At Warsash Maritime Academy, their ship's engine room simulator for student stress testing had an old analogue system with image quality in low light levels that was unacceptable. Each camera had its own monitor able to switch to a VHS tape recorder, which meant that only one camera's output could be recorded at any given moment. With the high levels of background noise in the test environment, audio capture was very challenging and recorded results far below the high standard needed by the Academy. Editing facilities were very primitive and the VHS output quality was not good enough to show through a video projector to large audiences, when sharing test results with international stress research colleagues.
Milestone XProtect Professional IP video management software is installed on a standard Dell PowerEdge tower server, and provides the user interface for viewing live and recorded video from six IQeye 701 megapixel cameras made by IQinVision using 4.5-10mm lenses from Lensation and an Axis 214 PTZ network camera. These are networked using a Netgear Prosafe FSM7326TP - a 24 port, L3 fully managed switch with power over Ethernet and Gigabit connectivity. The video is archived in the Milestone database onto a Buffalo TeraStation with a further terabyte of storage capability. The implementation expertise came from InCam Digital Surveillance and Smart CCTV Ltd.
The megapixel technology gives very clear images, even in low lighting, and all the camera views are now simultaneously monitored and recorded, which gives a much better editing capability. By recording the output to a dedicated server, the material is viewable on any PC on the university network, as well. The system is very flexible, handling video in various formats and allowing easy upgrades to scale the solution to other locations. The user-friendly software interface required very little training.
Southampton Solent University in the UK was given university status in 2005. Formerly it was the Southampton Institute which can trace its roots back to the early 20th century. Solent University is a medium sized institution having around 14,000 students and 1,100 staff, with the main campus located in the centre of Southampton, and two other locations including Warsash. A wide range of courses is offered, teaching many disciplines and drawing students from all over the world.
Of particular note is the world-leading Warsash Maritime Academy, which offers professional seafaring qualifications for merchant navies and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The Academy provides certification programmes from cadetships to Class 1 for both deck and engineer officers, short courses to develop skills such as fire fighting and sea survival, and continuing professional development modules for more experienced officers. Warsash pioneered the use of bridge and engine room simulators for higher level training, and the Liquid Cargo Operations Simulator, which is the most advanced of its kind, was developed in house. Their manned model ship handling training facility is the only one in the United Kingdom, and one of very few in the world.
Skills honed through stress simulators
"At the Maritime Academy site we have a number of simulators which are used in teaching. One of these is an engine room simulator where students can be put through their paces. All kinds of incidents can be simulated to which the students have to react. Typically students will spend a 2-hour session in the simulator dealing with a range of issues on which they are debriefed at the end of the session. Of particular interest is how the students react to stress, and the Maritime Academy is part of an international group researching reaction to stress," informs Stephen Harding, Learning Systems Support Manager at Southampton Solent University.
For the simulator to be as realistic as possible, it is important that only the students are in it: the teaching staff must be in a separate control room where they cannot see into the simulator. In order to be able to see (and hear) what the students are doing, how the instruments read, where the controls are set, etc., video cameras are used.
"These video cameras need to be as small as possible because the space is restricted, and they also need to be unobtrusive so that they do not spoil the simulator atmosphere," notes Harding. "An old analogue system had been used for several years but image quality, especially in low light levels, was unacceptable. Six cameras were used, each with its own monitor and able to switch to a VHS tape recorder - meaning only one camera's output could be recorded at a time. With the high levels of background noise, audio capture was very challenging and recorded results very poor. Editing facilities were very primitive and the VHS output quality was not good enough to show through a video projector to large audiences."
Milestone IP video fulfils the requirements
The Academy was granted some funding under a research grant to upgrade the audio and video capture in the engine room simulator. From the outset the decision was taken that the new system had to be digital and preferably an IP based system.
"We were looking for functionality ‘out of the box' and Milestone has just that. It is also very easy to set up and use which is a great bonus for the teaching staff," adds Harding. "It's an integrated package that provides all the functionality that we require."
The output from the IQeye cameras now can be simultaneously monitored and recorded to give a much better editing capability. The system is very flexible, handling video in various formats; analogue, SDI, HD, JPEG, AVI, etc. so it can be used in different ways. By recording the output to a dedicated server, the material is also viewable on any PC on the university network.
Harding continues, "Of particular interest is that it is scalable. We intend to increase the number of cameras in the future to cover other simulators in the academy. By scaling the license fee, we can do that very simply."
IP video for megapixel clarity tested and proven
Harding carried out Web-based research followed by a visit to the IFSEC security trade show in January 2007, where he saw demonstrations of the system. The university's chosen installer, InCam Group, promoted Milestone Systems IP video management software and cameras from Smart CCTV Ltd.
"We knew pretty well what we wanted, and discussions with InCam and Milestone confirmed it," states Harding. He also comments on InCam's performance throughout the purchase, installation, and support phases as being, "Just brilliant!"
InCam selected SmartCCTV because of their specialisation in IQeye megapixel cameras. IQeye 701 cameras were specified because of their small physical size and for the spatial resolution that would achieve the required image quality. The system captures 25 frames per second (FPS) on all cameras at HD Quality 1208 x 720. It records and shows a live view on all cameras. All the cameras are Powered over Ethernet (PoE) from the switch and, because of the environment, shielded cabling used.
"We very much worked with each other to deliver this solution at IT and camera levels and have forged a good partnership for future projects," states Paul Stout, Managing Director of InCam Group.
Only IP video management software like Milestone XProtect can manage megapixel cameras, and these give top clarity from the highest resolution images available on the market today.
"In this installation we are using IQeye megapixel cameras at full frame rate to assess the student behaviour (and stress) within the Academy's ship engine simulator. We tested for the optimal setup on this as the bandwidth and storage are critical here: they must have 25 frames-per-second from all cameras at very high resolution," explains Paul Stout, Managing Director of InCam Group. "We needed to make sure that the technicalities could be achieved - and they do with the strong Milestone-IQinVision-Axis combination. It's a high performance solution."
Paul Stout adds, "We use an Axis 214 network camera for important PTZ duties: the IQeye 701's are running full resolution, which give a phenomenal view of the room, but the Axis 214 has really added to this as the course lecturers can quickly zoom in to check on very small gauges and switches in the simulator room. This helps them to ascertain lots of detail about how students are dealing with scenarios."
Video and audio combined
Adobe Soundbooth CS3 software was also installed for its ability to clean up the recordings through a high-quality filtering system. This was installed on the workstation along with an AXIS 243SA Video Server to synchronise the audio and the video. The main part of the sound system involved a Biamp Nexia CS, a digital signal processor with 10 microphone line inputs and 6 microphone line outputs. The internal system design is completely user definable via PC software and can be controlled via daVinchi software screens.
The Academy has cameras installed in the engine room simulator along the back wall. Five university personnel are using the Milestone software to view the images and administer the system: two academics, two technicians and one IT support officer.
"Training in the Milestone XProtect software was given by InCam," reports Harding. "It was all very straightforward."