VMS Export Shootout - Avigilon, Dahua, Exacq, Genetec, Hikvision, Milestone

By Sean Patton, Published Sep 13, 2018, 10:04am EDT

When crimes, accidents or problems occur, exporting video from one's video surveillance system is critical to proving incidents.

But who does it the best and worst?

We tested 6 manufacturers - Avigilon, Dahua, Exacq, Genetec, Hikvision and Milestone to see who did best and worst:

vms export shootout

We tested them across 10 categories rating each strong, average or poor, as the preview below shows:

Inside, we detail the full results including who won and lost overall and how the systems performed across each of those 10 categories:

Performance ********

***** ** *** *****, video ********* *********** ***** into ***** ******:

  • **** **********:********* *** *** *** performer *******, ****** ** 8 ** *** ** criteria, *** ****** ** only *. ***** ********* strongly ** * ** the ********, *** **** only ****** ** *.
  • ******* ***********: ******** ****** ******** ** as **** ******** ** Exacq *** ********* ****** in *. ******* *** strong ** * **********, but **** ****** ****** in * ********.
  • ***** ***********: ***** ********* ****** ********* the ******* ***** ** export, ******** ********** *** length ** ******. *********, Hikvision ********* ****** ** managing *** ********* *** exported *****. ** *** only *** **** ** watermarking *** ********** ***** they **** *** ****** poor ******. **** **** only ****** ** * out ** **.

Key ***************

*** ********* * ****** were ***** **** ****** the **** ******** ******* manufacturers:

  • ********** ****** ******: ***** ****** **** 1.6MB *** *****'* ***** Player, ** ** ***** for *******'* **** ******. A ******* ****** ** more ******** *** ******* to ******** ** *** PCs, ***** ** *** operation ******* ** * standalone ******.
  • ******** *** ******** ***** is ********** ** **** VMS *************: **** *** ***** has **** ********, ***** are ********* **** ******* with ******* ******** ** the **** ******* *** video. ***** *** ****** served ** ************* ** the *********** ** ****, share, *** ****** ****** files.
  • ** *********** ** ************ or ********** ** ******** video: *****, ******* ************ is *** ******** *** the ******** ** *** users, **** ********** *** security ** *** ****. Only **** ** *** VMSes ****** ******* *** ability ** ***** ********-********* encryption.
  • **** **** ********** *******:**** * *** ******** a ***** ********* **** size ***** ** ******** the ***** ********.

Criteria *** ******* ********

**** **-****** ***** ******* the ******** *** ********:

Summary ** *******

**** ***** ***** *** full ******* *** **** VMS ******* ********. **** of *** ******** **** "Single / *********** ******" and "****** ** *******" tested ******** **** **** VMSes, ***** "************/**********" *** "File **** **********" *** average ** **** ******* from * *** ** the *.

*** *** ***** ** the ***** ** ****** a ****** ****:

Difficulties ********* *** ***** *****

*** ******** *** **** of ********* ***** *** having * ** * clearly ******* *******, *** hidden ** *****-***** ******* menus. * ****** ******* "Export" ** "********" ** ideal, ******* ***** **** Genetec's ** **** ** Exacq's **** ***** ***** to ****** **** *** outdated **********.

** ******* ** * strong **** ****** ** Milestone's ****** ****** ****** is ******* ******* *** right **** ** *** timeline:

** ******* ** * poor **** ****** ** Dahua's ***** ********* **** and *** ****** ****** is ** * ****** sidebar ****:

Standalone ***** ****** ******

*** ********** ***** ****** test *** ****** ** feature ******* (*********** ********, digital ***, ***** ***** capture, ***) *** *********** (size ** ******). ***** and ***** **** ****** strongly ******* ** ***** feature *******, *** **** being ***** **** (***** 1.7MB, ***** ~****). *******'* player *** **** ******* support, *** ** ~***** is ****** **** **** full *** ******* (*******'* Security **** ** ~*.***). Hikvision's ****** *** ***** poorly ******* **** ******** single ****** ********, *** a *********-**-*** *********, ***** still ***** ~****.

