Question The CCTV/Surveillance Expert

Not a Cut and Dry Equation
The digital recording industry has literally hundreds of manufacturers that are offering digital recorders. Units range from commodity to specialized performance. The features vary accordingly. After looking over all the manufacturers? spec sheets, many of the specifications talk about CIF. First of all, what is a CIF and secondly, how does it affect performance specifications?

A: An explanation in broad terms, without getting too technical, is: CIF means Common Image Format. If you look at the best resolution a CIF can produce, you start to see the loss of resolution proportionately.

An example of resolution in the various formats is as follows: D1 Resolution H480 X V330, CIF 4 Resolution 480H X V330, and 2 CIF Resolution 480 H X V162, CIF Resolution H240 X V162, and QCIF Resolution H20 X V80. Please note the horizontal resolution remains high but the vertical resolution decreases by a factor of two (2). The D1 format is presently the best you can achieve. HDTV technology will challenge this quality in the near future.

The total number of pixels drops dramatically and effects computer power, memory and bandwidth to compress, store and transmit. Be careful not to assume the image will be two, three or four times better or worse. The human eye will notice the difference but, technically, it is not a cut and dry equation.

If you compare the digital recorder specification to the CCD camera specification, you'll notice a 500-pixel camera is specified at about 330 lines of horizontal resolution and the 720 pixel-camera produces approximately 480 of horizontal resolution. The vertical resolution on all cameras is the same since they all have 484 active faster lines in NTSC format, which yields approximately 320 lines vertically.

Distinguishing Criteria
Q: Our company has been receiving many brochures about training opportunities. Why are training and certification classes so important in today's security world?

A: The amount of training offerings available to security dealers and integrators is gaining due to new technology. The profitability of your company can be directly related to the fact that you keep your staff and yourself up to speed on new technology. Ultimately, it is also a good thing for your customers.

Training and certification provide a way to distinguish between those system planners and installers who have the knowledge, skills, and experience required to perform the work properly, and those who do not. Everybody says the customer is getting smarter. You need to be able to talk to an educated client on an even higher level now.

Of course, more complex systems require more advanced skills than do simpler systems. For this reason, you should look for an organization that has established multiple levels of certification related to increasingly complex systems. You can specify a certification level appropriate to the particular system or you can explore other options to get further training. Training programs are as varied as the many providers offering them. Yet, there is no substitute for a well-trained security professional.

John W. Colley is president of Integrated Security Systems, Ltd. Colley has been in the security industry for 25 years, beginning his experience in the CCTV segment of security and gaining knowledge through field experience, manufacturer training and designing systems to meet customer needs. Colley started his security integration firm 16 years ago, providing design, engineering, installation and service to commercial accounts using integrated systems. Send your CCTV/Surveillance questions to