NVR Software today for DIY setup


Active Member
Some years ago I put in IP cameras and after a rather exhausting review I decided to use Zoneminder.  It's been working OK, though I had to do a lot of programming to get a feature I consider critical (simultaneous review of multiple cameras when looking back through time). 
It's working, but it's a bit klunky - space usage is high, I've got to keep my code updated (the team wanted some, but not all), and I decided it was time to look around again.
Xeoma was an interesting one a while back, and they added multi-camera review -- but it's REALLY slow.  Price is right, and generally like their modular approach, and everything else is pretty fast, but not the review.
I'm trying to stick with linux but the way, so I wound my way to NX Witness, which I found and then discovered it is Digital Watchdog in the US and known as Spectrum.  I like it.  Very fast, very complete.  but I can't find the price yet, and expect it to be really expensive (anyone who won't sell direct, but sells to a distributor who sells to a reseller who sells to me -- can't be cheap.  But it's fast, linux based, low overhead, storage is a lot smaller than the JPG's Zoneminder uses.
While looking at it, I found XProtect Essentials (there's a forum thread recently on it here).  It doesn't do linux, but it is client/server based, and it has a free version for up to 8 cameras (I have 7).  Last time I looked I did not pay attention as they limited you to 5 days archive and now it's unlimited with only some features missing, none I see I need.  So I looked fairly extensively at it, and it seems really similar to the NX Witness software, and very full featured.  It is a bit more clunky in some places, and a bit more intuitive in others, but very similar.
While I haven't exercised the motion detection quality, the features (including after-the-fact searches in an ad hoc zone) with it look great, much better than zoneminder.  And while it has all the overhead of windows, it seems pretty efficient; I tried strangling it for memory and processors and it kept running fine.
Long prelude to.... anyone done a survey recently?   Any I may be missing? 

BlueIris I've tried, it's windows and a very high processor load from prior testing, and lacks the multi-camera scrub.
Avigilon I can't find anything about and has no apparent trial version.
Axxon Next last time I tried (well after they came out) didn't support the hikvision camreas well, plus their free is 4 cameras only, didn't try this time.
Shinobi is brand new, and looks like it has potential, but is really buggy, and is a one man operation.
Most of the others are pretty limited that I looked at.  I want something I can use easily on a windows client, but also on android and IOS for quick looks.  Remote access not terribly important but if it looked secure maybe, right now I keep zoneminder behind the firewall only not through.
Any insights? 
PS. I hope to put it on an older PC which I put a lot of disk in a couple years ago, but it's still only a slower X58 board with 6GB of memory (but I could upgrade to 12GB easily, 16max but that slows it down due to the DDR3 setups). 
Well it depends on your use or wants relating to features you want to utilize on your NVR (whether ZM or other software).   Here have stayed with ZM starting first with analog capture then digital capture.  I understand that it is fat today.  
That said purchased a Grandstream DVR a while ago in case I get tired of playing with ZM.    The DVR has analog trigger inputs on it such that I can utilize these and video algorithms.   
Today still prefer to utilize outdoor analog triggers (PIRs) for recording events.    What are your security requirements and will it help you?   Most I ever got was coyotes and rabbits playing in the middle of the night...   Well and if you capture videos of nefarious acts will they help you or provide you with peace of mind?
Mostly here nighttime security was passive. Making it daylight outside after midnight. Best camera recordings are done in daylight. Why stealth the video using IR illumination?
My needs are really simple and almost entirely after-the-fact.  Living in a dense neighborhood with lots of activity, kids, dogs, cars, etc. motion detection, expect perhaps right at the door or on the screened deck, is pretty pointless.  But after-the-fact searching is really useful at times, e.g. something weird happened and "what" gets answered easily.  So I record at a low fps all the time, and use it for review.  Once in a while, e.g. working at the computer but expecting a delivery or visit, will leave the grid display up.

But the motion detection analysis is very handy after the fact, e.g. "show me whatever moved in this spot over the last week".  That's different than zoneminder because it may be an area I had not previously set up, especially a more tight area that yields more relevant and fewer hits.
It's these "what happened last night" type things that make me want to see multiple cameras while doing a review of a time frame, scrubbing back and forth.
I also do upload to the cloud periodic images (about every 2 minutes a full res still from each camera) just in case some disaster happens, but I can do that without any tools just with a script. 
