I can see that in the market, there's a lot of confusion about what is H.264 DVR, so I decided to write an article to explain this subject...
H.264 DVR is a digital video recorder that uses the H.264 CODEC (a video compression algorithm) to better compress the video and save bandwidth and storage space. H.264 is not the device brand.
OK, that's it. When you buy a DVR and see the name H.264 written on it, that doesn't mean it was manufactured by a company called H.264.
Why there are so many products labeled H.264 DVR in the market?
Many years ago, the CCTV cameras used to consume too much bandwidth and storage space due to the video compression algorithm used at that time.
When the H.264 CODEC was developed, everybody was crazy to have a DVR that could use such algorithm to better compress the video.
Every CCTV manufacturer and security camera dealer saw an opportunity to explore this new CODEC and for a question of marketing starting labeling the DVRs and IP cameras with the information about the new H.264 CODEC.
So, basically it's a marketing thing. Not a brand !
What is the H.264 CODEC?
CODEC is a COmpressor DECompressor algorithm used to reduce the size of a digital picture or digital video, there are different types of CODECs in the market and to date, the H.264 is the most used on CCTV systems.
Before the H.264 come to the market, other CODEC such as MJPEG, and MPEG-4 were largely used by cameras an DVR manufactures.
Later, some H.264 CODEC variations, such as H.264+ came to the market and sometime later a new CODEC called H.265 was developed.
Due to some technical details such as processing power, and new hardware needs, the H.265 is not as popular as the H.264 yet.
To learn more: read the article How CCTV Codecs work
Software for the H.264 DVR
When you buy an H.264 DVR to record your CCTV cameras, usually you want to use a software to remotely monitor the live and recorded videos.
That's the reason there are software that can grab the video from the DVR and send to your computer. The technical name for this type of software is CMS or VMS, but people usually call it a "DVR software" or "CMS DVR".
So, to make things simple, let's just stick with this name, a DVR software is usually available in the H.264 DVR website and you can download it for free as long as you purchased the DVR.
Proprietary DVR software
When you purchase an H.264 DVR from well-known manufacturers such as Samsung, Bosch, Sony, Pelco, March Networks, Hikvision or Dahua, the DVR software is FREE and can be downloaded for the specific line of products you are using.
The proprietary DVR software is not going to work with other brands because it was developed to communicate using the manufacturer protocol.
If you have a recorder that just shows the name H.264 DVR or something like H.264 Network DVR in the front part of the equipment and no brand such as the ones I mentioned before is written there, chances are you have a non-branded Chinese DVR and you will need a different DVR software.
Free DVR software
OK, there is a FREE DVR software that can help you to monitor your non-branded H.264 DVR. You can download and start using right away.
Keep in mind however that a non-branded DVR most of the time is not supported by the manufacturer or CCTV dealer and when you have some kind of problem with the device, there's nobody to call.
The same happens with a FREE DVR software, it's not the best software in the world and you need to use it the way it is and can't complain.
A good example of this type of DVR software is the FREE CMS you can download by clicking on the link below.
You can also learn more about this FREE CMS by reading the article available in this blog: Software for Multiple CCTV DVR.
Free App for H.264 DVR
I know you want to be able to monitor your DVR from a mobile phone, right?
If that's the case, you can just use a mobile App offered by the DVR's manufacturer or use a FREE and universal App that can work with your non-branded Chinese DVR. Again, you get the one that's available.
Pros and cons of an H.264 DVR?
Let's just take a look at some pros and cons of having an H.264 DVR, but keep in mind that I'm talking about the non-branded H.264 DVR.
Those generic non-branded H.264 DVR are low-cost products that can work to record video from analog cameras and solve an urgent demand from small businesses and residential customers.
Usually, there's no user manual or a good DVR software available and you have to figure out how things work. If you need to stay hours researching on the Internet to find a solution for an H.264 DVR problem, probably you are going to lose money and not be profitable at all, when selling to a client.
Non-branded H.264 DVRs don't have the best quality when compared to the well-known brands, so you get what you pay for.
H.264 DVR troubleshooting
As I said before, usually there's no user manual or technical support number that you can call to solve the problem with your H.264 DVR.
Look for information on the Internet
To solve the issues, you need to look for online help on blogs, (like this one) , YouTube channel and forums where you can find people discussing some specific DVR problem. But this is usually a hard way to find an answer.
Talk to your dealer
Try to get your dealer phone number to call when you have some problem and before you buy ask if you can get help from them.
How do I reset my H.264 DVR?
OK, since you are here, chances are that someday you are going to lose the H.264 DVR password or have a client that forgot it.
When the DVR is from a well-known manufacturer, it's easy just call the technical support team to solve the problem, but with a non-branded H.264 DVR the thing is different and you need to try some alternative.
That's why I have another article that explains in details how to reset H.264 DVR for lost passwords. Just click on the link below to read it.
Now you know that an H.264 DVR is not a brand but just the name of a CODEC that was used by the marketing people to better promote a product.
There are some bad devices on the market and is better to pay a little bit more to have a good quality DVR and fewer headache.
When buying am H.264 DVR be careful with the kind of device you are paying for. Make sure you can get some support from the vendor.
Use the information you have available in this article to make sure you are going to purchase a better product next time.
And please share the information with your friends.
Claudemir Martins is a former Samsung Engineer with 18+ experience in the surveillance industry. He has been traveling around 17 different countries to teach people how to design, and install CCTV systems.