This document is most helpful for the site designer and on-site installation personnel.
Guidelines for advance IP Camera configuration and suggested settings for SpotAI Dashboard
Whenever starting any new IP camera set up there are several basic configurations that must be performed before adding your cameras to any Network Video recorder. Please read the following information for our recommended best practices.
Please always set all IP cameras to use a Static IP address
- Network cameras are different from webcams and analog CCTV cameras. Webcams are connected to computers by USB cables. Analogy CCTV cameras are connected to servers by coax cables. Network cameras are connected to a network for access just like computers are connected to networks. Each network camera is actually a computer with a CPU and memory. It processes images from CCD (Charge-coupled Device) or CMOS (Complementary Metal-oxide Semiconductor) sensors, and sends them to clients (e.g. apps) and hosts a web server.
By default, most camera manufactures enable DHCP for ease of camera discovery. Please consult the manufacturer's manual for its default IP address and password in order to find your camera once connected via ethernet to your switch in a Local Area Network (LAN).
If this network camera has Wi-Fi connectivity, you will still have to perform an initial physical connection to then connect to the desired WIFI network signal of your choice. < Please see camera manufacture's manual for details>
Synchronizing the camera time and date with an NTP server is crucial to properly sync camera recording with your Network Video Recordings and avoid confusion when auditing video footage.
IP Camera Hardening
Video cameras are increasingly migrating to the Internet. As IP devices, they are vulnerable to cyberattacks and threats just as any other endpoint residing on a network. To this end, IP camera manufacturers can both build in various security features as well as act in a systematic, transparent and timely manner to make sure end users are properly protected.
The majority of network security breaches are due to human error, negligence, misconfiguration, and neglecting proper system maintenance. Therefore, a basic rule for effective cybersecurity of Technical Personnel is to never keep the camera's default credentials. A strong password is the first line of defense followed by the upkeep of the latest system updates which provides the most up-to-date security patches and updates provided by the camera manufacture. Without this approach, all your systems are vulnerable to a cyber-attack and can be used as a gate or backdoor to your entire network.
We ask you to please research the latest IP camera hardenings documentations provided by Camera manufacturers for more in-depth camera-server-related articles.
Camera's Video and settings best practices
There are literally thousands of models of network cameras in use. Therefore, it is impossible to have a set of instructions fitting every single camera model perfectly. However, regardless of the manufacturer, most of the options will be technically the same. [Note: Please always consult the camera manufacture manual for menu navigations].
All IP cameras have a Video Settings menu that enables the operator to set parameters associated with network transmission: resolution, frame rate, compression method, serial, and network port settings.
Everyone’s instinct is to turn these settings up as high as they go and the aggressiveness at which image quality or bandwidth is prioritized is based on the usage and the network environment. What we want to focus on is providing a smooth, crystal clear image that uses the least amount of bandwidth possible.
Video Settings example
For image calibration, it is recommended that you find the right camera angle and area that you will like to capture before calibrating the camera lens. This is because the view could have many variables such as Outdoor/ Indoor lighting conditions, high foot traffic areas, highly reflective surfaces, trees, bushes, or moving vehicles. Once the desired field of view has been accomplished please proceed to perform an Autofocus, Automatic Gain Control (AGC), adjusting Contrast and lighting if needed.
The main parameter which describes image quality is its resolution. It says about how many points the whole image consists of. Of course, the larger the resolution, the better the image quality or larger area that can be monitored. In contrast, it creates a greater demand for bandwidth and increases the volume of recorded material. The proper recommended Video Quality configuration for a SpotAI Dashboard is H.264, 1920x1080P, and 15 FPS- <Frames per second> to deliver a balance between image clarity and network bandwidth consumption.
The parameter specifies how many frames are generated/transmitted in a unit of time - the more frames the smoother image. PAL television system has adopted 25 frames per second (fps), which is regarded as a completely smooth image. However, due to bandwidth restrictions, video surveillance systems often use in practice frame rates 5 to 15 fps, which are quite sufficient. Of course, there are specific cases that require to use of high frame rates, even up to 100 fps on very High-End Grade surveillance equipment, but such solutions are not popular. Lower frame rates are used to control crowds, higher (25 fps) to monitor the behavior of individuals, the highest to record quick processes (e.g. crash tests).
A very important feature of IP CCTV cameras is the kind of video compression. It shows the technological level of the camera. The better compression, the lower bandwidth requirements - at the same level of subjective quality. Popular video compression formats are MJPEG (in fact linking consecutive frames compressed as JPEG files) and MPEG-4 (creating complete images one every several frames and refreshing them till the next complete frame only by the changes). The latest and most advanced compression method is H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10, or MPEG-4 AVC), a block-oriented motion-compensation-based codec standard. It contains a number of new features that allow it to compress video much more effectively than the previous standards, such as multi-picture inter-picture prediction and lossless macro-block coding. In practice, the "gain" of H.264 in comparison with MPEG-4 ASP (bandwidth, file size, or transmission time) is about 30%.
Comparison of popular compression formats at a given quality
Back Light Compensation (BLC)
This function is the ability of a camera to compensate the brightness of the subjects with a large amount of background light that would make it practically impossible to see any details of the subjects. Backlight compensation consists of adjusting the gain of the camera to improve the exposure of the subjects that are in front of a bright light source. It allows identifying the foreground. Unfortunately, the background also becomes even brighter.
Wide Dynamic Range (WDR)
This feature of image sensors has been introduced relatively recently. It extends the action of BLC. Due to operation based on the analysis of exposures of single cells, at the same time, it can brighten dark elements and darken too bright ones. The image processed this way allows to clearly see details both in the foreground and bright background.
White Balance (WB)
This is a function that influences representation by the camera in all the colors, in reference to "white" color. In automatic mode, the reference point for white is the brightest point in the image. Because the camera often monitors an area where the brightest point isn't really "white", the colors in the image can be far from those we consider "real". The solution is to preset colors corresponding to natural or artificial lighting, as well as to save camera settings for a "white" pattern.
Automatic Gain Control (AGC)
This allows an increase in sensitivity, enabling operation in lower light conditions. However, it should be borne in mind that with the strengthening of the signal, the noise is amplified as well. So the AGC level has to be set carefully, on a trial-and-error basis.
Automatic Electronic Shutter (AES)
The possibility of extending the time of opening the shutter allows increasing the exposure of the image sensor. This is a very useful feature in areas with low light since a longer exposure time results in a brighter image. However, it is not free from drawbacks. The problem is the blurring of moving parts of the image. This is due to the fact that the objects move significantly during the period of opening the shutter, being reproduced all the time. Another important limitation is the frame speed of the camera - the opening time cannot exceed the frame time.
JPEG compression has a disadvantage - it generates blocks with undesirable texture. This causes strange patterns in the picture. The effect is particularly visible in dark scenes. The solution to this problem is to reduce the sharpness of the image. By reducing this parameter, you can smooth out the "noise" caused by the compression. Of course, the too big a reduction would result in a blurred image.
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