Thursday, September 17, 2020

Syncing time

The issue

One of the things suggested to save CPU on Blue Iris is to turn on the in camera overlay instead of having Blue Iris add it while viewing. Note this works most of the time but some instances in camera overlays mess with tools like LPR. But many of the clocks seemed to refuse to keep time. At first I thought it was the local ntp servers having problems and wrote a quick tool to test all my ntp server options. The real issue is I'm finding different models of cameras work with only some ntp servers. In a perfect world this would not be an issue but in the real world they are often off a bit from each other and for syncing of video you want them a close as possible. And it also means you need to know which cam works with which and set them to ones as close in time as possible. Plus I want to avoid uploading packets where possible given my network connection is 900 down with only 40 up and I'm backing up to the cloud contentiously. 

Main options I have to work with are:

  • internet time servers (time.windows.com for instance)
  • ntpd on OPNsense router box 192.168.0.1 using 0.opnsense.pool.ntp.org as source
  • Windows time server on a Blue Iris server 10.10.3.48 using 192.168.0.1 as source
  • NetTime on a Blue Iris server 10.10.3.46 using 192.168.0.1 as source
  • ntp service running on IoT Unifi network gateway 10.10.0.1 using 192.168.0.1 as source

Note just setting the time server you want to use on a Windows 10 PC gets complicated. Microsoft really wants you to use time.windows.com. Detailed instructions to change the server can be found here.


What worked with what

Hikvision

System->System Settings->Time Settings (ColorVu)

Basic Configuration->System->Time Settings (older cams)

Would not even ping most of these. In the end the only one it would connect to was the Windows time server

ColorVu screen shot


Reolink

Network->Advanced->NTP

Only seems to like the OPNsense box. Takes 3 screens to set all the time options.


Amcrest

System->General->Date & Time

Hard to say since there is no test button. You just set it and hope. I'll set them to diff servers and see what keeps time. Though it looks like it might do a sync on save so you can see if something works if the time was off. After a day it appears OPNsense did not seem to work as the time was WAY off.

Used Windows time server 

Dahua

System->General->Date & Time

Like Amcrest (some claim the Dahua makes many of Amcrest cams and the software is very similar) it is hard to say since there is no test button. You just set it and hope. I'll set them to diff servers and see what keeps time. Though it looks like it might do a sync on save so you can see if something works if the time was off. After a day it appears OPNsense did not seem to work as the time was WAY off.

Used Windows time server 

JideTech

System->Time

Not sure if this is working or not. Comes set to time.windows.com which seemed to be working. When I set it to a local one it changed the date to 2036 and stayed there till I "Synced with PC time". Then tried to dup and could not. Set to OPNsense box. After a few days the time seems to be hold so think is OK. Note there is no option to set DST start and stop.  

Foscam

Basic Settings->Camera Time
OPNsense seems to work OK. Note this old enough there is no option to set DST start and stop.

Escam

Again OPNsense seems to work OK. 






Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Quick outdoor audio compare

Overview

Been seeing posts wanting cams with audio lately. My Ring compares playlist has some examples of the diff between a ColorVu and a Ring doorbell that contain audio but when outside doing a bit of weeding around the bird feeder and hearing coyotes playing near by I thought I'd grab the footage form 3 near by cameras to show the diff between them.

The 3 cameras are:

Dahua IPC-HDW4631C-A mounted under the window AC unit

Reolink RLC-511-5MP mounted on side window frame

Hikvision (ColorVu) DS-2CD2347G1-LU (far one) mounted on the soffit at the corner of the roof

Placement of cameras

The links to the videos are:

  • The Dahua video
  • The Reolink video
  • The Hikvision/ColorVu video


If you watch the lower timestamp you should hear:

  • Various bird calls and till 11:28:40
  • @11:28:40 you should hear my footsteps and the hedge trimmer starting up.
  • @11:29:37 you should hear me walking through the dried "weeds" crunching them and a jet passing overhead. Then me tossing the branches into a pile off screen.
  • @11:29:58 I start using the hedge trimmer again.
  • @11:30:07 I stop and you can hear what sounds like coyotes yapping a few hundred yards away.
  •  @11:30:23 you should hear me say "listen to that" (meaning the coyotes) in a normal speaking voice.

