This is the 49th article in the award-winning “Real Words or Buzzwords?” series about how real words become empty words and stifle technology progress.
By Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III
Examining the terms involved in camera stream configuration settings and why they are important
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Real Words or Buzzwords?
The Award-Winning Article Series
#1 Proof of the buzzword that killed tech advances in the security industry—but not other industries.
#2 Next Generation (NextGen): A sure way to tell hype from reality.
#3 Customer Centric: Why all security industry companies aren't customer centric.
#4 Best of Breed: What it should mean to companies and their customers.
#5 Open: An openness scale to rate platforms and systems
#6 Network-friendly: It's much more than network connectivity.
#7 Mobile first: Not what it sounds like.
#8 Enterprise Class (Part One): To qualify as Enterprise Class system today is world's beyond what it was yesterday.
#9 Enterprise Class (Part Two): Enterprise Class must be more than just a top-level label.
#10 Enterprise Class (Part Three): Enterprise Class must be 21st century technology.
#11 Intuitive: It’s about time that we had a real-world testable definition for “intuitive”.
#12 State of the Art: A perspective for right-setting our own thinking about technologies.
#13 True Cloud (Part One): Fully evaluating cloud product offerings.
#14 True Cloud (Part Two): Examining the characteristics of 'native-cloud' applications.
#15 True Cloud (Part Three): Due diligence in testing cloud systems.
#16 IP-based, IP-enabled, IP-capable, or IP-connectable?: A perspective for right-setting our own thinking about technologies.
#17 Five Nines: Many people equate high availability with good user experience, yet many more factors are critically important.
#18 Robust: Words like “robust” must be followed by design specifics to be meaningful.
#19 Serverless Computing – Part 1: Why "serverless computing" is critical for some cloud offerings.
#20 Serverless Computing – Part 2: Why full virtualization is the future of cloud computing.
#21 Situational Awareness – Part 1: What products provide situational awareness?
#22 Situational Awareness – Part 2: Why system designs are incomplete without situational awareness?
#23 Situational Awareness – Part 3: How mobile devices change the situational awareness landscape?
#24 Situational Awareness – Part 4: Why situational awareness is a must for security system maintenance and acceptable uptime.
#25 Situational Awareness – Part 5: We are now entering the era of smart buildings and facilities. We must design integrated security systems that are much smarter than those we have designed in the past.
#26 Situational Awareness – Part 6: Developing modern day situational awareness solutions requires moving beyond 20th century thinking.
#27 Situational Awareness – Part 7: Modern day incident response deserves the help that modern technology can provide but doesn’t yet. Filling this void is one of the great security industry opportunities of our time.
#28 Unicity: Security solutions providers can spur innovation by envisioning how the Unicity concept can extend and strengthen physical access into real-time presence management.
#29 The API Economy: Why The API Economy will have a significant impact on the physical security industry moving forward.
#31 The Built Environment: In the 21st century, “the built environment” means so much more than it did just two decades ago.
#32 Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure has been a hot phrase in IT for several years, but do its promises hold true for the physical security industry?
#33 Software-Defined: Cloud-computing technology, with its many software-defined elements, is bringing self-scaling real-time performance capabilities to physical security system technology.
#34 High-Performance: How the right use of "high-performance" can accelerate the adoption of truly high-performing emerging technologies.
#35 Erasure Coding: Why RAID drive arrays don’t work anymore for video storage, and why Erasure Coding does.
#36 Presence Control: Anyone responsible for access control management or smart building experience must understand and apply presence control.
#37 Internet+: The Internet has evolved into much more than the information superhighway it was originally conceived to be.
#38 Digital Twin: Though few in physical security are familiar with the concept, it holds enormous potential for the industry.
#39 Fog Computing: Though commonly misunderstood, the concept of fog computing has become critically important to physical security systems.
#40 Scale - Part 1: Although many security-industry thought leaders have advocated that we should be “learning from IT,” there is still insufficient emphasis on learning about IT practices, especially for large-scale deployments.
#41 Scale - Part 2: Why the industry has yet to fully grasp what the ‘Internet of Things’ means for scaling physical security devices and systems.
#42 Cyberspace - Part 1: Thought to be an outdated term by some, understanding ‘Cyberspace’ and how it differs from ‘Cyber’ is paramount for security practitioners.
#43 Cyber-Physical Systems - Part 1: We must understand what it means that electronic physical security systems are cyber-physical systems.
#44 Cyberspace - Part 2: Thought to be an outdated term by some, understanding ‘Cyberspace’ and how it differs from ‘Cyber’ is paramount for security practitioners.
#45 Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning: Examining the differences in these technologies and their respective benefits for the security industry.
#46 VDI – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: At first glance, VDI doesn’t seem to have much application to a SOC deployment. But a closer look reveals why it is actually of critical importance.
