How many layouts use TV cameras?

Now that TV cameras have become so cheap, maybe more model railroaders are using closed circuit TV to keep track of trains in obscured areas. Our club has had about 8 cameras and half a dozen monitors (old Commodore-64 monitors $10 ea) for a number of years. A recent desire to expand the number of cameras requires a new video switcher with more inputs (like 16). When considering building a new one, I'm wondering if there may be a market out there for this kind of product. The new unit would have features similar to our present one. That is, a small box (not a big rack mount thing) using regular cheap, easy to install cable F-connectors (not BNC's). All cameras & monitors plug into this box. Touchtone button pads (as many as desired) are placed around the layout to select which camera to view on which monitor. Wiring is minimized, and operation is simple. To select a monitor/camera combination, you press *, then the monitor number and the camera number. Sure, if two people start pushing buttons at the same time, you get gibberish,but we find there isn't THAT much activity. Would there be interest in a unit like this for about $150? I haven't found even security grade switchers that offer this flexibility for this kind of money. Let me know. Regards, Don

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. . . just an update -- as I start pricing parts required, it looks more like a $200 product. Regards, Don

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It's an interesting idea, but I think you'll find that marketing it will be the biggest problem, not making it. That's often the case - I have a couple of ideas still on the back burner because there's simply no good way to market them.

My gut feeling is that your set-up is a product that will appeal mostly to clubs and reaching them is your biggest difficulty. Few home layouts will use multiple cameras - although more an more folks are buying them. (I just started carrying them and I'm surprised at their popularity.) Advertising in mags is expensive, though it generally does reach your target audience.

Displaying it at train shows (to other clubs and folks with big layouts) would probably be your best bet.

My advice would be to do some hard thinking (and some market research) before getting too deep into it financially. Maybe look at making it on a custom basis rather than trying to stock an inventory.

If you do decide to do it, let me know. I'm always referring folks to products that I don't carry, but know about.

Mike Tennent "IronPenguin" MRR Electronics Special Effects Lighting

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Mike Tennent

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