Is HDcctv a Good Investment for Your Campus?

Video surveillance expert Bob Grossman digs into HDcctv and shares his thoughts on who should implement the technology.

At ISC West 2014 last month, the HDcctv Alliance provided a first look at the new generation of HDcctv 2.0 surveillance technologies and products. As this is a technology that has been mentioned on and off over the years but never really gained traction, I thought I would avail myself of this opportunity to understand a little more about HDcctv. What you are reading here reflects my take on the technology and the market, not necessarily the staff and/or advertisers of Security Sales & Integration. And the capitalization (and lack thereof) for the term HDcctv is in accordance with the spelling used by the HDcctv Alliance Limited. OK, all disclaimers present and accounted for.

The premise of HDcctv is that you can get a really good high definition image without the complexities of IP and Ethernet. 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?

The resolution side of this is a mixed bag. A 720p image is roughly 1 megapixel (921,600 pixels), while a 1080p image is roughly 2 megapixels (2,073,600 pixels). 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), Dr. Todd Rockoff, Executive Director of HDcctv Alliance Limited, a nonprofit group that is responsible for the technical interface specifications, is quick to point out that HDcctv cameras are cheaper too.

While HDcctv 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 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.

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