Tag Archives: Bandwidth

Video test and verify: When spec sheets aren’t enough

As a nation we have become a bit obsessed with numbers. More specifically, we are fixated by those digits that translate to the concept of “bigger is better”.

We’ve seen it over the years with vehicles, as people transitioned from sub-compacts and compacts to SUVs. Why settle for a small car when a bigger one can give you more length, more width and more seats? Of course, people often forget about the downside of “bigger”, which means higher cost and lower gas mileage.

The same phenomena that has swept through the automobile industry has been seen in american dynamics, video security, tyco security productselectronics with people wanting higher resolution TVs, computers with more processing power and phones with better, faster connections.

In the security industry, the “bigger is better” mantra is often used in the camera arena with spec sheets touting cameras with 3, 5 and even 8 megapixels. Although the bulk of installed cameras are still in the 2 megapixel range, it’s hard not to be intrigued by the siren song of more megapixels. If 2 megapixels are good, wouldn’t 8 be better?

Although the car dealer wants dearly to sell you that more expensive, more expansive SUV, you’re not likely to make the decision without getting into the vehicle and giving it a test drive. You may find upon driving it that there are trade offs you’re not willing to make, like seeing the gas gauge move quickly into the E position.

Similarly, anyone looking to replace or add cameras to their surveillance system, or integrators looking to expand or update their product line, should test the cameras as well. Relying solely on the specifications provided on a product spec sheet is like buying the SUV by just reading the sticker on the door and never getting behind the wheel. A camera may have looked great on paper, but until you see how it works in real-life situations, it’s hard to be certain.

This is especially difficult because the industry as it stands now doesn’t have standards for specifications, so there could very well be variances among manufacturers. One company’s measurement of low-light performance or Wide Dynamic Range can be vastly different than another’s. Can you really trust the numbers?

Putting a camera through its paces will allow you to see if it is the right one for a specific situation and more importantly, if it lives up to its hype. Many high-resolution cameras offering more than 3 megapixels, are still equipped with lenses that aren’t rated above 3 megapixels. For example, when bubble covers are added over the lens what is the optical performance of the bubble material? Can it transmit the high resolution?

Just as the SUV can be viewed as a gas guzzler vs. its subcompact cousin, high-res cameras can betaxing on bandwidth and storage capacity. Sending more data through the pipeline means using more bandwidth. The tradeoff could be that your current set up can only accommodate a portion of the cameras you had used previously, and that you’ll also need to spend more on networking hardware and storage. Higher resolution cameras do have their place in the overall surveillance system, but the decision point should be determined by the camera’s location and the subject detailneeded in the scene.

As much as we all want the latest and greatest, the biggest and the best, the bottom line is that when it comes to investing in new technology, numbers don’t tell the whole story. With today’s high megapixel cameras, it behooves integrators and security personnel to put them through their paces, seeing how they deliver video in different lighting conditions, various weather scenarios, etc. See how a higher resolution camera performs against a 2 or 3 megapixel camera in the same location. Is the higher resolution camera truly delivering a more effective solution and overcoming the associated tradeoffs?

Ultimately, the proof will be found in the video, not on the spec sheet. If you want to ensure that you make an informed and good decision on a product, make sure real-life testing is an integral part of your decision-making process.

Click here to view a review of the Industry’s HD Static Dome Cameras

To 4K or not to 4K video?

4K VideoOur industry’s seemingly insatiable appetite for more and more resolution has now produced a wave of interest in 4K cameras that promise exceptional clarity and sharpness, akin to the big screen, Ultra HD television sets found in consumer electronics stores and an increasing number of North American homes.

The jury is still out on whether there is an immediate need for the resolution that can overcome the downsides of increased storage and bandwidth required for running 4K cameras in a surveillance

operation. Like so many things, if the cost of the camera, cost of the supporting system infrastructure and components were of no concern, this new format would likely be a more viable and attractive option for many security applications.

