Subscriber Discussion

Exporting Days Of Video From Vmses?

We have requests from customers to export multiple days of video for multiple cameras, for example 2 days from 4 cameras = 196 hours of video. Is this a common use case and how do popular VMS providers handle this?

I've found that this type of scenario is occurring more and more with those businesses who have cctv obligations and other compliance requirements as demanded by local enforcement agencies. A good example is bars and nightclubs. Most of them are now required to keep footage and provide copies when requested. It's not uncommon for overworked police to ask for the whole nights footage from all the cameras to allow them to review it at their leisure - most often for the 5 mins incident involving a drunk.

The problem most bar owners have is their inability to provide much more than 1 or 2 GB on a USB at a time resulting in them having to upgrade to system with better redundancy or exporting features. As for the VMS providers - I've yet to see a product in these types of environments that copes well.

Our small retail business has an ADT system with 8 analog cameras continuously recording about 2 weeks history on DVR.

Summarizing the following poorly written story,

1) ADT's video surveillance install may have added risk to our business,

2) An accessible record of video monitoring saved our business from false claims that could have been very harmful,

3) It's possible that clear evidence of video monitoring saved our shop from criminal activity,

4) An accesisble record of video monitoring of comings and goings helped law eforcement solve and prosecute a string of burglaries in local residences,

5) although not always successful, ADT is always avaialble and works very hard to be accessible for tech support, and

6) ADT's analog DVR with RASPLUS is ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE at exfiltraing video -- it's beyond belief how it can be so costly, complex, and simply not the way their own tech support understands it to be.

Initial installation of RASPLUS from ADT-provided CD flagged a virus which was not likely a false alarm (somtimes real-time activity looks like a virus, but this was a specific well-known virus signature). I verified the currently available online file was the same exact file, then called ADT support and informed them. They of course did everything to make me think it could not be the case, but two days later they updated the RASPLUS software which no longer flagged a virus on scan. I found the irony, ADT importing threats, rich.

We had a false claim made by a "patron" who actually was never in the shop on the day in question, which required us to exfiltrate the entire day of video as evidence. The system failed to operate as advertised by ADT and also did not function as ADT tech support claimed, with their live support. To their credit they did their best spending hours with me, but with no success. We first had tried to exfiltrate remotely, a claimed capability for ADT's RASPLUS line. That repeatedly failed miserably and in fact never functioned as claimed even with extensive tech support. Next I siezed and shut down the DVR because we were close to the two week limit and would have lost the footage which was critical to the legal situation if it had been overwritten. It took me a week to figure out how to got out the video, and a day once understood to actually get it all out of the DVR and onto long term storage. In the end, there was simply no way to exfiltrate except one hour at a time, which was the amount that would fit on the CD burner attached to the linux box.

On another occasion, residential break ins nearby corresponded to a visit by two rough looking characters who stepped in and then left the shop immediately upon realizing we had a video security system. We notified the local sheriff that we might have footage that could possibly be related, explained to them our prior problems with exfiltration and begged off direct involvement, and gave them the ADT support phone number. Even with ADT's help (the support line again, bless ADT's heart), the sheriff found video exfiltration to be exceedingly painful, and still comments on that occasion with more than a few epithets. On a happy note, after several hours he retrieved good quality video that provided very good detail on both suspects' faces, supporting an ultimate conviction in part because it completely disproved the suspects' claims that they had never been near the area (they were from another state).

Mark, good question and Tom, nice response!

If you want a 196 hours of video, assuming average bit rate is 1Mb/s, then you will likely need ~100GBs (though it could be higher if it is high frame rate, high resolution video).

For argument's sake, let's assume 100GBs, that's a lot of video. By comparison, a single sided DVD records 4.7GB max. You could conceivably try a 128GB SD card.

That said, the bigger issue is going to be VMS support. Historically, lots of VMS have had problems with this as it demands exporting a lot of video over a long time (I bet most VMSes would take hours and hours to do this).

export or record?

@Tom, this is exactly that scenario: it's a pub that's asking for video for a police investigation.

