Testing Ikena's Video Enhancement Software

By: IPVM Team, Published on Mar 16, 2010

Driven by Hollywood sensationalism, public interest and expectations for miraclous video surveillance enhancement is common -- unrealistic and dangerous. A popular YouTube video captures the essence of Hollywood's approach:

By contrast, we are interested in what 'real-world' video enhancement software could perform.

To that end, we tested MotionDSP's Ikena video enhancement software [link no longer available].

Key findings include:

  • With modest on-line training, fairly simple to use but optimization is more 'art' than science
  • Limitations on what scenes/scenarios allow for meaningful security enhancements
  • Strong enhancement for high noise / low light scenes
While the Hollywood hype is science fiction, we found that, under appropriate circumstance and expectations, the software can provide material enhancements for surveillance video.

Product Overview

Ikena is a video enhancement program by MotionDSP.  Ikena is designed to work with suveillance video as well as consumer video sources and UAVs.

Ikena's algorithm eliminates noise by comparing adjacent frames in a video clip and performs resolution, focus, color, and brightness/contrast enhancements to extract details of a specific subject.  By contrast, image programs like Photoshop can only interpolate image data from a single frame. 

The Ikena software does not integrate with VMS/DVRs: Exported VMS clips must be manually imported into the software, then exported again by the investigator.  In addition, Ikena should be able to play video files that run in Windows Media Player.  Ikena does not support proprietary video codecs from VMS manufacturers.

Additional features include the following:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

  • Installs on Windows based PCs only.
  • Wide codec support for video playback.
  • Uses significant video processing resources, dual core processor is required, Quad core processor recommended.  
  • Ikena has a version that supports NVidia based video cards which will offload the processing to the dedicated GPU.
  • Software is distributed via authorized resellers.
Pricing
The MSRP for Ikena is $7,000 USD per seat license.  For example, if an organization wanted to have this software running on the computers of three investigators, the MSRP would be $21,000 USD to purchase three licences.

Best Fits for Using Ikena

When using Ikena with surveillance video, the following best practices are critical to consider:

  • Since Ikena depends on a series of frames where a subject is moving minimally, fast moving objects in surveillance video are likely to cause problems. Examples include a person running or a car driving quickly through a scene. If at any point, the target stops briefly, that will provide the best opportunity for enhancement.
  • Surveillance video is captured over a wide range of Field of Views (FoV). When a FoV is too wide, Ikena is unlikely to be able to provide meaningful benefits for security use. At very wide FoV (over 100 feet), it is unlikely that Ikena will provide any improvements simply because the number of pixels per object is too low.
  • Surveillance video is captured with a wide range of resolutions (from 320 x 240 to 1920 x 1080 are realistic in practice). When the resolution is too low, Ikena is unlikely to be able to provide meaningful benefits for security use.
  • Pixels on target (which is a combination of FoV and resolution) are a key metric in projecting whether Ikena can provide realistic benefits. For example, at an 18 foot wide FoV with CIF resolution, no material benefits were demonstrated (face was blurry in both). However, at a 9 foot wide FoV with CIF resolution, material benefits occurred (more details of the face were displayed).
  • With standard resolution cameras, we believe it is unlikely that any material benefits will be possible in scenes greater than 50 foot wide FoV. This is a rough assessment. However, users should set appropriate expectations when dealing with wide FoVs or lower resolution images. 
While Ikena may provide aesthetic improvements over wide ranges, benefits for security operations will occur at more limited specifications. Most security use cases desire the revealing of new material evidence (such as digits of a license plate, features of a face, a distinguishing mark, etc.) and do not care about the picture looking 'nicer' abstractly. To achieve this more challenging conditions requires meeting more rigid constraints of both FoV and resolution.

Configuration/Optimization

If you want background and details on using Ikena, we recommend viewing their on-line training videos [link no longer available].

The following video highlights how a security investigator can import video clips into the software and the techniques used to enhance the video.  The following highlights should be noted:

  • Default presets are used as a starting point, not a complete solution for enhancement.
  • "Matching Frames" sets the amount of frames analyzed before and after your point in the timeline.
  • The "Fusion Level" slider is adjusted depending on how much the subject is moving in a scene.
  • Adjusting deblurring settings too high will degrade your image.  For the "Focus" slider, Ikena recommends adjusting the range from 0.25 - 0.75.
  • Moving your region of interest and point in timeline will further adjust image quality.
  • Merged video output is limited to VGA clips.

Image Quality / Enhancement Analysis

We conducted a competitive comparison between:

  • Original 4CIF still image from a surveillance
  • Manual enhancement using GIMP image editor of that surveillance still
  • Ikena enhanced image of that surveillance still
  • An original 1.3MP still image with the same FoV as the 4CIF still that was enhanced 
We found that the megapixel camera delivered the best evidence quality, followed by Ikena, then GIMP, then the original 4CIF image.
See the image below:

We repeated the same type of test with a high noise / low light scenario and achieved the following result:

We discuss this and other quality concerns in the screencast below noting:

  • No material difference in enhancements with an 80' wide FoV image.
  • Moving subjects are difficult to enhance.
  • Switching to video clips with a 9' wide FoV yielded more material details on the subject's face.
  • Ikena enhanced a 0.1 lux low light scene at a 9' FoV and it filtered out significant camera noise and facial features can be identified.

