Video Surveillance: One Resolution Does Not Fit All

Let the user's needs be your ultimate guide

As these technologies continue to be improved and refined, both HDTV and megapixel will continue to meet different and new surveillance challenges. As the haystack of surveillance products grows, it will become even more important for integrators to understand the nuances of new technologies to meet the customer’s specific needs. After all, the goal of a video surveillance system is to produce useable video, and usable video is in the eye of the beholder.

In recent years, camera manufacturers have invested heavily in R&D to widen the array of camera choices available to meet these ever-changing security needs. As the megapixel race warmed up, there was also a considerable push to provide HDTV cameras in all shapes, sizes and price points. Today, security practitioners can choose from fixed, dome, pan/tilt/zoom and even miniature covert all-digital HDTV cameras. We’ve also seen the price of HDTV-compliant cameras come down. The first cameras listed for $1499 MSRP. Today they can be bought for less than $250.

Challenging environmental factors limited video surveillance for years. Lighting conditions are a prime example of an environmental factor that can place restrictions on the operational requirements of a scene. Megapixel cameras perform in well-lit environments, but adding supplemental light to a scene is not always an option, making identification all but impossible at night– and the more pixels on a sensor, the more light that’s needed to activate them.

The market’s first HDTV-compliant cameras were a major feat in itself, but were pretty simple. Each year HDTV cameras feature increased functionality, including a number of image-enhancing features that combat challenging environmental factors such as lowlight.

For instance, utilities substations require surveillance particularly at night when they are most vulnerable to copper theft and potential safety incidents. However, if the substation is located in a residential area, increased illumination is seen more as an annoyance than a security measure. Low light technologies help keep the neighbors happy, while still providing the customer with the surveillance they need. Lightfinder technology even provides color video down to 0.05 lux.

Another challenge has been the surveillance of loading bays, entrances and exits and areas near large windows. Now, cameras equipped with wide dynamic range (WDR) can combat these changing light conditions and provide usable video.

For some customers, it may be less about camera functionality and more about aesthetics. If limiting the number of cameras is a priority, then megapixel cameras may provide the best solution.

Great strides have also been made in providing solutions for all sizes, including small systems. For years, small businesses were limited to analog technology and were saddled with expensive and cumbersome DVR solutions. With small system solutions and hosted video, IP systems have not only become more affordable, but also exceed the capabilities of traditional analog solutions.

A solution for every need

Providing the right solution starts with understanding your customer’s security needs. Knowing and understanding the importance of resolution, pixels on target and the difference between HDTV and megapixel will help you deliver a successful video surveillance system and distinguish you from the competition.

Standard resolution, megapixel and HDTV cameras each meet different requirements for security installations. Knowing when and how each technology is used will help ensure the selected cameras will provide the most usable images—regardless of any hype.

Finding the ideal surveillance solution may be like finding a needle in the haystack, but the advantage to having so many options is the ability to truly provide the “best” surveillance solution. Despite the common belief that more is always better, savvy integrators know when more is better and when less is more.