Page 12 - Security Today, January/February 2021
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A Technology
The video surveillance industry has turned to using tape to affordably store video By Jay Jason Bartlett
Analog cameras. BNC cables. 300TVL surveillance cameras. VCR tape recordings. It is amazing that the year of convergence from analog to IP was supposed to be 2008 but it was not until 2012 that IP-cameras started to outsell analog cameras. We sure have come a long way from those analog-oriented days.
There are many surveillance manager stories of rooms full of VCR tapes with camera recordings and the hours -- even days – it would take to find an incident and copy out an evidentiary version.
Good thing those days are behind us. Typewriters anyone?
However, what is still interesting within the physical security industry is how dependent on hard disk-based -single tier- surveil- lance retention storage systems. Why have we sacrificed so much in terms of video quality, frame rates and motion-only recordings to keep our storage requirements from ballooning? Why have we not embraced multi-tiered storage like so many other industries?
With VMS being the center of the universe of our industry, it is the VMS that needs to be able to understand multi-tiered stor- age, yet nearly every single VMS only cares about recording video to a “C:/ drive” and has no capability of using two-tier storage directly from the main timeline of the VMS.
Sure, there are VMS packages that can archive video record- ings off to other storage. But when the operator needs to move their timeline back months or years, these VMS systems need to execute numerous extra steps -truly jumping through numerous hoops- to be able to playback any of the “archived” video, even from those VMS systems that can archive video.
Think about the “record-on-motion” functionality in so many VMS systems. Although, this was a significantly creative feature to deal with what was once extremely costly hard disk-based storage, it delivers the most common cause of missed video because the motion frequently didn’t catch the actual activity that the video surveillance system was implemented to capture in the first place.
Then there is the practice of reducing the frames per second of the video recordings. Even though IP-cameras are capable of 30fps, you can get into heated debates where people argue about what the human eye can and can’t see and how anything over 15fps is a waste of storage. Really?
Let’s also talk about the high-resolution cameras. Cameras are capable of capturing such fine detail with great clarity. But where are we going to store all that video?
Surveillance operators and directors will tell you that a signifi- cant number of incidents are caught via forensic playback mode, not during live monitoring. Why is the practice to record and save a lower-resolution feed? Because of the storage costs, that’s why.
If we step back and look at other industries that center around video storage, we can see that there is a better, smarter, more eco- nomical way to accomplish it.
Dailies. B-Rolls. Circle-takes. These digital video-oriented processes of the Hollywood production industry have –for over 15 years now– seen an explosion in the volume of recorded video that must be stored and managed. Entirely new workflows have been created to handle the deluge of video that digital movie-set cameras have unleashed.
In those old days, parts of movies, TV shows and commercials would end up on the cutting room floor, as sections of film were edited out of the production. Nowadays, every “take” is kept and possibly re-used in the bloopers reel or the director’s cut release.
What our colleagues in the very similar Media and Entertain- ment (M&E) industry have learned is how to manage this vast amount of (and significantly growing) recorded video that is gen- erated every day.
Hollywood has already learned that if you can’t get back to the recorded video quickly and easily, it becomes useless to retain it. Hollywood has already learned how to use tried-and-true I.T. storage technologies to store terabytes and petabytes of video at

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