Common DVR Features and What They Are

When people go shopping for a suitable DVR for their surveillance system, they often wonder about various features and how they might be applicable to their situation. Sometimes they know what features they’re looking for, while other times they aren’t always aware of the more common features that are available to them. So to help set things on an even footing, this article will provide some information about the more commonly used, wanted, and available features that most DVRS have.

Motion Detection

This feature is almost as old as the DVR itself, and it is one of, if not the most commonly requested feature out there. Motion detection is simply the ability to have your DVR trigger its recording functionality whenever there is apparent motion on the screen within the video feed. This feature is extremely beneficial for a number of reasons, but the number one reason is to prevent having erroneous video files that not only clog up your system, but also make it much harder to locate particular video segments. This is especially true if you’re unsure of the exact time an incident might have occurred as you will then have to search the hours of constantly recorded footage.

Sub-Features that help regulate and add to this main feature often include motion sensitivity and image masking.

Motion sensitivity is how much motion is required before it will trigger a motion activated recording sequence. For example, the sensitivity may determine whether a leaf blowing will set it off, or if you’ll need something more substantial like a truck passing by.

Image masking on the other hand is used to determine zones in your video that you may not want motion detection to be activated in. For example if you have a tree in the corner of your video that is constantly being blown about, you can mask that part of the video and it will not activate the motion detection. Furthermore even if you mask part of a video feed for no motion activation, it will still record the entire video feed if the other areas do activate due to motion; so you don’t need to worry about having sections of your video cut off should it start to record.

Networking and Smartphone Support

A DVR that is networkable gives the option to remotely access the DVR from computers within or outside of a network. The next logical step after this feature was the ability to access your DVR over your Smartphone. So when a DVR claims to have Smartphone support, not only can it be networked, but it can also use an APP on your phone to not only watch but also adjust and configure your DVR.

To fully realize this features capability it will require a few things. You’ll need a stable and reliable internet connection (preferably a cable connection for larger bandwidth and reliability), you’ll need a configurable router that will allow port forwarding, and you’ll need a phone that supports DVR APPs (most Smartphone’s do).

Email Notification

Email notification in a way is a sub feature of both motion detection and networking. The short and sweet explanation behind email notification is right in its name. Email notification is the ability of your DVR to send out an email to any address you specify should motion detection or a scheduled email be activated. When it sends out the notification most DVRs also send along a snapshot of the current video that activated the motion detection. This can be quite beneficial when it comes to catching something as it happens, but depending on the amount of motion that occurs in your videos you may want to reconsider this feature as it can fill up your inbox rather rapidly. Additionally you must have a network connection with internet access to make this feature work at all.

Schedule Recording

This feature tends to confuse people the most just by looking at it, but once explained it can become one of the most beneficial tools in your DVRs arsenal. Generally when you go to Schedule Recording on your DVR it will show a list that allows you to input particular times and dates for all your different cameras. This list is a simply a guide you can craft into a very particular recording schedule. Say you want to record your 1st and 3rd camera on Sundays at noon, but only want your 2nd and 4th camera to record on Wednesdays at three. With schedule recording you can turn this example into a reality and specify many more times, dates, and configurations that fit your particular applications. So as a final example if you wanted to record only certain shifts at your factory you could specify the DVR to do so, and you can even have motion detection turned on during non scheduled recording for any miscellaneous activity that might occur when you’re not expecting it.

Classifications – DVR vs NVR vs Network DVR

As a final thought instead of going over any more features (as we’ve covered the major ones), lets quickly discuss the different classifications that are given to what are all essentially DVRs.

A DVR is short for digital video recorder and it’s the term that will be used in analog or HD-SDI surveillance systems where a direct connection from camera to DVR is used.

COP-USA DVRH264-E4 Full D1 4 Channel Network DVR W/ Remote Control

An NVR refers to network video recorders, and although these sometimes have direct connection capabilities, they are primarily used for recording cameras that are connected to the network like IP surveillance systems.

G4-NVR-P 16 Channel NVR (Network Video Recorder) W/ 1TB HDD & Onvif Support

A Network DVR is simply a DVR that is capable of using a network for features such as remote access, Smartphone support, and email notification. Sometimes this will be referred to as an NVR, but in reality it’s not the same thing. For the most part Network DVRs and NVRs are all that exist nowadays in the surveillance world, as it is becoming quite rare to find non network capable DVRs.

Everfocus EDR-HD-4H4 HD Hybrid DVR: 4 Channel HD & 4 Channel Analog W/ 4TB

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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