PPF Test - Getting High Quality Surveillance Video

Author: John Honovich, Published on Apr 04, 2010

Megapixel cameras foster hope for much higher quality surveillance video but how much more and in what conditions? In this report, we answer these questions in depth based on extensive testing.

The most aggressive marketing claims suggest a single megapixel camera is equals 95 CCTV cameras. Does that mean you could literally replace 95 CCTV cameras? If not 95, is it 25 or 16 or 4, etc.?

A 'Magic Number'

The megapixel vendors are now advocating a 'magic number' of 40 pixels per foot. They claim that if your Field of View provides 40 pixels per foot (e.g., a 1920 x 1080 camera covering a 48 foot wide FoV), then you can see facial details and license plates clearly.

Some vendors qualify their number by saying it is a 'minimum' but then fail to offer any further disclosure or explanation. This is as helpful as the government coming to your house and telling you owe a minimum of $1,000 in taxes.

Our Test

Over a 3 week period, we went out and tested these assumptions using a variety of cameras, resolutions and Field of Views. The video below overviews how we approached our tests:

Our Findings

Our test results show that achieving high quality surveillance is much more complicated than the magic numbers nor multipliers being advocated today. While megapixel surveillance can significantly improve surveillance coverage, many issues and nuances exist that must be properly appreciated when designing and deploying systems. We examine these in depth in the PRO section.

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Our ****

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Our ********

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Key ********

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  • **'ideal' ******** ********** - even daytime lighting, no shadows, no glare - you need closer to 50 pixels per foot to see facial features clearly and read US license plates.
  • ** **** ******** *********** ******** ********** - ********shadow ** ***** - you need ~20% more pixels to 'overcome' decrease in contrast.
  • ***** ****** *** ************ ****** **** **** ****** ** ****** or ***** ********** *** ***, ** *** **** ** ****** that ****** ******** *** ******* ****, *** ******target ** ****** *** ****.
  • *******, **** **** * ** ** *** ** ******** (**** street ******), ******* **** **** *************. ** ** **** ** the *******, ***** **** ** ********* *** *** ******* ***** level **** ************* ****** *** ***** ***** ********** ******* *** be ****. **night, *** ***** **** *** ****** *** **** (or more).
  • *****quality ********* ******** as the FoV width expands. There's no single point where quality goes from good to bad. Details gradually appear or disappear as the FoV width changes.
  • ** *****numerous ****** ** ******* ******* *** ************ ***. While traditionally, surveillance applications had 3 quality levels (often called personal, action, scene), we found at least double that number. As quality degrades, some details still remain. Those details can still provide benefits depending on the application.
  • **** ******* ***** **good ****** ** ******** **********. Because quality gradually degrades, some users may find different levels of quality to be sufficient. For example, two people may view video from the same camera and one will judge 45 pixels per foot to be sufficient while another may prefer 55 pixels per foot.
  • Vertical ******** ******* varies dramatically with the focal length / horizontal angle of the lens. With a wide angle lens, it is nearly impossible to get facial features at more than a few feet distance from the camera (even with megapixel). With a telephoto lens, facial features can be captured at fairly far distances. The tradeoff of course is the width of FoV covered.
  • ****** ****HD ** *** ******** ******** *** ***** ****. In FoVs narrower than 20-40' wide, it is unlikely that significant material difference can be visually observed. At wider FoVs, modest increases in ability to detect meaningful details was shown.

How ** ******* ***********

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Lighting ******** ******

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  • ********* ** ******** ** ***** *** ****** ******* *** ***** so *** **** ********* ********** **** ******* ****** ** ** practical ******** **** ** **********.

Pixels ****** / ******* ********

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  • **** ** ******* (**** ***** ******* ** **** *** ****): 80+ ****** *** ****)

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Differences ** *** ***** *** ******* ***********

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  • ** ******** **** (**** **-** ****), *** *** ******** ** find *** ********** ********** ******* * *** *** *** ******.
  • *** *** **** ** **** ** ** ***, * **** smaller **** ****** **** *** ** *** (** ** ******** given *** ******** ******** ** ******). ****** **** *** ** 5MP ***** **** ***** ** ** - *** **** ****.
  • ** * ***' *****, ** ** ****** **** ******** '*****' of ***** *** * *** ****** *** ******* ******* ** the ***, ******, **** *** ******** ** * *******.

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Summary ********

********* *** ************>, *** ********* ****** *** *** *** ******** / ***************:

  • **'ideal' ******** ********** - even daytime lighting, no shadows, no glare - you need closer to 50 pixels per foot to see facial features clearly and read US license plates.
  • ** **** ******** *********** ******** ********** - ********shadow ** ***** - you need ~20% more pixels to 'overcome' decrease in contrast.
  • ***** ****** *** ************ ****** **** **** ****** ** ****** or ***** ********** *** ***, ** *** **** ** ****** that ****** ******** *** ******* ****, *** ******target ** ****** *** ****.
  • *******, **** **** * ** ** *** ** ******** (**** street ******), ******* **** **** *************. ** ** **** ** the *******, ***** **** ** ********* *** *** ******* ***** level **** ************* ****** *** ***** ***** ********** ******* *** be ****. **night, *** ***** **** *** ****** *** **** (or more).
  • *****quality ********* ******** as the FoV width expands. There's no single point where quality goes from good to bad. Details gradually appear or disappear as the FoV width changes.
  • ** *****numerous ****** ** ******* ******* *** ************ ***. While traditionally, surveillance applications had 3 quality levels (often called personal, action, scene), we found at least double that number. As quality degrades, some details still remain. Those details can still provide benefits depending on the application.
  • **** ******* ***** **good ****** ** ******** **********. Because quality gradually degrades, some users may find different levels of quality to be sufficient. For example, two people may view video from the same camera and one will judge 45 pixels per foot to be sufficient while another may prefer 55 pixels per foot.
  • Vertical ******** ******* varies dramatically with the focal length / horizontal angle of the lens. With a wide angle lens, it is nearly impossible to get facial features at more than a few feet distance from the camera (even with megapixel). With a telephoto lens, facial features can be captured at fairly far distances. The tradeoff of course is the width of FoV covered.
  • ****** ****HD ** *** ******** ******** *** ***** ****. In FoVs narrower than 20-40' wide, it is unlikely that significant material difference can be visually observed. At wider FoVs, modest increases in ability to detect meaningful details was shown.

*********?

*** ****** ******** * **** ******* ** ******, *** ** all ***** ** **** ********** ** ** *** ******. ** you **** ************* ** ********* ** ******* ******, ****** ***.

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