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Need DVR Solution/Advice

Posted on 2009-02-09
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We have four facilities with DVRs and cameras at each.  Right now, we have 7 custom built DVRs.  On the outside, each DVR appears the same, but on the inside, it couldn't be farther from the truth.  Our desktop PCs are all the same of a handful of models.  This is for obvious management ease.  There's about 120 of those and we don't have a whole lot of problems with them.  Our DVRs are another story.  One might have a Pentium D in it, the other might have a Prescott Pentium 4.  They each have different motherboards and have problems with heat.  Each is using one iteration of a Geovision card or two.  On the plus side, they are all using the same DVR software.  Each one of these DVRs is a "professional" model made by a regional security company.  One just happens to be a Shuttle XPC.  Not exactly enterprise class stuff.  We cannot centrally manage the DVRs either.  There's around 100 cameras total.  Most of these are analog color models.  We do have a handful of IP cameras streaming to their local DVR.  On the DVRs that have IP cameras attached, they are running the Geovision analog software as well as Luxriot DVR software.  Since each DVR is not the same, anytime we have an incident, our physical security person is hard pressed to get a copy of the video made.  The Geovision software does this weird copy and paste thing to Nero or what have you.  The burned disc has a player with some DLLs on it for viewing the video.  Our local police can't even view the video because their IT department doesn't allow some of what the backed up video is trying to do.

I know that's alot to take in, but here's what we're looking at.  Going forward, we'd like to go all IP.  That's not going to happen right now.  I'm wondering if there's an interim solution.  Is there something we could replace the existing DVRs with that could utilize IP in the future?  We'd like to be able to centrally manage everything.  Right now, the closest we can come to that is by installing RealVNC on the DVRs.  Also, we'd like to be able to export the video using STANDARD CODECs.  Like Windows Media or something like that.  Plus it needs to be easy for our security people.  They don't really understand how to do alot of advanced PC functions.  I don't like the idea of having so many DVRs.  My understanding of IP is that it is just streaming JPEG.  There's not an analog to digital conversion taking place.  I don't think video size is much of a concern any more with hard drives being as large as they are either.

It's hard for us to take these DVRs we have seriously when we have servers with RAID 5 and redundant everything in them.  When I go looking on the internet though, it appears as all DVR vendors out there don't have it together like Dell or HP.  I just need some advice.  What are your thoughts experts?
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Question by:antsman65
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by:Callandor
ID: 23595009
You can just start with a standard base pc and add a dvr card, like the Geovision card with as many inputs as you want.  Make sure there is enough hard drive space and don't install other apps on the machine to keep it clean.  I don't know why you have a problem with the Geovision, because it stores video files as avi files, which are viewable with Windows Media Player.
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by:antsman65
ID: 23595267
They are viewable only if you have the CODEC installed.  That's where I'm having a problem.  We give it to the police and they don't have the CODEC.  Even with the CODEC installed, it plays at 100X speed and you can't see anything.  The only way you can see it at regular speed is using the player that the software sets up on the backup disc you make.  I need something a little more streamlined.  Something that doesn't require additional software.
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by:Callandor
ID: 23596148
Did you try the export to DVD function?  I would think those are viewable anywhere without additional software or codecs.  As for the fast playback, I think you have to record at 30 fps if you want playback to be normal speed.
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by:antsman65
ID: 23600659
What we have does not exactly have an "export to DVD function."  What it does have is a "backup" function.  I wouldn't really call it a backup though.  It's actually pretty complicated what it does.  It prompts you for a date/time range and camera selection.  Once you have selected what you want, it copies a bunch of files to the clip board.  From there, we're instructed to paste them into a new session in Nero or whatever burning software is available.  What it pastes onto the CD is the actual AVI files, some sort of database for sorting everything, an executable, some DLLs, and multiple images for the interface.  As far as recording at 30 fps, my understanding is that's not going to happen.  I believe that there are two Geovision cards in each DVR.  What I was also led to believe is that the FPS is split between the number of cameras.  We've got 32 cameras on a couple of these DVRs.  So if you take a 200 fps card and divide it by 16, you get 12.5.  I'm guessing on the numbers here.  Like I said, I don't know what is in each DVR and they all are different.  And you cannot view the AVIs without installing the CODEC.  If you install the CODEC and view the files in media player, they play at 100x speed.  You can view them just fine using the viewer on the CD whether you have the CODEC installed or not.  I don't know if the reason why our setup is so limited is because of our vendor or not.  They're pretty tight-lipped with any info on the system and it's my opinion that they don't really know how it all works.

I'm not necessarily looking to make what I have work, but advice on a hybrid or interim solution.  What do big businesses use?  Do they really just slap together a PC with a decoder card and call it a DVR?  We were charged something like 4k for each of these DVRs.  They are not worth close to that in my opinion.  Surely there's something better out there at a similar cost.
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Callandor earned 200 total points
ID: 23601468
I purchased a complete system from www.apexcctv.com, a professional surveillance equipment provider, and found out that the pc-based systems are nothing more than a basic pc plus capture card and cameras.  The standalone units are smaller versions with dedicated electronics for the pushbutton functions.  In my opinion, a DVR card in a basic pc gives the best bang for the buck and is the most flexible, but you have to choose what works best for you.  There are other manufacturers such as Avermedia and others that may be better suited - take a look at http://ipvideomarket.info/tutorials for ideas.
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by:Rich Rumble
Rich Rumble earned 200 total points
ID: 23604242
A different player might solve the speed/playback issue, Mplayer for windows, Media Player Classic typically play just about everything out of the box, if it still plays wonky, it probably is wonky (recorded/encoded weird)... http://www.mplayerhq.hu/MPlayer/releases/win32/MPlayer-1.0rc2-gui.zip
http://mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/ 

We have 20+ offices across the globe, some big some small... We priced a lot of vendors, and determined they were going to cost a fortune. We bought cheap PC's, and a few haupage cards, and cut the cost by 75%. NewEgg has lot's of manufacturers if you wanted to try to look at all makers: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2000380047%201685342847
Having the encoders on the PCI cards takes a lot of load off the CPU. We used linux as the OS, so we saved licensing more windows boxes too, We were able to put together 30 PC's with 2 500Gb drives, 2ghz p4, 1024M ram with hauppauge cards for $400 pre pc. We bought very cheap hardware and cases. Some PC's had more than one dual tuner card in them.
-rich
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by:aleghart
aleghart earned 200 total points
ID: 23607550
Check out the offerings from Video-Insight.com.
They have analog video cards (up to 16 per server), plus IP add-on software to add more IP cameras to the same server.

There is a software client that can log into one or multiple servers, even pick cameras from different servers into a console presentation (up to 33 cameras per view).  You can save different views and change between them.

Facility maps can be imported.  Place your camera locations on the map to click-navigate.

Ask up front about the hardware.  We got stung with delays on several DVRs because Dell changed some of their server specs, which was breaking the software.

They generally sell through security integrators.
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by:antsman65
ID: 23612420
These are the responses I'm looking for!  We are a Dell shop with many workstations and servers.  
aleqhart:
Do you know of an solution provider that uses Dell as their platform?

Callandor and richrumble:
If we were to source our own solution, we'd still be in trouble with the software side.  What would you suggest we use for displaying multiple cameras, exporting footage to disc, and using movement based events for capture?  We'd like something that could accept analog and IP input.

I guess the biggest requirement would be that it is easy to get video for the police.  Our users really don't know how to use a PC let alone operate burning software.  That's why that push button stuff is sort of appealing
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 200 total points
ID: 23613113
For ease of use, here's an example of a 16-channel standalone unit: http://www.apexcctv.com/p-441-16-channel-standalone-security-dvr-system-500-gb-hard-drive.aspx.  It works like a VCR, uses MJPEG compression, and lets you export to a USB drive or CD: http://support.apexcctv.com/Downloads/Standalones/FUHO/AP-9060_&_AP-16CO/Manual_AP-9060_&_AP-16CO.pdf.  It also has a network viewer application that you can install.
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by:Rich Rumble
Rich Rumble earned 200 total points
ID: 23613522
We bought a few accessories and camera's from http://www.youdoitsecurity.com and we almost bought DVR's from them too, but we had an issue with the remote viewing of our test box. We also have 2-4 feeds being combined, so if you play a file back, depending on the location, we have the screen split into 4th's or in halves. So 2, 3 or 4 cameras are recorded on one input.
We record to the disk using mencoder(linux) and playback is done over ssh via mplayer. We like to "grow our own" when we think we can, and for us, it's pretty good.
Sorry, I'm not sure I have an easier way :( We didn't use a commercial offering...
-rich
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by:aleghart
aleghart earned 200 total points
ID: 23614870
>aleqhart:
>Do you know of an solution provider that uses Dell as their platform?

Video Insight uses Dell servers and workstations as their primary hardware.  That was one small reason for putting them on the short list.  I was more interested in the software capabilities.  We could transplant our existing analog setup, then expand to IP video in the future.

When the hardware hiccup arose, similar hardware was substituted.  Not a huge deal...the biggest problem was the server chassis were not as stiff as the Dells.  Once they were racked up, I've only touched them to increase hard drive capacity and put in RAID controllers.
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Author Comment

by:antsman65
ID: 23617640
I think you all have valid input here.  I don't think any one answer is the ultimate solution, but you have given some good advice on what to look for.  As we move forward with this, we'll definitely keep these sorts of things in mind.
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