Exporting Video Surveillance Tutorial

By Ethan Ace, Published on Oct 05, 2017

Exporting video surveillance is important when incidents or crimes occur.

However, there are multiple ways to export video which have their pros and cons. In this note, we examine those ways and share feedback from integrators on their preferences and why they do what they do.

Exporting Options

At a high level, there are three general options for exporting:

  • Recording Screen With Cell Phone
  • Native/Embedded VMS Players
  • Standard Codec Formats

Using * **** *****

**** ** *** * legitimate ** *********** *** to ****** ***** *** we ******* ** ******* it ** ** ************ common *** ** ** so. *** ***** ** played **** ***** * person **** ***** ***** to ****** **** ** shown ** *** ******'* monitor. ** ***** **** in *** **** ********* (*** Easiest) *** ** ****** Surveillance *****.

Native/Embedded ******

**** *****/********* ***** ********* video ** ***** *** proprietary ******. ****** ******** of **** *******: ******* to **** **** ******** streams ** ***** **************, ability ** ****** *** video ******** *** *** been ********, ******** ******** such ** ********* *********, re-export **** ******** *******, changeable *******, ***. ************, users *** ***** ******** protect ******* ***** *********** players, *** ******** **** using ******** *******.

*** **** ******** ** embedded ******* ** **** many ***** *** ****** not ** **** ** run ****. *** *******, many ****** *********** ** not ***** ************ .*** files ** ***, ** corporate ** ****** ********* them, ********* ******** ** be ******** ** ******** formats. ************, *********** ****** players *** ***** ******* only, **** ** ****** for *** ** ***** users.

Standard ******* (***, ***, ***)

*******, ***** *** ********* be ******** ** ******** formats **** ** ***, MP4, ***, ***, *** others, ***** ** ********* preferred ** *** ****** ** not ******* *********** *******, and ********* **** ** operating ****** ******** ************, such ** ******* ***** Player ** *********. ******** ******* are **** ******** **** when ************* **** ** guaranteed, ** ******** ** law *********** **** * playable *** ** ********.

*******, ***** ******* *** ******* to * ****** ******, so ************** ******** ** multiple ******* ** ** event ** ******* *** possible. *** ******* ***** shows *** ***** ****** playing **** * ******** .mp4 ****.

**** ***** ******* ****** of * *****-***** ***** showing ******** *******, *** this ** *** * common ******* *** ********* scales ******* ** * lower **********.

VMS/Recorder *******

******* *** ****** ******* is *** *********. *** all ***** *** ********* include ****** ****** ******, especially ***** **** ******** options. *******, *** ***** standard ******* ******* ****, with *** **** ****** by ***.

***** ***** ********* ********* which ***** ****** *******, features **** ******. **** players ****** ***** ******** of * ****** ******, while ****** ***** *****-****** synchronized ********, ******* *********, and ****. 

***** ****** *********** ***** options * ***** ******** supports ** ******** ***** will ** * *** concern ** ***** ******.

Beware ******** ****** ******

**** ****** "********" ***** such ** *** *** MP4 *** ******** ** **** on ****** ***** *******, playback ****** *** *** uncommon, *** ** ******* codecs ** ****** *********** in ********. ***** *** manually ****** *** ******* missing ******, *** ** recommend ***** ********* ******* back ******** ***** ** multiple ******* (**** ** law *********** ** ********* investigations) ****** ******, ** ** **** found ** ***** **** the **** ******** ** export ******* ******* ***** (AVI, ***, ***, ***, MKV, *** ******). 

Export Preference **********

*********** **** ******* ***** ******* native ****** ******* *** standard *******, **** *** responses ** *** ********* question

**** ****** ** *** typically ****** ***** **? Why? **** ****** ******?

** ****** ***** ********* in ****** *****.

Native/Standalone ******* ******** ***** *********

**** ********, *********** **** they **** *** ********'*/***'* native ****** ******, **** the **** ****** ****** being **** **** *** so *** ************/***** ** custody ********, ** ********* standard ******* **** *** been ******* ** **** more *********.

