Testing IndigoVision's VMS (Control Center and NVRs)

Author: Benros Emata, Published on Jul 06, 2010

In this report we test IndigoVision's VMS software, Control Center (version 3.19), their NVR recorders and their different approach to enterprise management.

Control Center was hosted on a Windows 7 workstation with a local database (see architecture video for more details). Connected cameras included IndigoVision's IV11000 fixed HD camera and the HD IV1100 PTZ camera - currently no third party cameras are supported.

We have also tested two IndigoVision cameras. For a full understanding of the IndigoVision 'package', read this result with our IndigoVision HD fixed camera test results and our IndigoVision HD PTZ camera test results.

Compare IndigoVision to our test results of other packaged providers such as Mobotix and Avigilon. Also, contrast their offering to our test results of DVTel, Genetec and Milestone Corporate - other VMS systems marketed towards larger scale applications.

Key Criteria / Decision Points

When evaluating IndigoVision, the following 9 key criteria / decision points were considered:

Criteria Strength Description
 Pricing  Moderate - Weak  Depends on what recording options one uses (standard vs enhanced) and what storage optimizations one can benefit from
 Simplicity  Moderate  Some complexity in sitedb and no administration manual
 3rd Party IP Camera Support  None  Future support scheduled for ONVIF
 3rd Party System Support  Moderatley Strong  Number of leading access control and PoS systems supported
 Analytics Support  Moderately Weak  Only IndigoVision analytics supported, no support on HD cameras
 Enterprise Management  Moderate  No bulk configuration available, uses shared directory for sited
 Alarm Monitoring  Strong  Variety of integrated functionality provided
 Video Distribution Moderate  Limitations on operating system supported, requires keyboard controller,
 Redundancy  Strong Simple setup for recording redundancy / no single point of failure for enterprise management

Recommendations

Beyond the key differentiators examined above, the following key factors are likely to impact one's selection of IndigoVision relative to other video surveillance offerings:
 
  • Limit of 3rd party IP camera support: If one needs multi-megapixel cameras or inexpensive IP cameras (e.g., 'cube' cameras), IndigoVision is likely to be a poor fit as their internal line-up supports neither type.
  • The HD PTZ camera is relatively inexpensive, exhibited solid video quality and offered smooth 'analog-like' control capabilities. Those looking for high definition PTZs should strongly consider IndigoVision.
  • The HD fixed 'box' camera was solid but relatively expensive (even factoring in the lower price of IndigoVision's server licenses).
  • IndigoVision's cameras achieved consistent full frame rate recording. However, the pricing premium for this recording (enhanced license - $600 MSRP) is quite high even compared to other 'enterprise' VMS offerings. Specifiers will have to weigh the trade-offs of this aspect.
  • IndigoVision's enterprise management architecture is fundamentally differnet than most VMS systems. As we explain in the usability and administrative sections, we think it has some interesting advantages and weaknesses that specifiers should carefully consider.
  • IndigoVision offers bandwidth optimization that can significantly reduce overall bandwidth and storage usage significantly (most importantly saving on hard drive/storage costs). IndigoVision calls this ACF. We think this could be a major positive factor in selecting IndigoVision. However, it is available in the SD but not the HD cameras currently. Future support for HD is planned for Q4 2010.
For those looking for 'enterprise' capabilities like centralized management, redundancy, alarm monitoring and third party systems integration, IndigoVision is likely to be fit well and offer a reasonable overall price.
 
On the other hand, for smaller systems, unless you can make use of their bandwidth optimization or use a high percentage of PTZ cameras, IndigoVision may not be attractive as simpler, less expensive systems.

Product Overview

Computing Platform Support

The following operating systems are supported:  Windows Server 2008, Server 2003 (32 / 64-bit), Windows 2000 Server / Professional, Windows Vista and XP Professional. Its noted in the install guide that Vista and XP Pro are specifically for small deployments (up to 16 streams only).

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The installation disc provided will enclose the Control Center isntallation in addition to the standalone Incident Player and other various tools and documents.

