back to article Westminster forced to switch off digital CCTV cameras

Westminster City Council has written to Geoff Hoon to object to his department's decision to force it to switch off its 100 digital CCTV cameras, mostly used for parking enforcement. The news is likely to be welcomed by motorcyclists who are this evening demonstrating against the Council's imposition of parking charges for …


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  1. alan

    Industry standard

    The council said it had spoken to several camera manufacturers who confirmed that 704 x 576 is the industry standard.

    We cant be using industry standards, becuase if we did any tom dick or harry could make the equipment, it would therefore be cheap. But our mates in industry wouldnt like that and they pay us lots, which we need as our expenses dont cover the cost of living any more. I mean who can live on 150K's worth of expenses these days, I ask you? Any way I digress please shut down your system and hand over large amounts of cash to MyMatesInc immediately :)

  2. jason

    Christ on a bike!

    Its crap like this, that we see day after day that will I hope lead to a countrywide revolution of average joe's saying 'enough is enough' and throwing these idiots out of their plush offices and into the streets.

    We really do need a revolution of common sense.

    That and more accountability/punishment for faliure.

  3. Pink Duck


    So 5:4 or 11:9, but not 4:3, 14:9 or 16:9 - the 'broadcast standards' that come to mind.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    So if 706 is the standard

    Why the freaking buggeryhell are they using 720 all over the country?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    tin foil hat time

    They are turning off the cameras so that the police can twat the crap out of protesters without being filmed ?

    Incidentally I see that Mr Brown has stated that the protests and demonstrations will have no effect what so ever on the proceedings of teh G20 meets. So basically he is saying democratic protest is pointless because he ain't listening.

  6. Paul

    BOLLOCKS to the standard

    The system should be flexible. £2.5 MILLION just for 9,216 pixels per camera too much? Crop the data or shut the fuck up - that 2.5 mil would be better served givving free hookers to schoolkids.


  7. Scary

    Scale image

    Just run it through Imagemagick, problem solved.

  8. GettinSadda

    Try asking someone that knows!

    Good grief!!

    The 576 lines of 720 pixels standard was set by ITU Rec 601 (originally CCIR 601) which has just celebrated its 27th anniversary.

    In fact the CCIR was awarded an Emmy (the Television equivalent of an Oscar) in 1983 for this standard.

    So, anyone who tries to claim that 704 pixels is "the industry standard" should find themselves a job in another industry!

  9. Sooty

    remind me...

    ... never to believe council definitions in future

    "The Council claims to operate the only fully digital network in the UK - most use analogue images which are then digitised."

    They have a very strange idea about what fully digital means if they believe digitising analogue material to be included.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    720 is the standard

    for normal video. Don't knwo who they asked but if they'd asked me whilst waving a £50 note at me I'd agree to what ever standard they wanted. (I'm not proud !!)!

    Speaking of video standards (and the lowering there of)

  11. jason

    @AC "Why are they using 720?"

    Probably cos some twat in a CCTV firm bought a load of non-standard 720 cameras that no one wanted and then managed to bribe/persuade someone in whitehall that their cams were the way forward.

    In the same position its what I'd do. You know, prey on the thick and gullible.

    Remember most civil servants/MPs/Councillors arent tech savvy..or come to think of it intelligent either.

  12. Dazed and Confused

    One law...

    So if I don't like the law about only doing poxy 30 in there streets it's tough on me.

    If the council don't like the laws then tough on them.

    But what sort of twat puts that sort of detail in law in the first place. At least not without checking out the market place first. Most laws these days are just full of stupidities that can only possibily have been put there to allow lawyer to make a good living.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When was it ordered?

    Was this kit ordered after the 2004 act was published? Even if it only became law last year the act would presumably have been available to read when the council ordered their kit.

    If that is the case then the council were negligent in ordering kit that wasn't up to snuff. Of course the council's excuse will be that they were advised by their suppliers that it would be good enough, but they would say that wouldn't they. Every day I deal with sales weasels who lie to me, but I have the common sense to check, obviously somebody at Westminster doesn't bother.

    It is, however, nice to see that the government is coming down hard on the council rather than re-writing the rules to suit them.

  14. John Murgatroyd

    So ?

