There are exciting things happening in the DVR and NVR business, many of which are shaping the future of video surveillance. Unfortunately, wherever excitement goes, it often brings with it a degree of misunderstanding. Video industry professionals talk about what they say are the top three most common misconceptions about DVR and NVR technology and system selection.


Maybe you’re not installing a lot of (or any) IP-based systems, and maybe that has you feeling like you’re on the outside looking in at something big.
There’s a lot of upside to an IP system, most notably flexibility for future expansion, a reduction in the number of cables required and the ability to more easily capture and store high-resolution video. But for many, IP can be more than a little intimidating. And why not? To properly design and install IP systems takes a certain level of networking knowledge. 

“From our dealers, 90 percent of the questions we receive are related to network setups,” says Daniel Seo, director of sales and marketing for Irvine, Calif.-based Topnos/CTring Co., Ltd. “Without that knowledge, NVRs can be almost impossible to hook up. For end-user consumers, a DVR is often much easier to understand and to use.”

Still, wherever you look, the IP machine is buzzing. We live in an IP world, where even TVs and — as unveiled at the recent Consumer Electronics Show — appliances can be connected to home networks.

This buzz begs the question: What’s the future of analog? Or, perhaps more appropriately, is there a future for analog?

Warren Brown, director of product management, American Dynamics and Software House, based in Westford, Mass., says a common misconception among dealers, integrators and even customers is that because IP is the wave of the future, analog is always the wrong choice. But that’s not the case at all, he contends. Despite all of the bells and whistles of IP and its accompanying NVRs, and the benefits they bring, and despite opinions to the contrary, there still exists a robust market for analog technology and DVRs.

“The trend is certainly headed toward IP video, but there are still some great applications and usage for analog — for the next five to seven years, maybe longer,” says American Dynamics.

Bottom line: the day when IP becomes standard practice for video systems may be coming, but it’s not as close as some might have you believe. According to Bill Taylor, president of Secaucus, N.J.-based Panasonic Systems Networks of America, it’s not even close.

The question is: When to go with an NVR and when to go with a DVR?

“Statistically, integrators and users still prefer to use DVRs. They’re economical and provide simplified installation, and they’re well-suited to small-business applications, especially those that involve one location and a handful of cameras,” Taylor says. “NVRs offer the ease of sharing information across a network and can accommodate higher-resolution network cameras.”

Until (or unless) IP becomes de rigeur for video systems, Taylor says both DVRs and NVRs can be considered a wise investment.

“Clearly IP-based networked systems using NVRs are the future, but analog systems using DVRs still represent the bulk of installed systems,” he says. “The market is in gradual transition, but the new capabilities of networked systems — megapixel imaging and widely available video throughout the enterprise — will ultimately accelerate the transition to NVRs.”

The best advice for anyone considering a “rip and replace” transition to IP? Take a step back and make sure a full conversion is the right choice based on your customer’s needs.

“There’s no need to rip out existing systems,” Taylor says. “Strategic use of DVRs, NVRs and video encoders can allow customers to continue to use legacy analog cameras for years to come. Careful product selection now can maximize the potential for future expansion and even save money over the long haul.”


When it comes to megapixels, the mantra seems to be more, more, more. In some cases, especially for ports, airports and other locations where security is highly serious business, the drive for higher megapixels is warranted. But, Brown says, it’s a disservice to customers — and to the industry as a whole — to push megapixels for megapixels’ sake.

“It’s not about the highest resolution possible. It’s about how to make the best use of that resolution,” he says. “You don’t need 10 megapixels with 30 frames per second for monitoring a dumpster.”

The two main reasons Brown urges restraint when playing the megapixel game are bandwidth and storage requirements. The higher the megapixels, the more of each that are required — and the more likely that a DVR or an NVR will be taxed to the max.

Capacities of both network-attached storage and external hard drives have risen and costs have fallen, making additional storage relatively inexpensive, Seo says. When it comes to bandwidth, most network managers use software to manage their bandwidth. Additionally, multi-streaming is available in most DVRs. This allows the DVR to store video on-board in high-definition and transmit at a lower resolution to conserve bandwidth. As an added bonus, customers can keep their existing DVRs.

The main areas where higher megapixel video is absolutely necessary, Brown says, are situations where high security dictates high-quality video, such as airports and ports. In other cases, Brown says, there are technologies that allow users to manage their bandwidth and storage by managing the quality of the video that’s coming in to the NVR.

For example, using video analytics to recognize when a vehicle enters a scene, a camera can determine when to crank up all of its megapixels and when to dial it down to preserve precious bandwidth and storage.

“You don’t want to be pay for extra infrastructure to be transmitting and storing 5 megapixels’ worth of an empty scene,” Brown explains.


In what’s becoming a recurring theme, feature sets and specifications are also an area where more isn’t necessarily better. In fact, Brown says, sometimes it’s not entirely clear what a particular specification actually means.

Take feet per second, which traditionally has been expressed as a cumulative number. In talking about IP and megapixel technologies, that model doesn’t work. If the spec sheet states an NVR can support 64 cameras, does that mean 5-megapixel cameras? 4 SIF cameras?

“Cumulative feet per second is a nice way to play the specmanship game, but if you don’t read the fine print, the NVR just falls over because no NVR can support the same number of 5-megapixel and 2 SIF cameras.”

Steve Malia, vice president of engineering services and marketing for Brick, N.J.-based North American Video, says installers and integrators are looking to manufacturers to offer not only a range of high-quality products, but also some more “value-priced” options that include fewer bells and whistles.

“Feature-rich DVRs and NVRs are useful in some situations, but customers shouldn’t have to pay for features they don’t need for an application,” he says. “This affords integrators the flexibility to pick and choose products according to application requirements while providing the greatest efficiencies in overall system costs.”

Brown says the best integrator conversations he has are with those who come to him with a list of the business issues their customers are looking to solve with video, rather than a list of products they’ve recommended.

“It’s easy to get excited about the technology. It’s fun,” he says. “A longer list of features isn’t necessarily better because the reality is that most customers only use 10 to 20 percent of the system capacity.”

Regardless of the technology, Brown thinks two factors drive every choice: the need for high-quality video (or lack thereof) and cost. Of the two, he says, cost is often most important.

“It doesn’t make sense to quote up a job and get a customer excited about the technology if there’s no budget for it,” he says.

Malia agrees, saying, “NVRs and IP are the wave of the future, but at the end of the day, the customer needs to get the best value and the right equipment for their needs. It’s up to the integrator to provide the expertise and resources to ensure a good result.”

Handling H.264

What is H.264? That is one of the most common questions Warren Brown of American Dynamics hears from dealers and integrators. While more seem to understand the concept, he says the how and why behind the compression technology is still a bit of a mystery.

The reason why H.264 is so efficient is that it uses a lot of complicated computing algorithms to “pack pixels into a tiny box.” What many people don’t understand, Brown says, is that you need software to unpack that box in order to view the video. And if you’re using older software, the process eats up a lot of computer processing power.

“When they’re told that a particular software can display eight to ten 1- to 2-megapixel cameras at 15 to 30 frames per second, most people don’t think to say, ‘Show me,’” Brown relates. “If you’re talking about viewing one camera at a time, no problem. Nine or ten on the same screen? That’s where a number of systems start to fail.”

Unfortunately, he says, this doesn’t usually show up in a demo, but only when someone is viewing video in a control room or monitoring center.
Perhaps what’s most unfortunate, Brown says, is that the solution for avoiding this kind of failure is as easy as installing new software or upgrading workstations to high-end gaming-type PCs.

A Third Option

When designing and installing a CCTV system, your choices are all-analog, all-IP or a hybrid of the two. If you’re looking for high-resolution but can’t afford an IP network, you’re out of luck, right?
Not necessarily says Daniel Seo of Topnos/CTring Co., Ltd.

A newcomer to the video security space, HDCCTV uses high-definition serial digital interface (HD SDI), allowing high-definition video to be transmitted over RG229 coaxial cable.

HDCCTV has been used primarily for broadcast, but has tremendous potential in security applications. According to Seo, HDCCTV has been available for security since the second half of last year.

“The setup is 100 percent the same as a conventional DVR, and HDCCTV is also supported by strong a standards protocol,” he says. “As a result of this technology, most conventional installers now have access to HD without an IP network.”