When it comes to security cameras, it’s always important to transfer footage to the server or video recorder so it can be retrieved later or observed in real-time. One of the most widely used technologies to stream and control video feeds is RSTP (Real-Time Streaming Protocol) and in this article, we’ll be discussing RTSP and how it can be properly utilized.
What is RTSP?
RTSP stands for Real-Time Streaming Protocol. In the simplest of terms, protocol refers to a certain set of rules that should be followed when data is transferred from one system to another. Also, as the name suggests it helps users access the media server of a CCTV system, with its primary use being to request a real-time video stream of a camera in the CCTV network.
RTSP is not a transmission protocol, it doesn’t transport the data of the video stream and instead, transmits signals to help pull up a video stream from a camera and perform media control functions (play, pause, and stop) on the stream. This protocol allows cameras and NVRs (Network Video Recorders) to communicate with each other and send commands and signals between them.
RTSP uses TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) to set up and maintain its connection and this connection can have very high transmission rates because it doesn’t need local downloads or caching, allowing you to access feeds and control them seamlessly.
Benefits of RTSP for security cameras
Although it’s a slightly older protocol, RTSP is still in use and does happen to provide several benefits for streaming your content. First off, it’s very easy to pull up a simple stream on RTSP-compatible software such as VLC and Quicktime player, provided that your CCTV network is maintained by a media server. All you need is the proper software and the RTSP network URL.
RTSP also provides easy access for footage to be stored on local hard drives, DVRs, and NVRs because RTSP cameras are universally supported by these devices and software, thereby allowing you to pick any DVR or NVR without worrying about the manufacturer.
Also, because of its universal compatibility, RTSP-supported devices are very affordable and will work with any third-party device, allowing users to mix and match without being limited to a single manufacturer. On top of that, RTSP doesn’t need an internet connection to function, it can be limited to the local network as well.
What players are compatible with RTSP camera feeds?
The great thing about RTSP-compatible cameras and devices is that it is very widely supported by many video players, be it for desktops or smartphones.
For desktop users, there are several options to choose from. If you want a quick and free media player, the best options are Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Winamp, and our favorite, VLC media player. Mac users have the same options with the only exception being the windows media player. The process is almost the same in all of these applications, as all you have to do is select the option to “Open Network Stream” or “Open URL” and provide the correct address/URL.
Also, for smartphones and tablets, we recommend the VLC application. It is free to use, unlike other alternatives, which include apps such as MX Player, BSPlayer, and VPlayer for android. Unfortunately, for iOS, it might be a bit tricky to find good alternatives to VLC.
Video Formats and RTSP
Video formats and RTSP are not the same things. As we talked about before, RTSP is a protocol or a set of rules that are devised to transmit data over IP (Internet Protocol) networks. The RTSP protocol includes rules on how to organize the video before transmitting, which methods to use to transmit data, and how to recover the data for playback all while optimizing constraints such as the size of data chunks, quality of the stream, and the latency.
Video formats are a different story. In our case, video formats are referred to as the container that is used to deliver the video data. Most common formats include .mp4, .m4v, and .avi, which you might also have seen as the file extension for videos stored in your computer or smartphone.
Also, it’s easy to confuse “format” with “codec.” A codec is a video compression technology, it is not a container for the data but a tool that helps to compress the data without losing its quality so that the data can be transmitted much faster. Therefore, for successful real-time streaming, you need a protocol to define the rules and manage traffic, the codec to compress the data before transmission, and a format to carry the data to its intended location.
Are RTSP and ONVIF the same?
RTSP and ONVIF (Open Network Video Interface Forum) are two different things. ONVIF is much bigger than just a streaming protocol. It is a standard that was agreed upon by a lot of companies who wanted their cameras, DVRs, NVRs, and software to work together with each other.
ONVIF doesn’t include protocols for just the audio/video. It manages a lot of other protocols for managing alarms, credentials, image settings, 2-way audio, audio detection, Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ), compression, and many more. ONVIF is accepted by lots of IP-based security products and is used as their go-to interface.
Dangers of RTSP – Streams being Hacked
Due to the convenience offered by these protocols, without the right firewall network protection, it can be easy for hackers to infiltrate your IP network and view footage or disable your cameras. RTSP can be vulnerable because all it takes is a simple URL to get in and control the cameras (once they are in your network).
Fortunately, there are some precautions that you can take to avoid this. Depending on the cameras you have set up you can try updating the firmware, assigning passwords to each camera, turning on WPA2 Encryption (for wireless cameras), and also avoiding installing cameras in places where they don’t belong.
These might help you secure the cameras to some extent, but if you need better security, you can try changing the administrator account and changing the default password, or restricting your cameras to an isolated secure local network.
RSTP is important for IP-based security cameras and devices as they help the user retrieve a live feed from the cameras whenever necessary. Depending on the network setup, the user can also access feeds remotely with almost zero latency. However, users must be vigilant enough to secure their networks as despite their convenience they are very vulnerable to attacks from hackers and outsiders.