  • "******** ** *********** ** the *** ************. ** usually **** ***** ****** or ***** ************ ********** of **** **** *** use ** ********."
  • "****** ***** ** * requirement *** ************ ******* recordings ** *** ** (for ********** ********). ** a ***** ** ****** is ********. ****, *** etc *** *** ** manipulated ** **** ****** integrity."
  • "** ******* ***** **** the *****-****** ******** **** the ******** ******. **** way ** ***** *** evidence *** *** ******** doesn't **** ** ***** about ****** *** ****** media ****** ** ***** PC. ** ****** **** of *** ***** *******, but **** **** ******* the ******** ******."
  • "** ****** ********* **** they ****** ** ****** format **** *** ***'* player. **** *** ** can ** **** ** court *** ***** *** evidence ************ *** ***** of *******."
  • "*********** ***** ****** ** what * ****** *********. Security **** ******** ***** is ********* *** ***** a ******** ****** (***, etc.) ** *** ****** and *** ***********. * prefer *** ******* ** password ******* *** ******* tamdpering."

Standard ******* *** **********

*** **** ****** ****** for ********* ** ******** file ******* *** **********, as ***** ***** ****** play ** ******** ******* already ********* ** *** OS. *** *** ** far *** **** ****** standard ****** ************ *****, followed ** *** *** ASF.

  • "*** *** ***** ******** it ** *********** *** easiest ** ******."
  • "*** ******* ** ** native ** *******."
  • "*** ** *** **** common, *** ** *** ease ** ******** ** almost *** ********."
  • "******* ****** ** ***. The *** **** **** for ** **** ****** footage ** *** *********** and *-******* **** ** interested *****. *** ***** very **** ****** **** devices."
  • "***- ***** ** ****** much **********. ** ****** can't **** ** ****, we ********* *** ******."
  • "*** ******* ** *** be ****** ** ****** any ******."

Standard ******* *** *** ***********/********

*******, ******* **** ******** *********** use ** * *** for ****** *******, **** using ******** ******* ******** that **** ******** ** AVI *** *** ***********, as ******** ********* ** instead ** *********** ******* which **** ***** ****** open. ************, ***** ******* are ***** ****** ** DVD *** ******** ** court, ****** ******** ******* simpler ** ***.

  • "*** ** *** **** accepted ****** **** * have **** **** *********. Even ****** ** *** be ********, *** **** that *** *** ****** and *** *********** *** not ******* ******** ** their **'* (** .***'*) to *** ****** ***** video ** *********** ****** formats. **** ********** **** proof **** *** ******* a *****. ****** ********* that **** ** ******* to ********."
  • "**** *** ******** *********, AVI. *** ****** ** I **** *** **** conversations **** *** *********** and **** ***'* **** ANY ***** ******* **** video. **** ***'* **** to ******* ***** *** they **** ** **** it ** * ***** room **** *** ****** and ***** ****. ** that ** **** * do. **** ********, * provide *** ***. **'* easy ****** ** ****** and ***** **** ** whats *********. * *** an ****** ***** **** is ******** **** ******** by ********* * ******* plate ******* *** ***** window **** * ***** Samsung **** ******. **** was ******** ******* * caught ** ***** *** fact *** *** ******** had *** ****** ** yet. *** ***** *** valid *** *** ** three *******."
  • "** ***** ***** *** video ** ***** ********* as ********, ** *** is **** ****** ** be **** ******* ** the ******** ****** *** the **** **** ** can ** ****** **** the ***** ******* ******."
  • ".***, .***, .***, ** the ****** *** **** it ******* *** ****** software."
  • "*** ******, ****** *** police ** ** ****** back ** ****** **. Never ** ***** ********."

Comments (10)

I have also seen standard formats struggle with video exported in corridor view mode. It plays but is just a black image. 

I export to the police a lot, and prefer to export to native. It will usually keep the video stream unchanged. It will also keep time reliably in sync. With standard video formats you either get the time burnt in, or get it as subtext. Some vms'es don't even give you that. All you get is the time in the filename, or the time from the camera, if that was kept in sync. Native format is way easier to work with, as long as the player is more than just a rebranded media player. And in my country, the police get sad if we don't include the playback software. I think they have special workstations for "iffy" software like vms playback software. Some old systems are not compatible with modern operating systems. For that we have wine and linux:)

If native format is unavailable, I prefer .mkv or .mp4, because of their ability to keep the original h264 stream from the camera unchanged in the container. But even with that choice, the stupid vms client sometimes re-encodes the video stream, potentially destroying information. Stuff like avi or asf are least favourable options, because it usually means the video stream will be re-encoded. I think I remember seeing h264 in an avi or asf file container, but I would think they were unplayable in regular players.

