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Dashcam / Sentry: How they work and what they do (and dont) do

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jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3 / Y, Tesla Energy Forums
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Nov 28, 2018
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(moderator note)

Special thanks to @Knightshade , for taking the time to write up a description of how Sentry and Dashcam interact together. There is a lot of confusion about these two features, and how they interact together. I asked @Knightshade who has a good understanding of how these features interact, to write up a general explanation of how they interact together.

Please note that any questions on "what USB drive do I use / is best for Dashcam, etc should be directed to the stickied thread that we have on that topic, which can be found here in this subforum, here:


Thank you again, @Knightshade for taking the time to write this up for us!

=====================================================================================
(explanation on dashcam and sentry mode, from @Knightshade )

How video recording works on your Tesla:


The fundamental thing to understand is the only thing that ever records video to your USB stick is Dashcam.

Sentry does not record anything- ever.

Not being aware of the above is at the heart of a lot of posts and questions here. More details below:


If your car is awake/on, and dashcam is turned on, it is always recording to the USB storage, in the recent folder. This is the only folder video is ever recorded to.

Any footage in there older than 1 hour is automatically overwritten.

You can manually "save" the last 10 minutes of dashcam footage by either tapping the dashcam icon or by (if you enabled this option in settings) honking your horn. You can also via settings have it auto-save the last 10 minutes in case of an accident. All these types of saves involve the last 10 minutes of recent footage being moved from the recent folder to the "saved" folder. Things in the saved folder are never overwritten.


Ok- what about sentry?

Sentry does several things. None of them record video.

One though is to keep the car awake when you leave/lock it. So that dashcam keeps recording in that recent folder with the 1 hour loop.

Another is, if Sentry goes to alert mode, it will move the last 10 minutes of dashcam footage from recent to the Sentry folder. This footage in Sentry does not get overwritten UNLESS the drive is nearly full.

Note if your dashcam is not working, or not turned on, all OTHER functions of sentry still work. It still can be turned on, it still does the flash of lights and warning when it goes to alert mode, it still blasts classical music if it goes to alarm mode. Since Sentry doesn't record video it doesn't warn you when nothing is being recorded. You need to insure dashcam is on and recording if you want sentry to do anything with your video recordings.

If you are not getting video recorded, that is NOT a sentry problem- it is a dashcam problem. Because only dashcam, ever, records video.

As a last note- Both because sentry will overwrite things stored in the sentry folder when the storage is nearly full, and because flash storage inherently slows down as it fills up, you should probably make a point of clearing off your storage on some regular basis, trying not to let it get more than say 3/4 full if you can help it. How often this will need to be done depends on how much storage you have, how often you manually save footage, and how often sentry triggers to do so. For some people you might only need to clean it out a few times a year, for others it might be significantly more often.
 
Useful, but I'm not sure why there's such insistence over the language of Sentry not recording anything EVER!!! If you want to be so pedantic about it "Dashcam" never records anything either - just like "Sentry" it's only an icon, not an actual recording device.

Might be more clear to simply state that all 9 cameras are recording whenever the car is occupied, and at least 4 of them record when it's unoccupied (and locked with Sentry mode active). "Dashcam" is an app for viewing *all* of these recordings, all of which are saved temporarily or permanently in the "TeslaCam" folder of your USB drive. "Dashcam" is also a function icon - you can tap it to manually save or configure it to automatically save on honk/crash, or even turn it off for whatever reason. And "Sentry" is also a function - you can tap to turn it on/off and also view it live from your phone.

So really if you want to be logical there's the "TeslaCam" system that records stuff, the "Dashcam" app for viewing everything, and also "Dashcam" and "Sentry" functions that can be configured for the driving/parked states.
 
Useful, but I'm not sure why there's such insistence over the language of Sentry not recording anything EVER!!!

Go read any couple of threads here on the topic and it'll be pretty obvious.

in fact we just had one today where the OP had to be referred back here because they kept being confused over sentry "recording" yet their dashcam feature was not working.



If you want to be so pedantic about it "Dashcam" never records anything either - just like "Sentry" it's only an icon, not an actual recording device.

That's simply wrong.

Directly from the owners manual (bold added)

Tesla said:
Dashcam records footage of your vehicle's surroundings only when Model 3 is powered on (see Starting and Powering Off). Dashcam does not record video when your vehicle is powered off. Use Dashcam to record driving incidents, such as a collision.


Dashcam is the feature that records video. It did so for months before Sentry even existed.

