

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Many moons have passed and of late I have had various sojourns in Kyoto, Singapore, and Beijing. We recently spent an afternoon on Sentosa, that perfectly terraformed, strangely astroturfed paradise of flowers, butterflies, packaged entertainments and fireworks at the bottom of Singapore. On the weekends it is now free to walk across the bridge on foot; it is a mere 10-15 min from Vivocity and the walkway is now littered with selfie-stick and souvenir sellers. With the roaring machinery of the Pasir Panjang port as a backdrop to this leisure island, on a good day when the sun glitters across the waters and the city is like a mirage behind, you can pretend it is a movie picture moment as you step into this giant theme park.

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Near the entrance there is an artificial cave with a waterfall gushing over it, lushly draped with tropical flora, and the huge san-serifed words “SENTOSA” loom overhead as a brightly decorated monorail train cycles through it like a futuristic hyperloop dream.

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Constant, non-stop playback of a few choice selected tropical island songs that will have you wondering, where on earth is all this music coming from? Because in Singapore, Singapore, you’ll find happiness, for everyone…

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Concealed electrical wires keep the sound and magic running to order.

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Discreetly installed lights prepare to illuminate your way once night falls.

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A service entrance is artfully painted in a stone-like pattern to match the artificial stone landscaping.

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Sitting in front of the Merlion Plaza, we observed an undulating, neverending cascade of visitors taking selfies of themselves at this scenic spot by the foot of the Merlion. What did people do at the Merlion Plaza before selfies were invented? Prior to this, I hadn’t realised that such a simple open square in front of a 40-foot tall merlion could provide so many hours of selfie-taking entertainment for so many.

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Here is the coup de grâce; after you have crested the hill of Imbiah lookout and descended the stairs towards Wings of Time, this astroturfed photo spot awaits you. Whether an artist work or ironic advertising spot, it is one of the curious things about Singapore – in attempting to describe itself, it frequently doesn’t seem to be able to escape this phase of awkward self-awareness, in which the satire is just as easily misread by those who see nothing wrong in sinking into the blissful oblivion of a comfortable, unquestioned life full of playing safe, talking cock and shaking leg, and queuing for food and hello kitty…

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.

Secret Compartment Rocks

Speaking of rocks, I saw some rather interesting rocks in Pompei. Obviously, we went to see a lot of rocks in Italy, especially what with all these ruins and archaeological sites. But sometimes what you need is just a little rock camouflage.

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Soundbox Rock (at Il Principe, a restaurant in Pompei)

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Powerplug Rock (at Pompei Scavi)
Yeah, I am thinking I should investigate further on how to hide things inside rocks or make secret compartments inside rocks…


See also:

Sirens and Surveillance, Performance and Power – Grasso’s Silent Movie

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Laurent Grasso – Silent Movie


Every year since I can recall, they’ve played the public warning system air raid sirens on the 15th of September (Civil Defence Day). They also play it on 15 February as that is Total Defence Day and also when the Japanese invaded Singapore during World War II. I’m not sure why 15th September was picked to be “Civil Defence Day” but it has always seemed suitable as a sort of birthday bell of sorts. I always thought it was quite special to have some island-wide sounds to look forward to on my birthday.

This year I am in Paris on my birthday, but I still got to hear the siren as I asked my friends back in SIngapore to record it for me and a number of them kindly obliged. It was awesome, because the places where different people had recorded it all sounded so different: some sounded like they were living in the middle of nature with insects all around, whereas others sounded like they were next to traffic. And in the midst of all the different landscape sounds, there was the same steady cry of the air raid warning siren. It can be easy to forget that the chiming sirens’ real purpose is to be a test of the air raid sirens and public warning system in Singapore; a monthly chime that resembles a charming little church bell plays on the first day of each month and I am sure that many think it is a church bell – but it is actually the testing of the public warning systems.

