What to Look for in Video Management Software

Beyond the GUI, ways to differentiate between products

If you've looked at different video management software products lately, you might have a sense of dA©jA  vu. On the surface, many of them look the same. Video management software products record compressed video streams from network cameras and encoders and intelligently route video to video monitors. They also provide camera and user administration. The products display live video in graphical user interfaces (GUIs), provide PTZ camera control and enable searching for recorded video.

But a closer look below the user interface reveals some key differences with a wide variance in product features, usability and, of course, price. Product differentiators include scalability, network management, fault tolerance, operating system, browser-based software clients and the use of standard conventions and protocols.

Ultimately, the best product selection will depend on your system requirements and your budget.

Questions to Start

Before you begin hunting for the right software features, think long and hard about your system needs. Keep the following questions in mind as you compare products.

• Will the system primarily be used for live video surveillance or for forensic evidence?

• How many cameras will be managed now and in the future?

• How many concurrent users will the system support?

• Is system redundancy required?

• Must the system support legacy CCTV equipment such as PTZ cameras, keyboards, matrix switches, DVRs and analog monitors?

• What are the IT department's requirements?

• Will third-party systems like access control, point of sale (POS), ATM or video analytics be integrated with the system?

• Will browser access be the primary interface to live and recorded video?

• Does the system require audio? Megapixel cameras?

• What is the budget?

Open or Closed?

“Open architecture” defines the scope of interoperability with other manufacturers' network cameras and encoders, as well as commercial servers and storage systems from such vendors as Dell, HP and IBM. An open-architecture system allows the implementation of best-of-breed components from a wide selection of manufacturers. The video management software pulls the system together by integrating the various IP camera and encoder products.

Figure 1 on page 32 is a representation of an open-architecture system. In this example, the video management software is hosted by a Dell workstation and server. The system integrates with network cameras from Axis, megapixel cameras from IQinVision, and encoders from Verint.

Closed or proprietary IP video systems provide a complete turnkey package from a single manufacturer. For example, Pelco's Endura system platform provides a complete package of video management software, encoders, storage and servers in a single, proprietary system. Proprietary systems offer the benefit of one-stop shopping at the cost of eliminating options to add other manufacturers' products to the system.

Live Video Viewing

Video systems that are built around live video surveillance—such as many casino applications—will typically require very responsive PTZ control and fast, automated video switching based on events.

PTZ control is a mixed bag with most IP video systems. If all you need for GUI control is a mouse or a joystick, you can provide remote, point-and-click PTZ access over networks. The downside: Manual PTZ control over networks can be slow and choppy compared to classic CCTV keyboard implementations using 485 control buses.

Virtual matrix switch features will automatically route video to monitors or PDAs upon internal or external system events. Events may include video motion and triggers from access control systems, intrusion, fire systems and POS systems. The system may use video pop-ups, text alerts and audible alerts to notify operators of events in real time and receive immediate access to live video. Some products accompany live video pop-ups with instant replay of the event.

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