The Truth About IR Lighting and Bandwidth

Author: John Honovich, Published on Aug 13, 2011

One of the industry's top growing myths is that IR illumination massively reduces storage and bandwidth costs. No one has done more to perpetuate that myth than UK manufacturer Raytec. In this report, we break down the fallacy and provide clear recommendations on how you can minimize storage and bandwidth costs without buying any IR illuminators.

What's the Claim?

Raytec claims that adding IR illuminators can reduce storage and bandwidth costs by up to 90% - a key component of their PR and marketing releases. The most substantive Raytec document on this topic is their 'white paper' on lighting for network cameras where their test results found no less than 74% bandwidth and storage reduction when using IR illuminators.

The claim is quite important to their value proposition because if IR illuminators really are the only way to reduce such costs, it could result in hundreds of dollars of savings, greatly offsetting the purchase of an IR illuminator.

Unfortunately, their claims, configuration and testing is riddled with fundamental errors.

Error #1: Confusing VBR and CBR

Raytec erroneously assumes that all cameras use Variable Bit Rate streaming. Many leading cameras use Constant Bit Rate by default (e.g., Sony and Panasonic). Those cameras never have problems with bandwidth in low light. Bandwidth savings will be 0% for those cameras. Even cameras, like Axis, easily can be switched into CBR mode also eliminating any low light bandwidth spikes.

UPDATE 12/2011: Axis's CBR mode acts as bandwidth ceiling allowing for minimal bandwidth consumption during the day or low motion scenes but stopping bandwidth spikes at night without needing to add in an IR illuminator. It is a 30 second configuration change.

Bottom line: you do not need to buy Raytec's products to reduce bandwidth and storage costs. Raytec is either grossly incompetent or purposefully manipulative not to explain CBR or bandwidth caps in their 'educational' materials.

Error #2: Confusing Gain Control and Low Light Impacts

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

It is a myth that low light increases bandwidth consumption. Increasing gain levels is the real cause. Raytec is confusing correlation with causality. Indeed, we have tested increasing gain levels even when there is plenty of light. Bandwidth still spikes. Why? High levels of gain drive bandwidth consumption not insufficient light.

This has a very important impact on camera selection and bandwidth problems. Since camera manufacturers implement gain (and encoding) differently, some camera manufacturers are far worse in pumping up gain and in handling noise from gain control. Raytec picked Arecont cameras for its tests. Unfortunately, Arecont is one of the worst low light bandwidth performers in the dozens of cameras we have tested (see test results of Arecont's low light bandwidth issues here, here, here and here).

Understand the particular camera you are using and how bad its low light bandwidth consumption is. If you care about reducing bandwidth and storage consumption and want/need to use VBR, consider avoiding bad performers like Arecont.

Error #3: More Bandwidth is Useful In Low Light

There is almost no benefit of increasing bandwidth consumption in low light, high noise environments. We have ran various tests with the same low light conditions but at sharply different bit rates. Image quality is essentially the same.

Using CBR or even VBR with a bandwidth cap will eliminate any spikes in bandwidth without reducing image quality. No Raytec illuminator required.

Error #4: Unrealistic Test Scenes

Most of Raytec's tests are done in very small areas such as a cardboard box. Here's an example of one Raytec test environment:

If your real world surveillance cameras are monitoring the insides of a cardboard box and are using VBR, Raytec illuminators will definitely massively reduce bandwidth consumption. However, this is pointless. It is easy to illuminate small areas but those areas do not reflect real world conditions.

Unfortunately only one of Raytec's test results are outdoors (the most common use of IR). However, again it is in a relatively small backyard scene. 

To get the 74% bandwidth savings they claim, they had to use a VBR camera with very poor low light bandwidth performance (Arecont) and flood a small scene with IR light (indeed if anyone was standing in the left center, the subject would be totally overexposed - you can see how white hot that area is).

Even with VBR, bandwidth reduction is heavily dependent on saturating the entire area with illumination which can be unrealistic outdoors and can make image quality actually worse (e.g., washing out subjects who are overexposed).

Contrast to our test results in outdoor areas using both IR LEDs and White Light LEDs at nights with various cameras. Even with VBR, bandwidth reduction is modest to negligible.

