The Future of Megapixel Video

Resolution of megapixel cameras provides a wealth of opportunities

The resolution of megapixel cameras provides a wealth of possibilities for applications throughout the security and video surveillance market. With the widespread acceptance of HD video in the home today, customers have high expectations for picture clarity and system functionality that rivals what they see on television every day. And new megapixel video surveillance cameras meet these expectations when properly selected and installed to meet user's specific applications. Megapixel cameras are also accelerating the migration to networked video systems-a performance enhancement that can help justify the implementation of new and expanded systems.

More to megapixel cameras than resolution alone

As megapixel cameras continue to flow into the market, it's important to keep in mind that the higher resolution offered by megapixel cameras is just one of many ways to provide better video images. Megapixel camera resolution should not be viewed in a vacuum but in the context of the camera's overall capabilities-their evaluation must be in the context of how these capabilities translate into benefits specific to the needs at hand. In the rush to achieve HD quality imaging, we shouldn't overlook the importance of complementary feature sets that contribute to application success including the following: wide dynamic range; back light compensation; noise reduction; and digital image stabilization. Enhanced features resulting from new image processing technologies make megapixel cameras better on all these multiple fronts.

Megapixel versus HDCCTV

Network cameras come in a range of resolutions, from 1.3 megapixels to 10 megapixels and these cameras are connected to a networked video system via Internet protocol (IP). These cameras are edge devices on a network and provide digital images that travel along the network the same as any other data.

HDCCTV systems use the same resolution standard as HDTV in the consumer market. These cameras connect to a head-end using standardized plug-in devices and provide uncompressed video. The advantages of HDCCTV are notably ease of installation and the ability to configure systems without employing often complex networking technologies. Some people see HDCCTV as a higher-definition successor to traditional analog video surveillance technologies. But with the ease of installation comes a downside, which is less flexibility in system design and equipment choice. It's arguable that HDCCTV technology came late to the game, staking claim after networked systems gained traction, which is one reason for their low rate of acceptance in the market to date. But it's also quite evident that HDCCTV cameras will find a niche for mostly smaller or single-site systems.

How many megapixels are enough?

The performance attributes of today's megapixel cameras continue to improve as new products are introduced. However, high-resolution megapixel streaming images can be taxing on network infrastructure and use of multiple super-high-resolution cameras can quickly overwhelm bandwidth and network capacities.

Effectively incorporating megapixel video into an IP system requires a delicate balance between the need for higher megapixel performance and the capacity of other system components to handle the extra data load that comes with higher resolution video. It makes little sense to choose the highest available megapixel camera resolution if the network can't handle the data flow-especially if the megapixel cameras' capabilities far exceed the needs of the application.

In fact, megapixel resolution is not needed for every application. For years analog systems have provided a specific, defined resolution across the board to successfully meet general surveillance needs. But these precluded applications that, until now, were outside the reach of existing video surveillance system resolution capabilities. The physical number of megapixels should not be the primary selection criterion. The added image detail these large megapixel cameras provide comes at a system-wide cost that must be factored early on into the decision-making process.

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