*****'* ***** ****** ********* well ** ******* *** only ******** *.*** ** space:

*******'* ***** **** ****** also ********* **** ** testing, *** *** * massive ***+**:

Video ******** ********** ****

*** ******** *** **** of ******** ***** ******** was ****** ********** ***** automatically ******** *** ****** with *** ***** ***** that **** ******** ***** with *** ******, *** allow *********** *** ************ multiple ****** ********. ***** performers *****, *********, *** Avigilon ************* ********* *** video ** ******** ** to **** *** *****. Hikvision's ****** ****** *** user ** ****** ******* a ******* ******** ****** to **** *** ******** of *** ******** *****.

** ******* ** * good **** *****, *********'* "Exported *******" ********** **** automatically ********* *** **** tile(s) **** *** ********** video:

* **** **** ****** example ** *********'* ******, which ****** *** ** hunt *** **** *****, with ******* **** ******* a **** *** **** range, *** ** ****** reference ****:

File **** ********** *******/***-********

**** **** ********** *** judged ******* ** *** the *** ********* *** exported **** **** ***** to ******** *** ***** download. **** ********* ****** strongly ****, ********* ** estimate ** *** ****** Window. ********* *** ***** show *** **** **** in *** ****** ********* menu ***** ** ******** but ** *** **** a ***** ******** **** multiple ******* *** ********, and *** ******* ** KB ******* *********** ** MB ** **. ********, Exacq, *** ******* ***** poorly ** **** ******** because **** ** *** provide * **** **** estimate, **** ********** *** remaining **** **** **** the ***** ** ***********.

*** *** **** ****** in *******, ********* ********** the ******** ***** **** size *** ******** ** in *** ****** ******:

Export ******* ******* ** ****

******* ****** ****** *** judged ** *** **** a ********** ****** ***** file ***** ** ******** (less **** ** ***** was ****, *** ******** days *** ****). ********, Exacq, *** ********* *** allowed *****-*** ******* ** testing. ***** ****** ******** hours ** ** ********, but *** ***** ** downloaded ** ******* *-**** file **********.

Limited ****** ************ / **********

************ / ********** *** judged ** *** ******* to *** ** ******* a ******* ******** ********* and *** ** ********** password ** ******* ************ playback. **** ********* ****** watermarking *** * ******** to ** ******* ** an ******** *****. ******** and ******* ***** ******** encryption, ***** ************* **** a ******* ******** ** export. ******* **** ******** digital ************ **** ******* during ******* ***** ********* on *** ******.

VMS ******** ******

  • ******** *** *.**.*.**
  • ***** ***** *** *.**.*
  • *********** ****** *.*.*.******
  • ******* ******** ****** *.* SR2
  • ********* ****-****
  • ********* ******** ********* **** R2

Comments (66)

Sean, thanks, good testing!

A couple of notes:

(1) There are many other VMSes / NVRs. We picked 6 that we see commonly used. We are happy to test other VMSes and add other comparisons in the future.

(2) If you have questions or concerns about specific export features or specific implementations, let us know and we will be happy to address.

(3) We plan to do more VMS feature shootouts, with next being mobile apps for VMSes. Thoughts on this, please share.

So you compare free SmartPSS and ivms4200 Vs paid software. Why you didn't choose DSS Pro or HikCentral? 

Because that is what 99.9% of their users use. We are open to adding in additional platforms in the future as John noted.

Old Hikua position: Our NVRs / software is just as good as expensive VMSes, no one needs their bells and whistles anyway.

New Hikua position: Unbelievable! Why did you not test our paid versions that virtually none of our customers use???

Wow, you will never miss opportunity to bash on Hikua. I just asked simple question. 

Don't know about US, but here in CEE DSS Express (free version, 64cameras) is quite popular, because it fixes some anoying problems of smartpss (like lack of GPU decoding). I was just curious how this version and DSSPro (I don't know wherw you get your data about sales of this product...) Looks compared to more professional VMS. 

Also in future, if you have time of course, please use Nxwitness. It's great and also getting quite popular here in CEE and Nordic. 



Wow, you will never miss opportunity to bash on Hikua. I just asked simple question.

