Understanding Surveillance vs. Timelapse Systems

Application & Use

In short, a surveillance system functions as to capture inconspicuous activity or behavior, usually taking place after work hours or when no one is around. Where as the camera(s) are generally placed and pointed in specific areas or corridors, entrances or exits to secure a perimeter.

A timelapse system functions somewhat in the opposite manner, as to capture conspicuous planned activity, tracking progress of a build or jobsite during regular work hours. Where as the camera(s) are generally placed and pointed from a vantage point that can provide a broad view of entire the job site with as much as possible in the frame.

A timelapse system is the acquisition of high-resolution images at a set interval over an extended period of time with the goal of remote site visits, progress tracking, build documentation, timelapse video creation, and project media assets and marketting purposes.

A surveillance system is an on-going lower-resolution video feed that’s being captured round the clock or when motion is detected with the goal of preventing trespassing, vandalization, or theft, and capturing video clips of such activities when they happen.

While the primary nature of the ongoing service offered here is focussed on timelapse systems and their features and benefits, basic surveillance add-on options are available, as the setup and required infrastructure to run these systems do share some similarities although very different in function and operation.

Function & Operation

Both systems have to deal with the concern of data efficiency, while still serving their main purposes (as detailed above). It’s the way in which each system deals with managing data sizes, reveal the advantages and limitations of their particular applications. For example, in security, streaming or capturing all the time creates considerable power and data requirements that are optimized by through extremely high compression and low resolution, and low bitrate visuals, not exactly ideal for creating Timelapse Films!

Where as Timelapse systems will keep image quality high and data sizes manageable through capturing hi-res still images at timed intervals, and through scheduled capture, Surveillance systems deal with data sizes through reduced image quality, resolutions, much larger capacity storage drives/network useage, and further quality and framerate degradation for older aging footage.

While the timelapse capture systems and solutions do offer some form of surveillance in nature, They are not optimized for surveillance as a primary function. This is mainly due to the fact that the system is generally going to be programmed to capture a single image at a set interval (every 10 mins by default).

Therefore only images are being captured within this set time frame, as we ideally only want to capture images that are of use when work is being completed to generate timelpase videos later, otherwise we end up with images that are redundant to the systems main function, if no further progress is being made (such as on weekends or after-hours).

Interval capture & scheduling in timelapse allows us to have the highest quality image captures the camera is capable of while still being data efficient. This essentially translates into the system running smoother and being more economical.

Of course, for surveillance systems, it would be counter-intuitive to only run on a schedule, as their purpose is to capture events with real time video that can happen at any moment, Surveillance cameras capturing video all the time are going to have much greater data considerations, seeing as how this typically means multiple camera’s capturing video (vs. images) and capturing all the time (vs. on an interval and schedule). In order to combat these greater data needs, surveillance systems generally capture substantially degraded footage (as compared to a timelapse system capturing images) to reduce and save on data sizes.

As well, with security systems the power requirements become much greater! Forget about battery or solar options when it comes to security camera’s. Where as in Timelapse we can look to these options for power as the consumption is much less due to only capturing images on interval as opposed to video on motion detection or constant streaming.

Surveillance capture is not concerned so much with high image quality or detail as a primary focus, more so with making sure a video stream is live and captured at all times, requiring only just enough image quality to perceive what is happening in the frame.

When comparing a Surveillance vs. Timelapse system, there are obviously many factors that separate the two systems. For example a surveillance system will generally also have some sort of night vision mode to be able to capture video in complete darkness. There are many differences to be found when comparing systems based off of the required hardware and software. However, the above article is not meant to detail all of these differences, instead outline the primary differences between the two systems when it comes to function and application.

With this in mind, in making a simple comparison it can be said that a surveillance system compromises on image quality to sustain ubiquity and constant capture. Where as a timelapse system compromises on ubiquity and constant capture (as this is not a need) to sustain high image quality and detail for use in the creation of artistic timelapse films and video, with lower data considerations that make way for a more fully featured and economical platform to the end user.