Frequently Asked Questions
Buying a 360˚ camera system may seem daunting and the differences between systems and suppliers bewildering; here we try to answer your likely questions and explain more about the different systems.
Is a 360˚ camera system the same as a birdview system?
Yes, 360˚ camera systems are referred to by several different names including:
Bird's Eye Camera System
Birdview Camera System
Surround View (SV) Camera System
Look Down Camera System
A 4 camera system that displays 'quad-view', or the 4 cameras individually, is not a 360˚ system.
How do 360˚ systems work?
360˚ camera systems usually include 4 ultra-wide angle lens cameras, which are installed on each side of the vehicle, caravan, or trailer. The cameras connect to the system Electronic Control Unit (ECU) by cables and the ECU processes the 4 images ('stitches'/blends them together) to present the driver with an easy to interpret 360˚ view around their vehicle etc. The void behind the cameras, displayed on the monitor, is usually filled with a graphic that looks like the vehicle etc (photo's of the vehicle etc can be utilised to ensure that the graphic is as 'life-like' as possible).
The ECU will connect to a Monitor, by a cable, in a vehicle or for a caravan/trailer the ECU will usually connect to a Transmitter (TX) and the images will be transmitted wirelessly to the tow vehicle / monitor, which will usually include a built-in Receiver (RX). Monitors can easily be moved between different tow vehicles.
Motorhome (Top/3D Left Front View)
Why do 360˚ systems need to be Calibrated?
Once systems are installed, they need to be calibrated so that the system ECU can correctly stitch/blend the camera images together. Some systems now include automatic calibration software, which may or may not prescribe where on the vehicle etc the cameras can be installed.
Automatic calibration can be limited &/or not produce the best calibration results (monitor views). Therefore, we utilise manual calibration software, which has been developed over many years/system generations and is arguably the best available. We are able to calibrate not only the 360˚ view, but also the individual camera views, so that they don't have to be presented with fish-eye. Additionally, we have probably completed more calibrations than any other company in the UK.
What's the difference between a 2D and a 3D System?
The original 360˚ systems were 2D only, which meant that the camera images were only blended together in the horizontal plane and the 360˚ view presented from a single (imaginary) fixed point in space directly above the vehicle etc. 3D systems not only blend the camera images together in the horizontal plane, but also in the vertical plane, meaning that the view can be presented from virtually any (imaginary) point in space around the vehicle. Therefore the vehicle graphic for a 2D system is the roof only and for a 3D system the graphic is also 3D (all sides of the vehicle).
We produce bespoke 2D & 3D graphics by taking (or receiving) photos of the vehicle etc; either just the roof, or the roof and all sides for a 3D graphic (a drone is not required). Additionally, we have a selection (ever growing) of 3D models that the graphics are applied to, which ensure that the vehicle etc representation is as life-like as possible.
Why are some 360˚ systems so expensive and others 'cheap'?
Generally speaking, systems from China are lower cost and this is probably to do with lower development costs (especially regarding calibration software), mass production and selling directly to end users via on-line market places. Our systems are manufactured in South Korea and are supplied to many automotive related manufacturers, which means that they have to meet stringent reliability/test criteria and be supported for many years. As we work directly with the manufacturer our systems offer great value for money (compared to other South Korean products that may be re-sold in the UK).
How can you tell if a system is 'good'?
Most, if not all, 360˚ systems provide better situational awareness than a single/dual rear camera. However, in order to provide the best views it's really important that the system is correctly and accurately calibrated to the vehicle etc.
Therefore, it is crucial that the system's calibration software is completely configurable and the calibration team know how to use it. Usually the easiest way to check the calibration 'quality' is to look at the monitor (or any system photos/videos) when the vehicle etc is in a car park, or close to lots of visible straight lines (kerbs etc.) and check that the lines are straight/join together.
