Testing IP Surveillance Cameras

It’s important for electronic security installers to put IP video cameras to some real-world tests before installing the devices.

Bandwidth testing was the featured arena, to see how typical IP-based cameras affect network transmission bandwidth. Performance areas under examination included frame rate, compression/quality, resolution, light level and motion. In your shop, a more practical approach may be to test by simply comparing camera images rather than being burdened with mountains of data and calibrated values. By recording these images and video you can start compiling your own camera performance reference library. You may also find a good foundation for showing prospects real-world applications for the cameras they would be considering purchasing.

In order to track network bandwidth usage by your megapixel cameras, you will need to implement some software tools. This can be as basic as using Microsoft Task Manager.

RELATED: 3 Simple Ways to Optimize Your Bandwidth Management in Video Surveillance

Cameras were 1- and 2-megapixel varieties with MPEG4, H.264BASE, H.264HIGH and MJPEG formats. All were set to variable versus fixed bit rate. Following are some test observations. Overall, results showed the higher the frame rate, the higher the bandwidth as would be expected; note that if you halved the frame rate (fps), you halved the bandwidth. Low bandwidth usage was led by the MPEG4 camera with a little less than 5Mbps and the high was H.264BASE at 21-23Mbps. However, the 2-megapixel, H.264HIGH camera did a better job at keeping bandwidth down to 8-10Mbps when transmitting at 20fps. The H.264BASE produced slightly higher bandwidth usage overall than the MJPEG. Of course, the tradeoff was H.264 picture quality was four times better than MJPEG. Testing also demonstrated that H.264 performed best when the picture frame rates are higher.

RELATED: How to Beat the Bandwidth Blues

Keep in Mind Variable Settings’ Impact

Manufacturers have been criticized for their online bandwidth calculators, which might not always follow practical camera measured performance. In all fairness, it’s been observed that these calculators do not have a selection for degree of scene motion. Additionally, you will want to question a particular manufacturer as to what camera settings were implemented for its bandwidth calculator results.

About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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