When using a security camera system to catch criminals it is important to make sure that the correct time is set up. If the time settings are not correct, any recorded footage will have a timestamp that is incorrect and may be inadmissible in a court of law. By following this guide you will be able to ensure your surveillance system keeps the correct time.

Why is it important to have the correct time on security cameras?

Setting the correct time is one of the most important details when setting up a security camera system. Having incorrect settings or leaving it set to the wrong time will lead to a lot of headaches down the road. Security camera footage that shows incorrect time is not admissible in court for prosecution. Playing back recorded video will also be difficult if each camera has a different timestamp. Worst of all, you can overwrite valuable video that’s already been recorded to the hard drive.

It’s also important to have correct timestamps in case police want to check for footage. This is not only true for your home or business but also your neighbors. You can help by providing additional footage of a break-in, vandalism or theft. With correct timestamps the police will have no issues with using your recorded video in an investigation.

What are ways that security cameras keep time?

Security cameras keep time in different ways for different types of cameras. Analog or HD cameras that connect using coaxial cable rely on a DVR for keeping and overlaying the correct timestamp. For an IP camera time settings may be synced with the recorder or left for each camera to keep independently .

Most IP cameras that you purchase will come with a random date that may be the year 2000. Most IP security cameras allow access using a web browser to login and set configuration settings. Using the web interface on a network camera, you can set time a couple of ways:

1. Sync the camera to your PC’s current time using the “Sync with PC” button

Syncing an IP camera to the PC’s current time is a good way to set it to the current time. But it’s important to know that setting the time this way can lead to the time being too fast, or too slow in the future. After a while, the camera can stray far from the correct time.

2. Set the camera to reach out to the internet for the current time

Setting a camera to get the time automatically using a service called “NTP” or Network Time Protocol is the most reliable way to set an IP security camera to keep time. A NTP server is a designated device that talks to atomic clocks to keep accurate time, and tells other devices connecting to it what is the correct time. The camera connects to a NTP server over a local network (LAN) or Internet. NTP allows the camera to check the server for the correct time at a fixed interval.

Where do you set the time for a security camera or security camera system?

Setting the correct time on your security cameras also depends on what kind of system you have.

DVR Camera Systems

DVR Camera Systems consist of security cameras with BNC connectors such as HD security cameras over coax. These systems rely on the DVR to overlay the time stamp on recorded security footage. That means that the DVR will be where you set the time.

NVR Camera Systems

For NVR camera systems or IP camera systems you will want to make sure the date and time are correct on the recorder and the individual cameras. The timestamp overlay is done by the camera, not the NVR in an IP system. If the cameras in a system lack synchronized time, you will encounter video playback issues.

In an NVR camera system you would set the time correctly on the NVR for the cameras to sync with the recorder. When IP cameras are connected to a compatible NVR, in addition to providing the NVR with video, the cameras query time settings from the NVR's built-in NTP server.

Standalone IP Security Cameras

IP cameras that will be used as standalone security cameras without an NVR require time to be kept by the cameras themselves and synchronized over the internet at fixed intervals with a NTP server over the internet. By accessing the camera's web interface using a web browser, a standalone camera like one of our 4K security cameras can be configured to connect to a NTP server. This way any footage that is recorded to the microSD card inside the camera contains a valid timestamp.

How do you set the correct time on security cameras?

For DVR systems you really just need to make sure that your DVR can connect to the internet. Most modern DVRs will have NTP settings already set for the system. The NTP settings tell the DVR to reach out to the internet to update the time. If you don't know how to set it up on the network, our guide on how to connect security cameras to the internet can help.

By watching the video below you can learn which settings you need to set if your DVR does not already have a NTP time server set. NTP also needs to be setup if you have an NVR that you would like IP cameras to sync to.

If you have an IP camera system there is an additional step. Make sure that you follow both Steps 1 and 2 below.

If you are using a network IP camera as standalone, you can skip to Step 2.

Step 1. Set the DVR or NVR to keep correct time

To learn how to properly set the date and time on a system with the latest firmware interface from CCTV Camera World watch the following video.

Step 2. Make sure Time Sync is enabled to sync time to individual IP cameras

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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