Gain / AGC for Video Surveillance Guide

Author: John Honovich, Published on Apr 23, 2015

Gain control is a critical, though often overlooked, factor in low light surveillance video. It is generally only noticed when the negative side effective of aggressive gain levels are seen, namely noise / snow on screen. The picture below, from one of our parking lot tests, is a prime example of this problem:

Clearly, the noise is a problem and ideally you would want to remove it. This raises important questions about how to use gain control effectively.

In the introductory video below, we provide a real-time demonstration of gain control:

To learn more, we conducted a series of experiments in a variety of scenes. For each scene, we captured video, images and bandwidth consumption. Here are the scenes we tested:

  • Black and White Mode .5 Lux (Dark)
  • Black and White Mode 20 lux (Low Light)
  • Color Mode 4 Lux (Moderately Dark)
  • Color Mode 300 Lux (Daytime)

Our testing was done across 3 HD cameras from Avigilon, Axis and Bosch to see a range of performances.

Inside the Pro section, we share our results and answer the following key questions:

  • How significant does image quality vary with different gain control settings?
  • Should you use gain control?
  • What is the right gain control settings to use?
  • What alternatives should you seek to using gain control?
  • How do manufacturers approach to gain control differ?
  • How does gain control differ between Black & White and Color modes?
  • What is the bandwidth impact of different gain control settings? What impact does light levels have on bandwidth impact?
  • What impact do VBR and CBR streaming modes have on using gain control?
  • What impact does digital noise reduction (include 2D and 3D DBR) have?

**** ******* ** * ********, ****** ***** **********, ****** ** low ***** ************ *****. ** ** ********* **** ******* **** the ******** **** ********* ** ********** **** ****** *** ****, namely ***** / **** ** ******. *** ******* *****, **** one ** *** ******* *** *****, ** * ***** ******* of **** *******:

*******, *** ***** ** * ******* *** ******* *** ***** want ** ****** **. **** ****** ********* ********* ***** *** to *** **** ******* ***********.

** *** ************ ***** *****, ** ******* * ****-**** ************* of **** *******:

** ***** ****, ** ********* * ****** ** *********** ** a ******* ** ******. *** **** *****, ** ******** *****, images *** ********* ***********. **** *** *** ****** ** ******:

  • ***** *** ***** **** .* *** (****)
  • ***** *** ***** **** ** *** (*** *****)
  • ***** **** * *** (********** ****)
  • ***** **** *** *** (*******)

*** ******* *** **** ****** * ** ******* **** ********, Axis *** ***** ** *** * ***** ** ************.

****** *** *** *******, ** ***** *** ******* *** ****** the ********* *** *********:

  • *** *********** **** ***** ******* **** **** ********* **** ******* settings?
  • ****** *** *** **** *******?
  • **** ** *** ***** **** ******* ******** ** ***?
  • **** ************ ****** *** **** ** ***** **** *******?
  • *** ** ************* ******** ** **** ******* ******?
  • *** **** **** ******* ****** ******* ***** & ***** *** Color *****?
  • **** ** *** ********* ****** ** ********* **** ******* ********? What ****** **** ***** ****** **** ** ********* ******?
  • **** ****** ** *** *** *** ********* ***** **** ** using **** *******?
  • **** ****** **** ******* ***** ********* (******* ** *** ** DBR) ****?

[***************]

Key ********

***'* ***** **** *** *** ******** ** *** *****:

  • Gain ******* **** *********: In almost any night time scenes, without gain control, surveillance video would be very dark and almost practically useless. While gain control is generally ignored, its role is critical. In low light conditions, trying to turn it off to remove the grain/noise will only result in far worse video quality.
  • Gain ******* ** *********: As the name states, Automatic Gain Control, is automatically controlled by almost every camera. While it can produce lots of noise, disabling it generally will make things even worse.
  • Aggressive ***: Unlike in ********** *********** ***** **** ******* ** **** ********* *** ** **********, ************ ****** ************* **** to *** ******* ******* ** **** *******. **** ** ********* because ****** ** **** ********, ** ** **** **** ** control ***** ******** ** ************.
  • Adjusting **** *******: If you want to minimize the bandwidth impact and visual noise inherent in gain control, the two gain adjustments possible are (1) fixing the gain or (2) capping the gain. The former is dangerous unlike you can guarantee constant lighting. The latter, assigning a cap, can be useful.
  • Gain *** *&* *** *****: Both B&W and Color modes use gain and display similar characteristics - bandwidth spikes, visual noise, etc. The big difference is that cameras activate gain at much higher light levels for color than in black & white modes (color at ~50 lux, b&w at ~20 lux).
  • Gain *** ********* ********* ******* **********: As gain increases, bandwidth increases as well in a hockey stick curve. Interestingly, this appears to occur regardless of the light level or mode used.
  • Use ***: Since bandwidth is nearly guaranteed to spike as gain increases, we strongly recommend setting a ******* *** ****.

