Surveillance DVR Playback Vs. Live View

This will be a brief yet informative break down of why you may not be seeing the same quality during playback of your security footage as you do when watching it live. We mainly will address recording optimization and video compression and how these affect your playback.

Recording Optimization

FPS (Frames Per Second) is exactly as it sounds and it relates to how many frames of footage is recorded per second. The lower this setting the more staggered and jumpy your footage will be, where as the higher the frame rate then the more fluid the image will be; especially during fast movement. The only downside to a higher frame rate is that it will lead to a larger file size which will use more of your hard drive space.

If you have a large hard drive, you will want to set this to the highest number your DVR allows. However If you are concerned about space then a happy medium is around 15 FPS.

FPS only applies to how you are recording the footage, so if you have a low FPS it will look choppier than the real time video you are viewing. So one way to help increase your playback quality is to check your FPS and turn it up if you can. This can usually be found in your DVRs record settings.

Resolution is another setting you can check and set to the highest resolution capable by your camera. This setting also affects file size and the higher the resolution the more space you will take up. This setting is usually found in the record settings of your DVR.

Video Compression

Older DVRs used video codecs that weren’t as capable and high of quality as today’s codecs. Most files were exported via AVI and had rather subpar codecs. Today’s more modern DVRs use H.264 encoding and export as high resolution MP4 files, this is a much more efficient and quality way of doing things. So if you are using an older DVR it is possible that your video card does not have good enough compression to handle your higher quality camera. This is not an easy fix, and it really only leaves the options of replacing your video card or DVR. Due to video card prices it usually will be a better idea to just replace your DVR.

HD Video To DVD

One final quick note is that DVDs cannot playback HD footage. They are becoming an older medium that only plays standard definition video. So if you are exporting your HD surveillance footage to a DVD it will definitely have a lower quality look. The only way to solve this is to start exporting your video onto blu-rays which are capable of handling and playing the HD footage.

By looking into these various settings and ideas you may be able to help increase the playback quality of your surveillance footage.

Christian M Gillman has worked in the surveillance industry for over 7 years. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, learn more about surveillance, and find great products at

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