Connecting IP Cameras to VMS System Tutorial

Author: John Honovich, Published on Nov 03, 2012

In this tutorial, we cover the fundamentals of connecting IP cameras to VMS systems, including:

  • Analog vs IP
  • RTSP
  • Direct Integration
  • 'Standards' - ONVIF / PSIA
  • Advanced Integration - PTZ control, Panoramics
  • Advanced Non Supported Functions
  • Unicast vs Multicast

This tutorial reviews the key structural issues. For a lower level review of physically connecting IP cameras to VMSes, review our IP Video 101 training course.

Analog vs IP

Analog cameras, unlike IP, must be encoded / digitized before a VMS can recorded them. This is done either using encoder appliances or hybrid recorders. When analog cameras are connected to encoder appliances, the same rules and issues apply to them as for IP cameras. However, when analog cameras are connected to hybrid recorders, their video feeds are recorded directly, providing a simpler connection.

When connecting analog encoder appliances or IP cameras, one of three approaches is typically taken:

  • RTSP
  • Direct Integration
  • 'Standards'

RTSP

While the least commonly used, this approach is the most 'universal'. RTSP is a truly standards based video streaming protocol, used in many IP video applications beyond surveillance. Because of its wide use and maturity, it can connect almost any IP camera to most VMSes. All one needs to verify is the camera's specific RTSP URL syntax (see a list for IP cameras) and that one's VMS supports RTSP feeds. However, RTSP only connects a video stream. It providers for no other functionalities (like changing the frame rate or resolution on the VMS side, controlling PTZs, toggling i/o, etc.) Because of this, it is used mostly as a last resort to connect two otherwise incompatible systems. [See a member's discussion on RTSP pros and cons.]

Direct Integration

Direct integration between an IP camera manufacturer and a VMS developer is the most common and reliable means of connection as the two parties share technical information and work together to ensure the integration works properly. Limitations to remember include:

  • Time consuming and costly: VMS developers are often reluctant to integrate new IP camera manufacturer or those with lower sales volume. As such, while nearly all VMS vendors support direct integration with some IP camera manufacturers, many only have direct support for a fraction of all IP cameras available.
  • Varies by model: Just because a VMS supports a specific manufacturer model does not mean they support all of the manufacturer's camera models. Users should check carefully that their specific model is supported and not just the manufacturer generally (i.e., do not just check if they support Sony, check if they support Sony SNC-CH240 or whatever specific model you will be using).
  • Varies in depth: Just because a VMS integrates with a specific camera manufacturer model does not mean they support control or configuration of every functionality on that camera. Typically, only a small subset of the more basic ones are integrated though sometimes more advanced are available. If this is important, check on the details.

'Standards' - ONVIF / PSIA

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Since 2008, the use of 'standards' to simplify and expand IP camera / VMS integration has been a big trend. Instead of directly integrating to the specifics of each IP camera manufacturer, a common method would be defined and used by all. Two significant groups emerged to battle to be that common method. ONVIF has won and PSIA has faded away for use with IP camera.

While ONVIF is not a 'true' standard, ratified by a standards body, within IP surveillance, it acts as a 'de facto' standard with the support of the biggest providers in the space and the adoption of more than 100 manufacturers. ONVIF experienced lots of problems in the field though these problems have diminished over the last 2 years.

ONVIF is a fairly reliable way to connect most cameras to most VMS systems for streaming video and control of basic functions like frame rate and resolution. However, more advanced functionalites like PTZ, i/o and motion detection still routinely suffer from integration problems. ONVIF actually uses RTSP but adds in more mechanisms to control and configure IP cameras.

Advanced Integration - PTZ Control, Panoramics

Controlling mechanical PTZs or dewarping video from panoramics are two advanced controls that are often not supported fully by VMS providers because of the significance increase in time and complexity of integrating them. Support certainly exists but the breadth of support can vary greatly among VMS providers.

Advanced Non Supported Functions

While IP cameras provide dozens of configuration options, typically only a handful of them may be configured / modified via the VMS. For instance, privacy masks, day/night settings, shutter speed and many more often must be done by connecting directly to the camera. Some VMSes do allow for configuration of more settings but it varies by VMS provider and IP camera manufacturer supported.

