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.

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 and 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. 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 but 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.

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 spec if you want to be able to pull a recognizable face or place 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 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 option so you might need to go with an IR camera instead and possibly even IR floods to see what you want at night. Accent lights are and 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. One side not here it to think about glare. For instance I 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. 

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 might make a huge diff in the detail you can see. But of course there are always trade offs like look vs feel of and 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 is Dahua have higher resolution and 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. 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 they might not be total deal breakers they probably will (or at least should) factor into your final choices, so make a note of them.

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

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@

IP Address for Blue Iris =
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

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Getting cam specs the easy way.


  • Find your house
  • stick a virtual cam on it
  • Move the person icon to the middle of where you want focus
  • pull in the sides of the triangle
  • see what it says Distance and HFoV
  • You can then play with resolutions to get a basic idea of the detail you would see if a person was standing at that location.
  • You now have the spec you need for that cam.
  • Repeat till you have everything you want covered, covered.

What you end up looks something like this (totally random house in Australia)

Now granted you will probably need to round those to standard value or plan on getting zoomables to get the view angles you want. 

Note too if a cam just says view angle instead of horizontal view angle it probably means diagonal which is a bit larger.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

WU style time lapse with Blur Iris

I've been exporting the occasional video at 60x but I wanted a more automatic and less resource intensive method and would let me do full of half day videos. Something akin to what Weather Underground used to create from uploaded pics or Bloomsky still does. Neither supported higher rez images though and I really wanted to be able to use Hikvision ColorVus to support night shots that you could make out constellations in when the skies were clear.

I was kind of surprised this was not as simple as I thought. Or I should say the first posts I found using the Alt/time lapse frame rate looked like they should work but what you get is a video that plays in real time but only updates the frames based on this setting.

Then there are those that suggest post batch converting which would work in theory but consume a ton of resources.

But what seems to get you closest to a frame every X minute with a "normal" playback uploadable to to YoutTube is the "Periodic, each" recording.

The simplest way to do this is clone a cam.
You will probably want to disable audio and motion detection

Setting the rate to a frame every 15 seconds for 0.1 seconds yields a file at 22.07 fps the runs about  4 1/2 minutes for a 10 hour recording.

The result looks like this though this is not quite 12 hours long. YouTube seems see this as a 50 fps video yet the run time has not changed. Note their docs say this frame rate is not supported so some more experimenting will need to be done to get it into a supported frame rate but it is working for now.
Since it is a clone of another cam you will probably want it to be hidden as well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Weather on Blue Iris

Updated from the instructions in this post which seems to be a bit out of date now.

First off, please note that in order to display an animated GIF image as a camera, your Blue Iris must be version or above. Images here are from Blue Iris 5.

The method below is used to determine the URL for an animated 'PNG' of the desired weather radar loop on Intellicast is as follows:

1) Go to this URL: Intellicast - Current Radar in your browser
2) Go to the dropdown menu to the left under 'Region' and select the desired region to be displayed.
3) Toward the right click on 'Play Animation'.
4a) In IE, right click on image and select inspect element to see URL. You are looking for something like this

4b) in Chrome just right click and select copy image address.

5) In Blue Iris, create a new camera configured as in images below using the URL for the PNG file obtained above.

 Add done

Note it seems to not visibly affect the load on the server either.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

ColorVu supplemental light off/on axis tests

As I mentioned in my review HikVision ColorVu cameras the supplemental light is really too bright to use in most cases but it is also lights up pretty much 180 by 180 degrees, which is also an issue if anything is close, so enabling it on a sky cam might be helpful to other near by cams.

Off axis test. 

It is raining with heavy clouds taking the moon out of the picture. The supplemental light settings at times (bottom time stamp) are:

  • 8:47 change from 10 to 50
  • 8:48 change from 50 to 100
  • 8:49 change from 100 to 10

The ColurVu is mounted on the edge of the roof above the bird feeder.
The trees seen to light up on the edge of the view are about 50 feet from the cam on the left to about 33 feet center. The rain helps show some of the limitations of illumination from a camera instead of off axis. Camera is 2.8mm OEM of the Hikvision DS-2CD2347G1-LU I bought off Amazon. (video)

The Amcrest is mounted on the barn 43 feet from the ColorVu. Camera is a IP4M-1026 pushed to the max 1/3 second exposure and max gain. (video)

Dahua mounted about 4 feet behind the ColorVu on the soffit.  Camera is a IPC-HDW4631C-A also pushed to the max 1/3 second exposure and max gain. (video)

No light test.

