Case Study: Seagate Drives for Megapixel Video

Nov. 8, 2007
Barracuda ES series used to match megapixel video recording from Avigilon

• During product design, no commercially available hard disk drive (HDD) could provide the speed, reliability and capacity required.
• When current conventional surveillance systems go into alarm mode and multiple cameras begin recording at the same time, the frame rate must be slowed and image quality reduced, to ensure all data can be captured and stored, resulting in low-quality video.

Solution • Seagate's Barracuda ES Series, the industry's highest capacity enterprise SATA HDD, provides up to 750GB of storage.
• The Barracuda ES Series is designed for the speed, capacity and reliability required for recording intensive 24x7 enterprise video surveillance.
• The Barracuda ES Series offer extremely smooth playback.

Benefits • Seagate's surveillance market leadership is exemplified by offering the industry's widest portfolio of hard drive products for video surveillance exhibiting an unparalleled level of focus and dedication to the specific needs of video surveillance solution manufacturers.
• The Barracuda ES off-the-shelf drives are plug-and-play, providing an immediately stable and reliable platform that helped accelerate Avigilon's time to market.
• With the Barracuda ES, a single 16 megapixel Avigilon camera can take the place of 50 conventional surveillance cameras.
• The Barracuda ES's redundant array of independent disks (RAID) features enable multiple 16 megapixel IP cameras to record at full frame rate at the same time.
• The combination of Avigilon's multi-megapixel IP cameras, their high definition network video recorders and the Barracuda ES Series dramatically decreases the amount of equipment required for a surveillance project, reducing installation and maintenance costs.
• Because high-capacity Seagate HDDs have the performance to capture and store the entire high-resolution video stream, Avigilon's 16 megapixel cameras are able to provide a superior solution for post incident investigation by providing detailed images of the entire field of view, without the costs associated with having an operator to control the camera.

The State of the Art that Wasn't

In the face of rising terror threats, extensive street-by-street video surveillance is becoming a priority in densely populated cities. As the August 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse revealed, video surveillance can be critical to understanding any unexpected event. However, poor quality imagery limits the effectiveness of surveillance video identification and detail. Too often, video is blurred and grainy due to low-resolution cameras that use lossy compression, or choppy because it was not recorded at its full frame rate.

When Avigilon set out to design its next-generation surveillance system, the team of technical experts (who have worked together in digital imaging for more than 15 years) was committed to creating a high-quality system that would satisfy the needs of the most demanding security professionals and the most complex surveillance projects.

The Avigilon team recognized that existing technology simply was not up to the task. The first problem was poorly recorded images. Conventional surveillance systems use multiple low-resolution cameras and lossy compression to monitor events. When an incident occurs, all cameras go into alarm mode and start recording at the same time. However, due to very limited storage capabilities of conventional surveillance systems, the frame rate and image quality must be reduced at the most critical times, resulting in poor image quality being captured exactly when high image quality is needed.

The second challenge was the resulting strain on human resources. With low-resolution cameras trying to monitor a wide field of view, the only way to capture any amount of detail is to rely on security personnel to monitor the system and zoom in on a point of interest. However, zooming in is like looking through a straw, meaning that critical information not in the area of focus can easily be missed. When trying to monitor a wide area with conventional low-resolution cameras an operator needs to know where an incident is going to happen, before it happens.

Designing for the Future

The Avigilon High Definition Surveillance System includes multi-megapixel cameras–up to 16 megapixels–and features progressive scan sensors for extreme sensitivity across the entire visible spectrum and into near infrared wavelengths. In short, Avigilon surveillance cameras have better "vision" than humans. With gigabit Ethernet, the cameras can stream image data 10 times as fast as cameras supporting 100 megabit Ethernet. Avigilon cameras can now deliver high-resolution images at a very high frame rate with lossless compression. This eliminates the loss of potential evidence and the introduction of image artifacts typically associated with lossy compression.

When a critical incident occurs, the amount of data that must be written to the HDD–and the speed with which it must occur–is tremendous. "No existing commercial hard drive storage technology was capable of the speed, capacity and reliability we required," said Pierre Parkinson, vice president of marketing and business development for Avigilon. "We knew that new HDD solutions were on the horizon, so we designed our products to easily integrate with the release of innovative technologies."

As Seagate and other vendors began shipping new HDD products, Avigilon began testing. After a four-month process, the results were clear: the Seagate Barracuda ES Series Hard Drives, part of Seagate's Surveillance Portfolio - the industry's most extensive portfolio of surveillance ready HDDs, were the most reliable. Designed for the speed, capacity and reliability required for intensive 24x7 enterprise class video surveillance, the Barracuda ES Series drives are highly scalable, with capacities ranging from 250GB to 1.0TB, with the performance benefits of the SATA interface. Additionally, Avigilon found that the playback quality–the look of the stored video as it streamed off the Barracuda ES drives–was extremely smooth.

Seagate-Powered Surveillance

The Avigilon High-Definition Surveillance System delivers the image quality necessary to effectively protect the public and ensure the security of airports, seaports, borders and train stations. The high-performance, high-capacity systems protect vital assets for the military, law enforcement, financial institutions, casinos, warehouses, transportation, and critical infrastructure such as nuclear and petrochemical plants.

Every Avigilon High-Definition Surveillance System has shipped with Seagate drives. To ensure sufficient recording time is possible, the drives are configured in fail-safe, industry-standard arrays, which ensure large volumes of data can be recorded and that the recordings are safe in the event of a hard drive failure.

"The role Seagate drives play in the total value of the High-Definition Surveillance System cannot be overstated," said Parkinson. "Our system is really a chain of technologies, and any weak link in that chain irreparably damages the data our customers are collecting. Seagate HDDs are a critical component because they are fast, provide sufficient capacity, and deliver the reliability required for protecting critical assets and infrastructure."

Utilizing the speed of Seagate drives, Avigilon is changing the way that the public can be protected. Safety levels are significantly increased with the first surveillance system that can automatically monitor a greater area without losing critical, high-resolution image detail.

Installation costs can also be dramatically reduced. A typical installation at a large airport parking lot, for example, could require dozens of cameras, 24-hour attendance and mounting poles - costing upwards of $30,000 each. These deployment and personnel costs have prohibited such projects in the past. The High-Definition Surveillance System does not necessitate an attendant, and a single Avigilon 16 megapixel camera can capture the same level of detail as 50 conventional surveillance cameras, eliminating the costs associated with cabling multiple camera sites.

What's Next

"The performance and reliability of Seagate HDDs enabled us to shorten the time to market for the product we had designed," explained Parkinson. "Our products are designed for mission-critical infrastructures to protect people and critical assets, so we need bullet-proof technology to go into our systems, and Seagate has delivered. Now we're experiencing rapid growth and we'll continue to look to partners such as Seagate to provide us with reliable technology that will continue to exceed the expectations of our most demanding customers. As the leader in all the key performance metrics for HDDs, Seagate has proven themselves as an important partner as we continue to grow."