***** ** * ***** **** ***** *** ******** *** *** findings **** ********** ** *** **** ***** *** ******:

Configuring *** ********** ****

**** ** ********* ********** ** *** *****:

  • ******: *** *******, ****, ******, *** - **** ** * coarse ******* *******.
  • ***: *** *******, ***, ****, ****, ***. * **** **** control, *** ***** ***** ** ** **** *** (***) ** 30dB (**** **********).

**** ** ********** ********* ** *** ** ***** **********:

  • ****: ** *******, **** ******* ************* ********* **** ***** **** ****** be.
  • *****: ** ** ***********, * **** *** **** **** ** a ******** ***** (*.*., ****** * **). **** *** ** dangerous - ** *** ** **** ** *** *** * level (**** ***) *** *** ***** ******* **** ********** **** (say * ***), *** ***** ******* ** ***** ** ** quite ****. ** *** ***** ****, ** *** *** ** at * **** ***** (*** ** ***) *** *** ***** becomes ******, *** ***** **** ** ********* ** ***** ***** / *****.
  • ***: **** ******* ***** *** ***** ** *** *** ******* gain *** ****** *** ******. **** ****** *** ****** *** autonomy ** ********* *** **** *** ****** ** **** ***** too **** *** ** *****'* **********. **** *** ** ****** for ******** **** ****** ***** *** ******** ********* ******. *******, of ******, **** ** **** **** **** **** **** *** image darker **** ******** **** *** ****.

*** ***** ***** ******** ************** ** *** ** *** *** optimize **** ***** **** *** ***** ******* ** ** *******:

Gain *** ********** ****** *************

******, **** ** * ************* **** *** **** **** ****** (e.g., **** ** ****), ** **** *** **** **** *** the '****' ** ******* *** '****' *** ***** ***********. *** they *** **** / ******* ***** *** ****** ****.

Gain *** ***** *** ***** ***********

*** *** ** ***** ** ************* ********* ***** *** ***** performance, **** ***** **** ***********, ************, *******, ***********, ***. *** of ***** *** ***** ******** ***** ** **** ******* ** improve *** ***** ***** *******. *******, **** '***********' **** *******, they **** ** ******** ********* *********** ******* (****** ** *** much ****** ********* ** ******** ********* ************** ***). ***** *** ***** **** ***, *******, ******* ** nor ******* *******. *** ******* ************* ***** **** ******** **** control / ***** **********.

**** *** *** *** ***** *** **** ****** ** ******** abstractly. *** *** ****** *** *****, *.*., ***** *** ***** ** ********** ** ******** *** ********** ****** ******* ** *** ***-***** ***********.

Varying **** ******* **************

** *** * ***** ** *** **** ******* ******* ***** quality, *** ***** *********** **** *** **** ***** **** *** same ******** **** ********* **** ******. *** *** ***** *** the ******* ****** ** **** **** **** ********** ***** ** a ***** **** *****. **** * ****:

** *** ***** *****, ****** ****** ***** ***** **** *** top ***** ** *** ****. **** **** **** *****, **** gain ******* ******** ** **** ******** ***. ******, **** **** 3dB ** ****, *** ***** ** ***** *****.

***'* ******** ** ******* ***** ***** **** *** *** ****** of *****. **** * ****:

***** ** *** ***** ** ******? **** *** ** ********* much **** ******* **** *** ***** ***** **** *** * lux ********. ** **** *****, **** ** ***, *** ***** with ******* **** ** ******** **** *** ******* **** * lot ** ****** *****. *** ****** ******** **** ****** **** less ****, ****** *** ***** ****** ***** ** *** *** gain ****** **** ****. ** * ***** ** *********, ** estimate **** ******'* ********* **** ******* *** **** ***** ** be ***** * ** * **.

Color **** - **** ******

*** **** ********* **** **** ******** ****** **** ***** ****. The *** **********, ** *** ********** ***** ***** ** **** with *****, **** ** ****** **** **** ** ****** ***** levels. ** *******, ** * ***, *** * ******* ************* adjusted ***** **** ******* ** ******* ******. *** *** *** this **** *** ***** ******* ***** ****** **** *****.

** ********, **** **** ********, *** ****** *** ************* ****** and *** ****** *** **** ******* (*****), ******* (********) ** altered (** ** *** **** **** *** **** ******).

Gain's ****** ** *********

*** ** *** **** *** ***** ******** ** *** ***** surveillance ** ********* ********* ***********. ******* *** **** *********** ******* of **** **** ** *** ****** *********** ** **** ****** and *********, ********** ** *** **** ** *** ****** ** the ***** ***** ** *** *****.

***** ** * ***** **** ******* *** ************. *** ******* are ***** ** .* *** *&* **** *** **** ****** the **** ******* *** ********* **** ****** ***** ******, ***** mode *** *** ******** ******.