Unicast vs Multicast

Overwhelmingly, IP cameras use unicast to connect to VMS systems as they are direct streams from a single camera to a single recorder. However, sometimes, IP cameras use multicast to help facilitate connections to multiple recorder or live clients. For more on multicasting, see our multicasting for surveillance tutorial.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Directory of Video Intercoms on Nov 13, 2018
Video Intercoms, also known as Video Door-Phones or Video Entry Systems, have been growing in the past decade as more and more IP camera...
Magos Radar Company Profile on Nov 12, 2018
Magos America General Manager Yaron Zussman admits when he first came across Magos, he asked himself: "What's innovative about radar?" Be that as...
Axis 2N Intercom Tested on Nov 08, 2018
Axis expanded its video intercom business buying Czech-based 2N in 2016. Despite competing against owner Axis' intercoms, 2N recently registered as...
Dahua Dual Imager Dome Camera Tested (HDBW4231FN-E2-M) on Nov 07, 2018
Dahua has introduced a dual-imager dome model, the HDBW4231FN-E2-M, with two independently positionable sensors including integrated IR, not found...
Avigilon Opens Up Analytics And Cameras on Nov 06, 2018
Avigilon is opening up. The company historically famous for advocating its own end-to-end solutions and making it harder for 3rd parties to...
Worst Products on Nov 03, 2018
Security integrators periodically report on their favorite and worst products to IPVM. These are known integrators who IPVM pays to answer surveys....
Building Occupancy Codes and Access Control Tutorial on Nov 01, 2018
A building or room's classification can greatly impact which building codes must be followed. In terms of access control, these 'occupancy codes'...
Unisight Company Profile on Nov 01, 2018
Hikvision's largest US OEM, LTS has started to carry Unisight, whose products (shown below) look a lot like Hikvision's rival Dahua: Who is...
Contactless Access Credentials Guide on Oct 29, 2018
Contactless credentials are the most common component used in an access control system and while many look alike externally, important differences...
VMS Camera Management Shootout - Avigilon, Dahua, Exacq, Genetec, Hanwha, Hikvision, Milestone, Network Optix on Oct 29, 2018
Camera setup, configuration and maintenance are the most common tasks when managing a surveillance system. Who does it best and worst? Who offers...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Magos Radar Company Profile on Nov 12, 2018
Magos America General Manager Yaron Zussman admits when he first came across Magos, he asked himself: "What's innovative about radar?" Be that as...
Genetec Privacy Protector Tested on Nov 12, 2018
Genetec has built Kiwi Security's Privacy Protector into Security Center, an analytic which anonymizes individuals in cameras' fields of view...
Chinese Government Increases Hikvision Ownership on Nov 12, 2018
The Chinese government - Hikvision's controlling shareholder - is increasing its ownership of the video surveillance giant amid sharp stock price...
Axis: "No One Wants To Buy A Camera" on Nov 09, 2018
Axis has, in its own description, made a bold declaration: The industry is changing so rapidly that the following statement might seem bold but...
Video Surveillance Hard Drive Size Statistics 2018 on Nov 08, 2018
What is the most common hard drive size for video surveillance? 150+ integrators answered: What size hard drive do you most commonly use? What...
Axis 2N Intercom Tested on Nov 08, 2018
Axis expanded its video intercom business buying Czech-based 2N in 2016. Despite competing against owner Axis' intercoms, 2N recently registered as...
Haven Targets School Security with Lockdown Lineup on Nov 08, 2018
Haven, a US startup founded in 2014 as a residential-focused company, has now raised funding and is offering a lineup of commercial grade locks for...
Ubiquiti Protect Video Surveillance Profile on Nov 07, 2018
Ubiquiti has now been in the video surveillance market for 7 years (see our first coverage back in 2011). In that time, the company's revenue has...
Kogniz Silicon Valley AI Startup Profile on Nov 07, 2018
Kogniz is a Silicon Valley company that aims to bring AI analytics to security and surveillance, centering on their own smart cameras: We spoke...
Dahua Dual Imager Dome Camera Tested (HDBW4231FN-E2-M) on Nov 07, 2018
Dahua has introduced a dual-imager dome model, the HDBW4231FN-E2-M, with two independently positionable sensors including integrated IR, not found...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact