Surveillance Search Shootout

By: Sarit Williams, Published on Oct 14, 2013

Searching for video is the most important function for many VMS users. While they may not have the time or interest to watch video live regularly, whenever an issue arises, they want to be able to quickly and accurately find the issue of interest.

In this report, we share our test results of using search capabilities for Avigilon, Exacq, Genetec, Milestone, Network Optix/DW and VideoInsight, as highlighted in the image below:

Key Differentiators

Searching revealed a number of important differentiators that separated the 'best' from the 'worst' in VMS searching, including:

  • Motion Search Speed / Pre-Indexing: Some VMSes were lighting quick in returning results while others took minutes even for searching a day's worth of video.
  • Thumbnail Capabilties: While most every VMS now has some form of thumbnails, the sophistication and power differed dramatically amongst VMSes.
  • Buffering: Some VMSes made the user wait while video was queued up while others played back instantly.
  • On a secondary level, differences in various UI controls / functions available, strengthened or weakened the VMSes.
  • Three primary differentiators emerged from our testing:

    • Pre-Indexing of Motion: Avigilon, and Network Optix/Digital Watchdog loaded motion events faster than the rest.
    • Thumbnail review: Avigilon and Miletone offered the best use of Thumbnail review with drill down functionality, and customized number of thumbnails and sizes. Exacq and Network Optix/Digital Watchdog were moderately sufficient, while Genetec's and Video Insight were the weakest- Video Insight having none and Genetec's thumbnails were only useable within a tile.

    • Buffering: Exacq, Genetec, and Video Insight took the longest by first buffering any video prior to playback.

    Additionally, a number of secondary, but still important, differentiators were also apparent:

    • Search for camera(s): Avigilon, Network Optix/Digital Watchdog, Genetec all included a search field, while Exacq, Video Insight, and Milestone required the user to manually find the camera.
    • Calender View: Date/Time Controls was the clearest in Avigilon, Genetec, Exacq and Video Insight. Milestone, and Network Optix/Digital Watchdog were the most hidden and awkward to use and find.

    • Motion event playback: Avigilon allowed for joining of motion events to view at once; while Exacq, and Network Optix/Digital Watchdog would jump to motion events for quicker playbacks. Avigilon, Video Insight, Genetec all include a long list of events the user has to individually click and view rather than a timeline graphical view or playback of all events consecutively.

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    • Scaling timeline: Genetec lacked any visual controls and relied only on mouse wheel interaction for scaling. The rest of the VMSes included buttons that scale the timeline with varying granularity (milliseconds to 4 weeks at a time).

    • Synchronized Playback: Avigilon and Exacq only played back in a synchronized manner without independent playback available. Genetec, Milestone, and Network Optix all offered options to play independently or synchronized within a view. Video Insight, however has two different areas that allow for each mode independently, not within the same view.

    Manufacturer Differentiation

    With respect to those differentiators, here is how manufacturers matched up:

    Avigilon

    Strong across the board. Avigilon pre-indexes motion, offers extensive thumbnail review and does not buffer when displaying video. Motion events are displayed in rows and require individual selection, and it creates one motion event block for timeline playback.

    Milestone

    Milestone's Sequence Explorer is their strongest feature and offers customized thumbnail view as well as time interval selection. Motion Search, however is time consuming and requires a click by click playback for each frame where motion was discovered with a pop-up obstructing the view. Moreover, searching for cameras was non existent and pre defined views were the standard selection mode.

    Network Optix/Digital Watchdog

    All playback and search options are available front and center in the VMS- no need to find where in the application they are. They offer fast pre-indexed motion searches and playback that can be performed synchronized or not. Thumbnail view is available with drill down functionality. A few features such as small calendar icon,single camera row and hour selection were not as clearly seen compared to the other VMSes implementation.

    Exacq

    Exacq's buffering and post index of motion degraded overall search performance. Timeline view showed clear calendar views, scaling options and color coded events. Motion events playback jumped from event to event without user intervention. Thumbnails, however, were dependent on layout view and zoom buttons for granularity were redundant for each thumbnail in view.

    Genetec

    Suffered from a number of functional UI limitations. Genetec has weak thumbnail review and often buffers when displaying video. Loading cameras is done indirectly from a list of event rows and Timeline scaling via mouse wheel; no visual buttons or indication. 

    VideoInsight 

    User Interface was disconnected and scattered with different buttons, options and specific search types in different areas. Moreover, there is no thumbnail view at all and synchronized playback is a totally separate module than the Media Player search options.

    VMS Versions Tested

    • Milestone Enterprise version 8.1a/Smart Client 2013 7.0b 
    • Genetec Security Center version Server/Client 5.2.1045.4018 SR3
    • Avigilon Server/Client 5.0.0.56
    • Exacq Server/Client version 5.8.1.48120
    • Network Optix/Digital Watchdog Server/Client version 2.0.2.4753
    • Video Insight version 5.5.20.5

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