Dear Hikua employee, no you did not ask a 'simple question'. You set it up as a criticism:

So you compare free SmartPSS and ivms4200 Vs paid software. Why you didn't choose DSS Pro or HikCentral?

Sean has already answered why we did not choose it. We choose what we see from surveys are the most widely used products - neither DSS nor HikCentral are anywhere close to making that list.

It was simple question, and yes Sean answer is ok for me. Again, i was just curious how paid chiniese software compares to professional paid vms.  You have some kind of paranoia, seeing criticism from Hikua everywhere. Chill out a little bit. 

As for your comment, it is just passive aggression, not helping at all. 

Which VMS manufacturer is going to be the first to steal and implement as many good ideas from the other VMSes as they can?

There is a difference between implementing missing functionality and stealing. Steering product development to close feature gaps that are costing you business is smart, and legal.

I think it's very unfortunate that you do not cover OnSSI's Ocularis . It has so many advantages over the software you are covering. Especially in this case, the export of evidence is carried out simply and quickly and any operator can implement even without guidance.

We are currently working on an OnSSI update profile post, but they are not used as frequently as the VMSes we tested, so they were not included.

It has so many advantages over the software you are covering

any operator can implement without guidance

Is there something specific or novel about their approach to exporting video that is vastly different from other VMSes?

They have a fancy time slides bar at the bottom you can zip through the footage at the mere touch of your finger. Touch screen monitor required.

OnSSI's Ocularis

Hey, now THERE is a name I haven't heard in a while!


The attached video shows how simple it is ...

OnSSI Ocularis - Video Exporting



I watched the video and have a few initial questions:

  • When I'm on the "Export to Database Format" window, can I increase the export time on one of the cameras an extra 15 minutes longer?
  • Related, it doesn't look like the Export window tells me the start and stop time of the select video. Am I missing that?
  • Additionally, does your software tell me how large the exported project is going to be once I've selected the 3 cameras, with 4 hours of continuous recording?


During the drill, the selected section is clearly marked and can be changed simply, you move to the export window After you have set the start and the stop time Just like a professional video editing software, if you still want to change, you can close the window to change the time and export again.

The size of the segment does not really matter because in any case it is transferred to external media and can not be sent in electronic distribution, of course there are additional export options that can be sent.

The bottom line is... speed, efficiency security and time savings are worth every cosmetic feature

I wouldn't consider any of the features I was asking about cosmetic. Confirming what the start and stop time of the exported video simply makes it easier on the end user. 

Also, you say the size of the segment does not really matter. However, if I have a 128GB C:\ drive on my Windows PC, with 25 GB of free space, and I have to export 30GB of video to the C:\ drive, does the software tell you there isn't enough free space when you start the export?

These are things that could cause problems with any operator.

I'm not saying that what you wrote is not important, I just point out that it's not complicated to close the export window to check or change the time period and go back to the export window.


I guess if you want to save a long period of video you will not save it to drive C if you made a mistake, the software will actually let you know that there is not enough space on the destination disk

For me for example, stability and reliability of exports are very important and I would be happy if you can check the stability of exporting data when there is a bandwidth limitation, for example when not in the same local LAN, I doubt that the software you have tested can maintain the reliability and stability in export ....

We are an OnSSI Channel, have been since the early versions of NetDVMS...  Current versions of Ocularis are very stable for exports, I think this is a good point. 

Sean's comment on knowing the approximate size of an export is also a good point, I don't want this to be so easily dismissed. 

We have requested numerous times over the years that OnSSI include a "file size estimate" based on a specific avi compressor (we have used XVID for a lot of years), and also an Estimate based on Native Format export.  Lots of lower-end NVR's include this feature.  This is one of the #1 issues techs have run into, and customers have asked for.  Seems like everyone forgets about the export process or how you will disseminate it.

For example, customer has a 2 TB external HD or thumb drive, will the Native Format export fit on it?  Or, customer wants to export a very short AVI clip, but make sure that it can still be emailed (IE, typically you'd want to stay under 20MB or 25MB) to be able to send via email...

Well that's 4 minutes I'll never get back.

Considering the video appears on the OnSSI "channel" you might want to check out that whole spell check thing.  It might help people who are considering OnSSI again.  Seriously.  

Great shootout on exporting Sean.

I agree with your article based on the RFP testing I performed on the top four vendors listed. In the end I chose Milestone. Exacq worked well but Milestone beat them out overall in my RFP.

I did not see any explanation on why you gave Milestone a mid-level score on the stand alone player though.

There are still many improvements to be made by Milestone, specifically with the user interface but it was still the easiest to use and the easiest to train your end users on.

I feel Milestone needs more export options as the files sizes are pretty large. Most end users do not want to export in Xprotect format for day to day use.

Finally, although not export related, when performing a sequence, bookmark or smart search, the interface could be much more intuitive for end users. I personally understand it but after training a couple of hundred users, I've realized the layout on this tab is horrible for the basic user.

Milestone was hurt by the size and complexity of the player, at over 200MB, compared to 1.6MB or ~15MB respectively for Dahua and Exacq.

Hi Dwayne,

When you say you "feel that Milestone needs more export options as the files size are pretty large", are you referring to AVI exports?  If so, the Smart Client will show whichever AVI codecs are installed on the computer.  By default, that is just the codecs that are included with Windows and they are not very good (either produce really good video but the file sizes are very large or they produce very poor video but the file sizes are smaller).

For AVI exports, I typically recommend installing the Xvid codec.  It strikes a really good balance of file size compared to quality.

If you were referring to something else, can you expand on that?  We are always looking for feedback.

Good report Sean.  I am thinking you all had this in the works for sometime, but in the future maybe just skip giving press to those that are banished to their own corner of the world.  

I would love to see added to future reports how well various vms integrate to access control platforms such as Brivo, Lenel, ProWatch, etc. for alarm video verification.

Useful article.  Thank you.

I'll be anxiously awaiting your mobile shootout.

I would also recommend a mobile shootout of the NVR products.  I've found they are not very user-friendly with poor UI design.  It would be interesting to see who has a leg up.  I would also ask you to include Lilin in that.  Once I realized they weren't OEM'ing other cameras they have come into my radar as a possible budget camera option.

There won't be a mobile shootout. IVMS4500 has been the class leader for a long time so a shootout won't be on the cards. 

There won't be a mobile shootout. IVMS4500 has been the class leader for a long time so a shootout won't be on the cards.

What? Are you speaking for IPVM?

There will be a mobile shootout. Sean is already working on it and it will be released in October. As for who the class leader is, we won't have an opinion on that until we finish testing.

Related, later this week, we will post our draft criteria for the mobile shootout so members can provide feedback and input.

I don't even know what IVMS4500 is.

Hi Sean,


you said Avigilon only protect the export files with a password, but you forgot that if you export in native AVE file, it's digitally protected and you can check if there are any modified frames. I think it's more clear. The idea of a visible watermark,is horrible to me. It's a modification of the original image and this is crazy if you want to trust the video file. You want to trust that is not modified (AVI videos are so easy to modify, and difficult to detect) and you're modifing the file. WTH !! :)

The biggest issue with most of VMSs (not to mention DVRs) is the use of proprietary formats and the fact that the files need a second export, when possible at all, to convert them to a standard video format. This is needed to perform a forensic analysis of the video, since the native players are too limiting. After all, one of the main purposes of video surveillance is to use the result as evidence.

Unfortunately most of the companies working in the video surveillance industry do not consider the needs of law enforcement and forensic video labs.

In forensic video analysis mailing lists 9 questions out of 10 are of the kind: "how to play format xyz?" And since CCTV systems are often very old or outdated, there are literally thousands of different players versions from various producers that fail on modern PCs, introduce serious security issues, are not able to export standard videos, or they do it with a dramatic loss of quality, and so on.

On a shootout like this, I would like to see additional points like

a) Is the normal export in a standard or proprietary format?

b) Does it allow to export in a standard format?

c) When exporting in a standard format, is it doing a simple rewrapping or a transcoding?

Why are these so important? With every transcoding there is some loss of quality; it can be not visible with the naked eye, but can cause the loss of critical details during a forensic video analysis job. But that's not all, a transcoding will cause a change in the frames structure, which frames are of type I, P, B, GOP size and reliability of macroblocks inside every frame.

Forensic video analysts routinely analyze (if possible) the kind of frame and macroblocks, and these sometimes contain very important data for a case (i.e. is this a compression artifact or a license plate character?).

Working on a transcoded video is like performing a ballistic analysis on the photo of a gun, rather that the gun itself. And let not me start about screen capturing video, this must be the last resort.


Thanks for the input Martino, I agree with your thoughts and concerns. I can address a couple of your points pretty easily.

I don't know if "normal" is necessarily the right way to put it, but the default export choice for all except Hikvision (only provides MP4 export) was a proprietary export.

All of the VMS tested provide at least one standard format (MP4, AVI, ASF) export. However, there is the concern of losing the digital watermark/checksum when exporting in those standard formats.

When exporting in a standard format, is it doing a simple rewrapping or a transcoding?

We did not ask the manufacturers about this, but I do agree it is a good concern. I will follow up and update.


Hi Sean, thanks a lot for your feedback. Just to clear: my concern was not about the article but the technology of basically all the producers and the issues that the use of proprietary formats causes during investigations.

I understand Martino, no worries, but I do believe the transcoding vs rewrapping question is interesting and shouldn't be difficult for most of the manufacturers to answer.

Hi, I'm the Product Line Manager for Video at Genetec. When exporting, we are rewrapping video packets in the container in the case of MP4. As for ASF, we have to transcode.

Hi David, thanks for the information.

Hi Sean. MP4 is always rewrapping (this the reason to introduce it), so export works very fast. And AVI is always transcoding. So, I think, that most important feature of any VMS is to check that both supported. Because with mp4 you get export in seconds, but with AVI you are sure that this file playable on any computer.

Hi Murat, thanks for the information.

Not sure if the other systems can do this but with Avigilon we always tell customers to export in Avigilon's proprietary AVE format because it gives end users all the features of the client software (searching, digital zoom, scrubings, multicamera playback) plus you can always export from the player software to a non-proprietary formate at any time from the exported video.

Sean how many of the VMSs have "story board" feature when it comes to exporting video?  When you have a incident which happens across many cameras where you can join the clips togeather so they play back in a logical order?


I’m also not sure about others, but AxxonNext has “story board”. It is really very useful feature.

Hi Michael, do you know if the export to a non-proprietary format does rewrapping or transcoding?



In Digifort with our API you call any video recorded you want for your forensic tool.

If you need more information, contact me on flevy@digifort.com

Thanks Francois, I will!

I recommend adding DW Spectrum software to this shootout. I can absolutely say that the search/playback/export function is simple and fast.

I'm also a Milestone Xprotect user, however when it comes to finding and exporting footage quickly, I have to give it to Digital Watchdog.

For those who use DW 3.x do you agree?

Thanks UI5, we will note that, also keep in mind this test was just for Exporting, not for search, that is another test we have discussed and will be doing in the future.

Well, personally I prefer exporting from DW Spectrum to exporting from Avigilon. Avigilon does provide a ton of option shortcuts that essentially all lead to the same export screen though and it depends how you are trying to drill down data.

Spectrum’s export does provide an option where it provides a full featured program with the exported video so it looks the same on another device as it did from the export machine. You can then further export exactly what you need at a later point without being stuck with one format.

in my area, officers/detectives have stated multiple times they want/prefer AVI files so that they can easily playback. The issue with what I mentioned previously with a .exe file or similar is that often times the machines officers are using are somewhat locked down and don’t allow running certain file types without clearance.

I did have video footage from Spectrum that captured a license plate through the front door windo glass that led to arrest and prosecution. I provided the executable at that time.

Recently, I had a break in at a restaurant with a Dahua recorder. The owner said the police were sending a video expert to get the footage. Perhaps they are trying to fill a need in our local law enforcement. That is good when dealing with Dahua, because exporting is a pain when you have the recorders set to record all the time, but change the quality on motion events.

We have a lot of law enforcement customers using Avigilon which use the no-install player which works even if you don't have admin writes on the computer.  Have you used that player?

I think the problem is not the player in itself, but the fact that being able to just play the video is just the first step. No player is adequate to perform a real video analysis (it's not its purpose),  and thus you always need to export the video to a standard format possibly without quality and metadata loss to perform the analysis.

