Tag Archives: camera solution

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

No more one size fits all – welcome to vertical view

Like the round peg trying unsuccessfully to fit into the square hole, many surveillance cameras have been similarly hampered by trying to reconcile their horizontal nature within a vertical video monitoring scenario.

Vertical ViewConsider all of the security-related situations in which a vertical camera image would be preferable over a horizontal one — policing the long, tall aisles in a big box store, home improvement center or supermarket; or watching over the straight, narrow corridors found in hospitals, schools, and even some office buildings.

In all of these instances, a vertical or portrait view of the scene would be preferable to a horizontal one. So rather than lock the user into a 16×9 horizontal world, if the user needs a full HD quality video stream, why not allow the maximum number of pixels to the field-of-view (FOV)?

Today most security cameras have been designed for the horizontal perspective so simply rotating the camera to a 9×16 FOV sounds easy enough, but the resulting video is simply a sideways oriented 16×9.  In addition to rotating the camera or effectively turning the imaging sensor on its side, the data recorded by each of the pixels on the sensor has to be rotated to reorient the video stream into a true 9×16 streaming HD video. Sounds simple, but doing so without quality loss or sacrificing video frame rate can be a challenge.

In theory, of course, it is possible to cover those narrow, vertical corridors and aisles with traditional landscape-style camera views, but it will take additional cameras — and additional cost — to achieve it. This is not only limited to camera and installation costs, because each of the cameras deployed will be recording additional scene area to the left and right of the center scene, which adds cost for bandwidth and storage to the overall cost calculation.

Fortunately, the industry is now responding with highly efficient mini-bullet and mini-dome cameras that have the higher-level processor and memory capacity so the camera can be placed in permanent portrait mode. It’s not just about switching the aspect ratio from 16:9 to 9:16 for these cameras, but it’s also about having sufficient horsepower to properly achieve and support this functionality with no residual impact on the camera’s resolution or frame rate performance.

By having cameras that reconcile properly with the space they are covering, operators will get the most complete, most usable images for active surveillance and forensic purposes. No more wondering what has been cut off from the picture, no more parsing together images to get a complete look.

And when these new cameras are made part of a larger system that includes an NVR with preconfigured layouts to accommodate the taller, narrow viewpoint, it becomes an even more ideal fit for viewing, archiving, and retrieving these images.

Kind of like putting that square peg into the square hole. It’s a perfect fit.


What other ways are/could you use a vertical view as part of your security solution? Let me know in the comments section below.

The Security Camera Conundrum: Finding Your Video Solution

If you’ve ever stood in front of the yogurt section of the supermarket, you’ve probably been overwhelmed by the choices available. When yogurt first came on the market, it was available in a few flavors. Then they started to add more varieties, different fat contents, fruit on the bottom or mixed in, Greek vs. traditional.

The same can be said for the security camera market. At one time, there were just a handful of choices to be made. Everything was analog and fixed and boxy. Now the selection rivals that of the yogurt case, with PTZs, fisheyes, domes and high definition, low light, and more.

Security Cameras

But unlike yogurt, where a poor choice means you don’t eat the whole container or keep it off your shopping list for next week’s trip, picking the wrong camera can be a costly transaction, not only in terms of budget but also overall security.

Thus, when the time comes to make a camera choice it’s critical that you carefully weigh your options. To help you through that process, here are some questions to consider:

What do I want to accomplish? With all the options in the marketplace it’s important to drill down to just how the camera will be used and what result is desired. Think about not only how it will be used, but also where — indoors, outdoors, in a setting where aesthetics are important, and so on. If you’re running a meat packing company and need to record video within a chilled meat locker, you’ll have different specifications than someone looking for a camera that can zoom in on a person at the perimeter of a dark parking lot.

If you need to track shoplifters within a retail setting using recorded video that can be used to make a case against an individual, you’ll be looking for video quality and the selection and placement of cameras that allow a seamless experience. That’s different than the meat packer, who is more concerned with a camera that operates in extreme temperatures and rugged conditions.

Next, ask yourself: What do I already have in place? While there are instances when you are purchasing cameras as part of a new installation, often a camera is being added to an existing system. So think about what types of recording and analytics systems you have in place and if the camera will be the appropriate fit.

Once you’ve determined how the camera will be used and what works with your existing or desired system, you can move on to looking at specific types of cameras to fit your need. In North America, mini-domes have become the form of choice, having proven to be versatile, robust cameras that provide wide angle, telephoto, and IR illuminator options. Cameras also come with various mounting options, so add that to your list of considerations when making a selection. Compact mini-domes may be a more appropriate choice in a budget-conscious installation, still providing high-definition, but in a smaller size for discrete applications.

If you’ve determined that you are best served by a rugged, all-in-one solution, a bullet camera may be the right pick. Sturdy and weatherproof, bullets often come with included mounts so there is ease of set up. On the flip side, box cameras can be among the most flexible, offering dozens of lenses, built-in recording, and various housings and mount options so you can customize and tailor the camera installation to fit your need.

Of course, specialized cameras such as fisheye cameras and PTZs offer different levels of functionality for a variety of applications. For example, the fisheye provides a 360-degree view, offering good situational awareness. But there are also limitations; in this case, a 20 to 25-foot sweet spot, which means that anything beyond that range falls off in resolution and image clarity at a much greater rate than other types of cameras.

A PTZ camera can track and zoom in on a subject. However, PTZs perform best when used in conjunction with other types of cameras because the PTZ may not be looking exactly where you want it to when an event occurs. A fisheye or fixed camera, for instance, may catch an event in its field of view, but it’s the PTZ that can then be used to zoom in, pick up the action, and follow it.

And then there’s camera resolution: How much do you really need? Higher resolution comes with trade offs, especially in terms of storing and moving data across a network. Deciding on the proper resolution goes back to the first question about the goals of your surveillance program. How does the resolution of the camera support your objective? Is the goal to be able to capture faces and license plates, or simply detect movement in the dark? Knowing the answers to these questions can determine your resolution needs.

Finally, in making your camera choice, don’t rely solely on the product specifications provided, but rather narrow down your options and put them to the test. There are no industry standards on specifications, so they vary by manufacturer and individual camera. The best way to figure it out is to see a camera in action — does it address the issues you have and allow you to see, capture and analyze video to its fullest extent? If it does, then you’ve found the one that’s right for you.

Please visit our website for more on selecting from the many different IP cameras available from the American Dynamics.


For a more deatiled review, please watch my ASIS 2013 recroded presentation below, which explains how to make an educated decision on selecting a camera based on visibility requirements, resolution, form factor, design needs, and much more!



What other factors have you considered prior to purchasing a security camera? Let me know in the comments section below.

Network Video Tipping Point is Just Around the Corner

Much touted and highly anticipated, 2014 finally will be the year when network video can claim its dominance over analog, according to a recent report from IMS Research.  This “tipping point” –  whennetwork video revenues overtake those of analog systems — will occur  because, while analog cameras will still outsell network models on a per unit basis through 2017,  higher-priced IP video systems will become the revenue leader.

Already, the report tells us, the network surveillance equipment market grew by more than 10 percent from 2011 to 2012 and was anticipated to grow by more than 20 percent this year. In the world market, only China has increased analog sales; elsewhere growth is driven mainly by IP-based equipment.Video Security Network - Tyco Security Products - American Dynamics

Certainly those of us in the marketplace continue to see a growing acceptance of IP-based video security solutions because of the inherent flexibility, improved networking capabilities and enhanced functionality offered.

End users who invested in analog cameras are still able to begin the migration to IP because of the advent of hybrid NVRs that bring together existing analog units with new high-definition IP cameras on a single platform.  This means that network surveillance systems are no longer the exclusive domain of major enterprises; small and mid-size companies have started to invest in and build IP based  surveillance systems so they can make the shift to IP at their own pace.

Meanwhile, networks have gotten faster over the past 10 years — nearly 100 times in many instances — and solutions have been improved so everything from installation to streaming video to recording is no longer a strain on network infrastructure and a burden on the IT department. With IT buy in, security personnel can make their case for more network-based components.

Add to that the fact that competition from analog cameras continues to drive down the cost of network-based solutions. The truth is, we’ve finally gotten comfortable with IP technology in the security space because we’ve seen it work in our day-to-day lives. We have adopted some of the same technologies, such as megapixel cameras in our smart phones, so it only makes sense that these features should become more common and lower cost as they proliferate.

But one of the biggest factors for network solutions reaching the tipping point has to be the wide range of features these systems provide. IP-based systems with analytics that can interpret activities and behaviors and unified operations for database mining from video, access control, intrusion, fire and other systems offer a world of opportunity for today’s security director.

So here’s an early toast to 2014: The year of network video.

For more perspective on the tipping point from analog to video, read this recent coverage on the subject from Securityinfowatch. com.

Small Form Factor Cameras and Their Place in Security

As technology evolves, electronic devices are becoming smaller and smaller. From computers to cars, and everything in between, smaller form factors rule the day, and certainly, are paving the way of the future. We can see that mainframe computers have now been replaced by laptops, tablets, PDAs and smart phones.

As a result of advanced technology, data storage has also gotten smaller. This holds true for video surveillance applications as well. As chipsets and circuit boards have shrunk in size and grown in processing power, so too have video surveillance products. Where video cassettes were once used, now small storage disks hold terabytes of video data that reside in video recorders and cameras. In some instances, the video is simply stored in the cloud.

This trend does not stop at the camera level. How users manage video is also changing, thanks to the shrinking size of the technological components. Desktop computers that are used for viewing live and recorded video can be the size of a box of cereal, or a tablet computer can be used to monitor video on the go.

