Exploring Details on H.264 Megapixel Cameras

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jun 22, 2008

H.264 megapixel camera support may be the hottest topic in all of video surveillance today. Nevertheless, details on how H.264 megapixel cameras will work have been somewhat hard to find.

Of the megapixel H.264 offerings, Arecont Vision's H.264's cameras certainly have had the most buzz. Today, I spoke with Michael Korkin, the Director of Engineering at Arecont Vision to examine the details of how it will work and what the overall impact on video surveillance systems will be.

First, some highlights:

  • Single Sensor H.264 cameras from Arecont are now available.
  • Arecont's H.264 adheres to the H.264 standard
  • Decoding H.264 will not increase computing costs for clients
  • NVR manufacturers are just starting to add support for the cameras

The rest of the article is technical so please be aware of that.

Now Available

The cameras just started shipping to the general public very recently. Because the cameras were announced months ago, a lot of questions and some concerns were expressed over when the cameras would be available. The single sensor cameras are available now and the dual sensor cameras (the day/nights) and the quad sensor cameras (360s) will be available soon

Adheres to the H.264 Standard

Arecont's cameras do adhere to the H.264 standard and can be used with standards based decoders/media players like Quicktime. When Arecont refers to their H.264 as being proprietary they are referring to their implementation of the encoder/fpga. This is contrast to other manufacturers who are using third party chips from the HD camcorder market.

This is good news for customers, partners and integrators as it means that they do not need to worry about a strange proprietary codec that many feared.

No Computation Increase for H.264 Decoding

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A big concern was the impact playing back H.264 video on end users PC would have. Dr Korkin informed me that head to head tests of the same settings for MJPEG and H.264 streams revealed that the decoding computation was equal or less for the H.264.

Given that H.264 was designed to work with low processing power hand held devices, this is reasonable. (Indeed H.264 decoding is less resource intensive than MPEG-4 decoding by design.) While H.264 does take much more computational power than MJPEG, the resources needed are mostly at the camera side for encoding (i.e., highly asymmetric). As such, that may not be a concern for users (nevertheless, this has been contested, see comments below).

NVR Manufacturers Are Working On Adding Support

Arecont Vision's own software supports the H.264 cameras as well as a few minor players. A number of the major NVR manufacturters are in development but have not released yet.

Given the demand for Arecont's products and that the codec is standards based, I would expect support to be added soon. That being said, obviously you need to verify with your NVR supplier.

The fact that Arecont's H.264 adheres to standards and if there is no decoding CPU penalty, this is good news for adoption of megapixel cameras (see comments below). Hopefully, some of the information shared can help you make better decision on designing systems and selecting products. Please share feedback or questions.

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