It is totally calm so there is no wind noise to deal with. I should probably do another sample with speaking when there is wind and when the house main AC unit (around the far side of the house) is running. I'm amazed how loud that AC unit sounds on footage compared to when I'm in the yard.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Fact check: Amcrest cameras are Dahua rebrands.

 I hear people say this a lot but when you try and ping them down they never seem to be able to tell you which model is which. There are post like this one where people claim they have up Dahua firmware on some models of Amcrest cameras which they think implies Dahua made them but they do not know which model. Usually I just don't have the time to look into it with so little to go in. This one claims to have upgraded an Amcrest model I have, the Amcrest IP8M-2496EB, so I thought I'd take a it to see if I could actually find a Dahua model of that cam and if the Amcrest was any cheap or if there was any other reason to buy the Amcrest of just getting the Dahua (if there was on). The firmware mentioned, DH_IPC-HX5X3X-Rhea_MultiLang_NP_Stream3_V2.800.0000014.0.R.191203.zip, is used by a few models.

The Dahua wiki shows 3 8MP bullet models including the IPC-HFW2831T which is one of my current favs. Nothing that looks close to the Amcrest. But I'm not finding my Dahua 6MP model there either so not definitive.


A look at the Dahua product selector seems a bit more promising as it has my 4631 listed but still nothing that looks like the Amcrest. However the IPC-HFW4831E-SE is close and the specs match. The actual case is just a bit different.


A quick google search shows the IPC-HFW4831E-SE can be had for as little as $150 The Amcrest IP8M-2496EB can be had for as little $95. So I guess the main factor is price. But as my tests have shown you are generally better off with the 6MP Dahua IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA for as little as $110 and get a serious zoom and audio too for that extra $15. There does not appear to be an Amcrest equiv of the 6MP Dahua IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA.

If you want to compare the camera software features between the 2 8MP cameras you can get the Dahua manual here and the Amcrest IP8M-2496EB manual here.


So lets try another. The Amcrest IP4M-1026  which has similar low light performance to the Dahua 6MP IPC-HDW4631C-A Note you get 20% more rez plus audio for just $10 more than the Amcrest. The Amcrest it pretty distinctive with its angled shade and case. None of the Dahuas look anything like it. Same goes for the "eyeball" version IP4M-1055E. The closest Dahua match appears to be the IPC-HDW2439T-AS-LED-S2 which appears to be cheaper than the Amcrest.

So we are 1 for 3 which means some of them my indeed be made by the same people that make some of the Dahua cams. If Dahua makes all of its models is still a bit unclear. The Chinese supply chain seems to cross a lot.  But I don't think it matters all that much. Once you sort the specs you want for a cam you can see what models of what brands match up and then see if any one has loaded a more feature rich firmware on it or even give it a try yourself. It seems that in many cases the loader with not load something that will brick the cam though in some cases you might lose a feature you liked and not be able to go back.

You might also want to look at this Wikipedia entry which outlines known Dahua security issues.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Dahua IPC-HFW2831T-ZAS-S2 vs IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA

Mention in here:

8MP PoE Security IP Camera - OEM IPC-HFW2831T-ZAS-S2 2.7~13.5mm Vari-Focal Lens 5X Optical Zoom, Ultra 4K Bullet Outdoor Starlight Camera with 196.85ft Night Vision,SD Card Slot,H.265,IP67  Specs sheet

6MP Outdoor POE Bullet IP Camera IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA, 2.7-13.5mm Motorized Varifocal Lens, 5X Optical Zoom Security Camera with Built-in Mic, IR 197ft Night Vision, Smart H.265 WDR, SD Card Slot, IP67

Overview

First note, oddly they seem to use diff and conflicting plugins so you can only view the stream from one or the other in IE at the same time.

