Tag Archives: Blue Iris

To Build or Not to Build: Finding a Network Video Recording (NVR) Solution

This past summer, I was ready to upgrade my home video monitoring system to all 3MP high definition camera feeds and add additional cameras, this is what started me on my quest to upgrade my Network Video Recorder (NVR) solution.

At the time, I was only utilizing:

  • Two Ubiquity 720P High Definition PoE WeatherProof IP Cameras
  • Two Asante Voyager Standard Definition (640×480) Cameras with Audio

My NVR solution at the time consisted of a Compaq Desktop running Blue Iris on Windows Vista with the following specifications.

  • Compaq Micro ATX PC w SATA 300
  • 2GB DDR2 PC2-6400 RAM
  • AMD Athlon 64 Dual Core 2.2Ghz Processor
  • 160GB SATA Hard Drive
  • 10/100 Network Interface

This system was not initially purchased to be tasked as an NVR, but a secondary desktop computer for standard home office computing, but it put an extra computer laying around in the office to work.

All in all, the system functioned fine for the recording of just one HD feed, however, if more than one HD camera triggered to record at the same time, both recordings would get choppy. The video was still useable, but looked similar to a time lapse video even though it was a standard feed. At the time, I even experimented with rolling back the frames per second on the feed to 10-15 frames per second (which decreases the processing load), but the problem continued. In addition, the CPU power monitor in Blue Iris would spike to 98-99% load regardless of the frame rate during recording.

I knew 4 cameras and 720P was my maximum on that system. If I wanted to upgrade cameras to a higher resolutions, or add additional cameras, I was upgrading the NVR. The computer performance and specifications just we’re not designed to meet the needs of high definition video recording.

The Thrill of the Hunt

In order to identify my performance needs, I started out looking at the minimum and recommended specifications as defined by Blue Iris, my NVR recording software solution. Blue Iris has always served me well and is very stable software. It allows for the install of IP cameras from multiple manufacturers and also allows you to stream/record dynamic images from the Internet (I.e. traffic camera feeds that only show in JPEG stills but update every 1-2 minutes). The software allows for multi-user support, and interfaces with their mobile application (sold separately for $9.99, but worth every penny) which allows you to view your cameras in real time and also view recordings from your smartphone. You can even have your Blue Iris server send you push alerts for camera triggers to the cellphone application. And to top it off, they have some of the best customer service support I have ever experienced from a software provider.Blue Iris Logo for NVR

Back to the build, Blue Iris recommends the following as
their minimum requirements to run the software (their requirements can be found here).

Blue Iris Minimum Specifications

  • Pentium Dual Core or Equivalent 2GHz Processor (or better)
    2GB RAM (or more)
  • Microsoft Windows XP SP3 (or newer), or a Server OS
  • One or more USB or Network IP cameras, or an analog capture card with DirectShow drivers

Their recommendations for running High Definition cameras were as follows:

Blue Iris HD Specifications

  • Intel Core i7 Processor
  • 8GB or more RAM
  • Microsoft Windows 7 64-Bit (or newer) (Update: Now compatible with Windows 10)
  • nVIDIA Graphics Adaptor for Hardware Decoding
  • 7200+ RPM Hard Drives and/or Solid State Drives (SSD)

From here, I performed a little internet research to confirm if the recommendations appeared to be on par with the performance seen by users (user experience is important, as benchmark tests on paper don’t always relate to the performance actually seen in the real world). A few reviews of IP Video Security forums and CompTIA video recording performance criterion confirmed that the Blue Iris recommendations where right on the mark.

It was at that point that I started looking for an “off the shelf” solution that I could mail order or pick-up off the shelf. Some people may not agree with this method, but much time can be saved in configuration and build time if you can find an off the shelf solution to fit your needs. Unfortunately, the search of online retailers, manufacturers, and big box stores alike yielded me only a few options worth considering under $1000.

The research then started on the cost to build a custom solution myself to meet my specific needs by pricing specific PC components. I would then be able to compare this with the cost of the “off the shelf” solution to see which direction to proceed. A few online searches later, I was able to find all the components to build a custom PC with better performance for $600. Over $400 less that the cost of the “off the shelf” solutions available. I have listed the components I chose below.

Component Price
Coolmast N200 MATX Mini Tower $    44.99
Intel Core i7-4790K 4Ghz Processor $  279.99
Gigabyte GA-A97M-d3H MATX Motherboard

  • SATA 600
  • 10/100/1000 Network Interface
$    49.99
Western Digital 1TB 3.5″ 7200 RPM Hard Drive $    47.99
Crucial 8GB 4×2 DDR3 1600 RAM $    74.99
Corsair 430W ATX Low Noise Power Supply $    59.99
TOTAL $ 557.94

 

I quickly decided to go the custom build route, rather than an “off the shelf” solution. After a few quick clicks on an internet shopping cart to put the parts on hold at a local retailer, I was on my way to pick everything up. One trip a few hours later, and I was back at the casa ready to build a PC.

The Buzz of the Build

Similar to the saying that everyone should go hunting once in their life to understand what it takes to put meat on the table; building a desktop computer is something I believe everyone in today’s world should do at least once. It is important to understand what goes into the machine to give us the technology we have at our fingertips every day. Especially when 84% of American households have a computer (Source: US Census Bureau, Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013). Building a PC is a great learning experience. And there’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment when you fire it up and take it for a spin at the end of the process.

I wouldn’t recommend completely doing it on your own if you don’t have any experience. In this case, having a good IT support person at hand is a plus. It doesn’t have to be a support tech at a repair store, it could be one of your neighbors, or your IT guy at the office. Most people have a tech-savvy person who can assist with a build relatively close at hand. This doesn’t mean get them to do it for you (that kind of defeats the purpose ofthe learning experience) but having that person to help you over the humps, really helps the process. An average build is complete in 2-3 hours max (not including software install time). Intel Core i7-4790K 4Ghz for NVRI was able to obtain the newest generation of Core i7 processor on sale, this is the most expensive and most delicate parts. There is little room for error with the processor install. Have an experienced technician assist you with the install if you do not have experience installing processors. I was able to mate the i7 with a quality Gigabyte motherboard, click in 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, mount to the case, plug in the power, and I was installing Windows in about 2 hours.

I chose to stick with the on-board video processor for this build. Since my goal is an NVR using a single monitor, most of the processing power is needed for video recording (i.e. the processor, RAM, and hard drive) and not the video graphics card. The Core i7 processors also do a great job supporting integrated video with the Intel HD Graphics Chipset without diminishing performance. If I was doing anything less than an i7 processor, an upgraded video card would have been higher on my priority list.

Gigabyte GA-A97M-d3H MATX Motherboard

It’s Show Time

After about another hour or two for the Windows install, Microsoft updates, and Blue Iris install, I was ready to see some cameras. Since I was a previous Blue Iris user, I was able to import my existing configuration from the old computer bringing all my old cameras instantly back online. All that was left was to configure the new HD cameras which I had installed but had not yet connected (didn’t discuss the camera install as part of this write-up, if you are interested in the install, please comment and I would be happy to consider as a future post). Utilizing the “Add New Camera” function in Blue Iris, the new HD cameras were online in 15-30 minutes and were configured for motion recording. One final check of the Blue Iris configuration to make sure all user accounts were active and cameras were set and recording properly and the build was complete.

After monitoring the PC performance for around 60 days for stability reasons, I am happy to report that I could not be happier. The system now runs:Dahua IPC-HFW4300S for NVR

I am able to get smooth video recording across the board, even when all cameras are triggered to record at the same time. In addition, my average CPU load in the Blue Iris monitor is around 30%. Even with all cameras recording simultaneously, I haven’t seen it over 60%. This is a tremendous improvement over the performance seen with the older desktop which was replaced. I have no doubt that the computer can handle future HD camera installs in addition to the existing installation.

