© 2010 The Greater Pittsburgh Paranormal Society
Hello All!!! Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Mike G. and I am the Tech Director (Head Computer/Tech Geek....) for Greater Pittsburgh Paranormal Society. If you have not already read my bio on the members page I have over 16 years experience in the Computer, Networking and Security areas of IT. I currently work as the VP of IT Infrastructure for a local Pittsburgh firm where I take care of all the above areas of the company. Some of those earlier 16 years were spent with a pioneer of streaming web video and streaming video post production and editing.
Over the coming days/weeks we will update this page with pictures & infomation about the tech gear/equipment and techniques that GPPS uses on all of its investigations. Like I stated in my profile most of the tech equipment that is used on investigations was self built in order to cut down on costs while giving us the most flexibility when it comes to converting evidence files into basically any audio or video format imaginable.
One IMPORTANT fact/piece of information that I can give to anyone who may be interested in getting into the tech field of paranormal investigations is that YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR (I learned that the hard way)!!!! I CANNOT stress that point enough...... For example if you are looking for a set of 4 to 6 Infrared (IR) cameras and/or a DVR and it cost $200, I can almost say with 1000 percent certainty that it is NOT worth it...
For example my very FIRST set of 4 wireless IR cams (which you should stay away from wireless cams at ALL costs for paranormal investigations) at the time cost $175. These were tiny dome cameras that supposedly had an effective IR range in 0 LUX of 150 feet. I was lucky to get 25 feet and still be able to somewhat make out the picture. Once these cams ran for about 20 minutes they would heat up to the point you could not touch them as well as having the image haze over so bad that it looked like it was snowing in the room where the cam was located. These cams were recommended by another paranormal group whose site I happened to stumble across lookining for equipment ideas/suggestions.
With all of that said one other point I cannot stress enough is to do EXTENSIVE reasearch before making any paranormal tech gear purchases. Most sites nowadays have places where you can read other users comments/experiences with the equipment and I myself ALWAYS take the time to rate and write reviews about equipment I have purchased from those sites.
So basically what my gear consists of is a "home made" DVR system using an HP workstation with a dual core AMD processor, 8 GB of RAM, 2 - 500 GB hard drives in a RAID 0 config, a 2 TB external drive cage to hold the video files and 2 RapidOS 8 port video capture cards that do "real time" video capture ar 30 frames per second per camera so I can now run 16 cameras on an investigation. Going this route with my equipment instead of purchasing a "real" DVR unit allows me to save and convert the video into any format I want (DivX, XVid, MPEG-4, AVI and Quicktime formats. Most traditional DVR's only let you save in one format and moving them from the DVR onto a computer to edit the video can be a lengthy if not impossible process depending on the quality of the DVR system.
If you are going to build your own DVR system from a spare PC which is realtively easy if you have some IT background, the first thing you need to research is the abilities of the video capture cards you are looking at. Most cards will be advertised as "real time" video which is considered 29.97 frames per second (fps). Where they tend to get you is that the manufacturer will say something like the capture card does 120 fps. The trick is that you have devide that 120 fps across ALL channels on the card, so if you have 4 port card, each video input will hadle 30 fps (120 fps / 4 ports =30 fps). But if you have an 8 port card that does 120 fps that only gives you 15 fps per video input (120 fps /8 ports=15 fps). Then you need to find out at what resolution (picture/video window size) you can run and still get "real time" video. Most low to medium end video capture cards can only run real time at 320x240 resoltuion which is not bad at all. The more expensive cards can actually run real time video at 640x480. In my HONEST opinion if you are going to do paranormal investigations with DVR video you MUST run it in real time or else people look like they are "jumping" across the room in the video. Real time video gives you the BEST possible chance of capturing evidence on video.
My IR cameras are basically "white box" (Aposonic & RapidOS) cameras that run anywhere from $75 to $100 a camera. They are the larger "bullet" style IR cameras that have quite a bit of free space in the units to allow them to "breathe" and release the heat from the IR bulbs relatively quickly. They have an average sight distance of 75 to 100 feet in complete darkness.
So there is the "basic" breakdown of our setup, I will be posting pictures, links and other reviews of equipment as well a equipment discussions in our new forums (which will be online shortly). Once the forums are up , please feel free to ask me any questions about equipment, techniques and how to get the most out of your tech gear, I will be MORE than happy to answer them.