Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Networking for Camera Guys

I know I promised to tell you about the Panasonic, but I swear this is related.

Many old school camera guys are mistrustful of networks, mostly because they don't understand them. Listening to a camera guy talk to a computer guy is like, for example, a Neolithic wheel carver talking to a Honda engineer- sure, the two industries share a distant common ancestor, but the family lost touch when they moved to America and they changed their name at Ellis Island and only the grandmother can speak the language anymore. Which is why I'm a fan of the Eye on Video series of essays by Fredrik Nilsson of Axis. In it, he attempts to talk to the bicycle store owner and explain some of the fundamental concepts of aircraft design.

The latest article, called Uptime for Network Video Systems, starts out with this very stupid quote: Short of catastrophic disaster, most networks today deliver between 99.99 percent and 99.9999 percent availability — from less than one hour of downtime a year to less than one minute of downtime a year.

Now, either this is an outright lie or Scandinavians have a much lower bar for the definition of catastrophe than we do. Anyone works with computers or has ever used a computer knows
that they die or have strokes at random times for no apparent reason.

The article itself is chock full of efficient Swedish network optimization goodness, with helpful tips like backing things up, having redundant storage, not using cheap switches, and installing surge and lightening protection. Not much to pick apart there.

Camera guys need to learn networks, because that is where we are headed. End of story. We won't be using coax and DVRs and quad switchers for very much longer. Listening to a camera guy and a computer guy talk to each other, and you'll see a look of incomprehension and mistrust on the face of the camera guy together with disdain and patronizing talking-very-slowly on the part of the computer guy. This kind of thing holds our industry back.

Anyway, back to Panasonic. I got a good overview of all the old i-Pro stuff, which I basically already knew, along with the new megapixel cameras and the decoder with the analytics, which is pretty cool, actually (a decoder with an HDMI out for the megapixel cameras! Awesome! Just the thing for making the kind of ultracool hi tech control centers of the kind you see in movies where they say "rewind the tape" and Jason Bourne destroys a small Central European country).

Sorry. After all these years, I still get caught up in the gee whizerry.

They gave us a flash drive with a bunch of demos and video clips and tools and estimators and so on. But first they had to give a very long and complicated Powerpoint presentation proving that Panasonic is much better than Axis (which they called "Company A"). And speaking of redundancies, popping a $12 SD card into most Panasonic cameras will automatically back up video, at 1 FPS (for 24 hours of video per 1gb SD card). So, cool.

Buy Panasonic. Read Axis.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Panasonic Training

I'm doing the iPro sales training at Panasonic HQ in Secaucus tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

You did who to the what now?

It never ceases to amaze me, the stuff people bring in and expect me to take care of. Like today. A guy had a box camera with what looked like a 1/4" chip and a board-lens-to-CS-mount adapter. Why would you do that? What purpose would that serve? What were they drinking when they come up with that idea? I sold him an Everfocus bullet. Then I had this other guy who showed me this cable that he said he took off his security camera. It looked like a Firewire cable but it had this weird hood on it. I just sent him on his way. This was just before the lady who had 6 pin DIN DVR and wanted a BNC adapter so she could add the board camera she had purchased.


Man, I don't plan on working that hard.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Axis, Sony, Bosch to Promote Standards.

Axis Communications, Bosch Security Systems and Sony Corp. announced recently that the companies will be cooperating to create an open forum aimed at developing a standard for the interface of network video products. Currently, there is no global standard defining how network video products such as cameras, video encoders and video management systems should communicate with each other. The new standard is expected to comprise interfaces for specifications such as video streaming, device discovery and intelligence metadata.... A unified open standard will also offer end-users greater flexibility of choice, enabling them to select products from different vendors in order to develop systems that fully meet their needs.

This is great news. Having every IP camera be proprietary is nothing short of insane. When I buy a computer from Dell, I don't need to buy Dell routers and Dell switchers and Dell monitors and Dell keyboards and Dell printers and Dell paper and Dell ink. I can buy whatever, secure in the knowledge that most of it will probably work together okay, eventually, after a lot of cursing and calling tech support and thinking hard about just buying a pencil and a legal pad. And this is good for both consumers and manufacturers, because making it easier for things to work together causes people to want to buy more of those things.