Sentry simply leverages the existing dashcam recordings by moving them to a different folder after the fact when it goes to alert mode.

"Dashcam" is an app for viewing *all* of these recordings

This, too, is wrong.

As the manual explains, Dashcam is both the feature that records video at all, and also the app you use to launch the viewer for said video. It does both jobs (though the viewer one only when the car is in park)


So really if you want to be logical there's the "TeslaCam" system that records stuff

No, there is not.


Teslacam is the name of a folder on the USB drive. it is not a piece of software or a feature of the car.

Again- the manual covers all this.


Thanks, though, for a great illustration of why we do need this thread after all :)
 
(moderator note)

Special thanks to @Knightshade , for taking the time to write up a description of how Sentry and Dashcam interact together. There is a lot of confusion about these two features, and how they interact together. I asked @Knightshade who has a good understanding of how these features interact, to write up a general explanation of how they interact together.

Please note that any questions on "what USB drive do I use / is best for Dashcam, etc should be directed to the stickied thread that we have on that topic, which can be found here in this subforum, here:


Thank you again, @Knightshade for taking the time to write this up for us!

=====================================================================================
(explanation on dashcam and sentry mode, from @Knightshade )

How video recording works on your Tesla:


The fundamental thing to understand is the only thing that ever records video to your USB stick is Dashcam.

Sentry does not record anything- ever.

Not being aware of the above is at the heart of a lot of posts and questions here. More details below:


If your car is awake/on, and dashcam is turned on, it is always recording to the USB storage, in the recent folder. This is the only folder video is ever recorded to.

Any footage in there older than 1 hour is automatically overwritten.

You can manually "save" the last 10 minutes of dashcam footage by either tapping the dashcam icon or by (if you enabled this option in settings) honking your horn. You can also via settings have it auto-save the last 10 minutes in case of an accident. All these types of saves involve the last 10 minutes of recent footage being moved from the recent folder to the "saved" folder. Things in the saved folder are never overwritten.


Ok- what about sentry?

Sentry does several things. None of them record video.

One though is to keep the car awake when you leave/lock it. So that dashcam keeps recording in that recent folder with the 1 hour loop.

Another is, if Sentry goes to alert mode, it will move the last 10 minutes of dashcam footage from recent to the Sentry folder. This footage in Sentry does not get overwritten UNLESS the drive is nearly full.

Note if your dashcam is not working, or not turned on, all OTHER functions of sentry still work. It still can be turned on, it still does the flash of lights and warning when it goes to alert mode, it still blasts classical music if it goes to alarm mode. Since Sentry doesn't record video it doesn't warn you when nothing is being recorded. You need to insure dashcam is on and recording if you want sentry to do anything with your video recordings.

If you are not getting video recorded, that is NOT a sentry problem- it is a dashcam problem. Because only dashcam, ever, records video.

As a last note- Both because sentry will overwrite things stored in the sentry folder when the storage is nearly full, and because flash storage inherently slows down as it fills up, you should probably make a point of clearing off your storage on some regular basis, trying not to let it get more than say 3/4 full if you can help it. How often this will need to be done depends on how much storage you have, how often you manually save footage, and how often sentry triggers to do so. For some people you might only need to clean it out a few times a year, for others it might be significantly more often.
This was super helpful; thank you.
It explained why leaving Sentry on and Dashcam off resulted in logged events (when Sentry was triggered) without actual recordings.
 
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Is it possible for sentry mode to activate if someone, or something like a dog, is in the car? I wouldn't want to be in a situation such as going into the store to get milk and then having my waiting passenger blasted with classical music.

Also, how long does sentry mode tolerate someone walking around the car before flashing the headlights?
 
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Is it possible for sentry mode to activate if someone, or something like a dog, is in the car? I wouldn't want to be in a situation such as going into the store to get milk and then having my waiting passenger blasted with classical music.

Also, how long does sentry mode tolerate someone walking around the car before flashing the headlights?
Why would you leave someone in the car with Sentry Mode on? And if you left your dog in the car, you would use Dog Mode, not Sentry Mode. Sentry Mode alarm doesn't go off by walking around the car. But the headlights do flash quickly when someone walks near the car. This is my biggest issue with it and Elon said years about we'd get the option to turn off the flashing headlights, but it's still not here. I don't mind Sentry Mode recording but when parked in a busy parking lot if the headlights are always flashing every single time someone walks by the car, all it doesn't is get their attention and then they want to look into the car. This happens to me all the time and I don't want the attention on my car but want it protected with video and an alarm.
 