    I suppose it all depends what [already purchased] systems they use to process the data.

    After all, the ACPO takes data from every system in its onward march to a thoroughly "policed" country.

  15. Matt

    @ Paul

    ... or "givving" spelling lessons to schoolkids who spend too much time with hookers?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confused of Tonbridge

    If I've got ten parking spaces, then only ten people can park. If I charge, then the first ten people willing to pay can park. As all the parking is always taken there are obviously plenty who will pay.

    So charging and enforcement make absolutely no difference, other than to raise taxes.

    Raising taxes in this way is terribly inefficient when compared to collecting VAT, or even income tax. So really this sort of thing is madness.

  17. Jon

    Yep, 720 / 704 / 702 are all standards

    I work in broadcast digital TV. The digital TV standard we use in the UK is 720x576 pixels. (And those pixels are not square, so the same 720x576 size is used for 4:3 and 16:9 widescreen content - a separate signal tells you how to stretch/crop it for display).

    However, for obscure technical reasons, if you take an analog broadcast signal and digitise it you'll get a 702x575 picture in a 720x576 frame. This has 9 black pixels down the left side and 9 down the right (9 + 702 + 9 = 720). Half of the top & bottom lines are also black.

    The digital TV standard we use is MPEG2, which encodes the picture in 8x8 blocks. Since 702 is not a multiple of 8, it's quite common for broadcasters to use a 704 pixel wide signal, with just 1 black pixel each side. (The other 8 black pixels each side are added automatically in your Freeview box). Tellies will chop off all this black.

    If the content is originally authored as digital, then the broadcasters can and do use the full 720x576 frame - old tellies might chop off a little bit round the edges, but modern tellies can display the full thing.

    And I think the purpose of this rule is to say "you can't use US 640x480 ATSC gear, or a 320x240 webcam". So it would have been better to mandate 702x575 as the minimum...

  18. Daniel Pimley
    IT Angle

    Re: Standards

    It's a collision and small-minded misinterpretation of two related standards: 704x576 is 4CIF, a worldwide recognised standard for generic digital video; 720x576 is a worldwide recognised TV broadcast standard for encoding analogue video signals, which Sony adopted for the pioneering D1 digital tape format and has since become the reference standard for all digital video encoding.

  19. Alistair
    Paris Hilton

    Geoff Hoon

    This is an example why he's not allowed to play with the armed forces anymore.

    Jeez you poor Laarndarnarrs having to pay to park your bikes.

    Smirking smiley overruled by the famous bike herself

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    May I be the first to say... eh??

  21. Stephen

    Just add a border

    Uh can't they just add the black border of mixing pixels after the image has been taken?

  22. Dave

    Why we use 704

    704 is divisible by 32 which makes it a rounder number in computing terms.

    And since CCTV cameras generally output blackness in the missing "pixels" (although before sampling they're not technically pixels) no info is lost. 704 is not less resolution, it's less width - and that width difference, as well being black, generally falls off the sides of analogue monitors.

    But what about viewing on a PC? Well if you make equipment that records "all" 720 pixels then your customers complain about the black ones down the side of the image!

  23. Osiris

    RE: dudeskinn

    So when the protesters complain of thought^H^H^H^H^H^H^H police violence they will be met with a resounding chorus of "If only the cameras were on, we told you so"?

  24. Tim

    @ Alan etc

    I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if that was true. The CCTV industry is one huge racket, they charge extraordinary amounts for equipment & licences which are nothing special whatsoever. On one contract I worked the camera company (who were already charging us extortionately for the cameras) insisted we used their licenced "storage boxes" at over £3k each; opening up their branded casing revealed a 200GB 3.5"HDD. We had to buy one for each of 20+ offices, that's a clean profit to CCTV co of over £50k.

    However, it does get worse, ANPR companies charge even more than CCTV ones, they really won't get out of bed for £10k.


  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't matter anyway...

    ...anyone who's ever seen CSI knows that regardless of the source quality, you can use computer enhancement to read a license plate number reflected in the iris of a person seen reflected in a soup spoon through a window on the horizon.

