Making the Most of Megapixel Camera Technology

Due to the numerous advantages it offers, networked HD video surveillance is growing fast.

The security industry is quickly shifting from analog to IP, be it access control, security alarms, alarm reporting or video surveillance. The first and foremost reason for the move to IP cameras is their versatility and image quality. This is true of both megapixel and HD 720p/1080p IP cameras.

In addition, the use of dedicated or existing Local Area Networks (LANs) enables those with proper access to view all or only certain cameras over a campus’ or district’s existing network. This is true whether it involves a single building, campus or an entire enterprise. Analog-to-IP migration also involves myriad features and benefits, such as image/video analysis, processing and greater long-term retention when needed.

“Network technology allows us to store far more video images and for longer periods of time without image degradation, especially when you compare them to the vintage analog-based recording systems we once exclusively used,” says Nick Markowitz, owner of Markowitz Electric & Integration in Verona, Pa. “Add to that the power of the IP camera and the related image management software programs that are available on the market, and you have a tremendously powerful video surveillance tool with almost unlimited potential.”

The fact that IP cameras are digital in the first place also makes it possible for either the IP camera or the head-end to process images in special ways that may not always be possible using analog. A good example is where the campus needs to determine the presence of a threat based on some form of behavior.

Last but not least, IP connectivity using a LAN or WAN (Wide Area Network) is a tremendous advantage compared to installing dedicated RG59/RG6 cabling from a DVR to each and every camera in a facility. In addition, the ability to connect an IP camera to a network switch anywhere in the facility, or a wireless access point, gives the campus the ability to add cameras when and where needed.

Scene, Purpose Guide Camera Choice
Selecting the right IP camera for any application begins with a firm understanding of the setting in which it will be deployed. It’s also necessary to know the situation in which it will be used.

The three foremost general mission criteria used when choosing an IP camera include the identification of people and things, threat determination in real-time and behavior analysis.
Where the identification of an individual(s) is necessary and the situation involves a single door with a camera placed above or nearby, a 720p or 1080p IP camera may do an adequate job. However, if the application requires identification of license plates, motor vehicle attributes or facial characteristics from any appreciable distance, then a megapixel camera is likely the best candidate.

Megapixel cameras are available from 1.3 to 5 megapixels. Larger megapixel imagers also are available, such as 8- to 16-megapixel cameras, the latter being released to the market in 2007. This camera produces a digital image of 4872 X 3248, which is more than two times larger than a 5-megapixel model. Clearly, bigger is better.

If the application involves threat determination, then most likely the campus will be monitoring the camera in real-time. Here, depending on the need for identification, a simple 720p or 1080p IP camera may also suffice. On the other hand, if identification of a perpetrator is required, then a megapixel camera may be needed. Although IP cameras offer the best results, there are times when a high-resolution analog camera will do an adequate job without the huge price tag commonly incurred with megapixel technology.

“I use the IP cameras for critical viewing jobs only. I still use way more analog than IP due to cost. It makes no sense to install an [expensive] IP camera in a [children’s] group home so it can be destroyed,” says Markowitz. “In addition, most of my customers do not want to spend the extra money for IP even though these cameras will see and do so much more.”

Placement and the field of view of an IP camera are also important. For example, if a single IP camera overlooks multiple points of interest, it may be possible to use a 3- or 5-megapixel camera with management software. This will enable real-time viewing as well as the recording of multiple points of interest.

Real-time manipulation of specific areas of interest using the same camera is also possible using a pan/tilt mechanism and possibly a zoom lens. It’s also possible to view multiple locations within a single megapixel IP camera’s field of view in a number of video monitors while electronically panning, tilting and zooming in another without an actual pan/tilt mechanism. All of this is accomplished using camera management software.

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