By John Grabowski, National Sales and Marketing Manager, JVC Security Division
Given the sheer number and variety of cameras and recorders on the market, there are a lot of choices — some might say too many — when it comes to video surveillance technologies. To say that the task of evaluating these technologies to find the right fit for an application is daunting may be an understatement.
While reviewing different manufacturers’ spec sheets may seem like it would ease the process, sometimes it only serves to further complicate things. A spec sheet may tell you what a camera or recorder will do, but it doesn’t necessarily translate that into what will be required to support those features or, more importantly, what the overall system cost will be.
To ease the complexity, there are six main factors you should be looking at when evaluating surveillance technologies. These will help you better understand the underlying requirements of a system and should provide a clearer picture of overall cost.
- Resolution. Obviously, resolution is a major consideration, not only because of the higher quality of the video but because it will most likely dictate the makeup of the rest of the system. The options here range from standard definition video to multiple megapixels and everything in between. The higher the resolution, the higher the infrastructure costs, though in some situations, camera counts can be reduced when very high resolution is deployed. In most cases, HD video is sufficient, so cameras’ resolution should be matched to the application rather than simply implementing the highest-resolution cameras on the market.
- Compression. Directly related to resolution are compression algorithms, which allow cameras and recorders to compress video for more efficient bandwidth consumption during transmission. The main compression formats are H.264, MPEG-4 and MJPEG. The most efficient of these is H.264, which has been more or less adopted as the standard by manufacturers. For maximum flexibility, cameras and recorders that support more than one of these formats are the best choice.
- Frame Rate. The ability to adjust video frame rates is another feature that can help drive down overall surveillance system costs. Lower frame rates may be acceptable for some applications, while higher rates may be required for others. If there is flexibility for a particular application, many cameras allow frame rates to be kept low most of the time and adjusted up when necessary, for example when motion is detected.
- Storage Capacity. The size and cost of the recorder you choose is going to depend on resolution, as well as the amount of video to be recorded and the length of time archived video will be retained. If a surveillance system is constantly recording, this will impact both networks and recorders. As with frame rate, cameras that can be set to record either on a schedule or when an event is triggered will significantly reduce system costs and the strain put on DVRs and NVRs. From there, the length of time video will or must be kept will determine how much storage capacity is needed. Many manufacturers provide online storage calculators to help with this process and ensure the capacity is adequate but not over the top.
- Ease Of Installation And Maintenance. Everyone benefits from time-saving installation and maintenance features, which including remote setup and adjustment functions and housings or mounts that allow for quick and easy access to cameras and recorders. When technicians can complete installations and maintenance in less time, they can take on more jobs. End users benefit from reduced installation and maintenance costs, which could be substantial based on the number of cameras and recorders in a system.
- Integrated Systems. The availability of integrated solutions like recording solutions with built-in software control and management capabilities enables organizations to implement high-quality, high-performance systems that are cost-efficient and can be easily scaled in the future if necessary.
The key to successful surveillance systems is selecting the right combination of cameras, recorders and other video products that will meet expectations by delivering the highest quality at the most budget-friendly price. Considering these six factors when evaluating products will help you make smart choices for a surveillance system to meet these design, installation and performance criteria.