But then, the security industry doesn't know how to work together, does it? Just look at ADI and Napco, two idiots who just hurt themselves to spite the other one. Babies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I'm bored today. Sold one Wilife nanny cam all day. Bored, bored, bored.


How bored?


I dug up an old C-mount-to-Nikon-F adapter we had in the basement, and stuck it on a box camera we have on display (a Sanyo VCC-6584). Then I stuck a Nikon 80~400mm lens on it. That turned out to be overkill, because at 80mm I could read the menus in the window of the Chinese resturaunt across the street, and at 400mm I couldn't see anything at all, just a blur.


So that killed 30 minutes.


Then I read the SIW IFSEC page. Then I went to Axis's website to read about their new P1311 box camera with H.264. Then I read a bunch of Axis white papers. Then I went to Wikipedia to see why it was called a "white paper" (when the English Parliament wants to announce a new government policy, they publish it on white paper, as apposed to green paper, which is used to propose strategy, or newspaper, which is used to wrap fish and chips).


Then I just clicked "random page", which gave me The Ramones, Registered Historical Sites in Albany, New York, a list of Urban Areas in New Zealand, which was ranked by population and median income (apparently, Aukland is the biggest city by population, but only the second by median income, while Wellington, the second biggest city, is also the richest), and a list of Shopping Malls in Houston, Texas. I was intrigued by this enigmatic entry:


Hong Kong City Mall - an Asian strip mall based in Alief, Houston, Texas at the southwest intersection of Bellaire Boulevard and Boone Road.  


What is an Asian strip mall?


Eventually that got boring, so I wrote this post. And I'll bet that I've now succeeded in boring you, too.

Monday, May 12, 2008

ASIS NYC Trade Show

ASIS NYC had a little shindig today. I headed over, even though I'm not an ASIS member, because the Javits Center is just two blocks away. I shook hands with my three biggest suppliers (word up to Ritz, Ernie, Dean, Ivan, and Fred, in no particular order), which is always nice, and I saw a IP Video manager that can accept signal from cameras from different manufacturers, and a facial recognition system that didn't totally suck.

I'm thinking of joining ASIS. Any one care to comment one way or another?

CCTV Monitor

Just got the Sanyo VMC-L2017 on display at work. It looks very nice. 2 looping BNCs, 1 looping S-Video (who else has an S-Video out?), VGA, freeze button, 2 left-and-right audio inputs, and Picture-in-Picture. Very sharp picture, very nice color. You can also raise and lower the screen. We have it for $639.95 retail. I like it.

PTZ Control comes to.... iPhone?

How is this possible? Can anyone out there identify the PTZ, first of all? Second, what PTZ works with Quicktime? What CCTV or IP CCTV device works with Mac? Anyone? Huh?

Wet and Wild Video Action

There. That should get me some hits.

I got a job I need to spec. Some smart person in charge of an aquarium wants to have cameras mounted inside the tank, about fifteen feet down, streaming video to a web server. Wirelessly. They're going to use it for maintenance.

Apparently, they now send divers into the tank every so often with camcorders in waterproof housings.

So, Extreme CCTV makes what they call the EX15, a submersible housing. Throw in an Axis 247s, a Watec camera of some description, a good lens, and a WAP, and I say we got something going.

Anyone want to add anything?

ISC West Report

This was my first ISC West. Being based in New York City, with my office being a 5 minute walk from the Javits Center, I usually attend ISC East. That show takes up most of a day. ISC West is a good day and a half. So I didn't get to see everything on my list- I had to skip Bosch, DVTech, and Fujinon, as well as any booth that wasn't outright CCTV related. Any booth that I did get to was a hit and run, with me asking the show personnel "what's cool?" Booths that responded well to the question "what's cool" as well as having something that actually is "cool" are as follows (warning- the term "cool" is defined by me):

Axis has an H.264 single channel encoder. Streams 30 FPS at D1 (720x480). Supports numerous PTZ protocols. 2 way audio. With PoE, SD card slot, motion detection, tamper alarm, audio detection. 9MB buffer for pre and post alarm recording.

