Testing Avigilon's 2MP and 5MP JPEG2000 Cameras

Author: Benros Emata, Published on Mar 29, 2010

Avigilon is well known for its focus on High Definition video surveillance, offering a complete HD solution combining a broad range of megapixel cameras (from 1 - 16 MP) and and integrated Video Management System.

In this test, we examine Avigilon's High Definition IP cameras including the 2MP (2.0MP-HD-DN) and 5MP (5.0MP-HD-DN) cameras. We tested the Avigilon cameras with Avigilon's Control Center VMS software (read our review of Avigilon's VMS to properly understand the overall system).

Key findings include:

  • Low light (sub 1 lux) video was bright but with moderate visible noise
  • Wide dynamic range performance was solid compared to cameras with WDR optimizations
  • Bandwidth, storage and video quality optimizations integrated
  • Bandwidth consumption using Avigilon's default settings was high relative to H.264 and MJPEG competitive cameras at their default settings
 
Equally important, Avigilon cameras are only supported by Avigilon's VMS so a selection of their cameras requires the deployment of their VMS. Compare to a dozen other megapixel camera tests performed.
 
[Update July 2011: We have tested Avigilon's H.264 cameras that are the next generation offering from the company.]

Product Overview

The cameras tested are the (2.0MP-HD-DN) and 5MP (5.0MP-HD-DN) versions (review the 2MP datasheet and the 5MP datasheet).

Notable points include:

  • Maximum image rate of 18 ips for 2MP full resolution and 12 ips for 5MP full resolution.
  • JPEG2000 CODEC (no other CODEC options)
  • Low voltage power, external IO and RS-485
  • No SD card, no analytics
  • Supports auto-iris varifocal lenses
  • No auto back focus, analog out nor built-in optical zoom provided
 
JPEG2000 Overviewed
 
Avigilon is the only well known megapixel surveillance manufacturer using the JPEG2000 codec. While JPEG2000 is similar to MJPEG (in the sense that there is no compression between frames), JPEG2000 is a scalable video codec (also refered to as SVC). The scalability allows for dynamically adjusting the resolution streamed without transcoding (this is not possible in MJPEG nor H.264 AVC). For background, see an overview on JPEG2000 and an review of in-development H.264 SVC.

HDSM Overviewed

Avigilon provides a number of video optimizations for their cameras/VMS solution. The most important to consider are:

  • Avigilon's VMS automatically optimizes the display parameters for viewing video. For instance, this provided improved visual quality in our WDR test (review our quality analysis section below).
  • When displaying live video, Avigilon can automatically reduce the resolution and size of the stream displayed on the user's monitor based on the size of the pane and the preference of the user. In our VMS test, this reduced a 15 Mb/s native stream to 3-4Mb/s displayed in a 2 x 2 matrix. When the pane was was expanded to full screen, the system automatically increased the resolution for the larger pane. This can reduce demands on client workstations, especially in monitoring large numbers of multi-megapixel cameras.
  • Avigilon can reduce storage size over time by eliminating frames periodically. Their data aging segments video into 3 segments, halfing the video as it moves between segments (e.g., segment A is newly recorded at full frame rate, segment B is older video with the frame rate cut in half and segment C is the oldest video with frame rate quartered compared to original recording). Data aging settings can be set per camera.
Pricing
 
The MSRP of the 2MP camera is $695 USD and the 5MP camera is $985 USD. Both cameras are sold without lens. The stock auto-iris, varifocal lens we used for the test has an MSRP of $147 USD.

Physical Overview

In the screencast below, we examine the physical form factor of the Avigilon HD IP cameras including:

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  • Simple form factor
  • locking screw secures back focus dial
  • LED indicator displays camera status

Configuration and Optimization

In the following screencast, we examine the key points in configuring and optimizing the video streams of Avigilon's cameras.

  • Cameras do not have a web interface.
  • Configuration is performed by using Control Center Client or downloading Camera Installation tool.
  • In a privacy zone, no pixels are captured on the camera end.