Second I had a 256 GB SD card from my old LG V30 phone that I had previously used in the SereneLife IPCAMOD47 failure which I tried to use in the IPC-HFW2831T-ZAS-S2  after formatting it but it appeared as 2 drives and failed to format. I did not have a second to 256 GB to try so it might have chosen that time to go bad. Sticking the 256 GB SD back in a Windows 10 PC it says only 47 MB like the second drive listed in the camera now. Sticking a 128 GB into it seems to work OK. I was able to recover the 256 GB SD with SD formatter.

Third you will notice (if you click on the images) the form factors between the 4Ks (3840x2160, Aspect ratio = 1.78) and the 6MP (3072x2048, Aspect ratio = 1.5) are quite diff. Most of the 4K's added pixels are in adding width not height which might factor into you choice.

The tests

One of my Reolink 511s is starting to have moisture issues so I thought it would be a good time to upgrade the IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA with a IPC-HFW2831T-ZAS-S2 and use the IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA to replace the 511. Before that though I wanted to do a quick compare so stick the IPC-HFW2831T-ZAS-S2 next to IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA and captured some video and snapshots from them and the Amcrest IP8M-2496 in the same location to get both zoomed and wide compares. 

Videos

Daytime

These videos the Dahuas start off on max zoom. You can see me stepping off and dropping eye charts at about 50, 100 feet and at the gate about 188 feet from the camera array.  There is an old license plate on the cart I'm pulling for reference too. At about 1:24 PM I start back from the gate. About 1:40 PM both Dahua cameras are zoomed to max view angle to compare with the Amcrest. 

IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA video

IPC-HFW2831T-ZAS-S2 video

IP8M-2496 video

Nighttime with IR

The 6MP looks slightly better to me. Start with just IR lights on (note mainly from IR flood). Shortly after the start the white driveway lights come on the go off just before the end of the video. The driveway lights have almost no affect on the video detail. Passing cars give indications of motion blur affects from the slow shutter speed.

IPC-HFW2831T-ZAS-S2 video

IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA video

Nighttime low light color

The 8MP does way better here. Both cams are set to manual 1/12 exposure, color mode and 0-100 gain range. Otherwise all default settings. Start with just IR lights on, mainly from IR flood, but they seem to have no real affect unlike the HikVision ColorVus that tend to get a purple tint when IR floods are on. About 9:38 PM the white driveway lights come on making a dramatic change in both videos. 

For instance the old school house across the street lit by its own security light is about all you can make out on the 6MP though if you look real close can see where the sky is slightly lighter the trees and shadow on the ground. After the driveway lights come on the detail is better but 50 foot detail is still not as good as in IR night vision. Though past 50 feet it was better in color mode.

By contrast the 8MP actually appears to be in color though again the details are few. You can kind of make out the eye chart silhouette and moon shadows. After the driveway lights come on the detail is almost that of day time. 

Passing cars give indications of motion blur affects from the slow shutter speed. Shortly before the end of the video the driveway lights go back off again showing how quickly the cameras adapt.

IPC-HFW2831T-ZAS-S2 video

IPC-HFW4631H-ZSA video

In pics

The UPS box is at about 160 feet.


You can watch the videos to see how fast the zooms and focusing work but are some quick snaps to see how the cams compare in max zoom. The calculated DORI numbers are


Click on an image to see close to full screen and rapidly switch between.

The 6MP camera view

The 8MP/4K camera view
Just to drive home the diff distance makes, here are views from the cameras mounted about 20 feet from the UPS box. 
View from another Dahua 6MP in widest view mode.

View from an old Foscam FI9804WS 720p cam.

I used the 6MP Dahua and will use the new 8MP cam in max zoom but while I have them all together I though I'd get some wide angle view compares as well. Not e how much the auto focus improves the detail. The 50 foot chart is clearer even to the 6MP camera than the fixed Amcrest 4K. The Dahua 4K is even better. Granted it is also almost twice the cost of the Amcrest.
The Dahua 6MP in widest view

The Amcrest 8MP/4K wide angle view



The Dahua 8MP/4K in widest view

Nighttime with IR







Nighttime low light color







Friday, August 28, 2020

SereneLife IPCAMOD47 - hard pass

Outdoor PTZ IP Security Camera - 4X Optical Zoom - Starlight Night Vision 2mp HD 1080p Home Wireless WiFi Video Surveillance - Two Way Audio, Cloud Storage, Alexa Show - SereneLife IPCAMOD47

Note description says 36mm lens but I think they mean 3.6 mm lens and it is fixed, not zoom (see below).