Marshall has two incredibly impressive lenses. They aren't on the website yet, but there is one 300mm, f3.75 lens, and one 140mm, f1.0 lens- the 140mm is practically a starlight lens! The 140mm has a field of view of 3 degrees H by 2 degrees V (using a ½" chip). They should be out in the summer. Special order only. Use a good tripod, these lenses are humongous. Marshall had these lenses mounted 503HDV, 351MVB2K kits. MSRP may or may not be $2499 on the 140mm.

Speaking of starlight, Bolide will have a starlight box camera- 1/3", 0.001 lux, 560 VTL in color and an incredible 620VTL in b&w. Digital noise reduction, and variable power from 8VDC to 30 VAC. I recommend Tamron IR coated lenses for this one.

Arecont Vision has a line of mega pixel cameras that compress video in H.264 right in the camera. Streams 1920x1080 in 16:9 format, in 30, and 15 FPS, with 1.3, 2, 3, and 5 mega pixel versions. The company says "The new cameras will also support RTP protocol for direct streaming of H.264 video into third-party software players, such as Apple's QuickTime, as well as custom TFTP protocol for streaming into Arecont Vision's own AV100 software, and other custom software applications developed using Arecont's SDK." I think that means you can use this camera for custom apps like traffic watch.

Everfocus has a new Wide Dynamic Range version of their famous vandal proof domes, the EHD 650. 480 VTL, and 0.08 lux. As usual it has a heater and blower, and comes with a varifocal lens.

Panasonic has a high definition video decoder with HDMI out called the WJ-GXD400. Supports 1 video at 1920x1080 with audio. Use with a mega pixel camera. They also announced the WJ-ND400 NVR, replacement for the ND400. It will ship with 500GB storage, expandable to 4.5TB onboard or 27TB with external units. No info on the Panasonic site yet. This is part of their new megapixel line.

Probably the most astonishing thing I saw at the show was the super wide angle lenses fromTheia. 1.3mm mega pixel pan focus lenses… with no distortion! It needs to be seen to be believed. I, personally, love lenses, and this goes against everything I know about lenses. It requires no power- all correction is done optically. Good for dPTZ and video forensics.

Of course, there is the SV35.3 series of hard drives from Seagate. Drives are the least visible, least glamorous, most important part of the CCTV system, and buying good drives are important. Available up to 1TB.

Some company I never heard of called Dotworkz has a line of wireless IP housings. Very nice.

Nothing I saw seemed very revolutionary. Everyboday was talking "H.264" and "storage" and "IP". Seems some companies are abandoning analog cameras entirely, and focusing on IP cameras and networking. Good thing too, except the security industry seems a bit lost as to this whole IP thing. It requires a whole new way of thinking, and some people just don't get it. For example- storage. We're all used to thinking of video storage as something expensive, so we compress video as much as possible to fit as much time as we can on the same amount of space. Video tape is expensive to buy and bulky so it's difficult to store. But we don't use video tape anymore, we use hard drives. And hard drives are so cheap nowadays it's virtually free. A 750GB SV35.3 Seagate hard drive is only $200 more than a 250GB hard drive (retail!) but the difference between a DVR with 160GB onboard and 1TB onboard is $1000 or more. There's no good reason why any DVR from any manufacturer should ship with less than 500GB of space.

The H.264 revolution could have gone in one of two ways. Either the DVR manufacturers could have decided to use the same resolution and just saved more video, or they could have saved the amount of video we're used to at a far higher resolution and frame rate. I applaud the companies that have decided to go in the second direction.

On a personal note, I got to meet Geoff Kohl at securityinfowatch.com's booth. I told him how much I appreciate this forum, which allows me to get a glimpse into the minds of the most imoportant users of CCTV- security guards and managers. Kudos.