Bandwidth Test

In the following screencast, we demonstrate the bandwidth levels of Avigilon's cameras at multiple image rates. We kept the default quality level (6) set for all tests - image quality and bandwidth analysis. Specifically:

  • 2MP camera with default 5 ips has a bit rate of approximately 6.5 Mb/s
  • 2MP camera with maximum 17.1 ips has a bit rate of approximately 22 Mb/s
  • 5MP camera with default 5 ips has a bit rate of approximately 15 Mb/s
  • 5MP camera with maximum 12 ips has a bit rate of approximately 35 Mb/s

Image Quality

In the screencast below, we examine Avigilon's image quality and settings for both night and WDR scenes.

We are providing video samples in both Avigilon native format and AVI. We recommend viewing in Avigilon native format so you can see for yourself, zoom in, adjust display properties, etc.

You can download the videos from either of the following options:

 
Key points made in the screencast below include:
  • Right clicking on the video image allows access to display adjustment settings.
  • Display adjustment setting dynamically changes the image levels to see more details on subject.
  • Avigilon software automatically adjusts image display.
  • Zooming in (using the scroll wheel of mouse) performs further automatic image adjustments.
  • Automatic display adjustments made a low light (0.3 lux) scene significantly brighter.

Recommendations

Here are the key differentiating factors (positive and negative) that should impact your consideration of the product:

  • Image Quality (positive): Image quality was solid to strong all the way around including WDR and night. Night performance was on the high end. WDR was above average, only clearly behind the Sony CH140 in cameras we have tested. Their dynamic display adjustments contributed to the image quality improvements (even for third party cameras as we mentioned in the quality analysis review above).
  • Bandwidth Consumption (negative): Bandwidth consumption was not only far higher than H.264, it was considerably higher than the tests we performed with MJPEG cameras including IQ's 2MP camera and Stardot's 5MP camera (in the range of 50% higher bit rate for comparable resolution and ips). H.264 HD cameras are increasingly commonplace. Avigilon's cameras consume dramatically higher bandwidth levels (e.g., 15 Mb/s more for a 1080p 15fps) than H.264 cameras. This can result in additional networking and storage costs.
  • High Definition stream management (positive and partially offseting to bandwidth): Their remote viewing optimization can allow for large number of HD cameras to be viewed remotely (by dynamically scaling video). However, this may also be accomplished in other systems by frame dropping or by dynamically switching amongst multiple streams as the video pane size changes. Their data aging can offset the higher bandwidth. The percentage reduction depends on the duration of each segment bucket. Assuming 1 week at full, 3 weeks at half and 4 weeks at quarter, this would reduce storage by 57% relative to full recording of JPEG2000. However, given how much lower the bit rate of H.264 is, Avigilon's storage consumption is still likely to be significantly higher than H.264 cameras recorded for the same time period at the full frame rate for the entire time.
  • Value for money: While the cameras are relatively inexpensive, buyers should factor in the relatively high cost for Avigilon VMS software licenses (at $290 USD per camera) and the additional storage (and potentially networking costs) for Avigilon's higher bit rate.
 
Final recommendations:
 
Avigilon provides strong video quality and functionalities for viewing/optimizing video display. Those buyers strongly focused on maximizing video quality through use of numerous HD cameras are most likely to find the offering competitively strong. Buyers will need to accept using Avigilon's VMS and the potential increase in costs for Avigilon's higher bit rate.

2 reports cite this report:

Examining Avigilon's First H.264 Camera Offerings on Sep 29, 2010
Avigilon has announced an HD H.264 camera line. Previous Avigilon cameras only supported JPEG200.Another significant addition for this line is...
Testing Avigilon ControlCenter VMS 2010 on Mar 08, 2010
[UPDATE: This report has been replaced with Testing Avigilon ACC 5 VMS. The report below is left simply for historical purposes.] While Avigilon...

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