Over the last decade, the video surveillance market has grown by as much as 45% according to some reports. The increasing number of cameras worldwide is due, in part, to the demand for more and better security and, as a result, people have become more accustomed to seeing video cameras all around them.

small form factor camerasNow that video cameras are so prevalent in our lives, aesthetics is playing a more important role. Businesses and organizations want to have small, discreet cameras that feature the same power and functionality as larger mini-dome, box and bullet cameras. Today, customers needing a camera that will blend in with the existing environment can choose from a variety of compact form factors, such as bullet cameras that are as small as a tube of lipstick. Now that is discreet! Even more sophisticated PTZ cameras are no longer the size of basketballs, but more the size of a half-gallon of milk, with some as tiny as a fast food restaurant hamburger.

While the concept of 24-hour monitoring is far more accepted in today’s society, people don’t necessarily want to be blatantly reminded that they are being captured on camera while waiting on the street corner, the ATM, the grocery store or relaxing in the park. Likewise, retail and banking businesses must have surveillance installed but want to minimize the feeling of “being watched” for their customers. When it comes to video surveillance cameras, smaller really is the bigger trend!


Do you use small form factor cameras for your security? Please leave me a comment below about your experience.

Building A Better PTZ To Meet A Changing Industry

The evolution of video surveillance cameras within the security industry has seen the technology migration from analog to digital, from low resolution to high, and now into the frontiers of high-definition.

Historically, the pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera has played a role within just about every surveillance scenario because it brings to the table abilities that even the most feature-rich fixed surveillance cameras can’t replace. Typical video system installations combine fixed camera technology with PTZ functionality allowing for complete site monitoring and the capability to zoom in and track the subject when an event has occurred.

PTZ Pan Tilt Zoom joystick latencyFrom an operator’s perspective, the resistance to migrating from analog to 1080p HD PTZ cameras is latency or response lag time when controlling an HD PTZ camera. Until now, operators believed that the joystick control experience with HD PTZ cameras was no match to the responsiveness they experienced with high performance analog PTZ cameras. In a monitored surveillance operation, when the operator moves the joystick control to pan and zoom in on and track a subject, the expectation is that the PTZ camera will respond with precision, accuracy and near zero latency. Latency has many contributing factors when you consider where the joystick control is physically located and the path the operator’s camera move-commands must travel to reach the camera. The operator requires accurate, real-time control if the HD PTZ camera is expected to follow the industry trend for replacing the analog units.

The negative effect of PTZ control latency will typically cause the operator to overshoot the target and continually make adjustments, trying to establish proper tracking on the correct Field of View (FOV).  When controlling electronic devices using a joystick control, the operator tends to continue pressing the joystick until the device visually responds.  In a surveillance system, control responsiveness is gauged by the video seen on a monitor. Once the operator sees the proper video, s(he) will adjust directional tracking control as needed. The existing problem with latency and high lag time is that, to deliver the proper video scene during lag time, the operator continues to send commands to the camera causing it to move beyond the desired FOV. To compensate for the lag, the operator moves the camera in the opposite direction. The latency forces the operator to make control adjustments so the scene oscillates around the target FOV but never precisely delivers what is expected.

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has done extensive studies to establish the maximum acceptable latency for flight control fly-by-wire systems before latency or control stick lag delays affect a pilot’s ability to properly control an aircraft. To achieve real-time control so that the lag is imperceptible to human vision and reaction time, the delay must be 200 milliseconds or less. This same level of performance is needed in surveillance systems. Today, most HD PTZ cameras have higher latency in their control delay making the tracking control not only frustrating for the operator, but often times the resulting recorded video might be missing the key situational elements.

Armed with this knowledge, what do you as an integrator or an end-user need to look for in an HD PTZ camera?  You need to look for a 1080p HD PTZ camera built with high precision, solid core motors and the necessary high performance processing power to deliver the HD video with speed, precision, and accuracy. The HD PTZ camera’s capabilities are critical to achieving performance expectations.  These capabilities are a combination of low latency performance and how well the camera is integrated into the recording platform. You need to look at the total solution.Whenever possible, test the camera on the system to insure the performance meets your requirements and expectations.

Too often decisions on HD PTZ cameras, like many other pieces of surveillance equipment, are made using listed specifications and pricing. It’s more beneficial to experience an HD PTZ camera’s performance and the benefits it can deliver.  Before making a final investment decision, conduct a competitive comparison for yourself.  You will clearly see which HD PTZ outperforms the others.

As many surveillance applications require PTZ Megapixel camera technology, it is heartening to see HD PTZ cameras being developed that can deliver this “real-time” control experience. This IP camera workhorse is steadily growing in the IP industry, adding capabilities and intelligence to meet ever-changing security demands.


Please leave me a comment below with your thoughts on HD PTZ cameras.

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.