Conclusion

Lighting can be useful for quality surveillance but adding lighting to reduce bandwidth and storage is a waste of money. While Raytec is certainly entitled to promote the sale of its product, it uses a combination of unrealistic test conditions and ignorant camera settings to deliver fundamentally misinformed and erroneous conclusions. Try using the recommendations in this report to eliminate bandwidth and storage costs without having to buy additional equipment.


Related Reports

OpenEye Takes Aim At Exacq on Mar 23, 2017
First Milestone targeted Exacq with a takeover offer, and now OpenEye is gunning for them with an offer to swap out Exacq for their cloud-managed...
Environmental Sensors For Burglar Alarm Tutorials on Mar 15, 2017
Intrusion detection systems can be used to alert users to environmental issues. By connecting sensors that monitor the heat, humidity, and...
SimpliSafe Camera Tested on Mar 07, 2017
SimpliSafe ia one of the most controversial companies in the industry, as they have become the symbol of the DIY threat to traditional alarm...
Positive Video Surveillance Outlook - 2017 Statistics on Mar 07, 2017
376 manufacturers and integrators revealed their outlook on the future of the video surveillance industry in a recent IPVM survey. Both groups are...
TVI 4.0 Doubles HD Analog Bandwidth on Mar 05, 2017
HD analog's move up market continues. Starting a few years ago at just 720p, HD analog is now poised for 4K and beyond. Techpoint, the company...
Vivotek 3MP 180 Wall Mount Camera Tested on Feb 28, 2017
Purpose-built wall mount panoramics have become an attractive niche to cover entranceways. In 2013, we bought and tested Vivotek's 1MP...
Dahua 4K HD Analog Cameras Announced on Feb 23, 2017
HD analog has been gaining popularity (even if Axis hopes otherwise). Last year, HD analog's max resolution doubled from 1080p to 4MP (see our 4MP...
Uniview (UNV) IP Cameras Tested on Feb 22, 2017
"We're #3," in China says Uniview (UNV). While the company significantly trails Hikvision and Dahua in total sales, one notable difference is that...
Hikvision Ezviz Mini 360 Plus - $80 Autotracking Camera Tested on Feb 21, 2017
Autotracking, integrated IR, local storage, full HD, cloud access: $80. That is the claim of Hikvision EZVIZ's new Mini 360 Plus. But for this...
Arecont Vision MicroDome Duo Tested on Feb 14, 2017
Arecont Vision is back with another multi-head camera, this time thinking smaller with the MicroDome Duo, a two-imager model, with the tagline...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Everbridge Mass Notification Service Examined on Mar 24, 2017
Everbridge is expanding in the security space. In January 2017 Everbridge acquired PSIM platform IDV, and have also begun integrating with other...
Hikvision Removing Auto 'Phone Home' on Mar 24, 2017
Facing pressure over their cameras auto phoning home and their Chinese government ownership, Hikvision has begun quietly removing automatic...
Axis Camera Vulnerabilities From Google Researcher Analyzed on Mar 23, 2017
A Google security researcher has reported 6 vulnerabilities for Axis cameras, affecting multiple models and firmware versions. In this report, we...
OpenEye Takes Aim At Exacq on Mar 23, 2017
First Milestone targeted Exacq with a takeover offer, and now OpenEye is gunning for them with an offer to swap out Exacq for their cloud-managed...
Lock Keyways For Access Control Guide on Mar 23, 2017
Lock keyways can be the difference between a lock working or not. Understanding keyways is important for access control. Indeed, a member recently...
Broken Browser Support for Video Surveillance on Mar 22, 2017
Modern web browsers have left the security industry behind. Current Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge browsers do not support NPAPI plugins,...
ADI Favorability Results on Mar 22, 2017
150 North American integrators provided feedback on 6 distributors, and why they do (or do not do) business with ADI. ADI is clearly a big name in...
1 Million Dahua Devices Exposed To Backdoor on Mar 22, 2017
Statistics show that 1 million Dahua devices are publicly exposed and vulnerable to the Dahua backdoor. Despite this, Dahua has downplayed the...
Hikvision Hires Crisis Communication Writer on Mar 21, 2017
Hikvision has hired a crisis communication writer as the company ramps up its efforts to deal with the 'crisis' it feels it is facing. 'Crisis...
Glass Break Sensor Tutorial on Mar 21, 2017
Burglars often break glass windows to get into a house. Using glass break detectors in conjunction with alarm contacts is a good way to protect the...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact