By Scott Schafer, EVP of sales and marketing, Arecont Vision
Understanding the benefits and capabilities of megapixel cameras can help integrators outsell those security dealers focused on traditional pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras.
How might the world of video surveillance have evolved differently if megapixel cameras had been invented before analog cameras? Consider all the image quality compromises we had to accept over the years because of the limitations of analog cameras. We designed thousands upon thousands of video surveillance systems in which the accepted resolution standard of 480 TV lines was the weakest link.
One of the ways we sought to compensate for low resolution and field-of-view limitations was the invention of the PTZ device. “Zoom” was needed because analog cameras couldn’t view objects clearly more than 20 or so feet away, and “pan” and “tilt” were needed to expand coverage for larger areas. Analog cameras (and IP-based network cameras providing similar resolution at 307,200 pixels) yield a specific, limited resolution that is a constant. System designers had to work around that limitation using tools such as mechanical PTZ devices.
The alternative was to add more cameras, which was
often cost-prohibitive, especially taking into account both
the cost of the cameras and the ancillary costs of installation,
recording systems, and the need for additional operations
staff to monitor the cameras.
But PTZ devices could never quite compensate for the
shortcomings of analog images. For example, what is the
likelihood that a PTZ camera will be viewing the exact
location within a large area at the exact right time to capture
an event? Another aspect of PTZ devices and cameras
is maintenance and product dependability. The devices
include mechanical components that need maintenance
and are subject to failure over time.
If megapixel cameras had been developed first, one could
argue that PTZ devices would never have been invented.
Simply put, with megapixel cameras PTZ technology is
not needed. By completely transforming how systems are
designed and used, higher-resolution megapixel cameras
today make PTZ devices obsolete.
The development of high-resolution megapixel cameras
resolves the issues that PTZ devices have sought — and
often failed — to address over the years. The high-resolution
imaging capabilities of megapixel cameras provide
significantly improved fields of view with extreme detail.
The ability to electronically zoom in to live scenes and
recorded video while maintaining high resolution and
wide area coverage is simply not possible with conventional
analog or IP PTZ (or fixed) cameras. In addition, when
using megapixel cameras, there are no mechanical optics
components to fail and no directional issues to contend
with. Perhaps most important, megapixel cameras provide
a much greater value proposition overall for mainstream
video surveillance applications.
Today's range of available megapixel
cameras can provide images at
any resolution, from a million pixels
up to 20 million pixels or more.
System designers can choose whatever
resolution they need for a specific
application, and they can use
fewer cameras, too. For example,
a 3 megapixel camera can replace
two to five standard-definition VGA
(307,200 pixel) cameras. Panoramic
and high-megapixel cameras are a real game changer as
they can replace dozens of standard-definition cameras,
view large areas, and "see" everything at once, without the
need for mechanical panning, tilting, or zooming. Large,
clear images can be viewed in real-time or stored and
viewed later. Detail permeates the entire field of view, and
any specific area can be viewed at any time, clearly, and
close-up. Capturing the whole view negates the need for
PTZs and the need for personnel to operate them.
And yet, market forces foretell a lingering death for PTZ
devices. Some security camera manufacturers still enjoy
high levels of sales and profits from older technologies,
which can dampen enthusiasm about transitioning or even
provide motivation to impede progress. Security resellers
may also be hesitant to embrace newer technologies, at
least until their customers demand it. The perceived technical
challenges of IT/IP systems — networks, servers,
storage, and software — can also give old-school resellers
pause until they realize that digital deployment is actually
simpler than what they have been doing in the past. But
once you see a demonstration of the superior image quality,
reduced security operations staff, fewer cameras, and
cost improvements made possible with new IP megapixel
solutions, the picture couldn't be any clearer.
We can't change the history of the video surveillance
market, but we can transform its future by fully embracing
the superior imaging capabilities of megapixel cameras.
Fewer cameras, less labor costs, and better results all contribute
to a far superior ROI. And mechanical PTZs will
become as passé as slide rules and beepers.