Here are four things to consider before making the leap to investing in and deploying 4K video:

1. What will I get with 4K that is not possible at lower resolution?
There’s no doubt that 4K technology is light years ahead of analog quality, but the reality is that the increased clarity and sharpness provided by that level of resolution is often over and beyond what is required and able to be managed by a typical security operation. For many reasons, full HD/1080P is the most commonly used resolution for new systems. The majority of security systems in use for live monitoring situation do not really benefit from such a resolution, as the human eye is well served with the details of a 1080P picture. Higher resolutions pay out when more details are required in forensic investigations.

2. Double the resolution, double the processing requirements
Users typically want to see more than one camera on one monitor, and only  occasionally switch to full screen modes. With 4K, the clarity of that multi camera view would be no clearer than what would be viewed from a lower resolution camera. In addition, delivering streams from multiple 4K cameras presents some technical challenges. The client PC and graphics card must handle a significant flow of data. The best approach is to have the live view limited to only enough resolution for the video size and screen resolution of the display.

Today a typical approach to balance PC power requirements and quality uses lower resolution streams for live view, while recording in the highest resolutions. 4K resolution taxes the workload on the network because recording the highest resolution means the full stream content moves from the camera to the NVR.

3. Limitations on form factors, lenses
The availability of affordable high resolution optics is just not there yet, and a dome style camera with a typical curved dome bubble cannot transmit the 4K resolution. In addition, a true 8MP resolution lens with appropriate coverage for the 4K sensor is quite large, which would render a 4K version of the compact dome camera (the market’s favorite form factor) essentially not possible.  The dome camera would get physically bigger which, for many customers, is a negative.

4.  Bandwidth and storage requirements
From a cost perspective, quadrupling the resolution from full HD to 4K won’t quite double the camera price. However, on the recording side it will most definitely demand more than double the storage requirements when operating under the same conditions.

Bandwidth consumption is related to processor power available on the camera. For example, the average full HD cameras deliver about 6Mbps at 30 ips. On the bright side, some manufacturers are offering full HD models with advanced compression capabilities that can reduce bandwidth consumption to about 3Mbps, with the next iteration to handle 4K video at full HD bandwidth consumption levels. Additionally new compression standards such as H.265 HVEC (High Efficiency Video Encoding) will make higher resolution bandwidth more practical for surveillance.

So where does this leave you, 4K today or not just yet? For some customers a bigger number is frequently perceived as a better solution but surveillance installations should focus on the reason the system investment is being made in the first place; protection of personnel and protection of assets. It is far from a one size fits all decision and resolution is an important tool in the system solution.


Are you using 4k video cameras with your security system, if so, how has your experience been? Please leave me a comment below.

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.

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.

Multicast video transmission vs. Unicast video transmission methods

describe the imageMulticast video transmissionWhen looking for the most effective way to manage video in a security system, there are two often-discussed video transmission methods: Multicast and Unicast. Both have their benefits, but which is best for security applications?

Multicast is a method of one-to-many transmissionwhich is often deployed in IP applications of streaming media. Multiple viewers can simultaneously tap into a single transmission from one source.

Television programming is a perfect analogy. When you want to watch HBO you tap into the HBO feed on the cable network, not to a dedicated signal of HBO. If your cable box is authorized, you get access to the existing stream of HBO on the cable network.

To benefit from Multicast, multiple simultaneous views of the same stream are required. For customers who have multiple operators viewing the same live cameras, Multicast may be a benefit.

However, in most security applications, Network Video Management Systems (NVMS) are used toview recorded video much more than live video, like reviewing video from a specific date and time, around an alarm event, or reviewing video as part of an investigation. Since all recorders, including the most advanced multicast-based recorders, are based on Unicast video streaming for playback, there really is no gain on operation performance by utilizing Multicast network.

To realize significant benefits from Multicast transmissions, a multicast-enabled network must be constructed to enable single stream replication on the IP network, making it available for every user looking to view it.

Multicast stream can only be used on the Local Area Network. Operators communicating over a wireless connection or over the corporate WAN will communicate using Unicast stream by default, and will not gain from the Multicast capability. In addition, IT departments are wary about enabling Multicast on their network due to security reasons, not to mention the cost associated with it.

Is Unicast a better option?

