PRIMARY IMAGE 2nd EYES 16
Within a decade we predict that digital video technology will
replace current analogue systems, in which case Primary Image are well ahead of
the game with 2nd Eyes, a new box of tricks that records moving video on a high
capacity hard disc drive, and much more besides…
There is little doubt that the future of video surveillance
lies with digital technology. It has already had a huge impact on the way video
images are generated, processed and analysed but for the most part we still
rely on analogue tape systems to store video information. That will change in
the very near future, as this remarkable device, called 2nd Eyes, from Primary
Image very clearly demonstrates.
The concept behind 2nd Eyes is relatively straightforward.
It's a digital video recording system that stores images as data on one or more
hard disc drives, similar to those used in PCs. The most basic model has a fast
2-gigabyte SCSI drive, this can be easily expanded using additional or higher
capacity drives. The theoretical maximum capacity is a mind boggling 1 terabyte
(1,000,000 megabytes) per drive, and there's room inside the case for six of
them! To put those figures into some sort of perspective, a 9-gigabyte drive
has roughly the same video recording capacity as a 3-hour tape and is capable
of storing between 300,000 and 450,000 images as JPEG compressed data.
The main benefit of this kind of 'non-linear' digital video
recording system is the facility to simultaneously record and replay. In other
words it is possible to review a recording whilst the unit continues to provide
surveillance cover. Since the information is recorded on a disc access time to
a section of a recording, or even a specific frame is virtually instantaneous. Recording
quality is excellent, stated resolution is 768 x 576, which is significantly better
than most analogue tape recording systems. There is no loss of stability or
noise interference when reviewing recordings in still frame, slow-motion,
reverse play or fast picture search modes. Digital data doesn't wear out either
and there's no loss of quality irrespective of how many times a recording is
played back or when copying to other digital or analogue recording systems.
There's more. Video data is initially loaded into a solid-state
memory buffer, enabling a feature called pre-event recording. This means the
unit can be set to record when an alarm input is triggered, but in addition to
everything that occurs after the alarm, the information that was in the buffer
-- i.e. what was happening immediately prior to the alarm activation -- is
recorded as well. Digital data is nigh-on tamperproof. In addition to burnt-in
time/date and camera information, the digital data can be invisibly 'watermarked',
making it admissible as evidence -- in the US at least -- where recordings have
been used in court proceedings prosecutions.
As well as its video recording capabilities, 2nd Eyes has an
impressive range of image processing functions, starting with a camera multiplexer.
Primary Image has developed a number of different configurations with models that
have 8, 16, 32 and 64 camera/video inputs. (The unit we've been looking at is
the 16-camera version but core facilities and operating systems are common to
Each input can be individually configured according to the site
and end-users requirements; the basic options include continuous or time-lapse
recording, alarm trigger recording, and manual recording or playback. Alarm
triggers can be an external contact, or generated internally.
Recordings may be automatically archived using external tape
storage systems, 2nd Eyes supports a variety of devices, including tape autochangers
Physically there's not much to see. The hard disc drive(s),
power supply and all control and processing electronics are contained within a
standard 19-inch rack case, the only external display is a single red LED power
on indicator. Inside the box there are four PCB and a large frame for holding
disc drives. The standard of construction is very good indeed; it looks and
On the back panel there are banks of BNC sockets, for the
camera inputs, and a set of three BNCs for the video output. One is for continuous
live video, number two shows a sequenced output from each camera and the third
is for the picture replay and on-screen displays. There is also a set of
multi-pin connectors, 25-pin D-Sub sockets for the external alarm inputs, a
9-pin D-Sub for an external serial connection for remote control and
unspecified peripherals, plus a second 9-pin male connector for a dedicated
control keyboard. Lastly there's a 50-pin Centronics connector for an external
disc or tape recording device.
The keyboard controls all of 2nd Eyes main functions and set-up
routines. It is divided into three areas, at the top there are rows of buttons
to set operating mode, camera selection and replay switching. Below that are
the video playback buttons and controls for the on-screen menus, and in the
bottom right hand corner a button for manually responding or clearing an alarm activation.
It all looks fairly straightforward but we have to say that the main operating controls,
menu functions and the instruction manual are amongst the worst we've seen on
any security device!
The operating system and user manual are almost impenetrable.
We found the easiest way to get to know 2nd Eyes was to bypass the manual and experiment
with the controls, then refer back to the manual, to attempt to relate what happens
in practice, to the printed instructions. Here's a fairly typical example of
the text. Figure this one out: 'Trigger profiles are provided to allow triggers
to share the same parameters. This is especially useful when several types of
trigger are used in the system (e.g. VMD and contact), where a profile can be
used to define the characteristics of the trigger'…
To say it's a nightmare would be an understatement, at the
very least Primary Image needs to go back and rethink the manual from the
installer and end-user's point of view. Elements of the on-screen display are not
mentioned at all and vital functions, such as creating camera idents are left
entirely to the user to work out for themselves. The manufacturers could also do
a lot to improve the control system, which at times seems quite illogical and over-complicated.
It is quite possible to blank out the screen altogether by the simplest of
actions, and there's no obvious way of restoring the picture, other than by
randomly prodding buttons, and hoping.
Despite the unit's long list of idiosyncrasies, from a
performance standpoint it actually works very well indeed. Some features
deserve a special mention, like timeline display during replay, which shows you
exactly where you are on a recording, and timeline triggers that clear show the
point at which an alarm event has occurred. Other parts of the Replay output display
are not so welcome and the mass of information on the screen can obscure
detail, fortunately there are other display options and it is possible to move
or eliminate some of it, but the picture still manages to look cluttered.
The video recording and replay element works very well. Images
are crisp and clean, colour accuracy is spot-on and the replay functions put
all but the most sophisticated analogue recording systems to shame. The image
is jitter-free at all replay modes and it's possible to step through a
recording, a frame at a time if necessary, without the slightest stutter and
there's not a noise bar in sight. In common with other types of vision
multiplexing hardware the record rate is dependent on the number of cameras
connected, but this has no impact on the amount of detail in the image, and resolution
is in excess of 430 lines is possible in all recording and replay modes.
Digital recording technology is the way ahead, it has much
to offer the surveillance industry and 2nd Eyes is just a taste of what is to
come. As a video recording device it is almost without equal when it comes to
the flexibility and performance, the video multiplexer works very well indeed
and if you can fathom out the alarm facilities, they're comprehensive and
effective. However, it all starts to go belly up when you come to the operating
system and those awful instructions. Unfortunately just re-writing the manual
won't be enough, we feel that many installers and end users will find it
difficult and awkward to set up and use. That's a pity because it has the
potential to be a benchmark, setting the standard for a generation of video
security systems still to come.
Power supply 110/240 VAC
Dimensions 132 x 480 x 450mm
Product design 7
Build quality 9
General functions 6
CCTV functions 9
Ease of use 3
Manuf. support ?
Video quality 9
R. Maybury 1998 2808