DEDICTATED MICROS SYSTEM SPRITE
WHAT OUR EXPERTS SAY...
The word 'system' strikes fear into the heart of many an installer or
specifier, especially when applied to video surveillance equipment. All too
often it means a manufacturer or distributor has cobbled together a collection
of disparate components, and more often than not they will be the only ones to
have ever got all of the parts to work in unison. We're pleased to say that is not the case for Dedicated Micros
new System Sprite, the key elements of which appear to have been designed from
the ground up, to work together.
System Sprite is based around three components or 'building block's as DM
like to call them. The core device is a multiplexer; several versions are
available with 9 or 16 camera inputs. They can be used independently in a
stand-alone configuration or used in conjunction with the second component,
which is a keyboard unit. This controls all of the multiplexer's set-up and
operational options and extends the system's functionality with telemetry
control for remote cameras. Additionally it provides interface and control
facilities for the third part of the system, a video switcher. The switcher
enables any number of control points to be built into an installation, each one
comprising a keyboard and a pair of monitors (main and spot). It also provides
a simple upgrade path for increasing the size and capabilities of the system,
up to an including a large-scale network installation with the potential to
support several hundred cameras.
The multiplexers are housed in low-profile rack-mountable metal cases
measuring 48 x 432 x 325mm (brackets are included). Apart from the number of
input sockets on the back panel, camera selector buttons on the front and
display options; the various models in the range are functionally identical.
The headline features are single and multi-screen displays (full screen with
single picture-in-picture, quad, 3 x 3, 4 x 4 and 10-way) picture zoom and
multi-lingual menu display. It has multiple alarm options including external
triggers and programmable activity detection. There's full duplex operation,
user programmable camera titles, time/date displays and password protected
system set-up. Additional convenience and performance related features include
S-Video in/out to VCR, dual monitor outputs (main and spot), timer controlled
detection periods, automatic daylight saving time switching. Connections to
other components is handled by DM's proprietary 'C-Bus' (carrying RS485 serial
data), which can be used to form the basis of a flexible and easily expanded
network allowing up to 16 multiplexers to be linked together.
On the multiplexer's rear panel there are two rows of BNC sockets, for
the camera inputs and outputs, monitor and VCR video connections. A pair of
mini-DIN sockets handle S-Video signals to and from the VCR, a six-way plug-in
connector block carries alarm relay and VCR control signals and two 'MMJ'
telephone-style sockets are used by the C-Bus cables. Power comes from an
external mains adaptor (90 – 240 VAC. 50/60 Hz input), which plugs into a
multi-pin socket on the far left side.
A row of buttons on the panel is responsible for manual camera selection;
pressing a selector button a second time enables the x2 electronic zoom
facility. The four blue-coloured buttons on the far right double up as
'virtual' pan/tilt controls, shifting the area of the image displayed on the
monitor screen. These buttons have a number of other functions, each one
selects a monitor display mode (full screen, picture-in-picture, quad,
multi-screen) and they act as navigation keys for the on-screen menu display.
The menu is called up by pressing and holding the mode button on the far right
of the panel. (The button's main function is to toggle between operating modes,
i.e. record & playback).
The first page in the menu display covers time, date and language set-up.
Menu 2 is for configuring the unit to work with a VCR, options include setting
time-lapse and alarm parameters (Sprite is set to work with DM and Robot-type
models by default) and to set the signal format (composite or S-Video). Menu
page 3 is for setting up camera titles each one can be up to 12 characters
long. Menu 4 selects the cameras to be recorded and menu 5 determines which
cameras can be viewed. Menu 6 is used to specify detection periods for the
alarms and activity detection system. The options are 'on' between set times,
always on, always off and external or keyswitch control. Menu page 7 covers the
alarm actions. There are options to set alarm dwell (0 to 999 seconds), main
and spot monitor displays, playback display, alarm relay (close, open, always
closed), alarm record (interleave for inserting alarm cameras in sequence,
exclusive – record alarm camera only and unchanged with all cameras recorded in
sequence as normal).
The next menu (8) is for programming a preset camera position in the
event of alarm activation and menu 9 is for selecting the display options (PIP
position, quad sequence, time/date/text on main monitor & VCR output, text
background and global sequence dwell). Menu page 10 deals with system options
(setting ID number for networked Sprite units, menu password, and record lock,
reset to factory defaults and daylight saving time set-up). Camera set-up is on
menu. There are options for changing the title, setting input termination
(on/off), alarm input connection (n/o, n/c, off), alarm module connection &
ID, telemetry protocol (none, BBV, Pelco or DM DR4+/DTMF) and camera input
(video detection alarm trigger on/off). The Activity System set-up is on menu
12, the options are dwell time (0 to 999 seconds), activity record method
(interleave, exclusive, unchanged), activity record speed (time lapse mode),
activity relay (close open, unchanged) and extended relay setting. Last but not
least we come to menu 13, which configures the activity detection for each
camera. There are five sensitivity settings (indoor high, indoor low, outdoor
high, outdoor low and very low). The system uses an 8 x 16 detection grid, in
the set-up mode the grid is superimposed on the image and each 'sensor' can be
switched on or off using the camera selector buttons. There's an activity test
option, to fine-tune settings before the system is enabled.
We move on now to the other components in the system. The keyboard
controller is housed in a gently sloping case. On the back there's a single
captive C-Bus cable. The top panel has four clearly defined banks of membrane
type switches – most of them have linked LED indicators -- and there's joystick
for pan/tilt control of motorised cameras on the far right side. The keyboard
duplicates most of the multiplexer's front panel controls (camera selectors,
display mode, menu/cursor etc), plus there are a number of extra functions.
These include a set of telemetry buttons for remote cameras, controlling zoom,
focus, iris, wash/wipe, and lamps, auto pan and patrol functions. Also included
in the telemetry control group of switches is a bright red coloured 'Panic'
button, which manually activates the alarm relay. Additional features, not
available from the multiplexer front panel are picture freeze/hold, system
status, viewing the alarm log and system control, when the multiple Sprites are
connected together. The keyboard is powered from its associated multiplexer (or
switcher) via the C-Bus cable.
The third and last component is the video switcher, this also lives in a
slimline case, similar in size (but styled slightly differently) to the
multiplexer units. There's not a lot to see, the front panel is blank and on
the back there are just two banks of camera input and output sockets (BNC), a
pair of C-Bus sockets and a socket for the external mains adaptor. When a
switcher is included in a system one of the C-Bus sockets is connected to a
keyboard (or keyboards, via a junction box), the other C-Bus socket hooks up to
the multiplexer. If more than one multiplexer is being used they are
'daisy-chained' together by C-Bus cables.
Build quality on all three components is very high indeed. The
multiplexer has just two densely populated PCBs whilst the switcher box is
mostly full of air; the single small PCB looks lost inside the almost empty
box. All of the mechanical components, including the switches and joystick feel
like quality items that should be able to withstand the rigours of daily use.
SETUP AND OPERATION
The instruction manual for the multiplexer is generally well laid out,
reasonably easy to follow and quite well illustrated. The authors have made a
valiant attempt to explain the various functions and we suspect that most
experienced installers won't have too many problems with it. The switcher
manual was clearly written by others, by comparison it's scrappy and
disjointed, it's full of vital information but not especially helpful. Overall
though, installation should be a doddle, thanks largely to the C-Bus, which
makes it possible to upgrade or add system components in a matter of minutes,
simply by plugging in extra modules.
Set-up can be a bit long-winded, though to be fair there's a lot of
ground to cover. The menus displays could do with some tidying up, as it stands
there's no easy way to move between pages, other than stepping through them in
sequence, which is a mite inconvenient if you only want to go back a page or
two. Selecting options is quite tedious as well, though you do eventually get
used to the way it works. Nevertheless, we can't help feeling a single main
menu with numbered selections would have made life a little easier. It becomes
a lot more user/operator friendly when used with a keyboard, so much so that we
consider this will be a near essential fitment on most installations.
Incidentally, when the keyboard is connected it duplicates rather than
overrides the local controls on a multiplexer, which continue to operate as
There's only one obvious omission from the otherwise very extensive range
of set-up options and that's a facility to change the time/date and camera
ID/titles. They're small and in fixed positions, which may not be convenient in
some situations. At the very least it should be possible to enlarge or shift
the position of the displays. As it is they are all uncomfortably close to the
edge of the picture and could easily be masked or disappear altogether on a
badly aligned monitor.
The multiplexer and switcher are virtually transparent to the camera
video inputs with no significant loss of resolution, colour fidelity or any
increase in noise on signals passing through it. Live full screen images are
largely free of any processing artefacts, indeed picture stability is excellent
and there's no blurring or jerkiness when displaying rapid movement. Quad
screen and multi-screen displays are also very steady and there's no loss of
synchronisation when switching between display modes.
Picture freeze is rock steady and although there is a noticeable
reduction in resolution when using the electronic zoom there's no additional
noise or loss of stability.
System Sprite has one or two relatively minor flaws, the displays and
menus have some room for improvement but they do not detract from the main
selling points which are – in no particular order -- ease of installation,
flexibility and the potential for upgrading and expansion. Most comparable
systems have very clearly defined limits, beyond which they become unwieldy or
unusable. System Sprite on the other hand has no such restrictions; from a
functional point of view it appears to make no difference whether the system
has 16 or 160 cameras. From the specifier and installer's perspective it's a
dream come true, customers and clients can increase coverage and facilities
virtually ad-infinitum, without having to scrap or replace kit, moreover System
Sprite components can be just as easily integrated into existing systems.
Design and design features *****
Circuitry and components *****
Ease of installation and wiring ****
Range and variety of functions ****
Accompanying instructions ****
Technical advice and backup ??
Value for money ****
ã R. Maybury