Ness HDcctv and IP Video
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Product Reviews | September 27, 2011, 7:00am AEST
HDCCTV is an area in which there’s growing interest – firstly because HDcctv transmits raw 1080p without the attenuation and latency of compression and secondly because it leverages existing coaxial infrastructure. But according to Ness’ John Nowacki, there’s another key advantage with HDcctv technology many people don’t consider – simplicity.
It goes without saying that for many installers, operating in a networked environment is challenging and training efforts have not been sufficient to bring the bulk of installers into the IP fold. Instead, many stick with analogue or avoid installing video surveillance systems altogether. HDcctv allows these techs to install solutions of the highest quality using their existing installation skills.
Nowacki also sees HDcctv as a magic bullet when it comes to reining in cost. That’s because HDcctv, while around 30 per cent more expensive than analogue, is still far less expensive than HD IP. There are also savings that accrue from the fact HDcctv cameras can simply replace analogue cameras in the field with no fuss.
Yet another big advantage is their ability to offer 1080p image streams of demanding scenes as part of a system that might be majority analogue. This makes replacement incremental – that’s ideal in the current economic climate.
“True HD is high resolution – it’s 2-2.4 MP – and there’s a problem when driving that sort of resolution over IP networks because of bandwidth yet use of compression leads to issues with refresh rates. It causes latency,” explains Nowacki.
“Consider the surveillance needs of our office here. Even in small commercial applications like this with ten cameras running, if you choose HD IP you need a fibre backbone to get real time refresh – and there’s the challenge of getting high resolution pass across your network without loss. If I implemented HD IP over a standard Fast Ethernet network I’d crash the network or get a couple of frames per second at most – that’s been the dilemma.”
According to Nowacki, regardless of the challenges of HD IP any new technology has to be near perfection and he says Ness has been hanging back working to support HDcctv technology over the past 3-4 years and waiting for the right moment.
“We’ve now reached a point we where we have a commercial product that’s near perfect and will be released in the next couple of months,” he says. “It’s a solution that gives real advantages. Along with simplicity and economy, performance is greatly enhanced.
“Going to HDcctv gives us perfect analytical video – we can recognise details now. And because we now have excellent definition even on wider angles, face recognition is no longer restricted to entrances. To put it simply, analytical software needs a lot of pixels and that’s what HDcctv provides.”
According to Nowacki, the Ness HDcctv solution was developed by Dynacolour in conjunction with Ness and a number of other companies and he says a great deal of work went into it. When I arrive to take a look at the SDI HD DVR, that work is still going on, with the unit in the middle of a software test.
To my eye, Ness’ latest addition has the appearance of an ordinary rack-mount DVR – there’s a control panel at the front and ports and power leads on the rear. The unit looks plenty big enough to handle the many HDD platters which it will need when recording those tubby HDcctv signals.
When I look into the innards of the beast it becomes clear that there’s more here than meets the eye. Each coaxial port is integrated to a dedicated encoder that’s processing the HDcctv signal received from the camera before flicking it to monitor outputs or storage. This end-to-end throughput of raw and uncompressed HD is what makes HDcctv such a powerful surveillance tool.
While I’m poking around, Nowacki is explaining the history of HDcctv, his long personal involvement (if memory serves me correctly, Ness was the first distributor of CMOS IP surveillance cameras in Australia), and the development of the new Ness SDI HD DVR – SDI is for Serial Data Interface.
“What you see here is an example of what we are releasing,” Nowacki says, showing me the new front panel Ness will be adding to the system to enhance the user interface.
“The unit you see will have a slightly different facade when released,” he says. “This is an engineering sample we are reviewing but it is the real product. We are in production now and we are receiving finished commercial products – DVRs, NVRs, cameras.”
Managing the system is straightforward, too. The integrated control system is simple and incorporates all the features you’d expect from a DVR – just with loads more resolution.
Serial digital interface
Central to getting an understanding of Ness’ HDcctv is understanding the nature of Serial Digital Interface – SDI. Before we start, let go of the idea Ness is pushing some sort of high sounding proprietary solution here. Serial digital interface (SDI) is a family of video interfaces standardized by SMPTE. And in the absence of coherent CCTV standards within our industry, SMPTE is the gold star of CCTV.
