Video Conferencing and Video Surveillance – An Introduction to Video Over IP Networks

Video over the computer networks has always been tricky – but the high capacity and high performance IP Networks of today make some interesting real time applications like video conferencing and IP video surveillance possible over the computer network. Lets check out the salient points about both of them, in this article.

Video Over IP Networks – Architecture Diagram:

Video Conferencing and Video Surveillance over IP Networks - Architecture Diagram
Video Over IP Networks - Structural Block Diagram

Video Conferencing:

Why is a Video Conferencing System required?

A Video Conferencing system is required to see and talk to people in real time. Its like a conference call, but its possible to see the persons as well as talk to them. In addition to that, participants can also show a presentation to the other end while talking. This is very useful for conducting business meetings, educational seminars, tele-medicine, multi-location discussions, etc without the people involved having to travel all the distance!

In the above architecture diagram, there is a head office with three departments (IT Dept, Dept-1 and Dept-2) with LAN connectivity between them. There is also a branch office and remote location (for tele-commuter). All these different locations have some form of connectivity – either all of them are connected over Internet Leased Lines or have MPLS network set up between them, etc. So, using VC-1 and VC-2 and the IP Network, the people from Head Office IT department can see and talk to the people from the Branch office. Also, the person from the remote office/ home worker can dial in to the conference by using a software VC client on his laptop and connecting to the internet using a broadband connection. That becomes a 3-Party Video Conference. There could also be another monitor connected in each location where they could see a presentation (ppt slides from computer) being presented by the remote user.

What are the components of a Video Conferencing System?

  1. Video Conferencing Codec/ Camera (This is the heart of the VC system as it integrates multiple input streams with the output streams – audio and video and also connects to the LAN/ WAN for transmitting the video information. The Codec also compresses the video data with a technique called H.264 which enables better quality at a lower bandwidth. There are even High Definition Video Conferencing systems for better clarity, now. The VC Codec generally comes with the required camera and microphone(s).
  2. Display Devices – A CRT TV, LCD TV, LCD Monitor, Plasma Display, LCD/ DLP projectors can all be used as display devices for Video Conferencing systems. Do note that some of them may not have built-in speakers and hence a basic amplifier and speaker system would help.
  3. Computer Network – A computer network is required for carriying the signals to the VC system from the place where the WAN links terminate within your campus, unless the VC system is placed right next to the router where the WAN links terminate, which is quite impossible in most cases. The VC system can directly plug in to the LAN using an RJ-45 port. You can also set an IP address to the VC System, in fact, you have to.
  4. Bandwidth – A Video Conferencing system is used to conduct a meeting between two disparate locations and hence both the locations need to be connected with each other using Internet Leased Lines, Point to Point Managed Leased Lines, MPLS networks etc.
  5. PC/ Laptop – To make presentations that can be visible at the remote end by connecting them to the VC System. Even a DVD player/ Document camera can be connected to the VC system and their output can be seen at the remote location.

Latest developments in the Video Conferencing Industry:

High Definition – Video Conferencing sessions can now be viewed in high definition mode if the VC system, monitors and other accessesories used are HD enabled.

Recording and Streaming – Video Conferencing sessions can be recorded and played back at a later stage They could also be streamed to a number of LAN users live so that they could also see and listen to the speaker.

Telepresence – Video Conferencing cannot get more real than telepresence. This is a method where the the images presented to the participants are life-size and the room is designed in such a way that half the table appears to be on this side and the other half appears on the screen – All this create an illusion to the user that the remote participants are sitting just opposite to them.

IP Video Surveillance:

What is an IP Video Surveillance system?

An IP Video Surveillance system basically consists of IP Video Cameras, Network Video Recorder (hosted on a server) and computer network/ monitors. This is used to capture and record video signals at places that need to be monitored from central/ remote locations.

In the architectural block diagram given above for Video Over IP Networks, there are basically three locations (Head office with three departments, branch office and remote office/ home worker locations). IP Surveillance cameras are placed at two departments in the head office (IPSC-1 & IPSC-2) and also in the branch office. All of them are connected to the LAN network and also the WAN Network. It is not only possible to view the images sent by any IP Camera through the PC in the server room, but it is also possible to do so through PC-1, PC-2, PC-3 and the laptop in the remote office. It is even possible to view the live video streaming over a 3G enabled Cell Phone. There is also an NVR – Network Video Recorder which uses its internal storage/ external NAS appliances to record the videos.

What are the main advantages of IP Video Surveillance / Network Cameras?

Single Network: There is no need to form a separate network of analog co-axial cables to carry the video signals across, as the standard computer network is used for the same. So, the cost of forming and maintaining the network is reduced.

Remote monitoring: It is possible to see the live video streams from any location (LAN/ WAN) and also from a remote location like home over the broadband/ Cellular 3G networks and devices.

Wireless Surveillance: Wi-Fi Surveillance Cameras extend the reach of the video surveillance to areas coverd by wi-fi without requiring to connect them to the data cables.

Digital Image Processing: IP Video Surveillance enables new applications like number plate recognition, motion sensing and alarms, face recognition etc.

Audio: IP Cameras can trasmit audio along with video in order to hear what is being spoken on the remote end.

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