Digital video recorders (DVRs) - Expert commentary

ONVIF Profile T and H.265: the evolution of video compression
ONVIF Profile T and H.265: the evolution of video compression

In today’s market, efficient use of bandwidth and storage is an essential part of maintaining an effective video surveillance system. A video management system’s ability to provide analysis, real time event notifications and crucial image detail is only as a good as the speed and bandwidth of a surveillance network. In the physical security industry, H.264 is the video compression format used by most companies. Some companies also employ H.264 enhancements to compress areas of an image that are irrelevant to the user at a higher ratio within a video stream in order to preserve image quality for more important details like faces, license plates or buildings. The H.265, H.264’s successor, will be increasingly used for compression in the future. Some companies are already using H.265 in their cameras and video management systems, while a host of other manufacturers are certainly preparing for its broader adoption in the years to come. Video compression technologies Reduced bandwidth and storage requirements are the primary benefits of video compression technologies Reduced bandwidth and storage requirements are the primary benefits of video compression technologies. In some cases, H.265 can double the data compression ratio of H.264, while retaining the same quality. Increased compression rate translates into decreased storage requirements on hard drives, less bandwidth usage and fewer switches – all of which reduce overall costs of system ownership. H.265 compression delivers a lower bitrate than H.264, which is relevant to end users and integrators because the lower bitrate reduces strain on hardware and can reduce playback issues. It’s very important that the compression format that is used is supported in all of the different components of a system: cameras, desktop computers on which the VMS is running and the VMS itself. It is also good for end users and integrators to understand the basics of video compression. Having a basic understanding of compression allows users to tweak settings to reduce bandwidth usage even more. Many cameras come with default settings that can be changed to ultimately reduce costs. ONVIF physical security In the physical security industry, ONVIF is working to incorporate into its specifications the use of new formats such as H.265 but is not directly involved in developing the compression standards themselves. With Profile T, the new ONVIF video profile released will employ a new media service that is compression agnostic. This means that it can support new video compression formats, including H.265, as well as new audio compression formats, with the ability to include new video and audio codecs as needed in the future without having to redesign its media service. In the physical security industry, ONVIF is working to incorporate into its specifications the use of new formats such as H.265 Standardisation organisations that are directly addressing new compression standards include the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and a joint commission of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which is addressing the coding of audio, picture, multimedia and hypermedia information. Other compression formats on par with H.264 and H.265 are being developed by companies such as Google. H.265 compression formats Using products that employ H.265 compression will reduce costs through bandwidth reduction, as will changing default settings on cameras, which are often conservative. Having a basic understanding of compression formats and how to tweak camera factory default settings also gives integrators the ability to further reduce bandwidth for added costs savings and increased system performance. These enhancements will analyse which parts of an image are most important and adjust local levels of compressions accordingly It is also worth noting that H.265 enhancements will likely be developed by camera manufacturers to further reduce bandwidth, as was the case with H.264. These enhancements will analyze which parts of an image are most important and adjust local levels of compressions accordingly. While H.265 itself is ready for prime time, its value as a tool for IP-based surveillance systems is dependent on support for the codec in all parts of the system – the VMS, server hardware, graphics cards and camera. Though widespread H.265 adoption is predicted, providers of these components are jumping on the H.265 bandwagon at different rates of speed. ONVIF is including support for H.265 in its new video profile, Profile T, because it believes it will become the most widely used compression format and ONVIF recognises the need to anticipate that migration as a future need of the industry. The new media service, which will be implemented with Profile T, will be future-proof in that when new compression formats are released in the future, ONVIF can adopt them very quickly. That flexibility will definitely help integrators.

HD over Coax provides cost-effective video surveillance upgrade
HD over Coax provides cost-effective video surveillance upgrade

