Compression Is in Session

H.264, a standardized video compression format, is billed as providing a more cost-effective solution giving rise to megapixel video at VGA bandwidth and storage requirements. Raul Calderon, vice president of strategic relations for Glendale, Calif.-based Arecont Vision, a supplier of megapixel cameras that utilize H.264, discusses the technology.

How is H.264 changing the economics of designing video surveillance systems?

Simply put, H.264 enables broader usage of megapixel cameras, which are ideal for applications where a single camera can take the place of multiple lower-resolution cameras. This escalates the economic advantages for implementing megapixel cameras versus conventional analog and IP cameras. To take the economic benefits of employing megapixel cameras further, you need to look at the cost per “unit area under surveillance,” and you’ll easily conclude that one megapixel camera can provide superior coverage over multiple conventional cameras as a result of their ability to capture extreme detail.

How should dealers explain the benefits of H.264 to end users?

They should note that with the addition of H.264 to our megapixel cameras, Arecont Vision is able to achieve up to 10 times greater compression efficiency on average compared to MJPEG equivalents, thus addressing the concerns related to bandwidth and storage. Dealers should further explain to users that they can take full advantage of megapixel technology in terms of image size and resolution with manageable bandwidth and storage requirements and full frame rates at full multi-megapixel resolution. With H.264 compression, megapixel video now achieves the same real-time frame rates as VGA at MJPEG VGA bandwidth requirements.

What is the best transition strategy for an end user interested in megapixel technology?

Incorporating megapixel functionality should be considered for any system expansion, which could tie into an existing IP system or even an analog system using encoders. More and more users are looking to transition to IP video, and now is the time to consider implementation of megapixel cameras. There is a world of opportunities for megapixel technology, and we are seeing wide interest across all vertical markets including the gaming, municipal, health care, education, transportation, financial and retail markets. A transition to megapixel technology is worthwhile anywhere video surveillance is being used and the need exists for high-resolution imaging.

Do most megapixel camera sales opportunities lie in new installations or existing solutions?

Megapixel cameras are appropriate for any application where an analog camera or IP VGA camera is used today, as they will provide a significant improvement in image quality. Equally important, this benefit comes without any real difference in cost as Arecont Vision’s cameras are priced comparably to IP VGA cameras and analog cameras with an encoder. We can also take bandwidth and storage concerns out of the budget equation since H.264 compression is now available on all of our cameras. The sales opportunities are everywhere.

What is the most common misconception about H.264?

There is a misconception that megapixel video is hard to manage related to bandwidth and storage. However, Arecont Vision’s implementation of H.264 reduces the bandwidth and storage needs of megapixel video to a level that is comparable to that required for VGA video. Some people think that H.264-compressed video takes a lot of computing power to decode for real-time streaming, which suggests that a multicamera security installation would require additional computer server power, a so-called hidden cost of megapixel video. In fact, H.264 streams from Arecont Vision cameras require less computer power to decompress than comparable JPEG streams. Arecont Vision’s implementation of H.264 on its MegaVideo platform results in a massively parallel pipeline that provides 80 billion operations per second to allow full frame rates at full megapixel resolution. We have optimized the encoder in the camera to avoid an increase in computational load on the decoder side.  For example, subpixel processing at the encoder allows the decoder to bypass upsampling, drastically reducing computational load.


Looking at the industry overall, what one thing really aggravates you?

A lot of people in the security industry have strong opinions about technology, and sometimes those opinions are based on misinformation. Sometimes fundamental misunderstandings are repeated and begin to gain their own traction. A technology like megapixel video has tremendous potential, and yet there is still incorrect information floating around that makes users hesitate to take a look at the technology. This misinformation could be motivated by business concerns, for example a supplier might try to preserve the market status quo. However, often it’s just a matter of individuals who have not taken the time to learn the facts.

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