I will also say, that exporting and exported material, seems to be the least prioritized part of most vms systems. The big players often have the best solutions, but even they often feel unpolished. On cheap systems, I often find the export function to be at best a bad file copier, and at worst unworkable. I have come across systems that were so limited that putting a video camera in front of the screen would be the only practical option.

And a last note. If you want encrypted files, 7zip and stuff like that will do a nice job. Encrypted native file types just saves you some time and hassle.

"Standard Formats For Law Enforcement/Evidence" is completely wrong. It may be easier to play, but you are considering the video only for what regards corse visual information, and not as digital evidence as it is supposed to be. Would you do a ballistic analysis on a photo of a bullet rather than the bullet itself? This is exactly the same thing.

What is normally recommended for evidentiary use is to export to native AND standard.

What are the issues of the standard formats?

First of all, most of the players do a transcoding and not a simple rewrap. So a video (which may be already of bad quality) will lose the little detail left that could be fundamental for an investigation.

Second, using the standard format export as first step essentially breask the chain of custody needed for digital evidence. You *may* use it, but only if you have the ability to reproduce it starting from its native version.

Third, with the converted version normally you loose a lot of metadata, essential timing information and details on the encoding of the original. If you have access to the original file, you can analyze the type of macroblocks of every frame and then understand which data is reliable or not. This may help to understand if a specific detail of a license plate is a reliable digit or an aritifact of the compression.

In my company products Amped FIVE and Amped DVRConv, we provide a way to convert many of the DVR formats on the market without the need for the producer player. In most of the cases we are able to convert them essentially rewrapping, and thus avoid the transcoding which would cause the issues above.

We always recommend in critical cases to compare the results with the official player. It must be noted, however, that often even the official player is displaying incorrectly the actual data, for example using the wrong aspect ratio or image size.

Unfortunately surveillance companies give very little attention to the export format and the player and this is causing huge issues in the forensic video analysis community. At the end, sooner or later, footage from every system may be used for evidence.

Let's not even start on filming the monitor, this is the worse it can happen. Screen capturing the player, on the other side may be used only as last resort, where any other option available fails.

I export footage for our PD.  We have a municipal VMS and any export/archive is always native format 1st.  If an attorney wants to view it in a easy to read format, we can make a copy from the native format. 

I also have to visit a lot of businesses and pull footage from their NVRs because the owners don't know how.  A lot of the off brand, low end systems are plain terrible. 

I agree with Martino 100%, companies give very little attention to the export.

Seems like there is a lot of time and effort put into the cameras, live viewing and storage but disregard for the end result...exporting and handling the evidence.  It goes much deeper than getting it to play on another machine.

The whole process needs to be taken into account, from camera to courtroom.

What's your view on digital watermarking?

At the VMS, at the camera, or unnecessary?

 We watermark at the VMS.

Is it required by the Court to prove evidentiary chain of possession?

 Considering this is basically a 50/50 tie between native and other formats begs the question: if 50% of video evidence submitted is not native, does this mean that 50% of the cases are thrown out for chain of custody issues? I'm thinking not, or else it would be a know issue.

Tony, in general what we have seen is that video is accepted in whatever format it is given in, even cell phone hand held recordings.

The risk, from what we have seen, is whether the defense decides to challenge (and has the resources to do so). Generally, they do not but if they do, risks rise as the informality of the evidence handling increases. I think this is why some people are very adamant about chain of custody and watermarking, especially if they work with larger systems where more serious crimes occur.

We always teach customers to export in the native VMS format as with Avigilon you can export from the AVE again if you need a AVI or JPEG.  

That being said we have met with many different law enforcement agencies locally and they are more concerned about sharing the video and it being able to play in a courtroom then having the video watermarked to prove no one tampered with the video.  

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