Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Answer: I'm having trouble with my WiFi security camera and need help/advice.

WiFi cams are just not reliable. Anyone that tells you diff is just not monitoring them that close. I work from home and have 4 dedicated monitors plus automation monitoring my systems which makes it painfully clear to me when a camera (and a lot of other devices) are having an issue.

But maybe they / you don't really care. Maybe you just want something simple that works most of the time. That is a legit opinion too. Not everyone wants much less needs solid coverage but if you do, read on. 

Better WiFi might help but not solve it

It is important to note it is not just WiFi strength. My level WiFi coverage of 10 AP is extreme for the few acres I'm covering but to align all my cams I need solid WiFi for my tablets over a good bit of my property plus I have a fair number of non cam devices that require WiFi like weather monitoring, irrigation and even some remote smart plugs and lights where Z-wave and ZigBee are not practical.
Note there actually 3 more APs besides the 10 shown here. An Ethernet Over Power at the gate and another at the creek side plus one on a separate test network

Then there is interference 

With interference on the rise from neighbors WiFi and other devices, multiple APs are becoming common and pretty much guarantees at least a few dropped frames from lost packets. Even out here on the edge of town. Here is an example of some of the APs in my logs of neighboring APs from just just one day of the cars passing by over 200 feet from the nearest AP of mine.

Some cams will stick to a channel or an even an AP till restarted. 

From my personal experience with multiple models of cams from over a dozen brands, if, for one of a multitude of reasons, they lose connection for a second they might:

  • Wait for THAT AP to be reachable again. 
  • Switch to the nearest AP on that channel even if the signal is too weak to be usable. You can work around this one a bit if your network supports min RSSI.
  • Not even notice the disconnect for X amount of time
  • I've even seen the occasional reboot though it is hard to say which was the cause and which the effect there.
Rarely is it anything close to a quick automatic reconnect.

But does it matter?

Granted in most cases we are just talking a few short outages which you might never notice if you you were not sitting in front of the consoles or checking the footage. Note too that depending on your NVR software and settings WiFi issues, might manifest as low frame rate or hung video for awhile before disconnects get long enough to get an offline indication on a console much less a notification. A few dropped frames may not seem like a big deal but if you are trying to get a usable shot of a face or plate it could mean everything.

The WiFi range of cameras varies wildly too. 

Off the same AP and the same time I've have had WiFi cameras "work" 200 feet away while others could not connect 50 feet down the same line of sight. The Wyze cams are so bad about dropping offline I have scripts for repower them via smart plugs if they are offline more than a couple minutes.

But if you really must

Sometimes WiFi really is the only practical option but if you are talking security find some way to use a wired cam even if it means Ethernet Over Power or point to point wireless. If WiFi is your only option I strongly recommend putting them on smart plugs and setting up scripts to restart them as needed.

Plus this

Then there is the whole other discussion on recording 24/7 vs on motion much less only to the cloud when the camera having the issue is battery powered and or recording to the cloud such as Ring, Nest, Wyze, Arlo ect.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Possible issue with Blue Iris 5

People are reporting seeing issues with Blue Iris 5 and certain brands of cameras disconnecting. Reolink and Unifi cams are what I'm mainly hearing. Possibly Door bird too. It seems very similar this issue from back in the early days of BI4.

As I said in a previous post I upgraded one of my servers to handle more cams. Main changes are newer i7 CPU, more RAM, BI5 instead of BI4 and GTX 1050Ti instead of GTX 730 GPU.
I still have the BI4 box running in parallel because the BI5 box is having issues these with just the 2 Reolinks. A RLC-511-5MP and a RLC-422W-5MP. The other 9 cams on that server are fine. So are the 2 Reolinks viewed from the old BI4 server.

What I'm seeing on the BI5 server:
After restarting Blue Iris, the Reolink cam windows are often black till I open each camera's settings and save.
Random video corruption and disconnects. (See below.)
Note the corruption is in the recordings, not just the console display.
Changing the video settings often sorts it for awhile but sometimes I need to reboot the cam to get it working again.

Some of the things I've tried:
Both Generic ONVIF and Reolink video settings
Diff frame rates
Overlays on and off
Limited decoding on and off

The only thing that seems to make a diff is GPU settings. With Nvidia I see what is best described as multi colored vertical lines covering the lower third to half of the video.

With Intel it pixelates instead of the lines.

With no hardware acceleration it usually appears OK for a bit then the video hangs without the camera ever being reported as offline or disconnected. Though sometimes the bottom is grey which makes me think parts of the frame might not always be getting sent. As in a a camera issue but it just the Reolinks and just on Blue Iris 5. For instance a snap of the same time from the original Blue Iris 4 server of that same cam looks like this.

Trying to pull the same from the BI5 recording I get
Note the timestamp is not the same because there seems to be dropped frames for a few seconds where the 14:22:33 frames should be so playback hangs on this frame for a bit.

Update 2/25/2020 There seems to be an issue with motion detection dying too.