I find that unless I manually tap the "Record" button to save the Dashcam footage, nothing ever gets saved onto my USB that is readable via the onboard viewer. In other words, nothing is constantly recording/saving like a typical dashcam you buy from Amazon and place on your windshield.

So I find myself having to tap the Record/Save manually every 10 minutes.

Am I missing something?
 
It's obviously recording all the time-- otherwise it would be impossible for it to move the last 10 minutes to the saved folder (which is what it does when you tap the button)

It only keeps the most recent 1 hour of footage though in the recent area, and overwrites anything older... whereas the saved folders contents never get overwritten... and the sentry folder clips only get overwritten if the drive is already like 95% full.


Pull the key out after an hour long drive- put it in a PC, you should see an hour of footage in the recent folder.
 
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It's obviously recording all the time-- otherwise it would be impossible for it to move the last 10 minutes to the saved folder (which is what it does when you tap the button)

It only keeps the most recent 1 hour of footage though in the recent area, and overwrites anything older... whereas the saved folders contents never get overwritten... and the sentry folder clips only get overwritten if the drive is already like 95% full.


Pull the key out after an hour long drive- put it in a PC, you should see an hour of footage in the recent folder.

So why couldn't they just let it keep recording the 1 hour of footage and keep saving them sequentially, and then automatically delete the oldest as the drive fills up? This is what pretty much every single cheap dashcam does. What was their strategy with doing this quasi-1 hour snapchat with manual 10 minute save setup?
 
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So why couldn't they just let it keep recording the 1 hour of footage and keep saving them sequentially

Because it'd eat up a lot of storage space for no really good reason- and also increase wear on the flash storage as less and less of it was available to be overwritten more and more often.

What was their strategy with doing this quasi-1 hour snapchat with manual 10 minute save setup?


The cameras and computer in the car were never intended to do this task at all, it was added later as an afterthought- same with sentry mode.

For most folks the primary benefit of a dashcam is recording things like accidents, theft, and vandalism- which this covers just fine.

If you want hours of normal driving footage saved off for some reason then buying a dedicated dashcam is the way to go- and you can get a nice 4k one instead of the 720p you get with Teslas built in feature.
 
So why couldn't they just let it keep recording the 1 hour of footage and keep saving them sequentially, and then automatically delete the oldest as the drive fills up? This is what pretty much every single cheap dashcam does. What was their strategy with doing this quasi-1 hour snapchat with manual 10 minute save setup?

It does do this -- just with Sentry footage which is far more valuable and far more "watchable" thanks to the trigger markers. If you're thinking the dashcam is gonna help you identify the kid in the bushes with a BB gun or figure out which truck flung a rock into your windshield you apparently haven't looked closely at the recorded video quality.

The drive is always full with as much Sentry footage as it can hold plus all your saved dashcam clips and up to an hour of your current drive. Why would you want it any other way? Meanwhile, if you notice something interesting along your journey, just tap the icon to save it, or honk the horn, or crash into something.
 
Because it'd eat up a lot of storage space for no really good reason- and also increase wear on the flash storage as less and less of it was available to be overwritten more and more often.

The cameras and computer in the car were never intended to do this task at all, it was added later as an afterthought- same with sentry mode.

For most folks the primary benefit of a dashcam is recording things like accidents, theft, and vandalism- which this covers just fine.

If you want hours of normal driving footage saved off for some reason then buying a dedicated dashcam is the way to go- and you can get a nice 4k one instead of the 720p you get with Teslas built in feature.

I've used only SD cards for the cheap dashcams for years and the good ones would just delete the old files as the space filled up but I get your point.
It does do this -- just with Sentry footage which is far more valuable and far more "watchable" thanks to the trigger markers. If you're thinking the dashcam is gonna help you identify the kid in the bushes with a BB gun or figure out which truck flung a rock into your windshield you apparently haven't looked closely at the recorded video quality.

The drive is always full with as much Sentry footage as it can hold plus all your saved dashcam clips and up to an hour of your current drive. Why would you want it any other way? Meanwhile, if you notice something interesting along your journey, just tap the icon to save it, or honk the horn, or crash into something.

I guess that answers my question. Just have to manually hit save if I want to record something interesting within the past 10 minutes. I looked at the manual and tried to look up as much info on how to use it, but the explanations weren't 100% clear to me.