Unlike H.264, which is an interpretive standard that gives lazy developers room to conform to a minimum of the standard, HDcctv is based on SMPTE 292M – also known as high definition serial digital interface – and is a universal medium of interchange for uncompressed High Definition video between multiple types of video equipment. Further, the standard stipulates that the source data be in 10-bit words with a nominal data rate of 1.485 Gbit/s. Yeah – that’s a lot of bandwidth and it suggests a completely unsullied video signal.
“With Ness HDcctv, serial data interface is the key,” Nowacki explains. “SDI is all about serial data interface of 1080p video from camera to DVR. There is a serial data interface chip in each camera that encodes video before passing it over coaxial cable to the recorder and a decoder chip in the DVR – one decoder for each camera.
“There are multiple hard drives – this unit will have 4 HDDs – because you are transmitting and recording raw 1080p on each channel,” he says.
“This demands storage but it comes with huge advantages. You can zoom in with raw 1080p, you can pan, you can see detail that would be lost during compression in an IP environment. You eliminate latency.
“With HDcctv the encoding signal is specially designed to minimise loss, not to reduce the amount of information.”
Along with the new DVR, Nowacki shows me a couple of the new Ness HDcctv cameras. They are well made, standard domes and fixed cameras – there’s nothing unusual about them. A lack of finning and heat sink-type casings suggests that for all the processing going on here the work effort is not going to fry eggs on the bonnet – or reduce board life.
“That’s a typical HD camera with C/CS mount megapixel lens,” Nowacki says “Obviously megapixel lenses are vital for megapixel HDcctv cameras. The lenses are dealing with a half-inch CCD or CMOS chip so getting the aperture right is important. While the performance is enhanced the fundamental features are the same as other cameras.”
Why go HDcctv?
As an installer you’d choose HDcctv in order leverage existing infrastructure – that means easier installs and cheaper installs. It means no network issues, no IT departments, no trouble with network components, no hassle with sharing data networks.
Coaxial cable plants are robust and last decades – that means the RG-59 you’re using now, if it remains dry and undamaged, will probably work just as well in 20 years as it does today. You get raw uncompressed 1080p with no artifacts, less pixilation on zoom and zero latency, making the technology ideal for applications like casinos.
Further, you get 100-metre transmission ranges even with the cheapest coax – it’s better with higher quality copper. And a simple repeater and you’ll pick up another hundred metres. Then there’s use of the existing installer knowledge base – that can’t be discounted. HDcctv standard was designed specifically to offer HD on every coaxial input. Given the fact HDDs are now affordable, storage is ever less of an issue.
“The biggest advantage is that the majority of surveillance systems are already on coax and that’s why this technology will be grabbed by the industry,” Nowacki says.
“You are able to go to an existing site and say, I want to upgrade to HD on certain cameras. You remove an analogue camera, put in an HD SDI camera, connect that to your HD SDI DVR and you are done and dusted – 2 minutes work.
“That’s the breakthrough – cost also is a breakthrough because the cost of these cameras and the DVR has been brought right down so you are looking at an approximate cost maybe 35 per cent more than analogue – that’s an acceptable value as far as the consumer is concerned.”
Nowacki says cost is big plus with HDcctv – new 4-channel will go to market with 8TB onboard for around $2500 with additional models to follow in the near future. When it comes to performance, Nowacki says there is a visible difference between HDCCTV and HD over IP.
“You can see the latency with HD IP,” he explains. “HDcctv simply gives better performance – HD IP forces systems to work way too hard. IP networks can be very complex and very busy and the demands of video cause system crashes. The way to avoid this is to engineer solutions that are unable to fail – like HDcctv.
“Obviously, the throughput bandwidth is huge which is why you’ll first see from us a 4-channel and then an 8-channel,” he explains. “We’re working hard on a 16-channel unit and that will be released in the medium term.
“With HD SDI we had many discussions over many years about how we were going to get enough bandwidth to get raw 1080p HD through. It turns out the perfect way is to use coaxial cable – same as the original computer networks used to do.”
“We’re releasing all the Ness HD SDI gear at Security 2011 – that will be our main focus. We see HDcctv as a major development that will wipe out analogue cameras by giving installers a technology they can work with and end users the performance they need.”