Installers should note that the CD is the primary method to obtain the installation files.

Third Party IP Camera Support

As noted in the table above, this is currently not supported and IndigoVision reports Q4 2010 as a likely release for ONVIF support. 

Pricing

A number of elements impact overall cost of IndigoVision's solution. Key elements that need to be considered that are not common:

  • Standard vs Enhanced Recording: IndigoVision offers 2 licenses for recording. To record cameras at 15fps or less at full resolution, the standard license may be used. To record at higher frame rates, the enhanced recording licensed is recoding (e.g., recording at 'full' frame rates of 25/30 fps). The premium for an enhanced recording license (per camera) is approximately $600 MSRP.
  • NVR appliance vs VMS Software: IndigoVision offers both NVR appliances (that bundle hardware and software) and Windows VMS software (that can be run on COTS PCs/servers). The Windows VMS software has an MSRP of approximately $75 per camera (supporting standard recording, enhanced would require an additional fee). The FD1000 NVR, supporting 20 camera licenses, 1TB of storage and a redundant power supply has an MSRP of approximately $3,400.
  • Control Center: Control Center is their client tool for monitoring, investigations and administration. It is available without a license charge. Some marketing material or public discussion implies that IndigoVision does not charge for licenses. However, this is misleading as IndigoVision, like most VMS systems charges for server/recording licenses but not client ones.
  • IndigoVision cameras: Purchasing Indigovision's recorders requires using their encoders or cameras as well. The MSRP of the HD Fixed Camera (with lens), no audio and 'standard' recording is $1,849 USD. The MSRP of the HD PTZ camera will be $3,344 for standard recording.
  • IndigoVision sells through a limited number of integrator partners and does not offer products through distribution or on-line sale. Secondly, its dealer pricing discount structure is higher than most IP video providers.

Architecture / Overview

The following screencast provides usability highlights of IndigoVision's VMS, in addition to items we found challenging:

Usability

The following screencast examines usability highlights of IndigoVision's VMS system:

Administration

The following screencast examines how to configure/setup IndigoVision's Control Center system. Key points include:

  • Software distributed via CD (00:17 min)
  • Basic understanding of the SiteDB (01:09 min)
  • Adding a camera to the Site (02:43 min)
  • How to configure the primary method of recording (03:40 min)
  • 'Common' camera settings divided with the camera's web interface (05:21 min)
  • Managing users & groups (06:55 min)
  • Applying maps (10:00 min)
  • Configuring alarms (11:03 min)

Live Monitoring

The following screencast examines live video monitoring with IndigoVision's VMS system. Key points include:

  • How to obtain / install the client applciation (00:10 min)
  • How to monitor live streams (01:49 min)
  • Changing / customizing matrix layouts (02:27 min)
  • Using integrated alarms with the map (02:50 min)
  • Responding to alerts (03:46 min)
  • Instant replay within the live mode (05:05 min)

Special Note on live monitoring: Those that seek video distribution capabilities using IndigoVision's Video Wall should take note of a limitation. The Video Wall is limited to Windows XP OS support. This is dictated by the need for Microsoft's DCOM configurations not available in current versions.

Since the life cycle for Windows XP SP2 is coming to an end this month, July 2010, using the Video Wall will be challenging. IndigoVision notes planned future support for other operating systems but has not confirmed a specific release date.

Investigations

The following screencast examines how to conduct investigations using IndigoVision's VMS system. Key points include:

  • Accessing Recorded Video mode (00:15 min)
  • Working with the timeline (01:24 min)
  • Working with asynchronous playback (02:20 min)
  • Exporting video (03:34 min)
  • Accessing the standalone player (04:43 min)
  • Using various visual thumbnail options (05:50 min)
  • Protecting video from first-in-first-out (06:52 min)

VMS Questions - Basic Use (Live and Recorded Video)

How do I watch live video?

Using Control Center, the Live Video tab will switch the main viewing area on the right to the matrix layout. From the Cameras pane on the left sidebar, the operator simply double-click or drag the camera into a desired matrix pane.