According to IHS Market, it is estimated that there are over 60 million security cameras in the United States, and other reports say these cameras capture more than four billion hours of footage per week. Over the last decade, IP camera technology has dominated the conversation as it has provided users with a broad offering of enhanced image quality and features. With a large percentage of existing security systems relying on analogue, many end users looking for high definition (HD) video quality have been forced to take on a complete system overhaul. Infrastructure overhaul for HD video To make the switch, customers would need to change everything, from cameras to hardware to wiring– not to mention the lengthy installation process that would ensue. IP cameras also require higher Internet speeds and more cloud space. Whether constrained by budget, bandwidth or storage, many end users have been unable to adopt this new video surveillance method.Thanks to technological advancements within the security industry, HD over Coax offers a viable solution for integrators and end users alike Thanks to technological advancements within the security industry, HD over Coax offers a viable solution for integrators and end users alike. By utilising the current Coaxial cables, this offering yields high definition video, while requiring minimal infrastructure changes and is an optimal surveillance choice for security customers. Plus, with new advancements and updates being made frequently to this technology, there is a solution for every security need. The enhanced alternative of HD over Coax has been warmly welcomed in the security industry, thanks to its simple solutions and ever-evolving features. Many new analogue HD cameras are “plug and play,” able to connect directly to existing Coaxial cables. This eliminates the need for a complete system change, creating cost-savings for the end user and an enhanced video quality offering. Easy solutions for HD video As a result, integrators can cost-effectively upgrade their customer’s surveillance solution while using their legacy infrastructure, making it an attractive option for end users and an easy sell for dealers. Latency in video is another common issue with network-based camera systems, where even the slightest delay in video surveillance can hinder security response HD over Coax cameras themselves are always expanding and evolving to meet a wide array of security needs. With the introduction of fisheye and multi-sensor cameras, users now have a multitude of coverage options, not to mention the introduction of 4K bringing resolution options to the same level as IP. Some newer technologies are even touting 4K cameras paired with 4K digital video recorders (DVRs) made specifically for analogue systems. Longer cables grant transmission for up to 1600 feet, double the distance of standard analogue solutions, and triple that of IP systems. This single cable is able to transmit both HD video and audio. Recently, broadcast quality audio over Coax has become available in limited models, a substantial improvement over older analogue technology, which was unable to transmit audio. Stopping video delay Latency in video is another common issue with network-based camera systems. Even the slightest delay in video surveillance can hinder security response. IP cameras are forced to compress and packetise their video for transmission. The outcome of this is a reduced number of images per video, which in turn causes delay. HD over Coax on the other hand, delivers an unlimited amount of HD images in real time, with smooth motion and impressive clarity. Additionally, the point-to-point transmission delivers uncompressed video free of lag. Another touted benefit is that, unlike IP networked cameras, analogue systems provide a more secure video transmission. With so much sensitive information housed on a businesses’ network, adding another point of network access through an IP camera can create concerns for cyber security risks. HD over Coax delivers an unlimited amount of HD images in real time, with smooth motion and impressive clarity Preventing network hacking With HD over Coax, the physical connections between the camera and DVR prevent network hacking. By keeping the video surveillance system offline, security professionals are able to direct their attention to the physical threats at hand, rather than having to focus on deterring cyber security risks. One of the primary difficulties of deploying HD video solutions is the fact that many older systems utilise a wide variety of HD standards and platforms. To make matters more complicated, after HD over Coax was brought to market, manufacturers raced to create their own version of this technology. Today, the most popular proprietary standards are HD-CVI, HD-TVI and AHD. However, integrators and customers found that attempting to manage multiple HD technologies proved to be near impossible.Integrators and customers found that attempting to manage multiple HD technologies proved to be near impossible Diversifying surveillance through one DVR To combat these issues, manufacturers have introduced products with more flexibility to their portfolios. One example of this is the penta-brid DVR which grants the ability to seamlessly integrate multiple technologies deployed across one application. This means that systems with diverse camera brands and technologies, such as a mix of HD-CVI, HD-TVI, AHD, analogue or IP, can be connected through one DVR. For many end users with legacy analogue systems, penta-brid DVRs give them greater freedom to choose between a variety of solutions, rather than being limited to one option. With video resolution increasing, the space needed to store the footage is similarly rising. Penta-brid technology has been able to adapt to these evolving needs, giving users ample storage space to house the HD and 4K surveillance video with some of the newest models including H.265 compression.  HD casino surveillance made simple For casinos, HD images are critical for identifying unauthorised personnel and unlawful behaviours to create a safe environment for guests and staff While HD over Coax is beneficial to many end users and integrators, those in the casino and hospitality markets find it crucial. With a combination of high profile guests, large amounts of cash on hand, constant crowds and strict industry regulations, reliable video surveillance is a must. Deploying new IP systems comes at a stiff price. When looking to upgrade their video surveillance, casinos must also be mindful of the installation process. When moving to an IP-based system, ripping out old wires and replacing them with new is the standard practice. This practice can be both disruptive and costly, not to mention gaming regulations require casino activities be monitored at all times so a complete system shutdown would result in revenue loss. This cost can be hard to justify, especially when the current legacy analogue system remains in working condition with only the lower image resolution to date it. For these scenarios, the most cost-effective option is to leverage the legacy infrastructure, replace the existing cameras with new devices, and reap the benefits that HD video has to offer without any lapse in security. For casinos, HD images are critical for identifying unauthorised personnel and unlawful behaviours to create a safe environment for guests and staff. HD over Coax cameras now offer the same resolution as IP cameras with a plug and play approach, that cuts down on expense without sacrificing quality. For businesses and applications that are unable to adopt IP technology, whether it be cost or time prohibitive, HD over Coax now features most of the same benefits IP has to offer without breaking the bank. By providing clear images in real time, maximising existing infrastructure, and affording cyber security benefits, HD over Coax provides an attractive solution for many end users and integrators.