If cameras are installed at different heights, which is not unusual for the front camera in particular, then objects will appear to be of a different size as they pass through the blended areas and this doesn't mean that the calibration is not good/correct. Cameras need to be installed with a clear view to the ground at the corners of the vehicle (so front cameras usually need to be installed in the grille etc).
Caravan (Full Top View)
Motorhome (Top/3D Rear View)
3D Top & Quad / 'Security' view
Low Light Monitor 'Security' View
3D ECU Recording List
3D System ECU Recording Replay
Do 360˚ systems include IR / night vision?
360˚ systems do not usually include IR, as IR 'bulbs' would make the camera larger (not good for side mounted cameras) and as they usually glow red this would not be suitable (or probably legal) for the front camera etc.
Our systems include Sony Starvis lenses so enhance any available light and provide a view in very low light conditions, but not if 'pitch black' (any exterior lighting would provide more than enough light).
Are 360° systems suitable for security applications?
Systems are primarily designed as driving aids, as they eliminate all blind-spots, however, systems can also record (via built-in ECU recording or a separate recorder) and these videos can be extremely useful in the event of an accident/incident. Additionally, systems can also be powered via a leisure battery, meaning that they can be viewed when parked etc. The cameras are ultra-wide angle and do not include any pan-tilt-zoom functionality, so shouldn't be considered as a pure security system. Dash Cams include quite a narrow angle lens, so have a 'longer' (& narrower) field of view, so could also be utilised. 360˚ system recorded images (via ECU or DVR) are 'raw' so fish-eye is noticeable and the 4 images overlap (so no missing coverage around the vehicle etc); recording is HD (720p), so recorded images can seem to be much clearer etc than the processed monitor displayed images (especially on larger displays).
Can 360˚ systems be self-installed?
Yes, systems can be self-installed, or installed by your local auto-electrician/leisure dealer. We also work with several installers/dealers around the country and we are always looking for new installation partners.
Once installed systems can be calibrated via email (with the loan of a 'Calibration Kit'), or can be brought to our location (PE7 3WL) for calibration (by appointment).
Can views/cameras be manually selected?
Yes, our systems are supplied with a 'Key Box' that enables manual camera/view selection. Additionally, the 3D system can be configured to display different default and triggered (automatic) views:
- reversing view (with/without guidelines, which are calibrated to the vehicle etc)
- left turn view
- right turn view
- hazard warning light view
The 3D system includes 2 additional views for each of the triggered views & the display order can be changed via the system Menu (so your favourite view is displayed first).
Default (not triggered) views:
- Top & Rear
- Full Rear
- Full Front
The 3D system includes all the 2D system views (9 views) as well as another 30+ views that can also be tailored to the vehicle and the drivers preferences.
Motorhome (Top/3D Right View)
Caravan(Top/2D Reversing View)
Key Box & Power Switch
7" Digital Wireless Monitor
7" Monitor - Rearview Location
10" Monitor - Dash Location
What are the Monitor options & can the vehicle Head Unit be utilised?
Generally speaking 360˚ system ECUs include a video out (or more than 1) that can be connected to any size monitor and potentially the vehicles head unit/radio. However, we recommend that a separate monitor (7" or 10") is always utilised, as head units are often used to display navigation information etc and many may not include a compatible digital video input. Our ECU's include a digital and a secondary analogue video output, which could be connected to a TV etc (with a suitable Av-in etc). For caravan/trailer use our 7" (AHD) monitor with built-in receiver (RX) is recommended, as it's easy to move between different tow vehicles, or put away when not required. However, if a different sized monitor is required then a separate RX can be utilised.
What are the Camera colour options?
Our camera cases are either silver or black, however, as the case is separate to the camera it can easily be colour coded (a service which we can provide as long as the correct paint is supplied).
What are the system power requirements?
Power requirements vary between systems and monitor sizes, although monitors can be independently switched off (if recording while away from the vehicle/caravan), as an example the 3D system ECU/cameras require approximately 25-30W. Please contact us for the particular system specification sheet.