 

What ways can I monitor many video feeds simultaneously?

Same as the previous question just replicated by the desired cameras.

 

How can I be notified and review alarms?

In Live Video mode, the alarm pane below the virtual matrix provides a list of real-time alerts; this is the Alarm Stack tab. Alternatively, the operator can vie wthe Alarm History tab.

Both of these are available in the Live Video and Recorded Video modes.

The Site Setup mode also has an Alarms tab where they can be managed.

 

How do I search for recorded video? 

A simple time based search is available on the bottom-left sidebar. Additionally, the investigator can utilize an alarm and motion search options.

Other search options, such as the Thumbnails Toolbar provide more visual searching. For example, selecting the Time-based Thumbnail will provide frames for a visual reference of the motion within the field of view and times displayed depend on the view of the timeline (can zoom into the timeline).

 

What ways can I search multiple video feeds?

This is the same workflow as a single camera, assuming there are  multiple NVRs in the tree hierarchy. Simply drag the desired cameras into an available matrix pane.

 

How do you share images from video?

A snapshot button on the top toolbar provides numerous screenshot features. Alternatively, the investigator can right-click on a camera pane and choose snapshot options.

 

How do you share video clips from recorded video? 

Similar to the snapshot option, investigators choose the export button or right-click on the matrix view and choose the same option.

By default, exporting will also protect the video from being deleted.

 

How do I know if I am in live or recorded video mode? 

This is very straightforward as the user must click either the Live Video or Recorded Video tabs at the top of the interface to switch modes.

 

How do you switch between live video, investigations and configuration? 

Continuing from the last question, the Site Setup tab provides configuration settings. Its important to note that not all camera configuration settings are available on the Control Center interface; rather, must be accessed via the web interface of the camera. This is where settings such as frame rate, exposure, etc. are located.

Administrators can look to the Configure tab of the camera to access the embedded web page within the Control Center interface.

 

Are there any limitations or potential issues with the video playback controls?

Operators should note that asynchronous playback is default. A synchronize button is available next to the playback controls.

 

Administration

How do I add/setup a camera?

In the Site Setup mode, righ-click on the Top Site and select Add Devices. Using IndigoVision cameras (as we did for this test), ControlCenter should automatically detect and list the cameras in this window. Highlight the camera(s) to add and click OK; it should add the camera within the Sites hierarchy sidebar.

 

How do you set up alarms to be displayed? 

IndigoVision emphasizes the I/O panels of devices for alarm configurations; therefore, there are a limited number of pre-defined alarms available compared to other VMS's we've tested. With this approach, the end-user will need to specify to the installer, what kind of alerts to hardwire so that cameras can record or lights can be turned on, for example. The available pre-defined alarms can be viewed in the Alarm Sources tab and are as follows:  Network Gained / Lost, Video Analysis (motion), Video Gained / Lost. These will be repeated for each added camera of the site.

 

How do you restrict access to the system? 

Username and passwords can be applied to cameras and recorders. They are not set by default, providing open access to anyone who knows the IP address of the devices.

 

How do you restrict access to certain features or functionalities?

Highly limited functionality is provided here. 

The groups settings will provide three levels of pre-defined permission settings:  Full Administrator, Restricted Administrator and None. The Restricted level subtracts changes to users / group and None further subtracts site setup. 

 

How can you setup the VMS to handle failures to servers/appliances?

On the recorder side, assuming at least two recorders are on the same subnet, click on the primary NVR. Then choose the Redundancy sub-tab. The Add Failover NVR button will list all available NVRs that can be assigned to the primary for redundancy.

All available NVRs will be listed as IndigoVision allows a single secdondary NVR to be on standby for multiple recorders. Vice versa, multiple secondary NVRs can be assigned to a single primary.

There is no built-in functionality to backup the site database as it resides on a network / shared directory. Windows utilities can be utilized for redundancy and IndigoVision specifies Windows Offline Files for this.

 

How can you access reports or alerts on the health status of the servers/appliances/applications?