Video surveillance must modernise in storage, recording and on-demand access
Video surveillance must modernise in storage, recording and on-demand access

Dollars spent by video surveillance customers must go towards ensuring high-availability capture, storage and on-demand access to live and archived video. Reaching this goal mandates high-availability of independent components – camera, network, storage (edge, external), internet connectivity, display, all Video Management Software (VMS) components and an architecture that can take advantage of this. In this note, we focus on seeing our way through to a video surveillance architecture, that provides high availability storage, access to live and stored video content. Of all options available to store recorded video, edge recording is the only one that is unaffected by network failure Edge recording Of all options available to store recorded video, edge recording is the only one that is unaffected by network failure. This makes edge storage a must-have. But, this has some limitations at present: Edge storage capacity is limited. Edge media has a short lifetime, rated only for thousands of hours of continuous recording. Most cameras are not secure and physical damage to the camera could lead to catastrophic loss of edge stored content. As storage and compression technology evolve, the constraints imposed by (1) and (2) could go away. However, securing cameras will continue to be a barrier for most installations. Secure external storage It is thus imperative to also store video in secure external storage. Such an architecture uses edge storage to fill in content gaps created by network, external storage outages. As edge storage technology improves, larger gaps can be filled in, but one will always need external storage. By our definition, ‘external storage’ is a solution stack that includes storage media and all software (including VMS) that provide access to this storage. Access to live and archived video Access to live video can either be met by external storage or directly by the camera Every surveillance solution needs to provide access to live and archived video. Access to live video can either be met by external storage or (and) directly by the camera. All things being equal, having the camera directly provide live video access, is a higher-availability solution. There is dependence on fewer components in the chain. Solutions in the market use one of the above two approaches for access to live video. Due to limited capacity and low physical security of edge storage, it makes sense at present, to have external storage meet all requests for archive video. Thus, we are led to an architecture that has heavy dependence on external storage. Dual-recording For high-availability, external storage must be architected with redundancy. Ideally, independent components that make up external storage – storage media, associated hardware and software (including VMS components), should be individually redundant and have smart interconnectivity. However, solutions in the market rigidly tie these components together. Failure of a single component causes failure of external storage. For e.g. hardware failure of a server causes VMS component failure AND storage failure. DR provides a smart way to provide high-availability for external storage For these solutions in the market, high-availability is achieved by having additional external storage units that step-in during outages of primary units. If these additional units continuously duplicate primary units, access gaps are minimised, and archive access is un-affected during primary unit outages. This is the idea behind Dual-Recording (DR).  To meet cost budgets, these additional units can be configured to store subsampled (framerate, resolution) video content. A small number of additional units can support concurrent outages of all primary units. A few-to-many redundancy. Rising need for dual-recording Most cameras cannot be physically secured, and video content produced by a camera must be stored externally. Many VMS solutions use external storage to service live video access requests. Edge storage limitations impose restrictions on edge archive access at present. So, external storage is used to service requests for archive access too. Thus, a surveillance system ends up being over-dependent on external storage. DR provides a smart way to provide high-availability for external storage. As edge storage improves, it will be able to service archive access requests. VMS software will need to evolve, to use this capability smartly.

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Vanderbilt collaborates with ComNet to enhance toll booth and plaza security
Vanderbilt collaborates with ComNet to enhance toll booth and plaza security

