Megapixel Cameras: A lesson in Arithmetic

Few people would disagree that today’s society is hyper-focused on technology. The continuous evolution of mobile devices, and the introduction of higher resolution mobile phone cameras with higher processing power has helped to foster a consumer market accustomed to purchasing a new mobile device every two years.

describe the imageThe security industry is no different.Surveillance cameras are continuously evolving to offer higher megapixel resolution than previously thought possible. In fact, there are currently surveillance cameras on the market today that offer 20 megapixels of resolution, a feat thought impossible only a few years ago.

As a result, systems integrators and end users are often times eager to install and deploy in their facilities the latest and greatest technology now available in the market. They want the best quality video image coupled with several weeks of video storage time.

However, each increase in megapixel resolution, or the addition of surveillance cameras, onto a system directly impacts the network design and configuration and have a direct impact on the recording and storage capabilities. This affects how many days you can keep recorded video, as well as directly influences bandwidth and how fast the data can be written onto a disk.

Because of this, security professionals need to keep a few things in mind when designing a surveillance system that involves megapixel cameras and requires multiple days of video storage.

First, it’s important to weigh the benefits of a higher megapixel camera over the requirements for the server and storage system. A system designed with megapixel cameras can provide the benefits of a surveillance project with fewer cameras overall, because one camera, in some cases, can now do the work of two. The consequences on the storage and server side, however, are also important considerations. As the result of adding higher megapixel technology, the storage solution deployed might not be adequate, requiring more hard disk space, which can dramatically drive up the overall cost of the system.

In addition the number of cameras attached to a server is impacted. Servers are rated at the max bandwidth (data rate) that can be managed. The higher the megapixel, the higher the bandwidth, the fewer cameras that can be connected to a single server thus increasing the number of recorders required. Selecting a recorder with a higher bandwidth capability provides the ability for growth with future megapixel cameras.

Secondly, don’t forget to define the result you are trying to achieve with a higher megapixel camera. It is easy to get caught up in all the excitement surrounding the better picture quality of a higher megapixel camera. If the original project specifications require only a 2-megapixel camera and you are now exploring a 5-megapixel camera, make sure you fully evaluate the reasons you are moving to a higher megapixel camera and weigh the benefits over the cost of the entire system.

An appealing functionality of megapixel cameras is the ability to dynamically allocate the bandwidth in the field of view. Cameras can be set with face detection (not facial recognition – just recognizing it’s a face in the camera field of view) and allocate more bandwidth/resolution to the face area than the walls or the sky. This can help maintain a lower bandwidth out of the camera without compromising on the ability to identify a face.

Designing a surveillance system that involves megapixel cameras becomes a lesson in arithmetic. Recognizing this, the industry has several resources available that enable security professionals to calculate the appropriate storage required based on the megapixels of a camera.

If you are implementing a megapixel based system, check out the American Dynamics NVR Storage Requirement Calculator.


What questions do you have regarding Megapixel cameras and storage required? Please leave your question in the comments area below.

Camera Installability | Understand the Whole Camera Solution

Integrators and installers of video surveillance systems face tasks that are common across both analog and IP video camera systems. Camera installation, wiring, setup and configuration must be completed for each deployed device in order for the system to recognize and connect to the camera’s video stream. The growing deployment of IP video systems has added new layers of complexity that the installer must master to be successful. Installers not only have to physically mount, setup, and connect the cameras to the recorder, but must also understand the configuration and load balancing of IP networks.

camera installabilityTo aid integrators in these new challenges, the best camera manufacturers look beyond simply delivering high quality video capture functionalities. These vendors are also devoted to employing significant resources on product design, software, and accessories to make the entire installation and commissioning process faster and more efficient. Integrators who use these manufacturers’ cameras realize the benefit through higher profitability and a competitive edge in time saved and fewer accessories to purchase.

The best camera manufacturers listen to the voice of customer and the integrators’ perspective to improve on physical installation, power considerations, and configuration of the cameras on the IP network.

Physical Installation: Cameras that incorporate multiple installation options into the design of the core product save time and money by enabling faster and easier installation and by reducing or often eliminating the need to purchase mounting accessories or adapters.  A well-designed indoor mini-dome will allow for surface mounting by simply screwing the back plate onto the surface. A smarter design has the hole pattern in the back plate positioned to match common electrical gang boxes so the camera can be screwed directly onto the wiring box.  With its back plate removed, the same camera can be flush mounted to a surface using integrated swing out clamps to secure it on locations such as a drop ceiling. In cases where building codes require plenum-rated flush mount installations, a camera can include the adapter necessary to connect into the wiring conduit to meet the code requirements.

Power Supply:  All cameras need electrical power and connectivity to the recording system. For IP cameras both these needs can be fulfilled using a PoE (Power over Ethernet) network where only a single RJ-45 cable connection to the camera is necessary. PoE power has 2 standards – PoE (802.3af) and PoE+ (802.3at). PoE+ delivers higher power and is often used with outdoor cameras that are warmed by heaters as well as most newer indoor HD PTZ cameras that require additional power to run the pan and tilt motors. In certain cases, PoE+ is inadequate and an AC power supply must be used to achieve the lowest operating temperature rating of the camera. It is important to note that the power supply used will directly affect the low temperature ratings of heated outdoor cameras, so the installation environment and camera power/temperature ratings should be carefully considered before deciding on the power supply.

Managing Network Connectivity:  Configuring each IP camera on the network is much different than configuring analog cameras, as multiple IP cameras are capable of running on the same physical network wire. For example, 50 cameras connected to a single network means the video streams from all the cameras are moving on the same wires simultaneously. In order for the network to distinguish one camera’s video stream data from another, each camera is assigned a unique IP address. Ideally each camera should be named with a common identifier so that it is easy to understand the camera type and location of the camera within the system.

When manufactured, all cameras are given the same default IP address and a unique MAC address. Imagine you are installing 50 cameras, each of which must be named and assigned a unique IP address. The task can be accomplished by opening each camera’s web user interface and assigning a new IP address. A more efficient way is to use the smart configuration software provided by the manufacturer to manage configuration of multiple cameras automatically. Configuration software will scan and find the connected cameras on the network, batch assign IP addresses, allow for individual camera naming and, if necessary, batch update camera firmware. Well-designed camera configuration software is an indispensable installation and configuration tool.

Cameras that focus on “installability” will pay dividends in the long run. Time is money so consider using cameras that incorporate features and technology that allow for easier installation and configuration. When comparing camera features, look beyond the high level specs to understand the whole camera solution. A well thought-out and designed camera can reduce the man hours necessary for installation, potentially making your operation more cost competitive and profitable.


Are there camera installation issues you face that need consideration? Please let us know in the comments section below.