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Playback

The companion program to the monitor program is the playback program. You can launch it either from within the monitor program, or from a separate desktop icon. It includes controls for searching for events (triggered or input) or by specifying a time period. This search feature is for each controlled camera.

Video playback
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Figure 15: Video playback control panel

You can view video clips in real time or adjust the playback speed up to +/- 16X. Interestingly, the video controls included fast forward, but not rewind.

Playback screen
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Figure 16: PVC2300 Playback screen

The image above shows the video playback screen. Across the bottom, you can see indications of video activity represented by orange strips on the timeline. A time/date "balloon" that you can drag helps you speed through an extended timeline. In the image above, I was shooting through a window. Some of the fuzziness at the top of the screen was caused by raindrops on the window. For this test, I set the motion detection to capture motion on the path, and the camera caught these two people taking a rainy stroll.

Hands On

The instruction manual indicated that the lens is fixed focus, but the lens on our evaluation unit had a focus adjustment. In fact, the focus seemed fairly sensitive, and turning it just a few degrees in either direction made a large difference in the focus.

For my tests, I connected the camera to a 50-foot Ethernet cable so I could move it to different windows. When I moved it to a downstairs window, I found myself running back up the steps to check the focus on my monitor. Ultimately, I ended up taking a wireless notebook to the camera location so I could focus it without running back to my lab.

The PVC2300 is intended as an indoor device. It has an operating temperature range of 32–122F and operating humidity of 10–80%. Linksys also cautions that changing lighting conditions outdoors could cause the motion detection to trigger. Indeed, I did note that changes in brightness, such as a cloud passing in front of the sun, could trigger the motion detector.

I tested both the email and the FTP functions. Using the MPEG-4 video format with video attachments yielded the best notification results. I set the pre and post trigger settings to the maximum of 5 seconds, which resulted in 10-second video clips being sent to my email and my FTP server. If you choose JPEG as the attachment type, with the default settings, you'll get emails with dozens of attachments—each being about 10K.

Your email and FTP notifications are limited to 10 seconds. In order to record video longer than the 10-second notification clips, you must run the monitor application on a separate computer. Note that the camera does not directly capture to a network share. Files are stored in a data subdirectory under a directory with the camera's name.

In my test environment, the path was u:\media\video\Linksys PVC2300\RiverCamera\data. The video is stored with a .sef file extension that doesn't really correspond to a standard video file format. A search for .sef indicated that it might be a "Steganos Encrypted file." Though the playback utility does allow you to convert your video into a .avi file, it would have been nice for the video to be recorded in a standard video format.

Final Thoughts

Priced at $349.99, the PVC2300 is clearly a tool aimed at businesses that need to add video surveillance to their security plan. It does include features that make it an attractive option to deploy, such as Power over Ethernet and dual video codecs. Though it features input/output ports for external triggering and notification, the instruction manual really doesn't explain in much detail how to use them.

I was disappointed at the video quality at the default settings, but cranking the video quality up to "very high" and increasing the resolution to the highest level supported by the camera, 640 X 480 improved the video quality significantly. Of course, that dramatically increases the bandwidth usage, but for monitoring on a local network, that's really not much of an issue.

If the audio quality coming from the camera is important, this isn't the camera for you. The audio from the built-in microphone seemed fairly distorted when I tested it with the default audio codec. For email and FTP alerting, the camera works well as a stand-alone device, but since it can't record video directly to a network share, you'll need to plan on having a PC to run the monitor application if you're considering the camera as part of a surveillance system.

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