@John Grocke, I don't understand your question.

@John Honovich, agreed, it's a lot of data. Our tech support people have to babysit the system over many hours to get the video. It's a messy process.

I wasn't sure if the amount of time was for recording or they actually wanted to export that large amount of video. As John H. mentioned that would be require a portable device to store 100-200GB to or a whole lotta CD-ROMS. Exporting that much will be quite tedious.

Must be an interesting investigation. For most robberies or assaults, the police usually only need a few minutes of video. Perhaps a sting or a dug/prostitution ring...

Is exporting really that much of an ordeal? You can't just start it and check in every few hours to make sure it's still going? I guess maybe for older DVR systems maybe it's not as stable but in the few times we've done it with newer systems like Exacq or Geutebruck it didn't seem like a big deal.

I can only speak for Vigil, but I've done similar to this: specifically, 18 hours from six different cameras as part of a murder investigation. It's quite painless, actually: select start date and time, select end date and time... put four cameras up on simultaneous view, then Export -> All Cameras. I can either export it to the internal drive and then copy to an external USB hard drive, or just plug in the USB drive and just set that as an export destination. The only downside in this case was the fact that Vigil will only export up to 4 cameras in one shot, so I had to leave that running and come back the next morning to do the other two, but they didn't take very long.

Speed-wise, it's really not bad - the bottleneck is usually the I/O speed of the target media. I find with most VMSes, exporting in the native format (AZTECH-recompressed MJPEG, in Vigil's case) goes far faster than if you're transcoding to something else (like AVI).

I shudder to think of the amount of storage needed for 196 hours of AVI video. That would be huge!

Depends on the codec, compression, etc. of course. I've used a DivX codec to export for someone who needed a clip emailed - crushes video pretty good without substantial loss.

I was thinking of uncompressed AVI like out of my old camcorder. Just a few minutes of that can take up several GB.

This is a factor we tested for when we evaluated NVR/VMS systems last year.

We typically have to create 8-1/2 hour clips regularly (one employee, one shift). During our testing, clip creation times were all over the place. The setup:

  • Cameras were all typically recorded at 4CIF/D1 @ 3Mbps @ 30fps
  • We created multiple 1-hour, 1-camera clips and averaged the creation times.

The results varied widely (mm:ss to create a 1-hour clip):

  • Avigilon - 5:16
  • Pelco Endura - 10:00
  • Genetec Security Center 5.1 (System 1) - 29:41 (Note 1)
  • Genetec Security Center 5.1 (System 2) - 5:26 (Note 1)
  • Geutebruck GSCView - 7:30 (Test 1) (Note 2)
  • Geutebruck GSCView - 2:16 (Test 2) (Note 2)
  • Dallmeier - 26:10
  • IndigoVision - (Note 3)

Note 1: Genetec Security Center was tested twice; first with DDN Server/Storage and later with Fujitsu Server/Storage. Apparently, the DDN storage wasn't configured properly.

Note 2: Geutebruck Test 1 used the "Export" feature of GSCView, while Test 2 used the "Cut List" feature.

Note 3: IndigoVision's Export feature floored us! The first time we tested it, I started the Export and the stopwatch and looked up and it was done. The same thing happened the second time. I assumed there was a problem so I checked the save location and sure enough - there were two 1-hour clips. After a few more tests that measured an average of under 7 seconds, I set the system to create 8-1/2-hour clips. The average time was 1:46 (1m, 46s). On that basis, a 196-hour clip should take less than 41 minutes.

Carl, great feedback! One clarification - were you running the export from the server itself or a client over the network? Also, were you exporting to a file internal to the machine or to an external media/device, like a USB stick or DVD?

John, We exported on the client to a folder on its desktop.

By the way, Geutebruck's Export and Cut List features have an option during the creation process to break the video into CD and DVD-size segments and burn directly to multiple disks.

All-in-all, exporting capabilities in both the Geutebruck and IndigoVision systems were well above average. And Geutebruck's "Cut List" feature is like an editing program. The user can arrange multiple timelines from multiple cameras into a single file, like a movie. Segments can be arranged and re-arranged at will during the cut list setup process.

