IR and Visible Lighting: Overcome the challenges of recording clear video at night

In photography and videography, there is one basic rule: if there is no light, then there is no image. Whether it’s a prosumer or consumer DSLR camera, a camera phone or a vintage film camera, security cameras too require ample lighting to produce footage. And it just so happens, capturing clear video at night or in areas where there is a severe lack of light, is where security cameras are very often placed. This is perhaps the greatest challenge for surveillance systems. Without a robust light source, security cameras will produce dark, grainy images that are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. To empower your security and facility personnel with the tools to quickly review, identify, detect and ultimately, prevent crime, you must make sure your surveillance systems are armed with the right illumination such as infrared (IR) light or visible light.

What is Visible Light?

Visible light is light that can be seen by the eyes. For newer exterior lighting, High Intensity LED will likely be the lighting source, but in older fixtures, the source will likely be High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamp, which utilizes bulbs. This is traditionally the way the outside of a building or complex is lit and is one of the first layers of your perimeter security.

What is IR Light?

IR light is light that we cannot see. In security systems, this is used to illuminate secure areas at night or in dark spaces so that we may detect, view and record events taking place in pitch black darkness. IR light is typically generated from within a camera, using IR emitters or from a separate IR flood light, which are used to illuminate larger areas or objects at a greater distance.

Which one do you need?

Choosing between visible light and infrared light depends on such variables as coverage distance and area of concern. This is not a matter of personal preference so your decision must be based on context and situation. In other words, your unique needs.

Visible light, such as high output LED is always more ideal as a camera’s illumination for purposes other than just providing light for cameras. It is the best deterrent to intrusion. When your facility is well lit, an intruder will likely pass up an attempt of a crime on your property and move on to their next target. Visible light is optimal in parking garages, fence lines and loading bays, where personnel will traverse or work. It provides light for not only the camera but for your employees simultaneously. Visible light can also be activated by motion detectors, fence detection, video analytics and cameras to alarm and repel intruders. Lights turning on, will always alert an intruder that they have been detected, whereas an infrared security light is invisible to the naked eye, so they may continue their intrusion. Another reason to use visible light is when you require your footage to be in color.

IR lighting is perfect for covert operation when you don’t want intruders to know they are being monitored. When your business has experienced multiple break-ins and nothing has been captured on security videos, your surveillance system may very well be unable to capture footage due to low light. An IR security light will enable you to track and record an intruder’s movements, without alerting them of the presence of security cameras. IR light provides long distance coverage which works perfectly in tandem with all security cameras and can illuminate out up to 920 feet, or nearly three football fields. Though granular details may be compromised past a few hundred feet, you will most definitely be able to track an intruder’s movement. And if an intruder is close enough, you may be able to the identity of the perpetrator. Ideal applications for IR lights include parking lots, perimeter fencing, dark warehouses, license plate capture and other locations where a camera is being installed and there is no ambient light.

At Sierra Group, we find that a hybrid approach is usually the best solution. As most of our solutions are powered by POE, as long as we have CAT cable to the area, we can mix and match Visible and IR lighting to meet your security need

What we can do for you

So the next time you are developing specs with your integrator for a nighttime optimized surveillance system, remember the importance of IR and visible light and ensure that they are implemented in your system. Contact us for a comprehensive review of your security system.

As threats continue to evolve, it’s important to implement a security system that is flexible and scalable; a single, holistic ecosystem that will grow with your business. If you are looking for a security integration and management company or your current system is not meeting your standards, Sierra Group offers the latest innovations in electronic security from Video Surveillance, Access Control, Alarm Systems and Intercom.

Reach out to us and learn more about the Sierra Group difference, here.

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