So Long, Analog Video

HD CCTV enters casino security mainstream

So, you’ve been a CCTV provider for years and have watched surrounding technologies surpass you. DVRs have become more powerful, and less expensive, but with the very best analog cameras using composite video, the picture quality has reached its limit.

End users look at IP camera solutions, but training all the technicians to become IT professionals is daunting.

Plus, performance is still not worth the extra effort with tooling and training. Consumers today can go to a national electronics store and buy a 1080i camcorder with a built-in zoom lens and hard disk for less than $500.

This begs the question of why any end user is stuck with low-quality analog or complicated IP video in CCTV applications.

The answer is pretty simple: because of the signal transports available today.

End users understand that analog video is tied to a 525-line standard and most IP cameras leave them scratching their heads, wondering what else is there. The question remains, how do I easily get that beautiful high-definition signal from the cameras to the DVR?

The Good News
Over the past couple of years, a few ambitious manufacturers have crossed into the broadcast market to give CCTV guys the opportunity to adopt the old broadcast standard.

The result is a high-definition serial digital interface. HDSDI is able to send uncompressed 720p or 1080p video at 30 frames per second over coax cable, similar to the HD camera that hovers over any NFL field during game day.

The quality of the images is high definition.

What you get is a really good image with the sudden availability of high-definition cameras components and an affordable HD CCTV solution that installs using exactly the same steps as analog. CCTV systems are now broadcast quality.

“This has been quite a run for us,” said Tom Rensch, managing director at the Silverado Casino in Deadwood, S.D. “For three months, we’ve been experimenting with HD CCTV; we always want to try new technology at the casino. We couldn’t see the cards or into the pit as well as we would like, but now we’re getting ready to order the new cameras. Yes, the image quality is that good.”

The Silverado has 26 gaming tables and five poker tables, and Rensch said the camera and image quality has been second to none. The Silverado will be the first casino to implement the HD CCTV product line.

Rensch has been sampling the technology; his next goal is to see if the state gaming commission will amend the rules to require two cameras to be placed over every table. But because the quality is so impressive, he hopes they will reconsider the requirements to only one camera per table.

For the first time, a U.S. governing body has issued certification for an HDSDI-based CCTV system. The South Dakota Gaming Commission has approved the use of a HD/DVR camera solution for use in casinos.

“We’re pretty excited about using this technology,” said Dennis Roberts, president and CEO of 5-Star Audio Video Systems in Sturgis, S.D. “Customers are getting very clean shots. The picture quality at poker tables is stunning.” Roberts said, in this case, this technology allows the gaming industry to achieve excellent picture quality and frame rates up to 30 fps, both live and in storage mode. Roberts’ 5-Star integrators set up a test camera system at the privately held Silverado Casino in Deadwood, S.D., where end users were able to view crystal clear HDTV-style live images.

“This technology does what IP cameras can’t deliver: 30 fps over Cat-5 cable,” Roberts said. “Goodbye, analog; hello, HDTV.”

A Full House
SG Digital offered a camera solution to an integrator who specializes in the smaller casino market in the Midwest.

Based on performance and playback quality, the integrator was able to install a four-camera system with each camera viewing one gaming table for a beta test. When viewing the captured video, casino officials realized they could easily determine a playing card, as well as see the currency denominations on a 6-foot-wide table with one camera.

After six months of testing and a few minor software upgrades, the HD CCTV system received approval.

Some of the items pending approval were a system that could achieve a constant 30 fps per channel at 1,280x720 resolution, a compression codec on the DVR that allows for 10 days of storage at 2 TB, and watermarking and verification of all exported video.

Finally, backups can be made as proprietary or AVI and easily viewed on any computer. Installation must be identical to an analog system as the recording and capture process doesn’t touch the network.

Coming to Market
By working hand-in-hand with integrators, SG Digital has been able to bring this new CCTV format to market, benefiting retailers, quick-serve restaurants, banks and casinos. Once the solution was rolled out, end users were able to recognize the performance and ease of use of HD CCTV, adopting it as a new standard.

One of the keys to migrating to a new standard is to support the old, since all HD systems are offered as hybrid DVRs, allowing support for any combination of HD and analog cameras.

Some integrators have found that these types of packages are an easy upsell and retrofit.

The transition to the gaming world means the HDSDI-based system sends video from the DVR in a fully uncompressed 30 fps format and allows for more conventional capture and storage.

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Security Today.

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