Salient CompleteView VMS Tested 2016

By Ethan Ace, Published Apr 15, 2016, 08:01am EDT (Research)

Independent VMSes are increasingly a dying breed (with Exacq, Milestone, VideoInsight and Aimetis being sold off in the past few years).

The ones remaining have benefited from this, as many integrators prefer having an independent VMS. One of those who members have asked about is Salient, a US based VMS provider, which is ~20 years old but not very well known.

In this report, we share our test results of Salient. The video below overviews what we cover:

Test Summary

Compared to Avigilon, Exacq, Genetec and Milestone (the 4 integrator top ranked VMSes), Salient's VMS suffers from a number of usability and functionality limitations, such as:

  • Inconsistent camera support: In our tests, many cameras simply did not connect using default settings, despite being on Salient's supported camera list. Some connected when set to use MJPEG, but not H.264. 
  • No ONVIF support: Cameras are supported via direct drivers or RTSP only, with no ONVIF support. 
  • Limited multi-camera export: More than one camera may be exported at a time, but video is exported as standard format only with no proprietary player for synchronized playback. Additionally, users must manually select time ranges for each camera, with no simple way to mark a section of video for export when using multiple cameras.
  • No integrated events: In order to view event video, operators must use the alarm client and/or CV Spotlight. No list of events is displayed in the Video Client (though visible indicators of alarm recording are shown, albeit unobtrusively). 
  • No enterprise management: Though multiple servers may be viewed simultaneously, users must configure each individually. Additionally, Salient administrators must configure both client users and server users in separate lists, which may confuse some users.

Salient did have 2 uncommon, useful features as well:

  • Display scaling: This transcodes streams into only the resolution required by the current size of the viewing client, worked simply with minimal setup in our tests and reduced needed bandwidth from server to client. However, display scaling requires server resources, with each camera using ~1-2% additional CPU in our tests.
  • QuickTrack: QuickTrack allows users to drag and drop a cameras into a pane which records what the operator sees, which may be attractive to those looking for a simple way to record incidents as they happen.

Salient CompleteView Licensing Overview

There are three versions of Salient CompleteView available.

  • One ($75 USD MSRP): Single server, 32 cameras
  • Pro ($150 MSRP): Unlimited servers, unlimited cameras
  • Enterprise ($200 MSRP): Unlimited servers, unlimited cameras, plus Active Directory integration, Video Proxy (enterprise web client), Axis 1-Click, and other advanced features.

Camera licenses are not tied to specific MAC addresses or servers and may be freely moved from server to server as needed.

Preinstalled Hardware

In addition to software, Salient also offers a line of pre-installed NVR/hybrid appliances in multiple form factors, called PowerProtect. These appliances may be IP only or analog/IP, with the ability to switch analog channels to IP at no additional cost.

CompleteView Client Overview

Salient includes multiple clients for operators (Video Client, Alarm Client, CV Spotlight) as well as multiple administration utilities (Admin Console, Server Configuration, Client Configuration). This is different than many/most VMSes, which unify these functions in one client, or separate them into operation and administration. We review features of these applications in more detail below.

Camera Support

In our tests, Salient's camera support was its strongest drawback.

Cameras Not Working Properly

Several of the cameras we added to Salient did not function properly, despite being on their supported cameras list. For example, the Hikvision 6026 and 4024, both listed as fully supported, functioned only when using the MJPEG stream. Similar issues occurred with some Axis models, as well as Panasonic. 

In a remote support session, Salient was able to fix some camera integration issues, but not all. Moreover, even if these problems are reparable with the help of tech support, many other VMSes simply do not have the same issues.

No ONVIF

Salient does not support ONVIF. Cameras which are not directly supported may be added via their generic driver. Note that using this method requires all configuration to be done on the camera (CODEC, FPS, resolution, etc.), and no camera events or PTZ control are supported as they are in ONVIF conformant VMSes.

Limited Selection

Compared to many VMSes, Salient's official camera support is more limited, lacking camera side VMD support for some major manufacturers (Panasonic, Sony, Pelco) and others not on the list at all (Dahua, notably). Axis, Hikvision, Samsung, and Arecont are most widely supported.

In this video we review camera search and addition and some of the camera support issues discussed above.

Search and Export

Salient's most notable investigation limitation is lack of true multi-camera export with a synchronized player. Multiple cameras may be exported at once, but each is saved to an individual file in standard format. No proprietary player with synchronized playback is available.

Salient offers standard timeline search for one or multiple cameras, as well as thumbnail search.

Alarm Client/Spotlight

Events are differentiated in the live client only by record icon color, with no list of event or other event video.

In order to view events, users have two options:

  • Alarm Client: The CompleteView Alarm Client is a separate dedicated client application which displays only alarm video. Cameras populate a split screen view in the order in which events are received, with viewing panes otherwise blank when not in use. Past events may be viewed by double clicking a specific clip in the event list.
  • Spotlight: Spotlight is a Windows system tray application which pops up video on a specific event or events. Users may use their PC as normal, with video displaying in a window (or full screen) when the event is triggered.

We look at the Alarm Client in this video:

Management Issues

Salient recorders must be configured one at a time. There is no overarching enterprise management of users, cameras, or other functions. A server's configuration may be copied to other servers, but this is a manual process and includes many parameters administrators may not wish to copy which are unique to each server, such as the site name, cameras, etc. Salient says they are adding the ability to manage multiple servers at once in a future release.

In addition to server config, users must config client instances as well, via a separate configuration utility. Server and client users are managed separately, not shared, which may add confusion if the same user does not exist in both places. Salient says they are working to combine these userlists.

This video reviews these issues:

Live View

Live view operates similarly to other VMSes, wish some notable UI quirks.

Dragging a camera from its pane to another duplicates the camera instead of swapping the two as in most VMS clients. Users must drag the camera from the tree into the viewing pane instead.

Users must create a view in the client configuration application before a given user can login. Generic views are available after the user is logged in, but an initial custom view must be made.

CompleteView does not use a tabbed interface like many current VMSes, so for example, multiple live views or investigations cannot be open simultaneously.

Display Scaling

Salient's display scaling transmits only the actual viewed resolution of the camera to the client. The full stream is received from the camera by the server, then transcoded (MPEG4 by default) and sent to the viewing client. So a user viewing four 5MP cameras, for example, may only need a 960x540 stream for each on a 1080p monitor. When digitally zooming or viewing video full screen, the full stream is sent.

Note that this is not without drawbacks, however, as this transcoding requires additional server load. In our tests, load increased by ~1-2% per camera when display scaling was turned on (transcoding into MPEG4). This reduces the number of cameras which may be managed per server and must be accounted for when sizing hardware.

Additionally, in our tests, H.264 was strangely less efficient than MPEG4 despite consuming additional CPU resources, with some scaled H.264 streams actually consuming more bandwidth than the original full resolution stream. We have reached out to Salient for comments on this issue.

QuickTrack

Salient includes a novel feature called QuickTrack which allows users to drag cameras to a special virtual camera pane which is recorded as it is seen. For example, during an event, an operator tracking a subject may move from camera A to B to C and back to B. Using QuickTrack, those cameras are simply dragged and dropped into the pane and may be played back in the order in which they were viewed, without needed to search video across multiple cameras.

We demo QuickTrack in this video:

 

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