How To Build a Custom Video Surveillance System

When it comes to Video Cameras for Surveillance you have many options.  In this series of postings we will discuss Camera Systems in more detail.  These days we try and classify cameras into 3 different types of systems:

  1. Traditional CCTV Video Surveillance System
  2. Cloud Video Surveillance System
  3. Hybrid Video Surveillance System

Towards the end of this article we will share one kind of Custom Video Surveillance System you can build (DIY) for less than $90.

Some of the most important features you will be looking for in your Video Surveillance System are:

  • First choose whether you want a Camera that records to the Cloud or not (or to your own Private Cloud)
  • Camera Resolution
  • Support for interoperability with other systems and apps (Mac, PC, Mobile, iOS, Android, ONVIF, HTML5)
  • What kind of Alerts will I get from my Video Surveillance Security System? (Motion Detection, E-Mail, Text)


Completely Wireless / Solar Powered Cameras
Did you know you can mount certain cameras (like the RingSpotlight Camera) on a tree now (completely wireless?)

Ring Spotlight Camera (Battery) Mounted On a Tree

Ring Spotlight Camera (Battery) Mounted On a Tree

  • The Ring Spotlight Camera (Battery) uses a Small Solar Panel to keep the battery charged
Surveillance Camera Mounted on Tree at offthegridit

Surveillance Camera Mounted on Tree Can you see the Camera mounted on this tree?

Ring App View of Spotlight Camera Mounted On Tree

Ring App View of Spotlight Camera Mounted On Tree

Security Monitoring

Security Monitoring

Tips for a Better Video Surveillance System

  1.  Make sure you start with the proper wiring and do a clean install including the right power supply (avoid plug-in power supplies unless you are using only one camera
  2. Buy the right cameras — DO NOT BUY Lorex, Q-See, Swann, Samsung, be picky with your selection if you want something that will work on all devices. (Buy LTS Security from an Authorized Dealer, that’s us), or Axis (on the high end,)  Amcrest, (some) D-Link, Everfocus, some HK Vision, and these days if you buy a more recent camera your camera may have support for a standard called ONVIF
  3. Buy cameras with ONVIF support built in


Nest Cams are a BIG RIPOFF


About DIY surveillance Systems

We have tried the following systems, including our own custom made camera systems:

  • Microsoft Windows based DVRs
  • Apple Mac based DVRs
  • Linux based DVRs
  • Pizza Box style DVRs (thats what most people buy from retail)

There are high end systems in each of these categories, but there are low cost unstable systems as well.  The system you choose might depend first on budget…???

  • First ask yourself, What is my budget for this?

You may have to start out small and build your system in stages.  It is better to get the right equipment the first time even if you can only afford a few pieces at a time don’t sacrifice hardware quality for trying to get it done faster.

Custom Raspberry Pi Video Surveillance system

Custom Raspberry Pi Video Surveillance system

Why Custom Video Surveillance
But first,  maybe you want to ask yourself “Why would I want a Custom Surveillance solution?”

  • Embed your Live Video Stream in a Web Page for your business
  • Create a Hybrid system to allow different camera types
  • Use off the grid technology
  • Build your surveillance system for less money or at least choose only what you want

Recent offthegridit Solution
Consider one recent Case Study/Solution we designed for a Doggy Day Care – a Pup Cam so that clients of the doggy day care can view each of the dog day care areas.

We researched the latest offerings and here is one solution we came up with. This link is just a comparison of some cameras we used.  (We will share the link to the client later.)

Check out our Live Stream Comparing Some Cameras in the link below

VIDEO SURVEILLANCE by offthegridit


Video Surveillance

Video Surveillance



To purchase the Axis Outdoor Camera

To Purchase the Amcrest Outdoor Camera

To Purchase the Amcrest Outdoor Wireless Only Camera

To Purchase the Amcrest Indoor PTZ Camera


To Purchase the Amcrest Indoor PTZ Camera (Refurbished)


Here are some Surveillance System Recording Options:

Here is a Video Surveillance DVR 8 Channel Recorder capable of 4K Resolution



Here is a decent (low priced) 8 Channel Recorder that will record from older Analog and TVI cameras as well as new ones


Here is a decent (low priced) 4 Channel Recorder that will record from older Analog and TVI cameras as well as new ones

Build a DIY Surveillance System

To use one of these cameras in your Linux Motion or MotionEye Projects get a Raspberry Pi (at least one per camera, and one more per Server/head-end if you will use one.)

When building a DIY Surveillance System there are some THINGS TO CONSIDER:

  • Security – Secure ALL your devices with a good password
  • Night Vision – you may have to add infrared emitters to support a night vision camera like the Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera V2

  • Will you need a Custom Raspberry Pi Housing or build your own?
  • If you create your own Software Image you will need Backups of this Image to ensure quick recovery in case of a system malfunction or loss



1. Make sure you have a good Network Router

– Get an Asus Router 

  • Buy one or more if you will be using Mesh Networking then buy at least two
      Asus C1900 (RT-AC68U) Dual-Band AiMesh Router Asus C1900 (RT-AC68U) Dual-Band AiMesh Router (2 Pack) 

2.  Get a Raspberry Pi 3 or greater


 Raspberry Pi 3 B +
 Raspberry Pi 3 B

64GB MicroSD Card

32GB SanDisk MicroSD Card

16GB SanDisk MicroSD Card  

3.  Get a Raspberry Pi Camera for each Surveillance Camera


(the new one is 8-Megapixel, the old one is 5-Megapixel)

Raspberry Pi Camera 8-Megapixel 

Raspberry Pi Camera 5-Megapixel 

Raspberry Pi Camera 5-Megapixel (Here is a really cheap one!!)

Here is theRaspberry Pi Camera 8-Megapixel Night Vision Version

  SainSmart Raspberry Pi Camera 5-Megapixel w/Wide Angle Lens

SainSmart Raspberry Pi Camera 5-Megapixel w/Wide Angle Lens & IR

  This is a Camera Multiplexor for Arducam Cameras (Raspberry Pi Camera)

  Raspberry Pi Dual Fan with Heat Sinks
Here is a nice dual fan setup with included Heat Sinks for the Raspberry Pi, note this may not work with some Raspberry Pi Hats

  IEEE Micro USB Activre PoE Splitter Power Over Ethernet
8v to 5v 2.4A

 (GC110TPv2) Netgear 8-port Gigabit Smart Pro Switch , 53W, PoE (802.11af)

(GC110P) Netgear 8-port Gigabit Smart Pro Switch , 53W,  w/8 PoE (802.11af) This is similar to the Switch above but has Extended Smart Features (L2+ / L3), and view performance remotely!

 Netgear 8-port Gigabit Switch with 4 PoE Ports, 45W, (802.3af)


4.  Setup your Raspberry Pi with MotionEyeOS

MotionEyeOS turns each one of your Raspberry Pi + Cameras into a Mini DVR capable of high resolution encoding and embedding into web pages or direct viewing from just about any browser.

MotionEye OS Github

  • Prepare your SD Card with MotionEyeOS
  • Login and check your settings for your intended purpose
MotionEyeOS Login Screen

MotionEyeOS Login Screen

Once the MotionEyeOS is installed you can either view the camera image or login to administer the camera.

Here is a view of a dog Day Care in (Livermore, CA) of Brat Pak Dog Kamp & Kafe

  • Custom Raspberry Pi + Camera view on a cloudy day (outdoor)
  • Using free Open Source Software: MotionEyeOS
BratPak Camera for Clients to View Dog Day Care

BratPak Camera for Clients to View Dog Day Care

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