Symantec NetBackup could be used to export/backup massive amounts of video. Worth a check with your VMS supplier to see if they have hooks built in for this capability.

Matt, thanks for sharing. That seems more for archiving than for exporting to third parties? Am I missing something? I am assuming here that Mark wants to export to share with someone outside the customer's organization.

Perhaps I misunderstood the dilema, but here is more of what Im getting at: The process of this is two steps as I see it. Step 1 is figuring out how to export a ton of data. Step 2 is to figure out how to then provide the requestor a means by which to search it. For small bits of time it's a no-brainer, we all do this every day. For long periods of time it's an entirely different story. This is one little known solution that may be viable. Bosch has this capability with VRM which is little known even within our internal team. So basically, in our Bosch world, we can export a huge amount of data using Symantec and then hand the investigator a free player, in our case Bisch Archive Player, and give them what they asked for...lots of exported video and a means by which to review it. Hope this helps!

Matt, I think there are a number of players that can 'load' exported video to search / display / manage. I am not sure who does this via Symantec but it's common with straight video exports from other systems.

ipConfigure supports mass export of day/weeks of video, this was built years back to support our federal customers.

Horace, thanks for sharing and I am sorry to hear about your troubles!

For what's it worth, ADT has a bad reputation and is constantly under attack by their customers on Facebook.

To me, an optimal scenario to address this capability is to render the video bundled with the system's own client/player which also allows you to further easily render smaller clips from that larger initial export on demand. I don't know how many other VMS' have this capability but it's something we can do in HD Witness. I've only personally tested it with a 2TB export but in theory it should allow you to render upwards or more than 10TB in a single EXE file that would also contain the full client/player with all controls including further rendering. For greater than a 2TB file you need to render the initial EXE from our 64bit OS version of our client though. 2TB or less makes it easy to move the whole thing to a single hard drive via USB, ideally a 3.0 for transfer speed. Larger than that you can simply move it across the network to a different archival home if you wanted.

This is a function I would expect most premium VMS's accommodate rather well. After reading this post, I tried this using our local Milestone system with 1 camera for 10 days. Keeping in mind this camera was only recording on motion and 8 fps, I was still able to export 10 days of data from a 3 MP Sony camera in less than 30 minutes. Not a very scientific test nonetheless, a very 'doable' activity. After that, I bumped the recording to full-time, 30 fps for several hours. I was able to export 1 hour, 30fps, 3MP (with viewer included) in 3 minutes. The file produced was 1.8Gb and loaded to my desktop.

I have created several LARGE exports for the local police department by copying the exported video (player included) onto a 1 TB portable drive. And the fully functional exported player will allow exporting of subset clips.

Well again, I can only speak for Vigil (as that's what I'm familiar with), but it works very much like Nathan's description. It doesn't generate a single large executeable, but it can (depending on the selected option) place a copy of the native video player runtime/installer in a folder along with the video clip(s), and optionally include autorun files for optical export as well. This works exactly the same whether viewing on the server, or on the fat client.

The player itself can then re-export sub-clips from a video it's playing, again in native format, or using any available installed CODEC.

Defining any number export destinations is easy, so I'll usually plug in a flash drive, and set that as an export target with a subfolder called "Vigil Exports", with the option to include the player. As long as it gets the same drive letter that the destination is configured with, it will then work with any external drive, be it USB flash, USB HDD, Firewire, eSATA, etc.

On my bench setup at home, I have an export destination pointing to my Dropbox "Public" folder, too, so I can export there and then acccess them easily on my desktop or netbook. It's not ideal for REALLY BIG files, but very convenient for smaller clips. I've used this method for some investigators who need multiple clips: I just export there, and give them the link. In the past, I mapped a folder on my web/ftp server to a drive letter on the DVR, so I could export straight to that, then give the other party a web or FTP link to download the files.

As far as export times, I haven't done a lot of work comparing them across different media... suppose that's something I can do soon.