With Unicast transmission, every user in the network who would like to view video will receive adedicated video stream from the Video Management System (VMS). Compared to Multicast transmission, Unicast does utilize more bandwidth; however, these streams are only required between the source and the “viewer”, and do not affect the entire network (as a Multicast transmission would.)

With VMS implementation of advanced video compression technology and the ability to maintain symmetric bandwidth management of video, users can manage multiple high-quality video streams on a Unicast network without the deployment of Multicast transmission.

To summarize, Multicast transmissions do offer the benefit of lower bandwidth consumption, but comes with higher network construction cost.  Unicast provide cost-savings on the construction of Multicast-enabled networks while maintaining real-time, low latency, high-quality video with adequate bandwidth management for all users on the network.

At American Dynamics, we believe in empowering customers to invest in enhancing their security systems rather than investing in the construction of new IT equipment. VideoEdge is a Unicast-based network video recorder. Unlike Multicast-based digital video recorders that are dependent on the network to manage the video streaming (the Multicast network managing video transmission), VideoEdge utilizes advanced network management techniques that provide higher operational performance.

Note: Most recorders that are dependent on the multicast network to manage the streaming have different performance levels (e.g. 200 or 300Mbps write to disk, while operating on a multicast network compared to 100 or 150Mbps write to disk, while utilizing Unicast network.) The main reason is that these recorders are now tasked with the video management and are not capable of symmetric bandwidth management.

VideoEdge’s advanced networking architecture manages the video in real time. When a user requests video, live or instant playback, VideoEdge responds with no latency. This advanced architecture does not strain the system resources and, as a result, the rack-mount VideoEdge Network Video Recorder maintains full performance of 400Mbps write to disk, 400Mbps video streaming to client, with the Desktop maintainng 50/50Mbps, while providing metadata generation on all cameras. This is accomplished with no video quality degradation or frame-rate loss, all the time on all cameras.


Have any questions about Multicast or Unicast video transmissions; post them in the comments section below.

Face Detection | Choose Right Camera to Save Bandwidth & NVR Storage

With each stage of development in high-definition IP cameras, as the megapixels increase, there is a greater emphasis on tailoring solutions to avoid major impact on network bandwidth and storageAs camera features are improved and enhanced, so is the need for greater bandwidth and storage. While H.264 compression enabled widespread use of megapixel resolution, bandwidth and storage are still a major concern for many customers.

Face Detection Reduces NVR StorageMore industries and organizations have an increased need for greater details and features when purchasing high-definition cameras. From a cost standpoint, storage has an impact on customer purchasing. While storage may seem inexpensive relative to other technology, when a customer adds up the amount of storage needed for a full megapixel deployment, it is not necessarily cost-effective. This results in the purchase of fewer cameras. Fewer cameras may result in security incidents being missed, which can directly impact a business.

Face detection is a new technology that significantly combats bandwidth and storage costs. A camera’s ability to detect a face in a scene and send an alarm without increasing bandwidth and storage is key. Superior high-definition cameras can detect a face and increase the bit rate around it, while still being able to see the surrounding areas in the scene. Think of this as an intelligent region of interest.

Customers concerned about bandwidth are generally on “shared networks.” Shared networks are those where traffic from the security devices coexist with traffic from other business functions, as opposed to dedicated networks where only security traffic travels. This situation can occur anywhere; however, this issue is largely seen in the healthcare and education markets.

In applications where capturing quality facial imagery is important, choosing the right camera can make a difference. With some surveillance cameras, you have no choice but to set the resolution and quality high enough to capture the faces with ample clarity. But when those settings are used all the time, whether there is a face in the scene or not, this wastes bandwidth and storage on video that is not important. In other cameras, you might have to crop the image in order to save bandwidth and storage, but this often loses important scene information. The best option is an intelligent surveillance camera which can be set at a lower overall bit rate but one that will boost the quality around faces detected in the scene. This captures high quality face images, but reduces overall bandwidth and storage consumption by not wasting it on less interesting parts of the scene. But those parts of the scene are still available so that important information is not lost.


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What other ways are you offsetting the need for more storage within your IP security system? Let us know by leaving a comment below.