Recommendations

In the best case scenarios, Ikena can provide modest improvement in image quality that can reveal material details to an investigation. However, it will not match deploying new higher resolution cameras nor will it come anywhere close to Hollywood 'infinite zooms'. In all deployments, integrators and users should appreciate that fast moving objects and low pixel on targets scenes are unlikely to provide material security benefits.

Given its price point of $7,000 MSRP per seat, it makes sense for users with regular investigation/cases (usually a few dozen cameras or more or an organization with distributed sites). In the scenarios, rather than upgrading cameras (whether from 4CIF to 720p or 720p to 1080p, etc.), it can be significantly less expensive to use the software and provide some but not all of the benefits of higher resolution.  In these scenarios, when needed, video can be exported from the VMS system, sent to an investigator and the investigator can enhance the video/image.

1 report cite this report:

Surveillance Startup Entropix Wins Silicon Valley Competition on Jun 02, 2016
Industry people often complain about the lack of high tech startups over the past decade. With more and more former startups / independents (e.g.,...

Related Reports

Last Chance - Camera Course Winter 2020 on Jan 30, 2020
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training exists...
2020 Camera Book Released on Jan 10, 2020
This is the best, most comprehensive security camera training in the world, based on our unprecedented testing. Now, all IPVM PRO Members can get...
PlateSmart LPR Profile on Jan 31, 2019
PlateSmart Technologies claims to "turn any conventional surveillance camera into a license plate recognition camera" We spoke with PlateSmart to...
Milestone Machine Learning Camera Auto-Setting Examined on Mar 13, 2019
Milestone wants to improve image quality using Machine Learning to solve the problem of "a camera doesn't know what it is being used for",...
Startup Spectral Edge RGB+IR Claims "Unique Low Light Performance Tech" on Apr 03, 2019
This UK startup, born out of university research, is boldly proclaiming that they deliver "Unique low light performance tech for video surveillance...
False Verkada 'Unrivaled' Low Light Performance Claim Removed on Jun 12, 2019
Verkada falsely claimed that it delivered 'UNRIVALED LOW LIGHT PERFORMANCE' until IPVM questioned. In fact, Verkada's low light performance is...
Lens Iris Tutorial on Aug 08, 2019
Cameras, like humans, have irises, controlling the light which hits the imager and impacting image details. However, cameras have multiple types of...
Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) Guide on Oct 01, 2019
Understanding wide dynamic range (WDR) is critical to capturing high quality images in demanding conditions. However, with no real standards, any...
Biggest Low Light Problems 2019 on Nov 08, 2019
Over 150 integrators responded to our survey question: "What are the biggest problems you face getting good low-light images?" Inside, we share...
IPVM Opens 12,000 Sqft Testing Facility on Dec 16, 2019
IPVM is proud to announce the opening of the world's first video surveillance testing facility that will allow us to significantly expand our...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Video Surveillance 101 Course - Last Chance on Feb 20, 2020
This is the last chance to join IPVM's first Video Surveillance 101 course, designed to help those new to the industry to quickly understand the...
Vulnerability Directory For Access Credentials on Feb 20, 2020
Knowing which access credentials are insecure can be difficult to see, especially because most look and feel the same. Even insecure 125 kHz...
AI/Smart Camera Tutorial on Feb 20, 2020
Cameras with video analytics, sometimes called 'Smart' camera or 'AI' cameras, etc. are one of the most promising growth areas of video...
China Manufacturer Suffers Coronavirus Scare on Feb 20, 2020
Uniview suffered a significant health scare last week after one of its employees reported a fever and initially tested positive for coronavirus....
Cheap Camera Problems at Night on Feb 19, 2020
Cheap cameras generally have problems at night, despite the common perception that integrated IR makes cameras mostly the same, according to new...
Milestone Launches Multiple Cloud Solutions on Feb 18, 2020
Milestone is going to the cloud, becoming one of the last prominent VMSes to do so. Milestone is clearly late but how competitive do these new...
Video Surveillance Architecture 101 on Feb 18, 2020
Video surveillance can be designed and deployed in a number of ways. This 101 examines the most common options and architectures used in...
UK Stands Behind Hikvision But Controversy Continues on Feb 18, 2020
Hikvision is exhibiting at a UK government conference for law enforcement, provoking controversy from the press, politicians, and activists due to...
IronYun AI Analytics Tested on Feb 17, 2020
Taiwan startup IronYun has raised tens of millions for its "mission to be the leading Artificial Intelligence, big data video software as a service...
Access Control ADA and Disability Laws Tutorial on Feb 17, 2020
Safe access control is paramount, especially for those with disabilities. Most countries have codes to mandate safe building access for those...