Cameras are all in the same places as off axis test but ColorVu is angled down to roughly match the view form the Dahua. Also since there is more light I also tested motion with my black dog and me moving about. Moon would have been down to about last quarter but as the lack of any shadows shows it was pretty much obscured by clouds.

The test starts with the back door light on and a ladder in view of the Dahaua cam. The following happens at these times (the lower timestamp):

  • at 8:43 the back door light is turned off and after a few seconds the ColorVu light comes on auto. Note black dog near far corner of house and the kind of purple tint the IR floods give the ColorVu video before the supplemental light kicks in.
  • at 8:44 I turn the ColorVu light off. A few seconds after that I come out to get the ladder with a hat light on so I can see what I'm doing. Note the blur and low frame rate.
  • at 8:46 I go back inside then come back out to walk carefully past with the hat light off
  • at 8:47 I come back, ( I forgot my keys) with the hat light on cause it really is too dark to be walking safely with it off, then go off to feed.
  • at 8:48 my white dog appears at the far corner of the house and wanders about for around 5 minutes. 
  • at 8:53 I come back from feeding, turn my hat light off and wander carefully into the yard a bit to test for motion blur. Note I have to turn my hat light back on to see where I'm stepping part of the time.
  • at 8:55 go back in triggering the back door light to come on.
  • at 8:56 I come back out to do another motion test with the back door light on. Then plug a hole something dug next to the bird feeder.
  • at 8:57 I go back in. Not the cats lurking on the walk way.

ColorVu video
Amcrest video
Dahua video

On axis test

Cameras are all in the same places as off axis test but ColorVu is angled down to roughly match the view form the Dahua. ColorVu camera has the supplemental light set to a fixed value of 10. For this view 10 seemed to be the max I could run the supplemental light at without causing glare that would diminish the view of the stars and distance trees.

22:21 to 22:25 White dogs starts by the back door and then wanders the yard.

ColorVu video
Amcrest video
Dahua video

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.

Update 4/28/2020 Might be a work around for the video issue. 

First I noticed a similar issue playing back some Dahua videos. I noticed those cams had the "Smart Codec" turned on. And was set to VBR. I turned off "Smart Codec" and set to CBR and that seems to have sorted the issue.

Then I came across an old article that said to use the "Base" H.264 profile instead of the default "Main" or "High". I've stuck a Reolink on my BI5 server (just pointed at a clock for now) to see how it goes. Seems to be working so far but then it could go days between showing on the console sometimes. Note too I've upgraded BI5 since I last had a Reolink on that server.  Currently on BI5 v5.2.6.3 64 bit.

Friday, February 7, 2020

HikVision ColorVu cameras

Quick starts

Videos in the Hikvision and Color night vision playlists

For a compare against the Darkfighter models look at this review video from dvs.

The first one I bought was the OEM version of the DS-2CD2347G1-LU from Nelly's Security. Note there is a DS-2CD2347G1-L that appears to be the same thing without audio for about the same price from most sellers. Later I ordered a 2.8 mm version that had just listed on Amazon.

First thing you should not is the cams come with a static IP set of This means you either need to have a 192.168.1.X network or a Windows PC you can run their tool on.

Next these are huge.
Here is the HikVision turret model (left) next the the Amcrest (right).
If you look close you will notice UP is marked on the case. A nice feature. I usually end up drawing an line on these so I know which way is up out in the field.

To install an SD card (128GB max) or adjust the rotation of the camera takes an Torx-10 screwdriver. Though realistically if you are going to be doing this kind of stuff you should just break down and get driver and set of bits that include straight, Phillips, hex and Torx bits of various sizes. Maybe even an all in set.
Update I found the L shaped Torx it comes with under the packing so you don't need to get one though having a set with screwdriver like grips might make you life easier.

For a quick test I just swapped in place of the west Amcrest skycam. The difference was amazing. For this compare shot I set them all to an exposure of 1/12 and gain of 0-100.

The original Amcrest is lower left, the Dahua upper left and the HikVision on the right.
Now this how sensitive the HikVision is. Here I set the Amcrest and Dahua exposure to 1/3 which causes ghosting see this video,  but the HikVision is at 1/30 (double the frame rate).

You can also compare the above Amcrest 1/3 exposure video to this 1/12 exposure video from the HikVision and this Dahua one.

Here is the odd thing. It actually looks darker during the day which is why I did the above video with exposure 1/12. For example here is the next day.

The Amcrest and Dahua are using profile scheduling to switch to automatic exposure for the daytime. The HikVision is still set to exposure 1/30 (it does not have an automatic setting).  It does have profile scheduling but it would appear to be unneeded so far. I checked to make sure it was not switching the exposure based on profile.