I do want multi-device access, e.g. so I can leave an old iPad running near the door as a console if one wants to check before opening (we have a solid door and no peephole -- go figure, came that way, never changed it). 
And decent space management so it will mostly take care of itself, purging, etc. as needed, so I can set it and forget it and count on it later (or get an alert if things go bad). 
Beyond that my main desire is Linux, with a grudging possibility of accepting windows.
No legal or forensic needs, no unusual camears (just IP), no audio, no additional inputs or outputs.
Yeah all of the off the shelf CCTV recorders are doing their stuff in Linux.  Well always have.
Most of the CCTV stuff I did was more tinkering than needed.  IE: I installed two cameras on the deck and two cameras at the end of the property line to watch the house and the deck.  Mostly never saw much of any activities other than the landscapers coming once a week to cut the grass and the irrigation triggering and coyotes and rabbits occasionally.  One main camera in the front was used for weather more than anything.  Got a bunch of lightning pictures during some tumultuous storms.
Beyond ZM here will be just going to the "box" with the firmware most likely.
The trending relating to many of the Cocoontech forum users has been to utilizing Blue Iris in Windows.
I just gave blue iris another try, and there's a lot to like, but I could find no way to do playback of all (or a subset) of cameras together.
Also, it had a really high CPU consumption unless I did direct-to-disk recording; though doing that is not really an issue, and once enabled it came down substantially. 
But to me I really want the multi-camera playback scrub.
Many DIY today that are Windows folks like Blue Iris.  As you mention above it is very resource intensive.
Relating to ZM you can currently utilize X10 hard triggers to record motion events such that you can do a combination of video and X10 to trigger events.  You can also edit the script to go with analog triggers and use a digital io board for this sort of stuff.   Using Homeseer here was using the OmniPro 2 doorbell stuff to trigger ZM stuff.  Only thing I noticed that many times the delivery person did not press the doorbell button.  Only modifications I did was installing an LED style doorbell which was connected to an Elk 960/930 combo going to the panel.  The doorbell, PIR and footsteps sensor would auto trigger the ZM stuff.  Note this was for 3 front door utilized cameras. 
Relating to the front door camera it currently utilizes the doorbell, PIR and footsteps on the walk motion which works even if you do not ring the doorbell.
New project for tinkering now is looking at a miniature pinhole style camera that fits in a standard small doorbell style cover.  It is part of a cheap o doorbell system (~100).  Issue here is that the doorbell button is in the wood frame of the side panel of the front door next to brick.  The only option I have been using is the side mounted on the brick camera.  I might be able to modify the hardware such that I can use this IP camera.  Only other option here is to mount a camera combo push button on the adjacent brick.  I have also changed my front door illumination stuff such that regular illumination at night is 30% unless you step up to the front door where as it goes to 100% illumination.
Yeah, if I were doing this seriously I would look at some alternatives for motion detection accuracy.  For me it's usually after the fact.  For example, I got a bit more data overnight.  I'm running 7 cameras 2048x1436 at highest quality and 4fps (probably the highest is a bit wasteful but wanted to see what I got).  It stored about 183 gig in 13 hours which works out to about 4TB for 14 days.
I did a "smart search" which is after the fact motion analysis, and searched for the area right in front of my door.  Took about 2 seconds, and all the clips.  A few were the usual false alarms (iR cut in/out, a couple where heavy shadows passed). But most were dead on accurate, just before my wife walked in or out.
What I love is this -- one showed headlights hit the door (her ride had pulled up).  Click a "copy to playback" and that time frame is taken to the all-cameras playback and I can then watch a car that had pulled up into the driveway from those two cameras (as well as all others, or a subset). And it all has no delay, scrub back and forth or play fast or slow in either direction.
I can do the scrub in zoneminder (my version, though I think they put it into the main code now), but not at these frame rates, and definitely not an after-the-fact search in an ad hoc zone.
I'm going to try Axxon Next again - last time I couldn't get it to work with these cameras but maybe it's better.  Might as well complete the look-around.  And maybe will hear about Dynamic/Witness pricing, but I think it's too high.  I did get Avigilon pricing, and it's about $75-100 per camera, so higher than I want for what is primarily a plaything-with-purpose.
