What Is a Remote Camera?

Alan Rankin

A remote camera is a still or video camera that can capture images automatically without a human operator present. These images are transmitted to an operator in a distant location, recorded for later examination, or both. Remote camera systems are widely used in security, surveillance, and military technology. Recreational uses include game hunting, art photography, and amusement parks. Filmmakers sometimes employ remote cameras in situations that would be dangerous or impractical for a human camera operator.

Many amusement parks have remote cameras.
Many amusement parks have remote cameras.

Traditional motion picture and video cameras require the presence of an operator, also known variously as a cameraman, cinematographer, or videographer. This person controls the focus, zoom, and shot composition of all footage. In a remote camera setup, all these functions are managed mechanically by an operator in another location. The camera is often mounted to a wall or other stable location or set on a tripod where it is unlikely to be disturbed. The operator can watch footage live on a remote monitor via electronic transmission and can often control the camera as desired.

Remote cameras may be used to keep track of traffic conditions.
Remote cameras may be used to keep track of traffic conditions.

A common remote camera setup for security purposes is a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system, in which data from various cameras is monitored at a central location, such as a control room. CCTV systems are also used to keep track of traffic conditions, transmitting images of congestion to commuters or traffic reporters. Another kind of traffic camera documents violations of the law and automatically records the vehicle license information for later citations. Military forces use remote cameras for surveillance and targeting. Private and public spacecraft often have remote cameras mounted on them to document the journey into space.

Another kind of remote camera is called a trail camera and is used by hunters to monitor game activity. Such cameras have even been employed in the search for the legendary forest creature known as Bigfoot. Amusement parks use remote cameras to document park goers’ experiences, such as their reactions on a particularly thrilling ride. Home owners sometimes put remote cameras to a more serious task, documenting activity in their homes while they are absent. These cameras are often used to monitor the behavior of child-care employees, leading to the popular phrase “nanny cam.”

Filmmakers often employ this technology as well. A common type of remote camera used in documentary filmmaking is a time-lapse camera, which can be set up and left to record gradual changes in a scene over a period of hours, days, or even weeks. Nature documentaries sometimes employ remote cameras to photograph elusive animals. The creators of the 2009 film The Cove used well-hidden remote cameras to document the slaughter of captive dolphins in Japan. The movie succeeded in focusing worldwide attention on this secretive and controversial practice.

Filmmakers use remote time-lapse cameras to record actions over a period of time, such as car lights on a highway.
Filmmakers use remote time-lapse cameras to record actions over a period of time, such as car lights on a highway.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@Feryll - I hope you are wrong and the remote camera never replaces cameramen. The camera shots we get now are as individual as the men and women who operate the cameras.

I think the shots will be much more predictable if one person is controlling several remote cameras. Also, going to all remote cameras would put a large number of people out of jobs. Remote cameras are great for security, but not for sports.


@Feryll - I agree with you about more remote cameras eventually being used to cover sports games. In Major League Baseball games, the networks use a cameraman who runs around the bases with the batter after the batter hits a home run. The camera is aimed so that you get a view looking up at the player as he runs around the bases.

When you see this in person, it looks so ridiculous and out of place as a guy lugs a camera and chases the player around the base path. I always think, this would be much better if they just stuck one of those small cameras on the player's shoes.


I think as technology continues to advance, we are going to see a big reduction in the number of people needed to operate cameras. Think about all of the camera men employed to cover sporting events, and then you begin to see how broadcasting companies could save a considerable amount of money by using remote cameras.

With the remote cameras, you could have one person in a central location operating several cameras. This person could focus in on which camera to use based on the action taking place on the field and on which shots are needed. Some remote cameras are already being used at sporting events, so I think it's a matter of time before they are all remote.

Post your comments
Forgot password?