Icon Films rigged twenty of the enclosures with Xvision night-vision cameras and sensors.
Icon Films rigged twenty of the enclosures with Xvision night-vision cameras and sensors.

Bristol Zoo Uses Xvision IP CCTV to Study Animal Behaviour

Bristol Zoo has used Xvision’s IP infrared bullet and dome cameras to observe a range of mammals, birds and reptiles as part of a BBC documentary. Icon Films wanted to record animals in total darkness to study their nocturnal behaviour and required high-quality night-time footage from equipment that would not disturb the creatures.

The animals in the study included seals, lions, gorillas, monkeys and zebras. Naturalists were investigating to see whether animals dream, how marine mammals manage to sleep while in the water and why flamingos sleep with one eye open. An HD IP CCTV system consisting of bullet cameras, domes and Network Video Recorders (NVRs) was set up to monitor the animals over a 2-month period.

Vandal-resistant domes were selected to prevent any damage

Xvision’s Pro HD CCTV range includes 4MP (2288 x 1712) H.265 compression vandal-resistant domes and mini-domes with up to 30 metres of smart infrared night vision that are ideal for this kind of project. The cameras were selected for their versatile optical performance and the effectiveness of the infrared LEDs. These cameras have Smart IR Technology built in that adjusts the intensity of the camera’s infrared LEDs to compensate for the distance of an object so that the infrared does not overexpose the object.

Vandal-resistance in the strictest sense was not required, but a male zebra can weigh up to 300 kilograms so vandal domes in certain places were selected to prevent any damage. While making the programme, the documentary company used an IP network to transmit images. Local storage is also an option with the Xvision range; 32 GB SD memory cards can be used at the edge as a primary recording device or for network back-up.

Production staff were able to view multiple feeds on an NVR

The programme-makers at Bristol Zoo, who also benefited from remote access using a smartphone app (iOS or Android), compared the sleep patterns and behaviour of a range of animals in real-time across the course of a single night. Because the different animal pens and compounds at the zoo are spaced widely apart, a central studio was created from which the production staff could view multiple feeds on an NVR, which became the equivalent of a bank of monitors in a CCTV control room.

Xvision’s 16-Channel NVRs with built-in 16-port PoE switch were also used with some of the company’s own cameras for the zoo research as they were compatible with other major camera brands. When reviewing footage of subtle aspects of behaviour among the smaller animals, the team was able to enjoy high levels of picture detail with these industry-leading NVRs, even when fully zoomed-in.

Xvision NVRs can be triggered by motion if required and this proved useful at the zoo when an animal emerged from its burrow. Xvision products use the latest H.265 video codec, but even with this level of compression efficiency, recording on motion has major storage and bandwidth benefits. It also helped to alert filmmakers of any animal activity as it happened.

Raj Bhudia, Xvision’s Sales Manager said: “The dispersed locations of the animals meant that the architecture of an IP installation was ideal for the documentary-makers as cameras could be easily moved and redeployed anywhere on the network. The BBC has used further Xvision equipment for another major programme involving animal studies and it’s rewarding to see surveillance technology meeting needs in areas that don’t involve crime for a change.”

Bristol Zoo is the world’s oldest provincial zoo. The mammal collection alone numbers over 300 animals from 50 species and keepers were among the first in the world to breed okapis (a giraffe-like species) in captivity. Bristol is also known for its thriving group of western lowland gorillas. Icon Films is a Bristol-based company which focuses on producing factual programmes and documentaries and has particular strength in wildlife productions.


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