The other issue is that in many investigations there is not a single surveillance system, hence the officers needs many different players, of different quality and features, just to get an idea of what happened across many cameras.

I agree that this is an issue.  We had a meeting with a city police department that wanted to figure out a "universal player" for all the video they get.  What they wanted to do was get one machine loaded with all the players than us a screen recording software to record the video so they could share a none proprietary video.  I mentioned this could be an issue going to court but they were more concerned with playing the video on any machine then having to prove the video was not tampered with. 


I think Genetec Clearance is a step in the right direction. 

I Michael this is exactly the reason why we have created DVRConv. You can check it here if you are interested.


I read some on your DVRConv. Question: The intro says:

Videos from proprietary DVR systems (Digital Video Recorders), CCTV systems (Closed Circuit Television), dash cams, body worn cameras and any other video source, can now be converted with just one click.

And the FAQ mentions:

Directly from Amped DVRConv, you can access our upload page to send videos to our server so our team can analyze them and if possible add support for their formats in the next release. Normally, we are able to provide feedback on the feasibility of the conversion within one - two working days. Typically, we are able to convert more than 80% of the new formats sent by users.

Is Amped then figuring out how to convert each proprietary player and then adding it into DVRConv or?

I see the value in it just trying to understand how you can accomplish this across so many different systems.

Hi John,

it really depends on the system. The bottom line is that many proprietary formats are actually variations (more or less complicated) of standard ones. For some we use official SDK from producers.

Martino, how much does it cost? I went to the purchase page but no pricing information.

Our pricing is not public and we are not selling to everybody. Our main customers are in government and law enforcement. For more info please contact me privately.


Never had the chance to meet, looking forward to it.

Interesting benchmark, even more interesting if you have more VMS in the race .... I am sure you guess the one I am thinking of ;-)

Thank you in advance.


For quick back up of a single camera in PSS use the scissors function. use the roller on your mouse to zoom in on the part of the time line your interested in then click the scissors button (located bottom left below time line) then click the time line again at the end of the part of the incident. The save box appears straight away and you choose the location to download. Very similar to milestones 'time selection mode'. If you change the playback view to four / eight cameras you will have multiple time lines at the bottom of PSS you can then use the scissors function to cut segments of video out of each camera the incident span's across. Agreed the hidden back up menu is a pain, but from experience and simplicity the scissors function is far quicker

Selecting the area of export, masking areas, adding text comments - not supported by that VMSes or not covered ?

Were any of the tests done with recorded audio?  I'd e interested to know how well the exports handle situations where the cameras recorded audio, either natively or through an external mic.  I had heard of issues with some VMSs where the audio & video were out of sync. Thanks.

Please add Salient VMS to the test next time. 

Thank you for the report 

We have been in contact with Salient, and plan to do a full report on them when their new VMS comes out

Why was Digital Watchdog Spectrum not included in this "shootout?"

Thanks for your first comment UEU9, for similar reasons as the other VMSes we didn't include; the line was drawn at 6 manufacturers for this shootout, unfortunately DW Spectrum was not included. Now that we have a baseline of tests/criteria we will be testing more.

IPVM well done comparasion and very good and useful information for this industry to make intelligent decisions which normally aren't made. 

Excellent recap! I'd love to see one where the investigative features are compared, at least for the US Government legal VMS's. I've wondered how easy Genetec is compared to Milestone for things like fast forwarding, rewinding, skipping to various locations of video across multiple days, searching for motion, locating cameras to track subjects across large areas and setting up multi-camera displays. 

Genetec, Milestone and Exacq are still using the SSA model, huh? How Quaint. Remind me, does Windows charge you for updates within the same software model? (I.E. if you own Windows 7, you get all the patches and updates for the supported software life)

Why are we still putting up with it for VMS software? 

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: Genetec, Milestone And Exacq Are Still Using The SSA Model - Why Are We Still Putting Up With It?

Hey John and Sean - Would be great to see you guys do a follow up test with some additional brands. Would be interested to hear your feedback on the Enhanced Export feature we announced in v3.2.

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