The Ins and Outs of H.264

H.264 compressionNew developments in technology often present related challenges that need to be overcome, all part of the give and take environment of progress. The rapidly evolving IP camera arena is not immune to this, and one challenge that has emerged is the complexities of the H.264 compression standard. As the pixel count in IP cameras grows, so does the need to tap into the variety of techniques H.264 offers.

Rather than relying on the vague low, medium and high settings associated with MPEG-4 and MJPEG, H.264 offers techniques that far exceed previous compression models but, in turn, requires more knowledge of what they are and how they work.

One of the first things to consider in selecting an HD or megapixel camera is the H.264 profile used by the device, and weighing that feature with how the camera will ultimately be used. Is the goal to provide a crisp and clear image of a bank or pharmacy robber? Or is the goal to tap into the benefits of reduced bandwidth consumption?

If the purpose is a lower-cost installation where performance isn’t the primary consideration, it’s possible to get by with a base profile, which was developed for low-complexity applications and lacks the flexibility of motion prediction models.

If the goal is to meet the needs of standard resolution transmission, than using H.264 main profile is a viable option. It offers a motion prediction model that speeds encoding within the camera, and is also more effective in compressing interlaced images.

But if the focus is on HD and megapixel applications, than the clear choice is a camera using the H.264 high profile. This profile was designed for HD video encoding and decoding, and can process more bits as well as add the color depth associated with Blu-ray-quality video. It is also commonly used in streaming video for YouTube and the iTunes store, for example.

Another factor to consider in the IP camera scenario as it relates to H.264 is the bit rate setting. Again, there are three options: variable bit rate (VBR), constant bit rate (CBR) and constrained variable bit rate (CVBR).

VBR offers the least precise option for CCTV professionals because of its inherent vagueness among the five settings and the quantization parameter, or QP value, tied to each of them. As a result, many camera makers are moving away from this option and going with CBR as their main or only option.

CBR allows users to set a specific bit rate as a maximum. And even though the camera may not produce to that level, it won’t ever exceed it. The downside here is that it can lead to the purchase of more storage than necessary.

CBVR, which allows a user to set a maximum data rate and the minimum a camera could produce, is currently the least used option among the three, but offers the most control and ability to predict storage needs.

The market will continue to migrate towards IP cameras and, as a security professional, it’simportant to know your performance goals and cost parameters. With this information in hand, you will be able to identify and dictate the correct H.264 profile and bit rate for your security video installation.

Interested in more details on deploying H.264? Click here to download an informational white paper on utilizing the H.264 compression standard.

How to use the many facets of H.264 AVC Compression


What other factors are you using when determining your H.264 settings? Leave a comment below.

Day Night Camera | Protecting Assets & Investments 24/7

day night cameraIt seems like surveillance cameras are everywhere we look these days. They are in the public park, at the mall, in the grocery store parking lot, and outside our office buildings. The presence of cameras has become more acceptable in our society, with many people recognizing the value and safety they bring.

Of course, the first thing many people think of when they hear the words surveillance cameras is that they exist as tools to protect people from the bad guy. While that is one of the most important benefits security provides, it is not the complete picture. For many businesses and municipalities the use of surveillance cameras has evolved to extend beyond personal safety to also include the protection of property and assets.

This transition has become necessary in recent years as companies and government agencies alike are faced with tighter budgets and the need to protect current investments in people and infrastructure. A perfect example of this is the County of Maui, Hawaii and their desire to not only safeguard its citizens and employees, but in particular the county’s million-dollar fleet of vehicles, from police cruisers to maintenance vehicles to vehicles driven by its building inspectors.

Originally, the county implemented a surveillance system to protect its critical infrastructure, including Five County Administration Buildings and the Water Department facilities. Later it expanded the surveillance program to reach other areas of the county, such as outside vehicle parking lots and the exterior of facilities housing maintenance equipment. The County turned to surveillance cameras to monitor their property and assets to be able to clearly identify anyone caught on video stealing a vehicle, tires or syphoning gas, which has happened in the past.

Without a doubt, protecting vehicles in a parking lot can be one of the most challenging tasks at hand in the security industry. Not only does the surveillance system being used need to reliably function in the bright sunlight, but it also needs offer superior low-light performance for the nighttime or highly cloudy days.

The market has seen the further development of IP-based day night cameras in recent years as security manufacturers have leveraged sensor, encoding, and processing power from the automotive and other industries. The result is the introduction of cameras that provide consistent image quality in a variety of outdoor environments for continuous 24/7 surveillance.

For the County of Maui, a careful review process and trial run of multiple surveillance cameras led them to select the Illustra 610 day night camera from American Dynamics. In the end, it came down to finding a solution that offered a reliable, low-light performance at an effective price.

As end users extend the use of their surveillance cameras from beyond protecting people to protecting property, IP day night cameras are becoming a fiscally responsible solution of choice.

Read more about the County of Maui’s deployment of IP day night cameras in the government solutions area of the Tyco Security Products website.


What other applications are you using a day night camera for within your environment?