PTZ cameras are an excellent choice for surveillance and internet streaming. Compared to conventional fixed lens surveillance cameras, PTZs provide precision control and typically have a wide range of features, delivering unmatched flexibility. Auto Tracking is one of the advanced features and is included with some of our professional PTZ cameras. When motion or smart detection rules are triggered by an object, such as a person or car, Auto Tracking instructs the PTZ camera to follow them.


What is a PTZ camera?

If you're not already familiar, a PTZ camera (aka Pan Tilt Zoom Camera) is driven by electrical motors and servos that allow the camera module inside to pan, tilt, and zoom. A PTZ can move and zoom using manual controls, timed presets, or Auto Tracking. PTZs provide a wide variety of customization choices for security and live streaming or media projects. PTZs are available in a variety of sizes, ranging from 4X zoom to 48X zoom or more. Browse our selection of PTZ cameras here.

How does a PTZ camera work?

A PTZ uses a behind-the-scenes coordinate grid to manage the motors and servos that regulate the P (pan) and T (tilt). The Z (zoom) is a motorized lens that rotates in and out to minimize or magnify the view. Users can control a PTZ through the built-in software of a security DVR, PC software, mobile apps, or a separate standalone PTZ controller. Our IP PTZ cameras, which are network based cameras with a built-in web server, allow control from a web browser when properly deployed on a computer network.

What is auto-tracking in PTZ cameras?

Auto-tracking, sometimes marketed as Smart-tracking, is a state-of-the-art intelligent feature available on our network based IP PTZ cameras that can target a human or vehicle using smart AI detection rules. When a target is spotted breaking a detection rule, Auto-tracking commands the camera to begin following the target until it is no longer visible. Smart Detection, which is found in our fixed lens cameras and PTZs, should not be confused with Auto-tracking. 

Auto tracking is useful for tracking automobiles in low-traffic areas, particularly in driveways, parking lots, and gated areas. We suggest using Auto-tracking to track humans in low-traffic areas such as driveways, gated entry points, storage areas, alleyways, streets, and sidewalks that lead to valuables.

In the video below, you can see an auto-tracking PTZ in action!

Do all PTZ cameras have auto-tracking?

No, not all PTZs can track targets automatically. PTZs of the analog security camera type do not have auto tracking . Only our professional Pan Tilt Zoom cameras feature Auto-tracking capabilities that can be configured via the camera's web interface in a web browser. If you're looking for a camera with Auto-tracking and are unsure of which one is best for your use, be sure to read the product description and feature list, or contact our pre-sales tech department for help.

PTZ cameras with auto tracking work by using what is aptly named a preset view. When a human or vehicle breaks or triggers the rules in the preset view, auto tracking is activated and the PTZ follows the target until the target is out of view.

How do I set auto-tracking on my PTZ camera?

A PTZ with auto tracking provides surveillance automation for buildings and large properties by using event detection rules to detect human bodies or vehicles in a low-traffic area. The camera must have a preset view with  Smart Detection rules set to detect the target of interest crossing a certain entry point from which the target will be tracked.

CCTV Camera World's auto tracking PTZ cameras are simple to configure through the use of a web browser. To take advantage of the full feature set provided in the web interface, most cameras require Microsoft Edge with IE mode to access security cameras.

Below is a video that walks you through the steps of logging into the camera, creating a rule, and enabling auto tracking, with an example of auto tracking in action at the end.

Auto-tracking is easy to set up as outlined below, or by watching the video above that shows how an Auto-tracking rule is set up at a commercial entrance.

  1. Access the camera's web interface - Click the link for a tutorial on how to access cameras using Edge IE mode. Make sure to enter the correct IP address of your camera into the browser.Alternatively, if the PTZ is connected to an NVR, use the NVR web interface to login into the PTZ.
  2. Save a PTZ preset for the view where you need auto tracking (restricted areas, parking lots, walkways, etc.). Smart Detection and Auto Tracking require a preset view.
  3. For the Preset view, enable IVS, aka Smart Detection.
  4. Draw and save a Smart Detection Rule - For more information about Smart Detection rules and how to set them, click the link. In our example shown in the video above, we used an Intrusion box rule to detect incoming vehicles and people.
  5. After you've created and saved the rule, tick the "Alarm Track" or "Tracking" box. To enable auto tracking, click "Apply" or "Save" one last time. Click Refresh to make sure the rule and tracking settings were applied.

When Auto Tracking Will Not Work - Tips for Better Auto Tracking

While Auto Tracking is an amazing technology, it still has a long way to go before it works as well as it does in crime scene investigation TV shows and action flicks. To monitor locations where an Auto tracking camera may be unable to detect or follow a subject, we recommend combining it with one or more general use security cameras with a fixed lens.

Only human bodies and cars are detected and tracked by the Auto tracking algorithm. While it would be interesting, don't expect a PTZ with auto tracking to detect your pets or wildlife and track them around your yard.

Here are some tips for improving auto tracking:

  1. Set the Preset view and rule to look at a location where pedestrians or vehicles cannot move quickly.If the subjects are moving too quickly and the camera is not detecting or tracking them, consider zooming out for a wider view or moving the camera away from the area of interest.
  2. Do not use the camera in a crowded or busy area where there is a lot of pedestrian or car activity.Auto tracking analytics are only capable of tracking one person or vehicle at a time. With multiple subjects in view, the camera may track the wrong target at random or not track anything at all.
  3. Install the camera in a suitable location where there are no obstacles in the way of the Smart Detection rule or for a person to hide behind.Obstacles such as trees, foliage, signage, fences, parked vehicles, poles, and sheds will cause the cameras to miss targets or lose sight of them once they have been detected. The clip below is an excellent representation of how a fence can hinder a camera from tracking a subject.
  4. In relation to tips 1 and 3, ensure that the camera is at a reasonable enough distance for the Smart Detection rules to trigger and begin tracking. Rules need to be able to clearly see that a person or vehicle is in view for the rule to trigger.
  5. It will take some trial and error to find the ideal placement and view point for your PTZ and rules.


Matt Rossi is a Technical Support Manager at CCTV Camera World, a leading CCTV Camera distributor located in Buffalo, NY. He is a technical support expert for everything video surveillance related.

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