*** ********* ******* ******* ************ ***** ** **** ****** ********. We **** ******* **** ******* **** **** **** ***** *** very **** ********* *********** ** *** *****. **** ***** ** be ** ******* ** ************ ******** ********** ******** *** ********* gain *******.

***** ** ****, ** ********* *** ***** **** *** ***** bandwidth ***********. ** ** ** ***** ****, *** ** * gain ******* *** ****** *** *** ******** ** **** *** manufacturer's ******* *******.

*** ***** ****** ** ** ******. *** ***** ***** ***** *** **** ******* ** ****** a ***** **** ******* **** *** ******** *** ********* ** 1 **/*. *** ******* ***** ******* ** *********** ********* *** at * ******** ** *** *********.

Gain's ****** ****** *******

*******, **** ** * ******* ********** ** **** ****** ***** levels, **** ******** *** ******* ******. **** * **** *** compare *** *********** ********. ******* *** **** *********** ******* ** saw **** *** **** **** ****** ***** (*** *** ** the ****** ** *** **********), *** ******** ******* ** ******* the ******** ***** *******. *******, **** *** ****, ********'* ***** essentially **********.

Digital ***** ********* *** ****

** ******* *** ****** * ********** ** ****** *** ***** generated ** **** **** ******, ***** ** ******* ***** ********* (***).

*** **** ** ****** ******* ***** ** ********** ********** ****** (2 ***********) ** ****** * ****** ** ****** (* ***********) to ******** ***** ******* ** ***** ** ********* **** ** and ** *** *****. ** ******** ******* ***** ** *** image, ********* ************ *** **** *******, ********* ************.

*** *******, ****** * ****** ** ******* **** ** *** bandwidth **. *** ***** *** *** *****, ******** ********* ** nearly *** **** *** ** ***** ******* ***** *** (** ******* ** 10 **/* **. ~*.* **/*). ******* *** **, ***** ****** dropped ** ~** (~*.** **. ~*.* **/*), ***** ***********, *** much ******** ****** *** ***** ***.

*******, ***** ****** ** ******* *** ** ***** *** **** digital ***** *********, ** **** ****** *** ****** **** ** moving *******, ******* ** ********** ** **** *******.

*** **** *******, *** *** ****** ******* ***** ********* ***** *** ******* ********* **. *** *****.

Quiz ******** ** *** / ****

**** *** *** / **** **** ***.

Comments (6)

****: *** ***** ******* ** **** **** *** ******* ** 2011. ** **** ******* ** ************* ****** ** ******** ***** 'super *** *****' *** ******* ***** *********, *** *** ************* advances **** **** ******** ** *** **** * *****.

* ******** ***** *** ***** ****** *** *** ***** ***...?

************* **** ********** *** **** *** *** ************** *******:

...******* ***** ********* ** ****** **** ** ***** ********** ********** to ********* ******* *****. *** ******* ** ** ******* ***** quality *** ***** *** ********* **** *** ********...

**** *** ****** * ********* ********. *** ***** ****** ** meticulously ****** *** ** *****the **** *** ******* ***** ********* ** *********. The advantage of this system is that it does not need any computing power or extra equipment, such as fans. Instead, it removes the noise ‘from the source’. ****** ********* - **** ****

****, **** ****** *** ********* ***** (****** *** **) *** gritty, **** ***** ******* ***.

***** ******* ** * ***'* *** **, ** ****, ****** as * ******** ******* ****** * ***, **** ** *** best *** ** *******/******* ***** ** *******?

**** ****** **** *** ****** *** ***** ***** **** ****** from *** **** ** *** ****? ** *** **** ** shutter ***** *** *** ** ****** ** ********** *** *** excessive ****?

***** * ***** ****** * *** * ****** ********* ***** was ** ******* **** ** **** *** ****** ** *** noise *** **** ** ****** ********* *********. *** ******* *** of ****** ** * ****, ** ** ****** ** ********* to **** ***** ***** *** ** **** '*****'', **** ****** without ***** ***** ********, ***** *********, *********(*) ** ***-******** *****, thus ********* **** ***** ***** *** ********** ********* ** ***** data.

*** ***** *** ** * *******, *** ** ****'* **** it ** ** ***** ** *** *****. ** ****, ** the ***** ************* ** ****** (********, ****, *****, ****, ********, *********, *******), **** ** **** ********** ********* ***** ** ***** ** dark ******. ******* ** ******* * **** ** ******* ******* by * ****** ** * *** ******* ********* ******, ***, but **** *****, **.

******** ** ***** ***,**** ** ********** ****** ***, **** ** **** ********.

****, **** ********** ** ******** **** *** **** *******, ***** gain ****** *** **** ***** *** ******** **** ******, ***** the *********** **** ****** ***** ** *** *****.

*'* *** ****** ** ***'* ******, *** *'* **** ** does, *** ** ***** *** ******* * *** ******, *** problem ** *** ***** ********* *** ** ***** ** ** least *******.

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