Though if you are looking to grab hummingbird stills from the video it appears switching to 1/100000 is doable even on an overcast day like today.

Three days later and an even tougher test. While the moon is technically up you can not tell where the clouds are so thick. Not just dark but but air so heavy with moisture it is almost fog.
Here the old cams are set on auto but and the HikVision is still has exposure set to 1/12
The original Amcrest is lower left, the Dahua upper left and the HikVision on the right.
Cranking the old cams down to an exposure of 1/3 it looks better.
The original Amcrest is lower left, the Dahua upper left and the HikVision on the right.
Turning on the back door light ~45 feet from the barn in the picture with the old cams still at 1/3.

Smart features:

While not applicable to what I'm currently using these cams for they do have extensive motion and other alerts built right into the camera.


Motion detection, video tampering detection, network disconnected, IP address conflict, illegal login, HDD full, HDD error

Behavior Analysis

Line crossing detection, intrusion detection, object removal detection, unattended baggage detection
Sample of the line crossing setup screen,

Region Of Interest

1 fixed region for main stream and sub-stream separately

Exception Detection

Scene change detection

Note the Smart Supplement Light setting in Display setting is for the IR LEDs and so does nothing here.
Day/Night Switch  is what tells to be in color or B&W mode at "night"

The Smart Supplement Light white LEDs are controlled on this page under System Settings.
Note the light is unfortunately almost useless in most cases as the the ideal setting to avoid blacking out background detail seems to be 4-5 and it will not reliably switch on below 5. Even at 5, it lights up well beyond the view of the cams to what looks real close to 180 degrees which has both good and bad features. For instance, properly placed it not only assists its view when ambient light falls below what is needed but also can assist other low light cams that need just a bit more help that then ColorVus. Check out ColorVu supplemental light off/on axis tests.

2.8 mm version

The HS-VUT04G1-IA 2.8 mm version is virtual identical to the one form Nelly's.
Firmware on the Nelly's cams was V5.6.2 build 191111
Firmware on the 2.8mm was V5.6.2 build 190701
Nelly's has firmware downloads and support on their site. The vendor looked a bit sketchy so I stuck the cam on my test network for a couple days to see if it was going to do anything odd but it seems clean with no out bound traffic.  I also upgraded the monitoring on my main network which did highlight an issue with my one GW Security camera. Fortunately already being blocked. But now I'll be more likely to alerts if anything else tries something.

Anyway before I swapped the 2.8 mm in as the SE sky cam I set it up for a few minutes just below the 4 mm to get some shots of the the diff the view angle makes.

Just 109 degrees versus 94 degrees but if you are looking to stitch them together and or get a bit more vertical coverage like me that diff can be a deal breaker.

One last thing about these that is nice. The POE connection seal which seems to be getting to be standard now. (The Dahuas and the latest Amcrests came with matching ones.) It allows a RJ45 through yet seals air tight which makes swapping them out easy.

Added a second 2.8 mm to replace the 4 mm so they match. Just ordered a 3rd so I can get a panorama from almost due east to about due north. Unfortunately I do not have a good spot for the north west quarter.

Update 4/6/2020

I'm up to 6 of these now. The one on the driveway is the 4 mm version. The rest are the 2.8 mm versions.

Might be hard to tell but the above is from 9:24 PM with little bit of moon light you can see on the top center. For compare here are all the cams on that server. Note the 2 other color cams are Amcrests (top row) and a Dahua (bird feeder) with the exposure set to 1/3 and the gain to 100.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Eval:Plate Recognizer in Blue Iris 5

Cams used in the post:


The LPR partnered with Blue Iris 5 is cloud based meaning it uploads triggered pic to a server which is hampered by timing of triggers on top of the quality of  the image sent. Positioning of the cam, lighting and speed of the vehicle will of course factor in. More here. A better solution, if you have the cash, might be OpenLPR which works on streaming video to a local server. Prices range from $5/cam/month to $1995/cam/month. Though I'm thinking the best solution is a cam designed for player reading that has LPR in the cam. That will set you back at least $500 though. Still could be cheaper in the long run and more practical than sending video to a server to process.

Note I and many others have been seeing the web server crash a lot with Blue Iris 5 Going to be waiting to upgrade any more servers till that gets sorts. But till then I though I'd look at the new AI built-ins.

You should turn off any overlays from the camera so the it does not see them as the plate number. And even then there might be issues.

Note only one of these is a license plate. And looking at the uploaded images it appears to have completely missed me going and returning twice today though the config looks unchanged from the last time it worked.


BI5 plate recognizer setup instructions. Set up was quick and easy.

