An overview of the capabilities and limits of the new HDcctv standard
A technology is arising with the HDcctv standard that is transferring the analogue PAL world into the digital high definition age without falling back onto IP-based infrastructures. HDcctv uses coaxial cables and BNC connectors for transmission, which allows integration with or even full replacement of existing analogue systems – assuming the right cable quality. Also an alternative for IP-based solutions?
The emergence and rapid spread of IP-based video surveillance saw an attempt to strike up a swansong for the good old coaxial cable. High-resolution video imagery could only be transmitted over RJ-45 cables, and everyone who wanted to install cameras with a resolution above that of the classic PAL format was forced to expand their network technology skills. But the new HDcctv now gives a new appeal to coaxial cables and BNC connectors, as the standard also allows the Full HD 1080p resolution known from the film sectors in video surveillance. Is CCTV now therefore HD Ready? A year ago this question would have had to be answered with a clear “no”, as the technology was limited primarily to cameras but no recording capabilities were available. However, numerous manufacturers are now on the verge of offering the first, marketable complete solutions. What is so good about HDcctv technology?
The drawbacks of analogue systems eliminated
The HDcctv standard was established by the Australian Todd Rockoff. In 2009 he founded the HDcctv Alliance of leading international manufacturers to support this new format. Today the Alliance has over 50 members. The standard has the aim of routing digital high-resolution signals over existing coaxial cables using plug & play, and of eliminating the drawback of analogue systems – the lower resolution compared to IP-based solutions. The HDcctv standard is based on HD-SDI (High Definition Serial Digital Interface) and the associated SMPTE standard developed for transmission of high-resolution, uncompressed, picture signals for TV. But even though metadata, such as text, in addition to imagery and sound can be transmitted over HD-SDI links, further requirements have to be placed when this standard is used in video surveillance: delay-free execution of PTZ functions, operating voltage over coaxial cables (comparable to PoE in IP) and bidirectional audio transmission are some examples of what has to be realised in the foreseeable future. The HDcctv SMPTE standard has therefore numerous differences to TV SMPTE.
HDTV nomenclature With the known HDTV standard, whose nomenclature was also taken over for HDcctv, information is made up of the number of lines, scanning method and refresh rate. 720p/25, 1080i/50 and 1080p/25 are usual. The difference in the scanning method is made clear by the letters “p” for “progressive” and “I” for “interlaced”. Information on the refresh rate is based on progressive scanning. Therefore, for instance, 1080p/25 can be translated as: 1080 lines are displayed in progressive scanning with a refresh rate of 25 frames per second. As for an IP camera, 720p equates to approximately 1 megapixel, 1080p approximately 2.2 megapixels.
Cable quality is what counts Not every coaxial cable can be used for HDcctv. The minimum quality requirement was defined as being “suitable for cable TV”, which equates to the US RG59 quality description, but RG6 and RG11 cables are even better. Old or low quality coaxial cables are not suitable for transmission of high-resolution CCTV imagery. It is therefore important to test whether the laid cables fulfil the quality requirements before a decision is made to operate HDcctv devices over an existing coaxial cable network. Because it is not always possible simply to switch over to HDcctv everywhere where CCTV functions perfectly today. Although, HDcctv should work at the majority of locations in Germany as RG59 cables are mostly used. Distances up to 100 metres can be bridged with a RG59 cable. Longer distances can be achieved today by installing repeaters. But a long distance mode will soon be available allowing ranges up to 300 metres without repeaters – with low compression and a reduction to 270 Mbit. In addition to the capability of using existing cabling, HDcctv provides other benefits: Clearly, the high resolutions and consequently the quality of picture details as compared to analogue systems. Additionally, plug & play installation is possible without requiring network skills. Furthermore, imagery is displayed without delays and also execution of, for instance, PTZ functions.
New requirements on recorders and monitors Higher requirements are placed on recorders connected to the recording device and the system. PAL recorders cannot process digital HD signals, which means special recorders certified HDcctv compliant have to be used. The higher resolution combined with the resulting larger data quantities of recorded material furthermore require hard disks with larger capacities. Imagery is displayed in the 16:9 format so that a corresponding monitor should be used, and not one with 4:3 format – a trend that will win through anyway as 720p and 1080p cameras are also increasingly being used in IP.
Competition for IP-based solutions? Is the standard serious competition for IP-based solutions? It is hardly possible to give a clear answer to this question at the moment, as HDcctv has only just become marketable and it is therefore still too early to comment on its acceptance. However, it can be assumed that both technologies will compete directly against each other, as HDcctv is oriented more towards existing analogue systems and IP solutions on new installations. Additionally, HDcctv, as the name suggests, is normally for stand-alone systems. If the requirement is for central monitoring of distributed locations, then network technology is the prime choice.
HDcctv solutions from eneo
eneo is launching into the digital HDcctv world with a comprehensive product portfolio. Bullet cameras, boxed-type cameras, dome cameras and two four-channel recorders will soon be available – presumably not all at the same time, but no later than at the end of the year. The bullet cameras impressively translate the successful analogue concept into HDcctv where they also offer the usual high functionality with the IP68-protected housing with sunshield, integrated 850 nm LEDs and plug & play installation. The same also applies for the dome cameras that are also fitted with a 2.8-10 mm variable focal length lens just like the bullet cameras. The HDD-2110M1080 vandalism-protected dome camera, in particular, is really remarkable as it has a full feature set also offering full 1080p resolution despite its extremely flat and compact design. Further functions, just like all other eneo HDcctv models, are: WDR, day/night operation thanks to its switchable infrared cut filter, privacy zones and motion detection. With the recorders there is a choice between a model with maximum recording resolution of 1080p or one of 720p. Both models feature four HD-SDI video inputs and H.264 compression, and allow mobile access from the Apple iPhone and iPad as well as Android smartphones and BlackBerry. Replay is over HDMI outputs. A comprehensive range of accessories with converters and distributors is also in development.