Eight Times the Power

Eight Times the Power

8K Cameras for security and why it is a trend worth noting

Many of us may have 4K television sets in our homes that look incredible compared to previous generation HD sets. You might also recall that moving from SD to HD was a major upgrade. While 4K does not represent the leap in quality that we saw going from SD to HD, it is natural to assume that 8K is going to look that much better than 4K. However, it is really not about “looks”, and it never really has been. Instead, it is about control.

For example, TV crews have been filming in 4K, 6K and even 8K ever since such cameras have been available. Not because they expect their shows to be watched on 4K or higher resolution TVs, but because the directors and editors have more control on how the images are framed for the audience.

The ability to digitally pan around and zoom or “crop” an image allows video editors to pick the precise area of interest that best tells the story. In addition, the ability to do this as a “post-process” is more compelling, since directors and producers are not locked into the composition “as shot” in the field.

Why Do We Need More Pixels in the Security Market?

If you digitally zoom in on a 1080p HD image that is already displayed at full size, such as on an HD monitor, the quality of the image quickly deteriorates. Distinguishing features of faces that could help security professsionals identify a suspect become blurred and pixelated with as little as 10 percent zoom, depending on how close and in-focus they were in the first place.

For this reason, more than any other, a higher pixel density can enable a more accurate display of objects that we wish to digitally zoom into during forensic search or live monitoring. 4K images hold the equivalent of four HD images, so you can zoom in substantially without image deterioration.

8K images hold 16 times the pixels of HD images, which gives us an unprecedented amount of digital zoom control with little to no pixelization or softening of the image.

8K is Not For Everyone

It is true that 8K cameras might be too much for many installations today, depending on the requirements and needs of clients. The sensor technology inside of such a camera alone makes it very expensive compared to its 4K and HD counterparts.

The increased image resolution necessitates a fast connection and requires more storage. Likewise, H.265 compression and lower frame rates are mandatory if file sizes and network bandwidth are to be managed appropriately.

However, for certain use cases that feature large open spaces, 8K can represent a perfect solution. If we consider a large stadium with thousands of seats, the ability to quickly zoom in and clearly identify people involved in a fight or recognize who threw an object can be challenging on a wall of individual screens and multiple recorded files.

Being able to zoom-in digitally on images without loss in clarity represents a new workflow for security staff, and an important trend in video surveillance workflow.

Changing the Way We Work

If you consider the number of video security cameras installed today, it is easy to see that we are rapidly approaching saturation in some areas where installing more cameras is not the answer to the challenges faced by private corporations, government buildings or myriad other facilities.

Rather than investing in a vast quantity of cameras, security integrators and dealers are investing in higher-resolution cameras. 4K cameras are poised to give us much more information with less infrastructure—more control, better clarity and fewer cameras overall to monitor, record and maintain. Instead of looking at a giant wall of monitors, operators may prefer the capability to “zoom in and enhance."

Higher-resolution cameras represent a big step in that direction. You might think that an 8K monitor is required to view an 8K image, however it is not required at all since the ability to zoom in is based on the display dimensions being smaller than the image. This action is comparable to zooming into a high-resolution still image on a laptop or phone.

As higher megapixel cameras continue to come to market and costs come down over time, this trend towards installing smarter, more capable cameras instead of more cameras is one we can expect to continue.

Looking at the New Hanwha Techwin 8K Camera

Hanwha Techwin recently showcased the TNB-9000, a new 8K camera at GSX 2019. It features an oversized sensor, which gives the camera a unique ability, similar to a camera with a limited remote PTRZ. This “sensor shift” capability enables installers to remotely pan and tilt the camera for tweaking the final view.

With the potential to generate large amounts of data, the TNB- 9000 utilizes a framerate of up to 12FPS when running in 8K mode. The camera features Hanwha’s triple codec, which includes H.265 compression technology for reduced bandwidth and storage requirements.

It also features an SFP slot to run fiber directly to the camera when CAT5 runs are not available or practical. For added flexibility, the camera features an EF lens mount, which accommodates any Canon EF lenses.

This presents a wide variety of options for focal length and aperture. Users can choose to invest in a fast lens with a low f-stop to further enhance low-light performance. Manually focusing such a high-resolution system would be very difficult, so remote focus using the lens’ built-in EF capability is also supported to make that functionality simple for users.

The camera detects when light levels drop below a certain threshold, and instead of capturing a noisy color image, it goes into black and white mode. During this transition, the camera physically retracts an IR cut filter from in front of the sensor, which lets more light onto the imager.

A typical shortcoming when some cameras remove the physical glass of an IR cut filter from in front of the imager is that the camera goes out of focus. As the environment gets increasingly darker, some cameras go out of focus and although they are programmed to refocus, there may be nothing to focus on, so they cannot focus anymore.

To counter this, the TNB-9000 inserts an equivalent piece of clear glass in front of the imager when the IR cut filter is retracted, so that the camera stays in focus at all times.

Working with Modern VMS systems

Software-based video management systems (VMS) are already built to take advantage of high-megapixel images. Many already support digitally zooming and panning within images, but as discussed, the useful limits of these tools are quickly reached for 1080p images shown on a HD screen.

Having more pixels to work with will give such systems more opportunity to use digital cropping and zooming tools both for live monitoring and forensic investigations. As an example, Hanwha’s

Wisenet WAVE VMS allows operators to drag cropping rectangles on a source image to create new windows or monitors featuring the area of interest.

Within a single 8K image, a user could potentially “crop out” 16 individual HD-sized frames. This new level of control promises to usher in a new way of working with video as these high-resolution cameras become more pervasive.

This trend will likely continue as operators wish to view and capture fewer individual camera streams knowing the high-resolution detail is there allowing them to digitally pan and zoom without loss of quality and sharpness.

High-resolution 8K cameras, such as the new Hanwha TNB- 9000, deliver much more than a high-quality image. This level of resolution ushers in a new paradigm in how cameras can change the way we work with video in the security industry, which has traditionally relied on the mantra of adding more cameras to address safety challenges.

The ability to digitally zoom into images, while maintaining clarity in real-time as well as after an event, gives operators and video analytics programs a radical new way to interact with data, effectively seeing more with less.

In the process, security professionals can use this data to target areas at high risk for crime and forge new prevention measures that are efficient and evidence-based.

As camera resolution increases, we can install fewer cameras while collecting more data than ever before.

This article originally appeared in the January / February 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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    May / June 2020

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