Manual and specs can be found here

When I went back looking for an alternate to this I'm wondering if I meant to order this 5 MP cam given it looks exactly the same though has totally diff specs and only $20 more. Already boxed this one up to go back. Below is why.

Cons:

  • Appears the only way to set up is via phone while cam is wired
  • In cam web interface is only available after setup via phone. In fact it does not even seem to get an IP address from DHCP till after you set it up via phone by scanning a tiny, hard to scan QR code.
  • Requires creating account to use app needed to setup
  • Zoom appears to be only digital and no zoom controls in web interface.
  • No common protocol support so forget using an NVR including Blue Iris.
  • Even less feature controls than any of the dozens of cams I've tried (See screen shots below)
  • Web interface wants plugin for IE that antivirus blocks from installing (see screen shots below) though plug does not actually seem to be needed. On Chrome you get not video at all though it does not ask you to install the plugin
  • Phone lost connection and would not reconnect despite web interface still working.
  • Mute speaker and mic controls in web interface do not seem to work. You will need to mute your PC to avoid feedback during viewing via the web app if cam is within ear shot
  • Takes long time to boot up and be ready
  • NTP requests to odd server triggers IPS alerts but you can at least change it. (See screenshot) 
  • Time defaults to 1971 and no option to sync with PC. Only can turn off sync and set manually at which point sync turns back on when saved
  • Note factory reset does not seem to actually reset all settings.
  • Firmware update gets flagged as network Trojan though probably mistakenly.

Pros:

  • Has motion triggered lights
  • 512 GB SD card support per manual though ad says 128 GB max. Seemed to work with a 256 GB SD fine. Though when I pulled the SD card when getting it ready to send back I did not find any video files on the SD. Just a "backup" file. Though I did see clips in playback interface. 
  • Default login appears to be random string though you do not seem to be able to change it

Stuff that would be pros but did not get to try

  • 2 way audio
  • Alexa support
  • Starlight sensor for color night vision

Screen shots

Network options

On screen display settings. If you turn on Display name you get a prompt that only takes letters, not numbers.

SD card screen

Motion settings page 1

Motion settings page 2 though both would fit on one easy.

Recording schedule screen

Maint screen


Other screen which is volume settings.

WiFi setup pops up right after first login

No video/audio stream on Chrome. Pan tilt controls also appear to be dead.

Yet Chrome did get a pic from the camera. It just goes blank when you click the play button. Note it does not auto play.

On IE you get prompted to install a plugin

IE after ignoring plugin install request

Time setting screen. Note the odd ntp server.

Typical download option. At least the plugin comes from the same place as the firmware update

Should you click Run here you will most likely get a nasty message from your anti virus program that just says I'm not letting you do this.




Thursday, June 25, 2020

Buying a camera is kind of like buying an outfit

I've tried to make the point so many times that you need to match the cam to the thing you want to monitor with posts like Getting cam specs the easy way and Answer to: I just want a decent system but I found myself thinking this morning this analogy might finally get through.

How is buying a camera is kind of like buying an outfit?

I'm definitely NOT into fashion 
But that is really my first point. The importance of how an outfit makes you look varies a lot between people. Some want to be dressed to the nines and others are good with thread bare and holes or even an birthday suit. In the same same way with cams some may want to ID passers by while others are cool to just know something is right outside the door. And just cause something is labeled one size fits all does not mean they actually fit all, much less that most would be happy with the fit. 

Also odds are no one has your same style requirements so when asking for advice, gather data not shopping lists. You do not want to find out something you assumed is actually not and have to toss it or make due till you can afford to replace it.

BTW Personally I'm the t-shirt and jeans type and I also tend to go for cams in $50 to $150 range. Nothing fancy but I expect a fair bit for my money too. I'll use a $25 Wyze cam to monitor a mouse trap, a gauge, a closet or maybe even a larger area like a storage room temporarily for example but not my yard.

