IP Camera Manufacturer Compression Comparison

Author: Derek Ward, Published on Feb 21, 2014

Compression is very important. While resolution gets the attention, compression is critical and can be a silent killer - both for quality and bandwidth.

Regardless of resolution, all surveillance video is compressed. And even if 2 cameras have the same resolution, their compression levels can be much different. [See our compression / quality tutorial for background.]

Thankfully, compression in H.264 is standardized on a scale of 0 to 51, as shown in the image below:


However, camera manufacturers almost never disclose Q levels used. Instead, they use a variety of homemade scales and naming systems. Here is a sample of ones we tested inside:

So you can have 2 manufacturer's cameras with the same resolution but significantly different compression levels, and therefore varying image quality and bandwidth consumption.

An industry first, IPVM has analyzed each of these manufacturers and answered these key questions:

  • What is the real H.264 quantization level for each camera manufacturer's default settings? How do they vary? Who defaults the lowest and highest?
  • To normalize the H.264 quantization levels so that each manufacturer had the same compression, what camera settings should be used?
  • How does the range of compression levels used for each manufacturer map to H.264 quantization levels?
  • What is the impact of bandwidth as H.264 quantization / compression levels are varied for different manufacturers?

If you really care about image quality and optimizing bandwidth / storage use, this is a critical report.

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Comments (11)

Interesting.

Just mention that some manufacturers you forgot here, offer in addition to "pre defined quality values" some Manual settings where you can enter 0 to 51 customized values...so you get "settings for dummies " or "more accurate professionnal settings"

All this impact bandwidth IF you chose VBR output. If not, the output will be stable but you'd better chose the...

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Yes, this presumes the use of VBR, which is the typical default in IP cameras today. As you say, if you use CBR, by definition, bit rate will remain fixed but quantization level will vary depending on the scene.

Background: CBR vs VBR: Surveillance Streaming

Another great test, very informative.

John it would be very intersting to do a survey on who is using VBR or CBR. are you sure VBR will win in North America ? and worldwide ?

Most guys I know put CBR.. VBR +Cap is close to CBR but even worst if the limit is too low because hyper compressing before limitA part of Axis other vendors propose Fixed Quality, but most without a Cap, so it's seen as too risky for your storage,...

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I am pretty sure all 8 cameras in this test default to VBR (or VBR + a high cap).

You mean a survey of integrator selection (i.e. VBR vs CBR) or manufacturer defaults?

I think CBR is a really bad move for almost anyone and VBR + Cap is better. VBR + Cap allows the camera to stream at lower bit rates when the scene is less complex / hard to compress yet go up to whatever high...

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Derek, truly a commendable addition to the IPVM canon!

Thanks for the quiz, and here's a couple questions for you in return:

How was the Q measured, what tools, what method (mean average)?

Do you have a high confidence level in these numbers?

Mainly the section on Compression Impact on Bandwidth, arguably the most critical section, seems to...

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Hello Rukmini Wilson,

Q was measured using AVInaptic, a free program that analyzes quantization, which we have been using for quite some time now.

As for your questions regarding the bandwidth chart, we wanted to show a trend as a rule of thumb that there is a strong likelyhood that decreasing compression or Q levels will increase...

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Hello.

Could you please provide a brief description of a procedure with which you obtained quantization level? You took 'average DRF'? What kind of files you put in AVInaptic?

Cheers.

See: How to Measure Video Quality / Compression Levels for full explanation of this.

Thanks John - everything clear now.

Thanks for the quick response Derek!

"Sony" behavior is: cameras which show dramatic (4X, 3X) reduction in bandwidth from q of 28 to 22

"Samsung" behavior is : cameras which show pathetic (1.2X, 1.6X) reduction in bandwidth from q of 28 to 22

The are two "Sony" types are the Hika and the Sony itself. The two "Samsung" types are the...

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