Just wish I could find a good one with linux!  BUt so far, despite being windows, XProtect looks like the best free/cheap one for me.
Yeah the driveway is totally autonomous from the front door stuff here.  Again a mixture of PIR and under the driveway sensors, two CCTV cameras (front and back) (plus an overhead view) plus RFID for all owned vehicles.
Helping a Cocoontech peer living in DC with ZM and he has turned his stuff on 24/7 and addicted to watching his cameras from work all day long which is a bad thing.  He has ZM installed on a Dell 2U server with multiple CPUs and some 32Gb of RAM plus multiple drives.  User and I have seen stuff during the day which is kind of indicative of the sort of neighborhood he is in. 
The house has good value (> 1 million) and appears to be in a shitty neighborhood which to me I guess is norm for there.
I really liked Xeoma, on paper, it does everything and then some, and runs on Linux.  But they made some bad moves (fake reviews on CCTV forums, etc.) that really left a bad taste in my mouth.
As for Blue Iris, it runs much better if your CPU supports "Quick Sync" (hardware acceleration).
At this point, I'm starting to wonder if one is better off just purchasing an off-the-shelf NVR.  It's hard to beat the 'low' power requirements and low maintenance aspect.
Xeoma gives free licenses for any review.  I got one but didn't use it; I was pleasantly surprised as my review was a story of my search when I did NOT pick xeoma, so at least they didn't try to control the content of the reviews.
I've continued to experiment, and am leaning pretty heavily toward XProtect.  Haven't found much of a downside other than Windows.
I tried Sight Hound, and it's a seriously different animal, with some really cool analytics to have it decide when to record.  E.g. you can write a rule to record only for "people" (or maybe it was faces, I forget now) and I tried fooling it with opening doors without sticking my head out.  Pretty nice, and lots more it can do with tracking, line crossing, etc.  But I found its review horrible if you want to record everything and look later.
I tried Genius Vision, and it crashed too many times, and had some really arcane stuff so that I could not get it working fully.
Axxon I passed on again, I realized it was a 4 camera license. 
Long time Blue Iris user...  You can watch multiple cameras at the same time relative easily.  BI allows you to set up camera groups, I have one called Doors (all exterior doors) Front (cameras on front of house) etc.  Select the view you want (or view all cameras) and double click on the timeline where you want to view recorded events BI will display cameras that have activity. If no activity than that camera will be black or have the last still image displayed.  Not 100% user friendly but usable.
From what I understood Axis is only free with it's own cameras, otherwise quite expensive ($90/camera is what I saw one place, $150/camera in another), is that not true?   So i didn't look, that's a lot more expensive than I want.
Milestone is where I am landing, I think.  I just built a physical hardware PC from older hardware and installed windows on it, and XProtect is running very nicely on it at 4fps for seven 3mp cameras, basically no real load at all, and review is nicely fast also.  I'm disappointed that the motion detection is very basic, a lot like zoneminder, though it has really nice smart search (searching for motion after the fact from the archive). 
Since I was ending up on windows I went back through some others:
- Genius Vision: really like a lot of what it does, but it was just too buggy.
- Sighthound: even moreso like the way they approach motion detection, very powerful, but multi-camera playback just did not seem to work, period with a timeline, and it's "clip" approach was extremely awkward for reviewing the archive.
- Luxriot: Limited to 2mp, didn't try.
- AT Vision - could not get it to work at all, could not even get a camera to display, period.
- Herovision: Like milestone, but very buggy, but more free.
- Novosun Cyeweb - very arcane, but a nice set of features. A lot of stuff just plain would not work (e.g. motion detection masking would not show a preview even though the camera was working).  UI was very obscure, and setup arcane.  Could not figure out licensing only, and whether what I was running was free or very expensive.
- Trassir - unable to get the "trial" to even run, kept asking for a license file, but no obvious place online to get one.
I'm really disappointed that the otherwise very nice Milestone lacks some of the great motion detection filters of products like Genius Vision or Sighthound, but since I mostly want it for an archive to review, I think it will be OK.  And it seems solid -- in a lot of experimenting, rebooting, etc. I haven't managed to get it to do anything actually wrong or crash.
I've been using Blue Iris for about 6 months and am very happy with it. 
Regarding the CPU usage, note that its support for hardware acceleration can help, but it's only enabled on registered versions.