Danger lurks everywhere and opening the front door can be a very scary experience. It?s not so much the knife-wielding criminals you fear?they generally don?t ring the doorbell. No, it?s those fund-raising neighborhood kids selling $10 candy bars, or, worse yet, that political action group that wants you to sign their petition. They?re getting so bad that finding a mailman at the door with a registered letter is almost a relief.

If you?re up-to-date, you?ve already installed an intercom or telephone-based door box to help you avoid those face-to-face confrontations. But even with an intercom, you still have to answer the call and come up with a believable excuse not to come to the door. Want to avoid the entire situation? Add video surveillance to your system.

Fish Eyes are So Yesterday

Sure, video intercoms have been around for a while. But most are dedicated systems that require proprietary hard-wired interior phones. Each interior phone has its own small screen. Not only are these systems costly, but the image quality is less than optimal. Here?s why. Most of the door mounted consumer designs are offered as a single unit?voice and video in a single box, mounted at eye level. Unfortunately, mounting at adult eye level means the unit is too high for children to operate. So, many times, the user compromises, mounting at mid level. That results in a belt-buckle shot of an adult visitor.

The single box concept does help simplify installation, but it also forces the manufacturer to compromise on video optics. With an average distance between camera and visitor of less than 2 feet, the camera must be fitted with a fish-eye wide angle lens. And, as most photography buffs know, a fish-eye lens produces an image with incredible distortion. So, when a visitor activates the intercom, all you see on your screen is a gigantic nose, chin, or belt buckle, depending on mounting height. If the visitor is standing more than 2 feet from the camera, their image is so small, that you can?t recognize them. What?s the solution? A remotely mounted high-quality CCTV camera.

High-tech Doesn?t Mean High Buck

Remotely mounted bullet CCTV cameras have come down in price to the point where you can buy a high quality model for under $100. For about $50 dollars more, you can upgrade to features like color, higher resolution, auto focus, a shutter for still shots, and integral infrared LEDs for night viewing. At that price, you can install a camera at each door and one at your front gate.

Most bullet cameras come with a sun/rain shield and mounting hardware. That makes them perfect for wall or under-eave mounting. At that distance you can get a distortion-free image of the person at the door.

Multiple Cameras, Cordless Phones, all Viewable on Your Nearest TV

Installing your own non-proprietary bullet camera frees you from wired proprietary phones and lets you to view your visitor on any TV in your home. By installing one of the newest CCTV controllers, you can install multiple cameras and multiple door boxes and connect them to your TV system. Here?s how it works: The controller monitors each door box and as soon as one is activated, it automatically switches the camera associated with that door box to your TV feed. You can route that feed to a single TV, or to your main cable feed, so you can view the visitor on any TV in your home. If you choose the main cable feed option, you will need an inexpensive RF modulator with automatic signal switching (Radio Shack #15-1214). The CCTV controller will keep the CCTV video feed connected to the RF modulator as long as it senses that door box is active. Once you end that conversation, the controller will cancel the video feed to the RF modulator and the modulator will switch back to your regular cable video feed.

Click for larger picture!Viking offers two models of CCTV controllers. The VC-1000 is a free standing unit and works with any brand of telephone-based door box. It monitors the phone line to two door boxes and switches two CCTV cameras. The unit also has an inactive mode that allows you to conduct video surveillance without an active door box conversation. In the inactive mode, the VC-1000 can be programmed to provide video from the last camera activated or it can alternate between the two cameras. Two VC-1000?s can be stacked to provide coverage for up to four cameras and four door boxes.

The C-1000B Door Entry and CCTV Camera Controller provides all the features of the VC-1000, plus it provides complete full featured door box operation. Standard features include:

–One or two door boxes share house phone line so door calls can ring and be answered on any interior phone (wired or cordless). Custom ringing option identifies door call versus phone call.

–Door bell mode rings regular home door bell, but door can be answered on any interior phone (wired or cordless)

–Regular telephone calls can be placed on hold when visitors activate the door box and the resident can then speak with the visitor.

–Door strike operation from any interior phone.

–Postal lock/Proximity Card/Keyless entry operation allows letter carrier to open gate or allows family and friends to open gate or door with keypad or proximity card. (keypad and proximity card reader not included)

–Auxiliary contact output to turn on lights, etc.

No Excuses

Whether you?re sleeping in, or watching TV by the pool with a Margarita in one hand and your cordless phone in the other, this type of audio/video door intercom system lets you maintain your privacy. With a quick flick of the TV channel you can see who?s at the door and decide whether or not to answer. The neighborhood fund raisers may not like your new system, but they weren?t all that crazy about your reasons for not buying their overpriced candy either.