  26. John Savard

    A disaster

    This is indeed silly. It may be that a 320 x 240 webcam would provide inadequate resolution for the purpose at hand, but clearly a small difference like that should not be an issue. The law should simply be amended as necessary to avoid waste of taxpayer pounds.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    Thank you. You have no idea how much that has clarified!

    As for the law makers, I do wish they'd do a bit more research before they mandate some half-thought-out requirement. Or at least mandate what they intend rather than a consequence of what they think they intend!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ dudeskinn

    No, he is saying that a small number of unwashed hippy twats cant make the choice for the rest of us.

  29. Robert Steadman

    The obscure technical reasons..

    ..are, that old analogue video tends to be slightly out of sync in its frame, so displaced a bit left or right. 704 pels are needed to capture one scan line at 13.5MHz sampling. The standard allows for 720 pels, so the whole of a frame might be captured even if the kit it was recorded on was not set up as precisely as todays equipment is.

    Analogue TV systems used to assume a 10% error in the placing of the frame on the consumer's TV. If you watch any of those shows from the 60s & 70s, notice that the titles are always placed towards the centre, and nothing important happens at the edges. Look up 'title safe' and 'action safe' on Wikipedia if you want to wear the same anorak as me.

    The real pedant here is the person who insists that 704x576 is not good enough, without knowing what they are really talking about.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Indeed, what he's saying is that an unelected PM who's bottled a general election is going to do as he damn well pleases and give the banks all the money they ask for. (latest example: the nationwide bs gets 1.6bn for taking the good bits of the dunfermline bs and leaving the crap with the taxpayers.)

    Makes "a small number of unwashed hippy twats" look almost democratic.

  31. MnM

    @AC 15:29

    thanks, was going to say something similar but wouldn't have put it as well.

    I'm surprised but impressed that Westminster are being taken to task over this. Councils have taken a law designed for traffic management and explicitly not for revenue raising, which entrusted them with powers to fine and inconvenience, and abused these powers to exert a stealth tax. They are being reined in.

  32. Chris Lovell

    What utter bullshit

    Fucking hell, I work for a distributor that deals in CCTV products and I know there are craploads of converters to make use of legacy analogue systems to transmit digital CCTV, as well as bloody affordable megapixel security cameras.

    God fucking damn state of the government in this fucking country.

  33. Nebulo

    Can't help noticing

    The council, the government, all the Register's erudite commenters ... everybody seems to think that the thing of primary importance here is the issue of a minor technical detail of the spec of the equipment.

    The thing of primary importance here is that our little island cluster, roughly 0.16% of the world's land area, now has, we were hearing just before the Convention on Modern Liberty, 25% of the world's CCTV cameras. A bit of rough arithmetic:

    25% cameras / 0.16% area = 156.25 cameras per unit area

    75% cameras / 99.84% area = 0.7512... cameras per unit area

    Relative camera density in UK = 156.25 / 0.7512... = a shade over TWO HUNDRED times the level of infestation in the entire rest of the world. Of a technology which we *know* has virtually no effect on crime rates.

    Until I hear of a damn good reason for that, and for the obsessive storing of all the resulting data, I'm afraid I don't give a monkey's toss about the specs of the system. The phrase "fiddling while Rome burns" springs to mind.

    {Highly technical content - pocket calculator required]

  34. Anonymous Coward

    @Jason - prey on the thick and gullible

    Ah, true BOFH material.

    @Alistair - the famous bike herself

    Erm, I thought they were talking about parking, and not riding....

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Calm down dear, its only a video interfacing problem.

    Ahhh , this brings back memories. This will be a familiar issue to anybody who has spent many an hour digitising Beta SP (or equivalent analogue format) archive footage onto new fangled digital editing gear. The issue is sampling frequency 14.75 vs 13.5 MHz:

    All of this implies that Westminster are using analogue gear/connections at some point in the imaging chain or that somebody hasn't bothered doing some basic maths with the CCTV specs.

    They probably also think that pixels are in fact little squares rather than sample points.

    Mines the one with a copy of Rec. 601 in the pocket.

  36. mh.
    Paris Hilton

    £2.5 million?

    If it's for parking enforcement, wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective just to hire some more traffic wardens? A camera cannot issue a parking ticket on its own (or indeed do anything else): you still need someone to post it out or whatever.

  37. Allan Dyer
    Paris Hilton

    Cameras cause crimes...