First look:

Given I'm just looking to log cars coming in my gate I figured their free tier might be enough. Gets a bit pricey for watching a neighborhood gate or parking lot.

Note the timestamps on the cam pics are UTC like the plate log.

The first thing that hit me was I need to dial my triggers way back so it will only be sending things that are probably cars to stay in the free range. Even though I thought I'd dialed it back pretty good I had 41 alerts in the first 2 1/2 hours I had it turned on. It did get the plate on my while I was pulling out with the trash but not when I pushed it back up the driveway.

First uploaded pic of me on the way out
Last uploaded pic of me with the cart

It did not get the one off a truck that pulled in to turn around after dark either. Though in that case it probably could not have been able to make out the plate since I could not. Should have uploaded a pic though. It think because it did not quite cross zones.
I think the dividing line was just this side of the tires.

So I adjusted the zones again (replaced right 1/3 of 2 full width zones with a third to trigger on people using the turnaround like the truck)  and turned it off for the night.
now with 3 zones. 2 on left 1 on right.
I might want to swap to the gate cam instead as it could see the plate on the truck well from its angle and distance. Though that also means it will be tough not to trip with passing traffic. Especially at night with headlights shining off the gate and trees.

Update 2/4/2020:

Totally missed a neighbor's visit both coming and going in the middle of the day. Plus even weirder it thinks it made out the cameras name as a plate on my work glove as I passed. Again times are UTC where local is UTC-6
Notice no car pics for 2/3 though it did see me.
Me carrying a chainsaw. I guess my movement triggered the LPR and the only text it found was the cameras name overlay.
The neighbor did trigger the BI motion detection 6 times. You can see the first image here along with the 6 clip blank clip icons o the left. (The blank icons is another random issue I've been seeing in BI5.)
Note I pixelated the plate here. It was perfectly clear.
It got me thinking the one trigger point might not be enough so I reduced the 3 zones I have and added 3 more to hopefully trigger earlier and more often in case they are getting dropped or something. Unfortunately all the zones you are not currently editing show up as the same color so they look like one but there are 6, A thru F.
Basically 4 strip zones to catch "vertical" movement and 2 block sections on right to catch going into turn around or on up drive.
With the crossings set up like this. (Note F was added between the road and A which starts at the gate.)

I also cranked the sensitivity a bit from min object size of 675 to 525 which should be about the size of a car at the gate.

One think I did not mention earlier is there is also a motion detector at the gate that triggers the driveway cams as well. It is a bit laggy but unaffected by the headlights going by. So at night I only use that to trigger the LPR by setting a separate profile and scheduling the switch.
Note no motion sensing selected but the LPR AI is configured for this profile as well.
Note the relative to sunrise/sunset option and you can click on "Days" button to select a group of days or a single day.

Update 2/7/2020:

Another gotcha. Not sure how but it appears my LPR config disappeared from both profiles. It posted a pic at 7:28 AM UTC (1:28 AM local the schedule is using) but when I looked to see how it did with today's FedEx delivery there was nothing. And when I checked my settings in BI5 I found the LPR disabled with no config info. The global profile override schedule was still in place. I then noticed the profile number was not in place on the frame as it had been when the schedule was working. Trying to go into the cameras motion detection config seemed to make the app unresponsive till I tried to close the app at which time the motion detection config dialog appeared.
Note blank clips and motion detection preview window
Restarting the console told me an update was ready so I let that install. After the profile indicator was back on the camera frame. The LPR config was still there. Makes me think a subsystem died or such. Note the clip images were still black so I did a DB repair which sorted that. However I found the active part of zone F was inverted. I'll have to keep a closer eye on this and see if there is some more monitoring I can setup.

Update 2/25/2020 New Issue.

Seem to have found a new issue with BI5. Looks like my motion detection quit working on all cams about 3 days ago. Not positive but I think a Blue Iris subsystem died without notification. This is VERY bad. Not only has no LPR posts been made for 3 days but no video was marked with motion events either from BI motion detection or by external triggers. Rebooted box and motion detection is working again but not sure how I can even monitor for this yet.

Update 3/13/2020 swapped out Reolink with Dahua

Moved the 2 Reolink to other locations / servers since BI5 does not seem to like them which seem to have sorted the corrupted and hung video issues. I also let me add trip line triggers from in cam detection to help reduce lag. Unfortunately it has not done much for improving detection as you can see here.
The shot on March 13, 2020, 12:03 a.m. UTC looks almost perfect those the plate was still not clear enough for it to work. 

I think that is about it for this LPR. There are some other options to try on my todo list.