Think of resolution like size. 
While most could probably wear a "large" size shirt, to get the look you want probably means getting a shirt size that matches your body size. As with clothes, the size might not be quite the same fit across brands but it is a good starting point. And if you do not know your size, guessing larger is usually the safer bet. Also one of the most important factors to consider. Though some of the below might alter what is the best fit. Especially view angle.

View angle is like length / type.
For instance will shorts, long pants or even a skirt / kilt / robe work best for the result you are looking for? The view angle too needs to fit what you want to cover (or not), may need to be changeable (zoom) and will probably be a compromise. See Focus options are kind of like feel / comfort. Resolution and view angle along with distance to target give you the pixels per inch at target which is the most important spec if you want to be able to pull a recognizable face or plate from your video. Can I get that in English you ask? I'll do you one better. Here are step be step instructions on how to use a web based tool to sort out what resolution and view angle you need to get detail you want at a distance. Even better the tool lets you stick cameras on a Google map of your site and drag the target and view width. Could it really get any simpler?

PTZ is like layers.
Layers give you weather options but may mean you are carrying a lot of extra clothes around all day or running back forth to storage. In a similar way Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) cams are great for looking around but generally not a good a way to reduce the number of cams you need or save money. Forget "smart tracking" unless you are talking a multicam linked system costing a TON and installed by pros. Even then you are talking coverage with fixed cams telling PTZs where to zoom in for close ups. And each PTZ can only track one object (hopefully a person) at a time. So you factor your ROI there.

That said I find getting an indoor cam to avert its eyes under certain conditions is kind of cool. From the number of people I've seen asking how to do it, a fair number must feel the same. Granted using a fixed cam with a smart plug might be simpler but I had the spare cam and like I said, it is kind of cool. I also have Wyze PTL sitting in my to-do pile with a remote control truck for doing things like inspecting the crawl space under the shop. Point is there are reasons for having one. Just make sure your reason will actually yield the results you want.

Lighting is like style.
Are you going camping, partying or to a meeting? In the same way the lighting required / options should match. If you have a bit of light on the target area to work with there are some incredible color at night options now. Seriously you will probably not believe the videos are real. But they only work to a point and have no IR (night vision) back up option so you might need to go with an IR camera instead or in parallel and possibly even IR floods to see what you want at night. Accent lights are an option to still go with the color at night cams if you are OK with that. Sometimes you will prefer no visible light and IR will do that for you. Note IR LEDs are going to show and will give away their location. One side note here is to think about glare. For instance a light bright enough to light up and area 100 feet away is also going to make a bug near the cam flare like the sun at the right angle. And will draw bugs as well which is another reason to think about not using a light or IR source near the cam much less built into one. And a good reason to pay a bit more for better low light performance to reduce the supplemental lighting needed.

You can go with the soft track suit (fixed focus). Or you can try and really look sharp at a high cost in time and money. Same is true with cams. You probably know enhance like in so many shows and movies is not a real thing no matter what rez your cams are. Though I am seeing a lot of people asking about 4K cams despite the fact that they often yield lower quality video with a larger resource hit for what the person is trying to monitor
What you might not know about is depth of field much less how narrow it can be on some cameras. Especially indoor models. Auto focus or manually focusable, especially coupled the exact amount of zoom you want, might make a huge diff in the detail you can see. But of course there are always trade offs like look vs feel of an outfit. Note too the speed a camera can focus can vary a lot. For instance a Dahua 6 MP OEM is often with $10 of a Reolink 5 MP 511. But not only does Dahua have higher resolution and better low light performance but the zoom and focus speeds blow the Reolink away.

Do you need say something?
Does your outfit need to make a statement? Rich, Goth, nerd ect.? Maybe even have an actual statement on it like many of my t-shirts? Or the ultimate, with scrolling and or audio responding full color LEDs? (Yes this a thing.)

In the same way you might want your camera to record audio or even have 2 way audio so you can talk back. Though in my experience you should keep your expectations low here. Especially outdoors where wind noise seems to be huge issue.

