During the course of my ten-year career working inside of casino surveillance departments, I’ve seen some questions come up more than others. Three of the most common, most difficult video issues that I have been challenged to resolve are the following: Capturing high quality detail at backlit entrance points, improving facial recognition, and fixing sluggish video on monitor walls.
Problem No. 1: Facial Detail at Choke Points
Since the first CCTVs cameras were introduced to Casino Surveillance Departments decades ago, entrances and exits have been a notoriously difficult (yet critical) chokepoint tasked with capturing details about persons entering and exiting casinos. The quality issue can be attributed to a tricky combination of abrupt changes to backlighting from the rising and setting of the sun, light refraction through glass doors constantly opening and closing, static indoor lighting, headlights from moving cars, and the list goes on… As a result, traditional analog and most IP cameras are unable to provide sufficient detail to positively identify persons of interest after an incident occurs.
When selecting new IP cameras, look for these features: Anti-bloom to overcome the starring effect of bright light, Wide Dynamic Rangeto capture detail across a wide range of lighting conditions in a single shot, and advanced low light performance with detail at .05 lux. For perspective Wikipedia equates .05 lux to the lowest end of the light of a full moon on a clear night.
Problem No. 2: Suspicious Persons
Does your surveillance department print and post Be on the Lookout’s on the wall or store them in a closed folder? I have visited over one hundred casino surveillance rooms in Las Vegas and across the USA and, in each one, I usually find myself staring at the snapshots of those patrons who have recently been documented for causing problems within the casino. The issue with the placement of these posts is that the BOLs are out of eyeshot from real time operations. Casino watchers will see hundreds if not thousands of patrons each day, and yet are so infrequently exposed to snapshots of the most critical BOL Alerts.
Look for a Video Management System with a digital video loop that links to your casino’s photo database. The photo viewer behaves like a slide show, displaying photos of high priority BOLs – right alongside your live surveillance video. Rather than wasting the time (and ink) to print images to post across the room, the looped photo display provides top-of-mind awareness of potential threats.
Problem No. 3: Sharing Video
Any time surveillance footage must travel beyond the capable hands of the surveillance department, all bets are off. For the most part, two techniques are used to share video outside of the surveillance room: (1) Departments purchase separate review stations to be installed outside of the surveillance room or (2) Surveillance departments export video along with a playback client via transferrable media. Many inefficiencies can arise from both situations.
In scenario 1, non-surveillance casino employees (who are usually novices when it comes to VMS) are forced to fumble with a new app to find relevant footage. This process wastes time and resources until the correct video can be identified and reviewed. To make matters worse, the financial burden of paying for this review station usually falls on the surveillance department’s budget.
Scenario 2 is no better because it offloads protected video from a casino’s isolated network and then requires the non-surveillance employee to install a playback application onto non-surveillances computers.
Look for a Video Management System that accommodates collaboration across departments and is easy-to-use for VMS experts or novices. (Think of how Google Docs makes it easy for multiple users to share and edit documents in real-time.) Especially valuable is the ability to share multiple video streams, whether they are live or recorded, with observers outside the surveillance room. For example, the F&B Manager can sit down at a client and be shown precisely the video she needs to see for her investigation, and if further forensic investigation is required, the surveillance department can queue up video in real time to deliver conclusive evidence.
Before purchasing a new or upgrading your current system, consider these real-life problems and assure your VMS has the power to solve them.