Conclusion

Setting up a Network Video Recorder can provide you much more flexibility for the price than purchasing an out of the box surveillance solution. It breaks you free from the requirements of sticking with just one camera manufacturer, allows you enhanced recording capabilities, additional storage options, and more. However, it is important to ensure the performance of the computer you plan to use meets the requirements of your NVR software and that of your video monitoring system (i.e. SD, HD, number of cameras, etc).

Ubiquiti AirCam for NVR

Older computers are an option if you are breaking into the NVR world and want to get your feet wet for a limited cost, with the understanding that you will have performance limitations and will probably be stuck with Standard Definition (SD is still very capable and is much more affordable than HD when purchasing cameras). With multiple options to build a high performance NVR tailored computer, for under $1000, it remains an option for even those on a budget with some planning. If you plan long term to build for High Definition, the upfront investment will most likely be a requirement to get you the capabilities most users are looking for with the perk of HD, unless you happen to have a Core i7 desktop just lying around.

 

Blue Iris Software is Video Surveillance at its Best

Interested in a home surveillance system without all the cable runs and special DVR hardware? Looking for a video baby monitor but don’t want to spend the $300 on a device you will only use for a few years? Or maybe you are just looking for a matrix display system for multiple cameras or information sources. If so, Blue Iris Software may be for you.

Blue Iris is a software based video recording and surveillance system that runs on a Windows PC. The system allows you to record from up to 64 feeds from almost any camera or image feed that you can port into your local computer or network. Looking to display your computer screen in another room, maybe with a camera feed or two? It can do that as well. Whether you are looking for live video recording, time lapse, or image snapshots, the software is capable. In addition, it also includes a web server with custom user access control to provide an external port to your camera feeds from any local network PC or the Internet (including your smart phone). All for just under $50 with a free15 day demo available.

Blue Iris has allowed us to provide some of our clients with an affordable video monitoring system utilizing existing equipment while providing maximum scalability. With over two years of use and testing, we have been very pleased with the system from a number of different areas.

Blue Iris Matrix Screen

First of all, software support is top notch. In a world where customer service is becoming a thing of the past, this was a welcome sight. We have utilized the system to monitor and matrix multiple internet television feeds, internet informational JPEG images such as doppler radar, current weather, traffic cameras, and more. Some of the systems we have set-up use the web server to provide as a closed-circuit system only on the local network, while others were configured with full user access control and internet access from anywhere in the world.

The video attached below is a recording of Tropical Storm Lee making landfall from a Doppler Radar image feed set on a 24 hour time-lapse recording. The time-lapse was set for 1 second every 10 minutes with a new video recording starting every 12 hours. In order to post the video, we also exported it from Blue Iris to WMV and uploaded it to the web.

Utilizing this system, and an existing computer, you can set-up a 4 camera indoor video monitoring system with multiple internet feeds in addition to your cameras for under$600. This means 4 cameras with clear HD video recording, multiple feeds, and one network cable from your network router through the POE injector to each camera (power and data through one network cable). All accessible from any computer, tablet, smart phone, or internet viewer in your house. We have provided an example cost breakdown below:

4 @ $119.99 ea – Dahua IPC-HFW4300S 3MP Weatherproof IP Security Camera
1 @ 39.95 ea – 8 Port 60W Power Over Ethernet (POE) Power Injector
1 @ $59.95 ea – Blue Iris Software

$579.86 TOTAL

It is also important to note that there are wireless camera options at a similar price point.  However, wireless has a record of being more problematic overtime (i.e. sporadic reboots, feed lock-ups, loss of connection, etc) making them more of a burden in the long term.  With wireless, you are also limited to placing the cameras where you have an wall power outlet to plug in their power cords, which can become a challenge outdoors.  If you are interested in wireless, check out the Wansview ProHD NCM751GA 2MP Weatherproof IP Wireless Security Camera, it is a wireless camera worth the look.

More information on the Blue Iris Software including their demo download can be found at their website listed below.

http://blueirissoftware.com/index.html

And if you are in the Houston area and are interested in a video monitoring configuration, feel free to give us a call!