Along with the tables, chairs, phones, blackboards and projection equipment, communications cameras are now becoming essential to the decor of conference rooms the world over. Most are utilized for video conferencing and educational purposes. But at least one ELMO, Plainview, N.Y., camera is being used for an application so unique that not even the manufacturer had considered it.

Pan, Tilt and Zoom Right In

A private investigator in the southern U.S., specializing in corporate espionage and insurance fraud, has mounted an ELMO communication camera in the rear window of his car. The PI, who requested anonymity, explained that the versatility of ELMO PTC-100S camera allows him to carry out surveillance assignments and discretely record the activity of subjects. “I can remotely pan and tilt the camera and zoom in on a subject for close-up observation and video recording right from the driver’s seat of the car.” According to Leslie Nance of Creative Presentations, Inc., the ELMO distributor, the PI saw the camera on ELMO’s Web site and immediately realized how its pan/tilt/zoom features could help him in his work. “He had used a camera by another manufacturer but ELMO gave him the features he needed along with local product support, which is also important,” says Nance. The investigator installed the camera on the shelf behind the rear window of his car. The video signal runs to a receiver in the dash where a motorized 6 1/2” screen—that disappears into the dash when not in use—is also in place. An RCA plug splits the signal so it also goes to a camcorder.

Steady as She Goes

An infrared repeater in the dash allows him to control the camera remotely from the driver’s seat without having to point the control at the camera or making any other obvious motions that might call attention to his activities. The investigator explained that the small size of the ELMO pan/tilt/zoom camera was also important to him. He used various cameras, camcorders and other equipment prior to purchasing the ELMO. “I needed a van to handle the tripods and the rest of the equipment, and the images still were not as stable or as clear as I wanted them to be. And the van itself was too obvious. I mounted the ELMO on a base under the rear window panel. It holds the camera steady even while the car is moving. I’ve even driven in front of a subject’s car and recorded the driver while both vehicles were moving. The images I get are stable and clear even under these conditions. I also like the fact that the ELMO starts recording the instant I push the button.” A feature critical to identifying individuals under surveillance is the camera’s 22x optical zoom capability. “A digital zoom loses resolution past a certain point,” says the private investigator. “ELMO’s optical zoom allows a subject’s features to be seen clearly and positively identified even at 22x optical enhancement.”