#47 Hybrid Cloud: The definition of hybrid cloud has evolved, and it’s important to understand the implications for physical security system deployments.
#48 Legacy: How you define ‘legacy technology’ may determine whether you get to update or replace critical systems.
#49 H.264 - Part 1: Examining the terms involved in camera stream configuration settings and why they are important.
#50 H.264 - Part 2: A look at the different H.264 video frame types and how they relate to intended uses of video.
#51 H.264 - Part 3: Once seen as just a marketing term, ‘smart codecs’ have revolutionized video compression.
#52 Presence Technologies: The proliferation of IoT sensors and devices, plus the current impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have elevated the capabilities and the importance of presence technologies.
#53 Anonymization, Encryption and Governance: The exponential advance of information technologies requires an exponential advance in the application of data protection.
#54 Computer Vision: Why a good understanding of the computer vision concept is important for evaluating today’s security video analytics products.
#55 55 Exponential Technology Advancement: The next 10 years of security technology will bring more change than in the entire history of the industry to now.
More to come about every other week.
This article set is about the H.264/H.265 MPEG video standards and how the configurations settings for video cameras stream configuration impact computing and networking requirements for security video deployments. There already are many security industry vendor documents on this topic, and much online information for security video as well as in the commercial and consumer video domains.
Nonetheless, several things prompted the writing of this article set:
- Video Deployment Issues. In my company’s security system deployment evaluation work we are still finding some video surveillance deployments whose camera configurations relating to vary significantly across the same make and model of camera, even though the fields of view and camera purposes and the networks involved are the same. This won’t happen if the technicians involved fully understand the video compression methods and their implications.
- Document Errors and Conflicts. The MPEG/H.264/265 standards have evolved over time, and some vendor documentation is outdated and contains a few now-incorrect statements.
- Insufficient Guidance. Installer and user documentation from camera and VMS vendors often assume the reader understands the compression method and don’t provide sufficient guidance about the use of related settings.
- Deployment Shortcomings. In recent technology evaluations of existing and new video deployments, we’re still seeing under-powered video servers with insufficient computer processing capabilities.
- Video Analytics. AI-based video analytics significantly increases the computing processing power and memory required for video servers.
Several companies do an outstanding job with video technology documentation, especially Axis Communications, Avigilon, IQinVision (now merged with Vicon), Milestone, On-SSI and Salient Systems. But their video compression documentation – which is very good – doesn’t always include clear enough definitions along with how they relate to the whys and wherefores (the complete set of reasons) behind the various camera configuration settings relating to compression. Partly this is because in some documentation they are trying to keep the discussion higher level and avoid getting too deep into technical details, and partly because the documents address different topics relating to video compression.
Thus, you’d have to study multiple vendors’ materials, plus additional non-vendor references, and build your own mental model to get full clarity. An example of two non-vendor references that relate video technical details to video quality are the 40-page Digital Video Quality Handbook (2013) and the 50-page Digital Video Quality Handbook Appendix (2018), produced by the Video Quality in Public Safety initiative (VQiPS) initiative of the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. I highly recommend those two references for anyone designing or maintaining security video surveillance systems.
Because the video encoding standards are still evolving, any vendor’s older documentation might conflict with a newer document from the same or a different vendor. Checking the date of the documents is one way to resolve such conflicts, although some vendors don’t include publication dates in all their documentation.
Additionally, DVD video standards place some limitations on DVD video that don’t apply to security camera streaming video. This is why some of the information found online applies only to commercial DVD video or commercial video streaming such as Vimeo, YouTube – and much user-generated content about video compression is written by video editors and producers who aren’t aware of security surveillance video applications and their requirements.
Plus, some online forums contain material from forum users that’s unintentionally incorrect or incomplete, and determine what’s right or wrong and applicable or inapplicable to a security video deployment isn’t easy unless you already have a full understanding of the current state of the MPEG video compression standards as they relate to such deployments.
These are some reasons why there are apparent conflicts within the breadth of information available online and in vendor documentation.
My purpose for this two-part article set is to have the shortest possible illustrated discussion that clarifies the handful of terms that are involved in security video camera stream configuration settings and explains why they are important. This includes the tradeoffs involved in video quality, server/workstation processing requirements, video stream bandwidth requirements, and video storage requirements.
Understanding these factors is key to optimizing existing video deployments so that the minimum required video quality can be achieved for each camera’s purpose, and the maximum utilization can be made of existing video deployment infrastructure.
About the Author:
Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities (www.go-rbcs.com). In 2018 IFSEC Global listed Ray as #12 in the world’s top 30 Security Thought Leaders. He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insights available on Amazon. Mr. Bernard is a Subject Matter Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council (SEC) and an active member of the ASIS International member councils for Physical Security and IT Security. Follow Ray on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.