Why is digital zoom part of an RFP?

If you are going to be doing any kind of surveillance, the digital zoom factor in the camera, seems completely irrelevant to me. I know that some cameras have a transparent switch-over from optical to digital PTZ, e.g. when the optical system has zoomed in as far as it will go, it starts to do digital zoom, causing the feed to get pixelated and blurry.

I guess it’s pretty convenient, but you are really just throwing away information that might be useful later, and the NVR client software surely can do digital zoom at any level you may desire, and hopefully do as good a job as the camera itself.

Doing 1000x digital zoom in software is completely trivial, it is as easy as doing 2x or 8x. In the bad old days, people seemed to believe that “digital zoom” was similar to what they might have seen on CSI, and that the digital zoom would allow you to basically record at 320×240 and then, using a magic algorithm, you could yell “ENHANCE” at the screen, and suddenly clear, crisp facial features of some perp would emerge as if you had recorded at 5MP in the first place.

Now, you can actually “deblur” an image, but it requires that the blurry image was high resolution to begin with and that the blur is motion blur, or that the object you are analyzing only has a limited number of possible outcomes (letters, numbers, that kind of thing). But that’s not really what the RFP’s are asking for. Furthermore, I imagine it would make more sense to simply export the blurry images and use a commercial editing tool to process the frames.




Too Much Information

Unfortunately, you still need to attend training and become certified to install some of the leading IP video solutions out there. I don’t understand why. Well. I do. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I am fairly convinced that this market can and will be disrupted.

You don’t have to go too far back to realize how little value NVR manufacturers put into the user experience. Sure, everyone understood that a good UX is better than a bad one, but when it came to plunking down the cash, and making the hard choices, they seemed to run scared, and instead bet on adding another 5 cameras to the maximum camera count, or add more knobs to turn and things to adjust.

Remove Options!
In my humble opinion you should strive to REMOVE options from the interface. A good example is the quality setup for a camera. Almost all (if not all), differentiate between “compression”, “codec” and “resolution”, this means that someone could pick 3 MP for resolution, and then turn the compression all the way up, causing the quality (and effective resolution) to actually go down. Add VBR or CBR to the mix, and why not RTSP/UDP or RTSP over HTTP, just to make it even harder to make the right choice?

Let’s COA
While it may seem tempting to conclude that the manufacturers are just giving us a wonderful smorgasbord of options that we should all enjoy, it could be interpreted as just covering my ass. Instead of making rational and optimal choices for the end user, we just leave it to them to make the mistakes. That way, when something actually happens and they can’t see shit because they had the wrong permutation of options, we can wash our hands in their fountain of ignorance. When you go to a superstar restaurant, the menu is quite short, the chef is the expert and he makes the choice for you. If you go to an all you can eat buffet, the responsibility for picking the right combination is yours. Furthermore, because the 3-star Michelin restaurant only has a few options, each option is very well catered for. In contrast to the All You Can Eat Buffet where each dish was poured from a plastic bucket into the deep fryer.

Noma's menu


No Guts, No Glory
I don’t think any of the NVR manufacturers out there have the guts to offer a very, very simple interface. And I think it kills the adaptation of old school NVRs in the mass market. I believe that there are a lot more value that integrators can add, than simply being able to make a meaningful choice in the carnival of features that we’ve added, and I truly believe that even the most technically competent integrator would appreciate a system that was easier to set up.

But People Want Feature X, Y and Z
I am not so sure. Nobody wanted an iPhone when it was announced (OK, I am wildly exaggerating here, but it helps my point). Everyone was telling me how “no-one wanted a touchscreen keyboard” and “My blackberry is way better”. Once it came out and people realized how they didn’t need all the things they said they did, they went “oh, but it will never work in a corporate environment”, and now everyone wants remote access on their iPad, so they’ll have an app right next to Angry Birds and Words With Friends (while exposing their NVR to the public network and so on, but that is another story).

We are all alike
I believe that 99% of ALL installations could, and should have been, made with the same exact set of options, the only difference being the scale of the system. And while I believe in removing options, I too pragmatic to suggest that the user has NO options. I’d offer 5 quality options (very low, low, medium, high, very high), and then let the system chose what the parameters should be behind the scenes.

Am I Insane
Possibly. But certainly most people who’ll read this, are going to think that I am. And so I am not afraid that anyone will heed this advice. I think there is a survivor-bias in this industry of people who just loves the giant buffet of acronyms, and there’s probably no courage to go ahead an offer such a product.

Ahhh… back to listening to Captain Beefheart….