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Enhanced video security: French company ATEME has unveiled a new IP encoder that enables video security to be networked in a more efficient manner.

The need to acquire a clear image on your video recordings is obvious, but the potential advantages security equipment can provide after the image has been recorded are less clear.

For network video security applications, the bitrate--the rate by which the recorded data is transmitted--is a critical factor towards any system's efficiency and its successful implementation. Lowering the required bitrate, while maintaining excellent video quality leads to a more efficient product.

ATEME's H.264 encoder has been optimised and enhanced to provide very high video quality at exceptionally low bitrates. It is completely standard conforming to the guidelines governing the H.264 standard. The company uses an open-standard approach, which means that the equipment can be used with many other existing products on the market and, therefore, its customers won't be forced to stay with proprietary set-ups; giving a lower total cost of ownership. Even compared to the previous-generation's MPEG-4 encoding technology, customers can expect to benefit from a 30% reduction in bitrate for the same quality video. This results in reduced overhead on the network, reduced storage requirements due to smaller file sizes and, most importantly, reduced cost to the end user. In some cases the achieved result in video quality can even be greater as MPFG-4 just cannot compete with H.264 in terms of quality at really low bitrates.

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The company has been refining its H.264 encoding technology over many years and in that time has progressively deployed enhanced solutions to its customer sites across the world. Of course these are not just at airports; this equipment can be found overlooking numerous other facilities, such as roads, subway stations and toll booths.

This latest version, of the compression standard--the H.264 Mpeg4 Part 10 or AVC (Advanced Video Coding) CODEC--replaces the previously successful MPEG-4 (MPEG-4 part 2) video encoding standard that it is the latest cutting-edge video compression standard available on the market today.

The reason it differs from other encoding technologies (MPEG-2, MPEG-4) is due to its many sophisticated techniques that enable video to be compressed much more efficiently, making it more flexible and suitable for any type of network constraints that might exist.

Technology Details

Similar to other encoding technologies ATEME believes profiles should be used in order to bundle together certain sets of features that target specific types of applications. There are four primary profiles that exist in H.264.

The first is its Baseline Profile, which provides for low-delay applications such as video-conferencing and mobile applications. This is complemented by an Extended Profile for mobile streaming applications; its Main Profile, for interlaced video and broadcast media systems and its High Profile, for high-definition requirements such as television displays.

The H.264's enhanced compression is primarily achieved by using such techniques as Motion Estimation, which minimises temporal redundancies (similar blocks at different locations in two video frames); Intra Estimation, which minimises spatial redundancies (the duplications of elements within a portion of a frame); reduction of compression artifacts; Entropy coding, which assigns a smaller number of bits to frequently encountered symbols and a larger number of bits to infrequently encountered symbols.

The two versions of Entropy coding used in the ATEMF product comprise CABAC (context-adaptive binary arithmetic coding) and CAVLC (context-adaptive variable-length coding).

Data is compressed much more efficiently with CABAC than CAVLC; but CABAC encoding needs much more processing power to drive it.

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Although CAVLC is less complex than CABAC, it is still much more efficient than other techniques used in coefficient encoding, such as that used in MPEG-4 encoding. The further advances in video quality and prediction performance are achieved through the use of a deblocking filter, which removes block artifacts (common to other encoding techniques). This is made possible by smoothing out the edges between the blocks within a frame. This filter also greatly improves the visual quality of a frame when compared at similar bitrates to MPEG-4 encoding.

ATEME has incorporated a revolutionary feature that enables two H.264 video streams to be encoded from the same source and streamed at different frame rates on a single Digital Signal Processor (DSP), which is an alternative technology version of a CPU; it is essentially the computer's processing ability/power.

This is special because of the limited processing capability available on the DSP and is only achievable due to the streamlined performance of the ATEME encoding engine. This is important for situations where video is being monitored at full frame rate but recorded at a lower bitrate. Variable Frame Rate (VFR) is a feature that reduces and increases the frame rate depending on the movement in a given area, ie, when there is no activity in the frame; images are probably not required and can, therefore, be discarded. This, together with the already low bitrates, further reduces the amount of disk space required to store a video file.

The latest version of the H.264 can automatically adjust the bitrate depending on the actual image activity. It is perhaps the most significant technology incorporated into the H.264 encoders in recent months. This gives it the ability to constantly produce razor sharp images at fluctuating bitrates. The need for this came from a limitation with Constant Bitrate (CBR) mode encoding. By implementing this process, bitrate reductions of 60% can be achieved compared to bitrates with similar MPEG-4 video quality."

The company's engineers found that CBR mode encoding produced great picture quality when there was low activity--but when activity increased and there was a lot of motion, the picture quality could be degraded. With this latest technique, the likelihood of degraded or dropped frames is removed, as it is much more flexible than CBR and also allows the image to remain sharp and clear while still providing control on the maximum bandwidth used.

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Another advantage that the manufacturer claims the H.264 has compared to CBR equipment, is its high efficiency. With the new product, bitrate is consumed only when necessary, resulting in even less network traffic and reduced storage requirements for the user.

Open Standards

ATEME's H.264's encoding technology is 100% compliant with the guidelines covering the governing standards, and it believes that this will be an important consideration for potential customers; saying that other equipment, which may lack what it calls open standards, will result in reduced choice for those requiring such a system. Its compliancy also means that the H.264's video stream can be decoded with standard software such as VLC player or QuickTime[R], which may be an important licensing consideration when managing video over a large network.

This--as mentioned at the beginning of this article--can lock customers into proprietary systems, which means that purchasing standard compliant technology gives users more flexibility and avoids the need to purchase complete (and potentially more expensive) solutions. The H.264 is designed so that its customers will have the option to combine security system components without having to worry about any integration or data format issues. If the purchaser has options then more competition exists, which should mean that the customer benefits from lower product prices.

Today and tomorrow

ATEME's current product range is based on H.264 technology and in order to significantly reduce the costs of updating security systems can integrate directly with the user's existing infrastructure. It is possible to retain existing analog cameras while simply installing the H.264 encoder, which will transform standard analog CCTV security solutions into a state-of-the-art IP network video solution providing the highest video quality at the lowest bitrates. For completely new video security installations, customers still choose to use analog cameras with the ATEME encoder because the video quality obtained from combining it with the analog camera is far superior to the video obtained from IP cameras. This, it argues, is due to the fact that the IP camera technology is still in a stage of evolution and is still constrained by hardware and price limitations, although the company believes this trend will change over the next five years.

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The prototype of the latest version of the H.264 encoder made its public debut at the recent inter airport Europe exhibition in Munich. It is expected to be commercially by the end of this year.
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Title Annotation:Security
Author:Allett, Tom
Publication:Airports International
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Words:1373
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