HDcctv / HD SDI Incompatibility Concerns

Published Sep 11, 2011 00:00 AM
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Incompatibility between cameras and recorders are a major source of concern. It is an issue that the HDcctv Alliance has repeatedly raised and criticized for IP cameras [link no longer available]. Now, with the Alliance announcing its Version 2.0 specification, they are confronting their own interoperability problems as a schism grows between Alliance providers and HD SDI offerings. In this note, we examine the issue, the potential problems and future impact.


The HDcctv Alliance itself sees this as a growing concern. In an August 2011 presentation in Beijing, the Alliance stresses the importance of using HDcctv certified products rather than HD SDI. Specifically, the Alliance notes that V1.0 HDcctv is more than HD SDI and that V2.0 HDcctv is not guaranteed to work with HD SDI.

The challenge is that, while manufacturers are experimenting with digital HD video over coax, many are implementing HD SDI products, rather than conforming to the HDcctv specification (e.g., the HDcctv Compliant Product Finder only returns 3 manufacturers of compliant cameras). As a practical issue today, according to HDcctv sources, this is unlikely to be a real world technical problem. Interfacing non compliant HD SDI cameras to Version 1.0 recorders should still work.

Advancing Specification

Going forward, as the HDcctv Alliance evolves its specification, the practical issues will become significant. For instance, the HDcctv Specification 2.0 supports much longer cable runs (based on the Gennum Aviia reference design [link no longer available]). To achieve these longer runs, modest levels of encoding will occur on the camera side and decoding on the recorder side. As such, connecting an HDcctv V2.0 camera to an HD SDI recorder is unlikely to work as the electronics will be fundamentally incompatible.

The HDcctv Alliance understandably recognizes the importance of ensuring interoperability. Having various incompatible HD digital products will cause customer dissatisfaction, limit growth, etc.

Why This is Happening

While the biggest risks remains the relatively high pricing of HDcctv products, limited product availability and requirement of new DVRs, incompatibility could grow as another issue. We see 3 reasons contributing to this:

  • No large surveillance company leadership: The three core members do not have significant status in the surveillance industry (CSST is in trouble and invests almost nothing in R&D, Gennum is an outsider and Stretch is a component supplier). There is no company to 'rally around.' Like Axis or not, Axis was big enough that many small manufacturers choose ONVIF to piggyback off Axis's efforts.
  • Controversial / Negative promotion: The HDcctv Alliance has engaged in an unprecedented negative campaign that has alienated or scared many in the industry, even potential allies. We looked at this last year: "Is the HDcctv Alliance Shooting itself in the foot?" These tactics continue today unabated.
  • Conflict of Interest: The Executive Director of the HDcctv Alliance has started his own manufacturer/reseller, the eponymously named Rockoff Security [link no longer available] with the motto of "The First Name in HDcctv" that competes with HDcctv Alliance members.