I will confess that there is very little need to “sell” the idea of civil defence to me; my father had been a naval officer and he had always talked about the importance of various strategic outposts as surveillance or radar stations that would be Singapore’s eyes out at sea, and which would allow one to “safeguard” one’s shoreline by watching it closely. So if you asked me, I would be inclined to agree that everything within one’s own capacity ought to be done to ensure the safety and security of one’s own home, even if this translated into keeping a close eye on all of the movements in international waters around Singapore. After all, if you did not preemptively collect and monitor this data or information, then how would one truly understand what was really going on?

When me and another friend did a surveillance camera performance some years back with a public webcam that pointed at a walkway along Wisma Atria (a public walkway that no longer exists today), I was excited by the fact that someone I wouldn’t know could also be watching this. I google every single thing. I expect to be able to search and scour every piece of information and for the same to be said of the information I am putting out (although, in reality, i do realize not everyone is so inclined to do so, so its safe to say that probably no one is obsessively googling me now – but they could be! and I could be obsessively googling for something else too… and you would not know).

For this reason, I was quite attracted to Laurent Grasso’s work. Especially Silent Movie, which shows the different surveillance points and deserted military installations on the coast of Spain. At first, one is more impressed by the spectacular view of the coastline, craggy rocks and scenic outcroppings from which one can see the sun glittering in the sea. The shots themselves are intentionally long and ponderous, and with nothing else to look at besides the scenery, one eventually stares at it until a hint of the installation reveals itself. Like a submarine sailing past. Or that the camera is on top of a big gun. Or that the curious building in the distance is not just any building but a military outpost.

The military fortifications embedded into the coast were made to be visible to those approaching the coast, and in a way, their visibility could be more important than their functionality, for we are shown how their strategic viewpoints provide an overview of the coastline. Although the military installations are now seemingly disused and empty, the physical presence of the military architectures still suggests to the observer that he is being watched; like Bentham’s Panopticon.

It is a bit like the big (and slightly ostentatious) mobile column of brand new armoured vehicles, battle tanks, and military equipment that occurs every five years at the National Day Parade in Singapore and then makes an epic tour around the different neighborhoods of Singapore. Are ordinary Singaporeans really interested in looking at our military’s numerous tanks and armoured vehicles? Maybe they are interested in it, but certainly these shows of power aren’t just for Singaporeans but it is also a public performance and display of heavy military equipment that is meant for our foreign neighbors to see.

Singapore’s defense expenditure will constitute almost 25 percent of government spending in 2012, with Singapore Budget 2012 reporting that expected total expenditure by Ministry of Defence “is projected to be $12.28 billion. This makes Singapore’s defense budget the largest in the Southeast asian region. There is also a well-known and established military manufacturing sector in Singapore and Singapore-made rifles, anti-tank weaponry, warships, etc,. are also exported to other armies. For example, rather than purchasing off-the-shelf guns that would not be as suitable for smaller asian people and would have high maintenance costs, they instead developed and produced the SAR 21 (Singapore Assault Rifle 21) to fit asian physiques and over time also produced new models which improved on various design weaknesses that were commonly found in other assault rifles. Nearly ever able-bodied male in Singapore will at one time or another be conscripted into the military. Singapore also makes it into the GMI (Global Militarisation Index) at 2nd place; in an index calculated by “the comparison of a country’s military expenditure with its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its health expenditure”.

On the significance of the Militarisation index:

In many countries, excessive militarization hinders the necessary structural change of the economic and social framework conditions and enforces development deficits in its industry and agriculture. On the other hand, a low degree of militarization can also be problematic and thus hinder development as it can point to fundamental deficits in the security sector. A weak or not functioning security sector cannot prevent violence and conflicts which negatively affect the population and its development as it cannot successfully enforce and uphold a monopoly of violence. One result is often fragile and weak states in which economic growth and development cannot prosper.

Power is a performance which must have an audience. A performance could consist of just people watching each other to see what each other would do. I don’t quite buy it when people say they perform for no one, or make works without regard to who will see it. But I suppose that is why interaction is important for me in my own work.


Abrupt end to post: Today the sun is great and I am going out for a walk.