How does a CCTV Camera Work?

As crime rates and data leaks continue to soar up in the modern world, the need to have appropriate security systems installed in your vicinity is on an all-time high. Whether you are a business or an individual who is looking to safeguard your property against potential dangers, getting a good quality surveillance system will be the best decision you will ever make. 

But have you ever wondered how these CCTV cameras work? Monitoring and transmitting data and footage in real-time while coming in such a compact form factor is no small feat. In this article, we will decode the working principle behind these cameras and will also tell you about their types. Let’s get started. 

Quick link: For great deals on CCTV cameras, check out ovisscctv store

What is a CCTV?

CCTV or Closed Circuit Television is a video system that has to be strategically placed in a spot in order to record footage, which is then digitally transmitted to a display monitor which facilitates real-time viewing as well as past data logs. 

This system encompasses all the aspects such as the wiring, camera, video storage drive ( hard-disk or cloud-based), monitors, management systems, and access controls that are put together to make the system. 

The most common use case behind using CCTV is preventing third-party access to areas with privileged information or private property. Aside from the locals, CCTV has also helped the crime and detection departments to identify potential criminals, missing suspects, and burglars 

The name Closed Circuit Television stems from the fact that all the components inside a CCTV system are air wired so as to prohibit them from getting broadcasted on a public network. These cameras have come a long way since their early production days in 1942, offering features such as thermal scanning, motion control, and eye-tracking. 

Quick link: Would you like to know more about CCTV cameras? Check out ovisscctv and learn more.

What is CCTV used for?

In its early days, CCTV was put to use in the military by Germans in order to monitor the launch of their V2 rockets. As technology improved, their functionality also attained a wider horizon and made them what they are today. 

Nowadays, CCTV cameras can be seen everywhere, from pubs, malls, private residences to complex locations like aircraft pits and underground smart devices. Here are some insights into the most common uses of a CCTV system : 

  • Home security 

A house with a CCTV camera installed is typically less likely to be the victim of theft or vandalism as opposed to those without one. Even though these cameras cannot do anything physically to prevent or control the crimes, they do create a fear in criminals that they have been pictured thereby increasing the chances of them getting caught exponentially. 

Hence, more than 50% of homeowners in metro cities have now switched to CCTV to deter any harmful activity. 

  • Business surveillance 

A business may use a CCTV camera for a number of commercial properties and also at multiple locations, both within and outside their main building. Offices, museums, banks, retail stores, and restaurants all are a hotbed for crimes these days. 

Hence, owners often place CCTV systems over there at varying angles to provide good security. Stores and offices also use them inside their properties to overlook issues like shoplifting or data file thefts. Many businesses also use security cameras to monitor their employees to ensure that they work in the hours they have billed for. 

  • Traffic monitoring 

Various metro cities have now installed motion tracking capable security cameras across busy roads in order to charge anyone who is seen breaking the traffic rules such as running red lights or speeding. 

Quicklink: Business surveillance is a notch easier with managed surveillance. Explore ovisscctv’s managed surveillance service.

Working principle behind a CCTV camera 

The functioning of every CCTV system differs and depends on the components installed in the system. However, the general process is the same for all security camera systems. 

The system can be scaled up and down in terms of size and also be connected to one of the multiple monitors to monitor the frame. The camera first clicks multiple images of an area in a continual sequence and then renders them wirelessly to a system that is chosen by the admin via a wired or internet-based connection. The system then combines all those images to form a video that can be viewed on the monitor. 

Some cameras even have the ability to zoom in and out of the frame depending on the lens and focal length used in the system. A basic camera that gets the job done can easily come in at an affordable rate while one with advanced tech like thermal imaging, number plate recognition, and night vision may lie on the higher side of the price spectrum. These cameras can be further bifurcated into two types which are wired and wireless cameras

  • Analog security systems 

An analog surveillance system will work once you synchronize your DVD recorder to a standard analog camera. The video recorder will then receive the video from the camera, process it using its neural engine, and save it in the system in a compressed form. 

These security camera systems let you transfer your footage over the internet on cloud-based systems for viewing later. 

To sum up, the digital video recorder is solely responsible for compressing, converting, streaming, and storing all the video in this case. One can also re-program the built-in functions in their cameras such as motion detection, schedules, and notifications using the recorder menu. 

  • IP security systems 

If you have a high budget and want superior quality, then you may go for this option. This system eliminates the need for a DVR(digital video recorder) since in an IP camera configuration, the camera can also record, convert, process, and stream the video over the internet. 

This video can be streamed directly on a personal computer or a mobile-based API without the intervention of a DVR device. 

Most popular types of CCTV cameras available in the market 

The broad categorization of security camera systems that are available to the public can be done as follows : 

Simple CCTV SystemsMains Powered CCTV SystemsSystems with recording capabilities
This includes a system where a camera is connected to a monitor using a coax cable. The camera is typically powered by the monitor itself.In this unit, both the camera and the monitor are connected to the main supply to draw power. If you are looking forward to scaling your business in the future, then this is the option to go for as you won’t have to worry about power shortages.A DVR is added to this system along with an optical drive that stores and allocates all the footage to different folders.
  • Dome CCTV cameras

These cameras get their name due to the dome-shaped cameras that provide a wide area of coverage. They have a discreet frosted glass on top of them. The dome casing also makes it quite challenging to determine the direction where the camera is facing, thus keeping the vandals away.


