What is RTSP on a Security Camera?

Security cameras need to send their footage to a server or video recorder for later use or live viewing. One of the best technologies for streaming and managing these video feeds is RTSP (Real-Time Streaming Protocol). I’ll explain RTSP and give you practical tips on using it efficiently.

What is RTSP?

RTSP, or Real-Time Streaming Protocol, is a set of rules for transferring data between systems. It lets users access the media server of a CCTV system, primarily to request a real-time video stream from a camera.

Key Takeaways

  • RTSP (Real-Time Streaming Protocol): It helps in accessing real-time video streams from security cameras, allowing control functions like play, pause, and stop.
  • Compatibility: Works well with various software including VLC, Quicktime, and device types like NVRs, ensuring flexibility without manufacturer restrictions.
  • Internet Not Required: Operates effectively within local networks without needing an internet connection, enhancing security and reliability.
  • Security Concerns: Vulnerable to hacking if not secured properly; ensure updated firmware, strong passwords, and isolated networks to protect camera feeds.
  • Difference from ONVIF: ONVIF is a broader standard that includes multiple protocols for a wide range of functions beyond just video streaming.

RTSP isn’t a transmission protocol. It sends signals to pull a video stream from a camera and controls media functions like play, pause, and stop. This protocol lets cameras and Network Video Recorders (NVRs) communicate and exchange commands.

RTSP uses TCP to set up and maintain its connection. This allows for very high transmission rates without needing local downloads or caching, enabling seamless access and control of feeds.

Benefits of RTSP for security cameras 

RTSP, though older, still offers benefits for streaming. It’s easy to start a stream with RTSP-compatible software like VLC or QuickTime, as long as your CCTV network has a media server. You just need the right software and the RTSP network URL.

RTSP cameras let you store footage on local hard drives, DVRs, and NVRs. They’re widely supported, allowing you to choose any DVR or NVR without worrying about compatibility. 

RTSP-supported devices are affordable and work seamlessly with any third-party gadgets, giving users the freedom to mix and match without sticking to one brand. Moreover, RTSP operates without needing an internet connection and can function within a local network.

What players are compatible with RTSP camera feeds?

RTSP-compatible cameras and devices work well with most video players on both desktops and smartphones.

For desktop users, choose from several media players. For a quick and free option, use Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Winamp, or my favorite, VLC media player. Mac users can use all except Windows Media Player. Simply select “Open Network Stream” or “Open URL” and provide the correct address.

For smartphones and tablets, I suggest using the VLC application. It’s free, unlike alternatives like MX Player, BSPlayer, and VPlayer for Android. On iOS, finding good alternatives to VLC can be more challenging.

Video Formats and RTSP

Video formats and RTSP differ. RTSP is a protocol with rules for transmitting data over IP networks. It defines how to organize and send video, methods for data transmission, and ways to recover it for playback. RTSP also optimizes data chunk size, stream quality, and latency. 

Video formats are containers for delivering video data. Common formats include .mp4, .m4v, and .avi, recognizable as file extensions on your computer or smartphone.

It’s easy to mix up “format” with “codec.” A codec compresses video data, enabling faster transmission without quality loss, but it doesn’t contain the data. Successful real-time streaming requires a protocol for managing traffic, a codec for data compression, and a format to deliver the data to its destination.

Are RTSP and ONVIF the same?

RTSP and ONVIF differ significantly. While RTSP is a streaming protocol, ONVIF is a widely-adopted standard. Many companies support it to ensure their cameras, DVRs, NVRs, and software are compatible.

ONVIF handles more than just audio and video protocols. It covers alarms, credentials, image settings, 2-way audio, audio detection, PTZ, compression, and more. Many IP-based security products rely on ONVIF as their primary interface, highlighting its broad acceptance and utility.

Dangers of RTSP – Streams being Hacked

These protocols offer convenience, but without the right firewall protection, hackers can infiltrate your IP network to view footage or disable cameras. RTSP is especially vulnerable as a simple URL can give access and control once they’re in your network.

Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid this. Update your camera firmware, assign passwords to each device, enable WPA2 Encryption for wireless cameras, and avoid placing cameras in inappropriate locations.

These steps might help improve your camera security, but for enhanced protection, change the administrator account and default password. You could also restrict your cameras to an isolated, secure local network. 


RSTP is crucial for IP-based security cameras, enabling users to access live feeds anytime. With the right network setup, you can view feeds remotely with minimal latency. Ensure your network is secure to prevent attacks from hackers and outsiders.

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