Bitrate for security camera systems

New to cameras? Or maybe you’ve been around for a while. Do you know what a bit rate is? Let’s learn all about it.

When you start dealing with security cameras, the bit rate will come up, and it is an important term to understand. It is also good to learn how they apply to your security system. Below we will discuss a bit rate, its use, and an understanding of what it does for your system. 

What is a BitRate?

A bit rate is a measure of the amount of data sent through the system’s video feed. It has a direct connection with the amount of data used and the amount of bit rate generated.

Thus, bit rate relates to your footage’s video quality, but there are certain limits in place. As for meaning, the above describes what you need to know.

In this article, we won’t be diving deep into the technical aspects of bit rate but will touch on it on a more superficial level and focus on the meaning and uses of ite.

To measure bit rates, Kilobits are used. Usually, you will see Kilobits shortened to KBPS, which means Kilo Bits Per Second. KBPS begins at 128 and continues to double itself.

Thus you can have 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096 KBPS, and so on. The bit rate values can be adjusted depending on your needs, but a rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the higher the KBPS, the better your footage will look.

Types of BitRate

A bit rate is a measure of the amount of data sent through the system’s video feed, but there isn’t just one kind of bit rate your camera can have. Let’s go over the two types available in CCTV systems.

Constant BitRate

CBR, short for Constant BitRate, is a measure of data sent through the feed, but it will stay constant regardless of the footage. Thus, this bit rate is set and does not fluctuate from the set bit rate value.

CBR would be used to maintain a constant state of quality, but it will have an impact on the total amount of storage days for your hard drives. The number of days you can record will decrease as the bit rate takes more space.

Variable BitRate

VBR, or Variable BitRate, is the second type. As the name suggests, there is a variation; thus, it will fluctuate according to the footage and how much action there is.

Meaning that when there is more activity, there will be a higher level of bit rate, and vice versa. Less activity will lower your it and won’t take as much space on your hard drive as CBR does.

Keep in mind that when VBR is used, the bit rate should be set to maximum to allow the system to make the needed adjustments automatically. 

This option gives you high-quality images when important events are happening and lower quality when there is little to no motion. VBR is solely connected to the footage and thus is more interactive.

Where to find BitRate Settings

Now that you know what a bit rate is, you might want to alter your settings and mess around with it. It will all come down to your camera’s brand and model. But regardless, it should be found under the configurations or settings panel.

Try finding the configuration; under video settings, you should find the bit rate and have access to changing it. It might also fall under Streaming or Image settings if it is not under video configurations. I have attached an example using a Hikvision device and going into settings.

Resolution of your camera

Resolution and bit rate are not interchangeable terms. But they do work hand in hand. For instance, if you have a low bit rate set, it does not matter if you have a high-resolution camera; the image will still look robotic and pixelated.

This issue is due to user error and can cause issues such as the inability to use the footage as evidence in needed situations. Resolutions have a matching bit rate that corresponds with the footage to give you the perfect image.

It would be best if you were shooting for good performing and quality footage while having optimal storage and refraining from taking up unneeded space on your hard drive.

The optimum BitRate

There isn’t one correct answer. It is a range and will differ from camera to camera. Though you can play around with it, leaving the bit rate to its default settings from the camera is the best way to get the optimum bit rate.

Sticking with the default settings is an easy way to have it work with your camera. The camera model and brand might alter the set rate, but you can still play around with it as you wish.

Note that the resolutions below are all measured in “p” or pixels. If you want to find out what is 1080n resolution in security cameras, read the article!

ResolutionSuggested Bit Rate
1MP (1280×720)1024 KBPS
2MP (1920×1080)2048 KBPS
3MP (2048×1536)4096 KBPS
4MP (2560×1440)4096 KBPS
5MP (2560×1440)6144 KBPS
4K/8MP (3840×2160)8192 KBPS
12MP12288 KBPS
Resolution to Bit Rate Recommended Ratio

Low vs. High BitRate

The goal is to find the perfect pairing between resolution and bit rate. The best way to attain that is to check with your security camera brand. 

Too Low

 A bit rate is too low if it messes up your image, making it look pixilated and rendering it useless. For instance, using a 4K camera and setting the bit rate to 256 or even 512 will just waste the camera’s potential.

This is crucial in spaces such as businesses as there tends to be a lot of foot traffic, and you should be able to identify people for security purposes. So to avoid wasting your camera’s resources and ending up with a blurry image, set an optimal bit rate.

Too High

In most cases, a high bit rate will choke your network, waste storage space on your hard drive, and will end up using unnecessary bandwidth. 

Your hard drive might struggle to save the footage, and you will see a decrease in the number of storage days you will have. Thus, you will only lose days of storage and not gain any actual quality regarding the footage.

A high level will also give you issues with your recorder (DVR/NVR). If you set up a high bit rate for all your cameras, the unnecessary amount of bandwidth influx will cause your recorder to struggle.

Final Thoughts

Let’s go over what we covered above. A bit rate is a measure of the amount of data sent through the system’s video feed.

Though you can adjust your bit rate, your best option is to stick with the camera’s recommendation. But if you want to alter it, look for it under settings, specifically stream, image, or video settings.

There are two bit rates types: CBR, Constant BitRate, and VBR, Variable BitRate. The main difference between the two is that CBR does not fluctuate, and VBR does.

 A bit rate is not the same as resolution, but the settings should be up to par with your bit rate level. If the level is set too low or high, you will experience issues that can affect your camera in different ways.

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