Services - Education - Tools of the Trade - Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
A Digital Video Recorder (DVR) is a hard drive/software package with a video splitter. The video splitter allows you to view multiple cameras at once and the hard drive and software allow you to record what the cameras pick up. The DVR that is used by paranormal research groups is the same type used for security systems. The system will vary in how many channels (or cameras) it can use, how big the hard drive is, whether or not it has a CDR with it, if it comes with cameras or a monitor, and how it will let you record. They are versatile in letting you choose what types of cameras you can hook up to it and they can be upgraded as you need. The main drawback is they are very pricey. A basic 4-channel DVR with an 80-gig hard drive can list at $400 or more. That still means you will need a monitor, cameras, and cable, all of which can cost even more than the DVR. However, the benefits far outweigh the cost.
As I mentioned, DVR systems are highly adaptable. The system that the Ghosts of Ohio recently purchased is a DVR/monitor combo unit that has a 160-gigabyte (GB) hard drive (upgradeable to 500 GB) and can use up to 8 cameras. It came with four color-infrared indoor/outdoor cameras that have a resolution of 350 lines. With the LED, the camera can still view things with a minimum illumination of 0.1 Lux, or approximately the amount of light that a half-moon gives off on a clear night. It is not a wireless system because we felt that there was too much of a chance for interference from other wireless products. Anything from cordless phones to wireless home network systems could have caused interference. In order for the video to be considered valid as evidence we could not take the risk of any type of external interference.
Having a DVR system allows you to have one person, although this is not advised, monitor multiple cameras during an investigation. The video still has to be reviewed after the investigation, but it will allow you to immediately know if something unusual is happening. The DVR also allows you to review footage while it is still recording to help make this determination. You can decide if it warrants someone going and investigating right away. This will help save time after the investigation by cutting down on the number of unexplained things that you came across during your video review. You will have had the opportunity to have someone take a look right away instead of having to go back and try to recreate the incident. As I mentioned above, only having one person watch the monitor can be a problem as it can be extremely hard to keep your eyes on four or more videos and pay attention to what you are seeing. It is best to have two people watching the monitor. That way they each only have to keep an eye on a few videos. If something comes up that is unusual, there is a second person that can take a look and decide if it should be looked into further.
Another advantage to a DVR system is not having to purchase numerous amounts of videotapes and finding a place to store them all. After several years’ worth of tapes have started to accumulate, you start to realize you need to rent storage just to keep it all. With the DVR, you can transfer it all onto CD or DVD and one disc. You saved the cost of possibly a dozen or more discs and it is easier to keep track of that one disc.
A possible drawback in using a DVR system is all the cable that you have to run from the DVR to the cameras. It takes some extra effort in setting things up correctly and securing all the cables so they do not interfere with any of the people in the area. The last thing you want to happen is have someone trip over a cable and break the system, camera—or worse—personal property of your clients.
All in all, a DVR system is definitely an investment, but can be worth it. You just have to keep some of the drawbacks in mind. As with all equipment used in the paranormal field, it is best used in conjunction with other tools and your own common sense.