How durable do you need?
While you could wear a silk shirt camping for example it probably is not the best option. So to if you are looking to go outdoors, you probably want a cam made for outdoors. And if it is going to be exposed directly to rain you will want an IP67 rating. Granted you can probably get away with less. At least for a time. You have to decide if you are comfortable with the risk.

WiFi is like going barefoot and battery powered is like going commando.
Yes there might be times when you might want to but as a rule not the best options. 

FYI I always put a smart plug on WiFi cams so you can reboot them when they drop off line. Despite having better network equipment than a lot small businesses, WiFi cams always seem to drop out from time to time. They usually recover before too long but not always. Granted you might not notice if you were not watching them all the time or reviewing their footage. Sometimes they just go to really slow frame rates without timing out, so you might not notice till you are looking back through the video a frame at a time or just happen to notice something suddenly appear or disappear. As you might expect, Wyze cams seem to have the worst WiFi. Shortest range and the most drop outs.

Features are like pockets and such
You might want loads of pockets like cargo pants with a Scotty Vest. You might prefer none at all or buttons over zippers. Point is while some features like in cam plate recognition or auto focus to faces might not be total deal breakers, they probably will (or at least should) factor into your final choices, so make a note of them when gathering specs and comparing prices. A small diff in price might net a big diff in video. For instance the above mentioned 6 MP Dahua and the ~$10 cheaper 5 MP Reolink. Not only is the Dahua higher rez but you can set the exposure based on time of day to utilize its better low light performance while the Reolink has no option to change the exposure setting.

Brands are brands
After all that it is good to note brands are brands. The brand speaks to the quality / reliability of the item a lot more than the fit. Though one brand may have more options matching what you are looking for than another. Especially as price is usually a factor too. As with an outfit, the brand is probably the last thing to look at unless you are more into promoting and or getting prestige from a brand than anything else.








Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Averting your eyes

Seen a few ask how do I get my PTL/PTZ change where is is looking based on X. Of course the simplest way is to got into a camera's properties and just trigger on time by creating a schedule.
Profile schedule. Note relative to sunrise/sunset option.

And tell the the camera to go to a preset then the profile changes.

Click edit schedule to add actions to profiles

Add / edit action looks like this.

Note there are a lot of actions you can do on profile change if your camera supports them

Update gotcha: Note when the profile switches it switches for ALL cams so if you are not using the defaults on any cam you will need to make those changes on the other profile(s) to keep them running. For example if you record continuously (and you should) by default all the cams will switch to record "when triggered" unless you go fix that setting for all the cams in all the profiles you intend to use.

Once you have the above you can get fancier. For example I work from home and have a switched stream that broadcasts to the whole site which lets me continue watching a show or listening to a podcast or monitoring if something running on a computer is done and also shows me triggered cams if for instance a delivery arrives. Anyway tied to this the TV in the master math comes on if I enter the bedroom or server room (has door linking it to the path) AND the alarm is not set. There is another event (what Homeseer calls routines) to turn off the TV if either of those doors close AND the alarm is not set. This made a great place to include setting the PTL cam in the bedroom for checking out what the cats are up to. So when and event turns the bath TV on it also turns the camera to look at the ceiling. When an event turns the TV off it swings back to looking at the cat feeder. This is how I did it in Homeseer but you should be able to do something similar with about any home automation as it is basically just calling a URL. you can write something like this:
//Start BI profile #7
curl http://user:password@192.168.1.200:8030/admin?profile=7

Where
IP Address for Blue Iris = 192.168.1.200
Blue Iris port = 8030
Blue Iris Profile = 7
(user:password@ can be omitted if you are not using authentication for your Blue Iris web server)

Since, as I mentioned above, I do a few Blue Iris things from Homeseer I have a script to keep everything in one place. And in that same spirit, a couple of events to make adding the profile changes to events easy.
Profile change events
Note kind of thinking it might be a good idea to set a light on in then cats profile event as well but that is probably overkill. 

Then call those events from the door monitoring events
Call profile change events from door monitoring events

Then just cause I like to be thorough and have backups I added calling the switch to private event to the alarm setting / disarming events as well. That way I'm sure the cam is looking at the ceiling if I'm getting in or out of bed.
Related events