    @Nebulo - your figures *prove* that cameras cause crimes... most of those other areas of the world that are entirely uncamered (is that a word? Is now!) have a zero crime rate. I can't remember the last time I saw a news report of a mugging in Antarctica, or graffiti in the mid-Atlantic.

    This message brought to you by the Paris Hilton Statistics School.

  38. Ru

    Re: Can't help noticing

    You did manage to avoid noticing the vast swathes of bugger all that make up a significant proportion of the globe. The UK is pretty densely populated and relatively wealthy which will skew the statistics compared to a large but sparsely populated area such as Australia, or poor countriesa which would put CCTV everywhere if they could actually afford it.

    Cameras per head of population is a fractionally more sensible metric. A more sensible one might take into account GDP too.

  39. Philip Dagnan
    Thumb Up


    Seconds, and I mean seconds of googling found this...

    Please feel free to forward to those 'in the know'.

  40. Alfazed

    Huh !

    I thought the cameras were linked to the Isreali bulldozers of death anti parking squad which regularly prowls Larndaaarn squishing unwashed hippies not riding their parked up bikes.

    Why don't the council just ignore the govnt like the rest of us ?


  41. tim

    parking cameras

    the parking cameras issued me with a ticket in a street next to the cumberland hotel . Four coaches were blocking the exit , wilst unloaing at the hotel . the westminster parking THIEVES said that although they could see i was sitting in the car and the headlights were on I was still too close to the kerb which they decided was a parking offence . They ignored the coaches which were clearly visable blocking my exit..

    This is common Theft and should be stopped as should the smart cars with cameras on the roof skulking around trying to catch drivers going too slowly through yellow boxes.

    Westminster Council is out of controll , hell bent on robbing drivers who bring all the business into the capital

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "A spokeswoman for Westminster said the decision would not help congestion in the city"

    Seeing as these cameras were used for parking enforcement (not enforcement of the congestion charge) surely turning them back on wouldn't help congestion either?

  43. Nano nano

    Cumberland jam ..


    Appeal ! and keep on appealing. Write to your MP. Then write to the Daily Mail if all else fails ...

  44. Andrew Somerville

    C.L.U.E.L.E.S.S Philip Dagnan

    Seconds of googling allowed you to find a camera that (1) was not available when Westminster specified their system (2) has a sensitivity of 2 lux so is a fat lot of use for seeing at night. (3) cannot stream full rate video.

    Designing CCTV systems may perhaps be a little more complex than you think.

  45. Andrew Somerville

    Traffic Management Act 2004

    Whilst the Act was published in 2004, it makes absolutely no mention of CCTV cameras. Instead it talks about "Approved Devices" that can be used for enforcement. The procedure for certification of approved devices was only published in early 2008, probably well after Westminster's system was specified. This 47 page document does mandate a minimum resolution of D1, but it also permits the use of digital zoom with a resolution up to 5 times worse than D1. So I fail to see why a solution which uses 4CIF resolution and optical zoom cannot be acceptable.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I read with interest your comments on cctv switch-off and also the traffic management act stating the resolution quality is below the recognised guide lines .... which I presume would render a lot of PCN's issued by enforcment cameras 'incorrectly issued' and have a strong case for getting them question here is ...Are the tech spec re resolution, the same on the Kensington Chelsea area??......and is this going to open a proverbial 'can of worms''??..... illegally isued PCN's .......which just goes to show ....appeal ....appeal.....appeal... and appeal again .....

  47. Wayland Sothcott

    See no police brutality....

    Is this so the police can shove people to the ground for no reason?

  48. Philip Dagnan

    C.L.U.E.L.E.S.S. Andrew Somerville

    Ok, my bag, the one I found had a much higher resolution than D1.

    Though, after few more seconds on that same site I found...

    Specifically D1:

    This one also has a better lux rating (0.5) which should suffice in a normally lit street.

    When did they spec the system? Can't see it mentioned in the article, the law came into force in '08 though.

    I didn't go looking to fully specify their system, just to point out there is COTS kit out there that'll do the job, that one from a significant player.

    "Designing CCTV systems may perhaps be a little more complex than you think."

    Don't assume everyone knows as much as you do.

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