  • Easy-to-attach unobtrusive design 
  • Ideal for both indoor and outdoor use 
  • Vandal resistant dome
  • 360-degree rotation so that you can cover all the angles

This is the camera to go for if you own a shop, restaurant, or hotel. They can also be placed strategically in a room so as to cover all the angles. 

  • Bullet CCTV cameras

Their rectangular design is highly visible and often comes in handy when monitoring long distances. Their casings are often made of water and dust-resistant material due to frequent outdoor installation. 


  • Can hold up quite well in harsh climates 
  • Ideal for surveillance over long distances
  • Strong cases also protect it from rain and glare

Their most common use case is in industries such as manufacturing and farming. They are also capable of clicking high-quality pictures. 

  • C-mount CCTV cameras 

Like bullet cameras, they have a strong design language and often come with replaceable lenses so that you can monitor a wide range of distances. They are bulky and can easily adapt to any field of vision. 


  • Customized lenses that can be changed as per your requirement; can also stretch the camera’s range beyond 40 feet. 
  • Obtrusive design 
  • Rugged casing for weather protection 
  • Weatherproof housing minimizes the possibility of a fuse 

They can be commonly seen on roads and logistics industries. Food industries and kitchens also use this camera due to its ability to hold up in extreme temperatures. 

  • PTZ pan tilt & zoom cameras 

These cameras give full control to your management team regarding the angle at which footage is being recorded. You can pan the camera left and right at the touch of a button and also adjust it vertically. 


  • Optical zoom ensures crisp quality when zoomed in
  • Pan and tilt function gives 360 view
  • Excellent image resolution 
  • Can be tilted and controlled via remote control 

These cameras are often used in museums and properties with a guard to monitor the CCTV system. This camera can move and cover a wide range of angles eliminating the need for several static cameras. 

  • Day/night vision CCTV cameras 

These cameras have wide apertures so that they can operate easily even in poor lighting conditions. They can record clear footage round the clock and have extra sensitive image chips to help them with this. 


  • Grain-free recording at night 
  • Can record in both color and B&W modes
  • Can hold up well against sun glare and reflections on the glass 
  • Hardened casing to protect the camera 

These cameras are often used in military and business premises that need all-night and day surveillance. 

  • Infrared CCTV cameras 

These wireless security cameras are designed to operate in pitch black conditions and use infrared technology which allows for more light to get inside the lenses giving you clear footage in the dark. 


  • Quality recording in a pitch-black environment
  • They have an infrared cut filter that facilitates thermal imaging and motion detection 
  • Can deliver clear images even in fog or smoke 

They can be seen in banks and manufacturing plants that need ultra-reliable security solutions for their facilities. 

  • Network/IP CCTV cameras

These cameras compress the bandwidth of the recorded footage and stream it in real-time across the internet. The footage is stored on a network video recorder/ cloud storage system so that it is accessible from anywhere in the world. 


  • Easily accessible footage which can be viewed from any device 
  • Eliminates the need for coaxial cable, DVI cable, S-video cable, Ethernet cables and computer stations 
  • Low maintenance 

If you often stay away from your surveillance site and need to monitor the premises anytime you want, then this is the option for you. 

  • Wireless CCTV cameras 

They lower the installation time and have a minimalistic look. They are tidy and the discreet looks make it ideal for places like churches and museums. 


  • Easy to install 
  • Tidy appearance 
  • Secure storage and easily accessible archive footage 

They aim towards making the look spotless and tidy and can easily blend into any interior you like. 

  • High Definition CCTV cameras

They scale up the picture quality from the traditional 480p and take it up to 4K in some high-end wireless security cameras. If you have the budget to spare on these, then you can definitely go for this camera system. 


  • Unparalleled picture quality 
  • Grain-free zooming 

They are often used in offices and banks which have a high probability of property crime. 

Quick link: Are you having difficulty selecting the best camera? Why not give managed CCTV surveillance a try? Visit ovisscctv

Frequently Asked Questions

Does CCTV always keep recording?

Most of the CCTV systems can keep recording without interruptions for up to 90 days or more as long as there is ample storage available and a power supply. Once you clear some more space, you can switch them on again.

How long does CCTV footage stay?

Most of the camera management systems delete the footage 30 days after it is recorded. However, you can back it up to an external drive or a cloud management system if you want it for later.

Can we watch live CCTV?

Yes, this is possible through the LAN functionality which lets you stream live footage once you connect your IP camera to your router and power them on.

How do i view CCTV footage on my phone?

Many companies offer specialized APIs which are mobile-friendly and let you watch the footage on your mobile device. You can ask for this functionality from your provider anytime.

Now that you know about camera systems, why not try one for your business? Wondering where to look amongst the myriad of options available in the market?

We at Ovisscctv have got you covered!