Each mode (Live, Recorded, Setup) provide an alarm report option. Live and Recorded modes will have the icon at the bottom-right of the Events Window. The Site Setup mode will have this listed in the Alarms sub-tab.

How can you upgrade the VMS software?

Via executable outside of control center UI (installer).

Are there any complex steps or potential problems in the server install?

See the Architecture video for the SiteDB details.

Are there any complex steps or potential problems in the client install?

The installer needs to ensure that any workstation that is NOT accessing the Site Setup mode install the Control Center Client. This will exclude the Site Setup mode and restrict the operator to live monitoring and investigations.

 

Usability

How does the VMS handle the higher resolution of megapixel cameras?

Our tests have only consisted of two IndigoVision 720p HD cameras and streams appear to be responsive and maintain consistent connectivity.

 

How does the VMS perform with low bandwidth connection (256 kb/s)?

Reduces resolution of live streams while maintaining the user set frame rate. This is noteworthy as most VMS systems use the opposite approach (maintaining resolution while dropping frame rate).

We believe most users would prefer to have a higher resolution, less frequently updated live video feed than one that is full frame rate but difficult to discern the subject in action. As such, we recommend specifiers carefully consider the trade-offs in IndigoVision's approach.

 

What, if any, VMS functionalities regulary take more than 10 seconds to load? 

Motion searching can take longer periods than desired. To note, there is a threshhold option that can be adjusted called Performance that allows the investigator to increase / decrease the accuracy - this ultimately has an effect on the speed. Even when setting this to the least accurate, which would presumably provide quicker results seem to take several minutes. 

The system does analyze the whole day so depending on the amount of traffic, your experiences may vary.

 

What happens when the VMS client cannot connect to a camera?

By default, an alarm will be triggered based on the pre-defined alarms mentioned above; then, displayed in the Events Window where the operator can respond. Additionally, the camera icon within the tree hierarchy will display a red X on the camera offline for visual reference. 

Optionally, the alarm can be displayed in the maps window.

 

What options does the VMS provide to reduce storage consumption?

  • Reaping (options = Space / Time & Space)
  • Max Age (options = days / hours)
  • Video Thinning (options = days / hours)
  • Purge Recordings (options = "purge recordings less than X sec)

 

What help functionality does the VMS provide while using the client?

The .chm help file from the main Help menu will provide user and administrative support. Topics such as setting up a failover NVR or working with maps will be available; however, not fully detailed. For example, during testing, I could not find information on a specific storage setting such as the Reaping option but on the flipside, setting up a video wall is included.

 

How similiar is the use of the VMS client to a DVR? 

The use of a single client is likely the only similarity the system has to a tradtional DVR. 

Many features are accessed via the main menus or right-click context menus in addition to more advanced functionality such as maps and motion searching delineate the system from a DVR. 

 

How similar is the configuration of the VMS server to a DVR? 

Most notably, the unique architecture that IndigoVison utilizes further moves the system away from a traditional DVR.

 

How simple is it for an untrained operator? 

If the operator will be responsible for installation, setup / configuration, they may find the architecture confusing. To add to this, there is no administrative manual available adding to the untrained operator's frustration. 

The monitoring and investigation would require less of a learning curve.

 

How powerful is it for the expert operator? 

With more advanced features provided, such as maps, integrated alarm management, redundant recorders, vidieo wall, etc., the system can provide flexibility in deployments. 

With the database architecture setup through .xml files via shared directories, the expert operator will be able to utilize their IT skills to provide a backup, for example. 

 

Scalability

What ways can I add/setup many cameras at the same time?

Bulk configurations are not possible; however, multiple cameras can be added when discovered in the Add Devices window.

 

How do you do restrict access when using multiple servers/appliances? 

Username and passwords can be applied but are not set by default.

 

How can I watch live video feeds from different appliances/servers?

The same workflow as a single camera, assuming there are multple cameras in the tree hierarchy.

 

How can I conduct searches from video feeds stored in different appliances/servers?

The same workflow as a single camera, assuming there are multiple NVRs in the tree hierarchy.

2 reports cite this report:

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