Vanderbilt’s SPC was recently deployed to act as part of a security and communication solution between a toll booth and plaza located on the M1 between Dublin and Belfast. At night time, the toll system is automated and therefore an intruder alarm system was needed for protection. The distance between the toll booth and plaza is 6.2 kilometres and the security systems – SPC and video cameras – had to be able to connect and operate over that distance so operators could get an overview of activity at each site. SPC replaced an existing Europlex legacy product that had the IFS fibre drivers connected and working on multimode fibre over the 6.2 kilometre distance. Due to this distance, the fibre driver was bespoke. Multimode is usually only specified for approximately two kilometres. However, when the 3GS legacy system was replaced for a new SPC panel, the communication over the fibre link stopped working. Deploying fibre cables, transmitters and receiversComNet came straight out of the box and was easy to use and to install" The installation company, Precision Security, previously had to deploy a pair of fibre cables – two transmitters and two receivers – to transmit the signal back and forth successfully. However, in updating the site, they found that a single pair of ComNet fibre units, straight from the box, could successfully execute the task, despite only being specified for 4.5 kilometers. The ComNet FDX60 multimode fibre units allowed the SPC X-Bus transmission to be converted from RS485 protocols to optical and back to RS485. This enabled the data between the SPC expanders to travel further distances. Broad-range compatibility The ComNet FDX60 (M,S)[-M] data transceivers provide point-to-point transmission of simplex or duplex EIA RS232/RS422/RS485 (2W/4W) data signals over one or two optical fibres. The transceivers are transparent to data encoding, allowing for broad-range compatibility. Models within this series are available for use with multimode or single-mode optical fibre. “ComNet came straight out of the box and was easy to use and to install. Its threshold is only around four kilometres, but it is working well beyond that. When I saw the name ComNet, I was pretty confident that it would work, to be honest. We previously worked with ComNet fibre managed switches, and we found that they always work as a sweet as a nut,” stated Victor Fields of Precision Security, who installed the fibre solution on site.

New name for Bewator brings big benefits
New name for Bewator brings big benefits

Bewator, one of the UK's leading developers and suppliers of security products, has changed its name to Siemens Building Technologies Security Products Limited.The adoption of the Siemens identity is a natural progression following the Siemens acquisition of Bewator in November 2005.  However, Bewator has been careful to ensure that the timing is right not only for the company, but also for its customers.  It is confident that the change will bring big benefits to all those who buy, sell and use the company's equipment.Despite the change in the company title, the renowned Bewator name is not disappearing.  The Bewator brand will continue to be recognised within the Siemens Building Technologies Security Products portfolio - along with the Siemens and Europlex brands - and as such the name will continue to feature on a large number of familiar products.One of the most significant developments signalled by the name change is that the company now has access to the full technical and financial resources of the Siemens organisation.  This will drive future product and systems development, ensuring that customers continue to enjoy the very best in leading-edge security technology and the additional quality assurance that a global brand like Siemens brings.Being part of the Siemens organisation also allows customers of the new Security Products business to access one of the widest ranges of equipment available from a single source.  Current products will continue to be available and are rapidly being complemented by exciting new additions to the range.  Interoperability between product ranges from the brands of Siemens Building Technologies Security Products will be further enhanced."Bewator has always been a successful and market-leading operation," said Managing Director, Bob Cotterill, "but there's no doubt that membership of the Siemens organisation has given the business additional impetus and allows us to move forward more rapidly and in ways that would not previously have been possible."When we asked our customers how they felt about changing the company name to reflect these developments, there was a strong feeling that the Siemens name means innovation, quality and product interoperability.  In short, Siemens Building Technologies Security Products Ltd may be simply a new name to front our business - but it's a name with an incredible amount behind it!"

Top London University goes digital with latest Tracer Lite DVR from Europlex Technologies
Top London University goes digital with latest Tracer Lite DVR from Europlex Technologies

National systems integrator Bell Security has been using Europlex's Tracer Lite DVR to help a number of major clients bring their CCTV surveillance up to date. In the most recent project, an international university complex in the heart of London's West End has benefited from an upgrade to full digital recording.Using the Tracer Lite, the imposing 27,000 square foot listed building on the North-West corner of Trafalgar Square has been equipped with a fully networkable and scalable CCTV system based on all its existing cameras.  Anderson Slocombe, the project manager for Bell Security recommended the Tracer Lite in this case because of its higher image quality."We've found that the resolution of the images on the Tracer Lite is excellent, and allowed us to deliver a real improvement on what the client had previously," he said.The 1.2 Terabytes of digital storage allows the university to dispense with the cost and inconvenience of VHS tapes and keep all the required images stored for more than 30 days.  It also provides for much easier access to stored images, with inbuilt search methods.University managers can now easily duplicate recordings directly onto CD/DVD, which can be viewed on any other PC without additional software being installed. "The university required a seamless, full digital recording upgrade and this was achieved by removing the existing multiplexers and installing a 16-way Tracer Lite," adds Anderson Slocombe.Safety and security of all activities at the site is now greatly improved and end-users the reassurance of unlimited, step-by-step scalability.  Starting with just one Tracer Lite model, system designers can add and integrate further recorders whenever they want - for example linking branches, regional offices, or even sites in different locations around the world. Remote management software provides secure access, viewing and archiving functions using a range of communication methods.With a neat, compact design Tracer Lite offers up to 1.2 Terabyte hard disk storage, DVD backup and event retrieval, plus continuous-, motion-, sensor- and audio-activated recording functions.

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