HDCCTV Alliance formed

'The megapixel IP camera is fundamentally inferior'
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SYDNEY, Australia—The term alone may be a new one for video surveillance installers, allowed Todd Rockoff, but the concepts and technology ought to be very familiar. Thus, the challenges for the HDCCTV Alliance executive chairman are twofold: First, get people to understand what HDCCTV is; second, get people to see why it’s better than what they’re already installing.

The working definition of HDCCTV: “A video surveillance system wherein broadcast-industry-compliant, high-definition video [720p is roughly one megapixel, and 1080p is roughly two megapixels] signals are transmitted digitally over conventional CCTV media, without packetization and without a perceivable compression latency.”

But Rockoff said it more succinctly: “The guy can plug in the coax cable and, voila, the HD image comes up.”

The charter members of the HDCCTV Alliance, which has as its goals both the creation of a global standard for HDCCTV transmission and proselytization through display of the technology, comprise much of a HDCCTV solution. Gennum makes the HD-SDI chips (the standard in broadcast HD cameras) that transmit the video by serializing it for long-range coax cable transmission and then deserializing the signal for display. Stretch makes the chips that take that signal and both compress it for storage on the DVR and pre-process it for live monitor display. Ovii will make the actual cameras and EverFocus will make the DVRs.

For Rockoff and Stretch head of sales and marketing Bob Beachler, the end display is the real selling point. Because the system involves no compression or packetizing of the video, what end users see on their commercial HD monitors is just like what they see on their televisions at home. At ISC West, Stretch showed a proof of the technology that allowed for 720p display at 60 frames per second.

“All the major customers said, ‘That looks awesome. How does it work and how do I get it?’” Beachler said.

This display, the ease with which most legacy installers will be able to upgrade current coax-based systems to HD, the relatively known quality that is the DVR for storage (though new "HD DVRs" are necessary), and the lower price of analog cameras leads Rockoff to claim, “the megapixel IP camera is fundamentally inferior with respect to every business decision-making criteria: reliability, convenience, price and performance.”

Beachler is not as ready to throw IP cameras under the bus: “Is it fundamentally inferior? No. It’s just fundamentally different. There are capabilities that IP cameras can give you that analog cameras can’t. But you won’t have the latency issues and you won’t need the computing power because you’re just moving raw video around with HDCCTV.” He also notes that only a percentage of camera installations have live viewing at all. “For people compressing and storing for later viewing, that’s an IP network camera kind of place.”

Beachler feels the best market for HDCCTV will be for upgrading the current coax-based installations that would like to have HD capabilities.

Fredrik Nilsson, general manager, Americas, for Axis Communications, largely thought of as the company that brought IP cameras to security, said the HDCCTV Alliance only reinforces “how successful the HD concept has become in the camera market—people are really getting the concept of resolution. Putting myself in the shoes of an analog manufacturer, I see you would have nothing to compete with that so HDCCTV makes sense. All of a sudden they say, ‘Let’s try to do the same thing,’ because it’s technically possible.”

While it’s been technically possible for some time, it’s only really been financially realistic in the last year or so, said Beachler, because the HD-SDI chips were previously nearly $100 a piece. Now that Gennum can more reasonably manufacture them, they’ve become appropriate for many-camera installations.

As of today, June 16, the HDCCTV Alliance has its .9 version of the interoperability specification available to members (who must pay a fee based on level of participation - find it at www.highdefcctv.org), and the alliance plans to have a more robust specification, which will include things like controlling PTZ cameras, sending sound, and possibly sending power “up cable,” much like PoE, ready by September 1.

Nilsson called HDCCTV “an interesting concept, but it will be a huge investment to get it off the ground.” He also said it will require buy in from the major camera companies, like Panasonic, Sony, Bosch, and others. Beachler said he’s already been in conversations with those kinds of companies, and when it comes to DVRs, “I’ve got customers just waiting for me to make the cards.” He predicted a variety of HD DVRs and cameras by January of 2010. “That’s the great thing about this,” he said. “The roll out to adoption will be really quick.”