Clearing Up HDcctv Technology Misconceptions

What exactly is HDcctv technology? HDcctv Alliance’s Todd Rockoff sheds some insight on the technology.

During ISC West 2014, the HDcctv Alliance offered the first public opportunity to discuss the next stage in HDcctv standards and technology: HDcctv 2.0. We were very happy to welcome SSI and Bob Grossman to our booth to provide some background and insights about the technology, and were interested to read Bob’s 10 April article, “HDcctv: Back to the Future, or Ahead to the Past?

So, I have chosen to respond to some of the points raised in that article.

Bob Grossman (SSI): “[HDcctv] technology has been mentioned on and off over the years but never really gained traction.”

Todd Rockoff:
According to the latest independent IHS market analysis, HDcctv is among the fastest-growing product categories in the history of the surveillance equipment industry. HDcctv equipment had 0 sales in 2009, and HDcctv began to be dismissed by the incumbents back then. IHS now expects HDcctv equipment revenues to surpass $500 million in 2014, which will make HDcctv equipment more valuable than mobile video surveillance equipment this year. That’s real traction.

SSI: “The premise of HDcctv is that you can get a really good high definition image without the complexities of IP and Ethernet [within the secured site]. It essentially builds on the consumer technologies, as set forth by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) that we are familiar with on our HD TVs at home. That is, images can be 1080p or 720p and utilize legacy cable and connectors. So your camera would have a BNC connector, your DVR would have a BNC connector, and you would plug them in together, and they would work without further configuration. Sounds good so far, right?”

TR: There are some technical inaccuracies here. HDcctv 1.0 is based on a SMPTE technology for professional broadcast TV studios, not consumer technology. It’s not just resolution, it’s also frame rate: the HDcctv formats are 720p25/30/50/60 and 1080p25/30. Ethernet transmission often trades off frame rate against image quality. Sure, in some cases lower than real-time frame rates are acceptable, but not always.

Moving an HDTV signal from point A to point B within a secured premise is different from broadcasting a compressed approximation of the original high-fidelity HDTV signal to a remote location. Note that consumer distribution technologies employ sophisticated, expensive compression techniques to achieve high-quality results in the limited bandwidth of a Blu-Ray disc or a cable TV channel. Such consumer distribution technologies are not necessarily relevant to transmitting video surveillance signals within secured premises. Obviously, IP video will be the medium to access surveillance video remotely. The question for the surveillance system designer is *where* on the local site to convert HDTV signals to Ethernet packet streams. There are cases where IP cameras are the right choice, but that “IP cameras are the only choice for HD video,” as suggested in Bob’s article, is bad advice for system designers.

SSI: “When looking at HDcctv 1.0 (the older standard), images look incredible since they are not compressed in any way. And, in addition to the simplicity of connecting cameras (no IP addresses or drivers to worry about), […] HDcctv cameras are cheaper too.”

TR: IHS confirms that in 2013, HDcctv equipment, despite being less mature than IP cameras, dropped to less than half their overall cost. The result: better live-view performance that is simpler to implement and less costly! Pragmatic buyers will go this way unless there is a compelling reason to spend more to get less.

SSI: “While HDcctv [1.0] touts the use of a digital signal (the SMPTE high definition serial digital interface, or HD-SDI) over legacy cable, there are distance limitations (100 meters, the same as Ethernet), the [1.0] standard did not account for camera configuration or PTZ control, and there’s no way to power devices over the cable as with PoE. And I personally question the use of legacy cabling and connectors for a digital signal; a badly crimped or twist-on BNC connector won’t simply degrade the signal, it will demolish it.”

TR: Valid summary. The bottom line is that HDcctv 1.0 is a direct, adapter-free retro-fit for > 85% of all legacy CCTV cable runs. Meanwhile, Ethernet can never exceed the transmission distance of HDcctv 1.0. This distance limitation is only a minor limitation, given that HDcctv transmission is of highest quality, most reliable, most convenient, and least expensive.

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