Thursday, December 25, 2003

For Christmas I got a Sony DRU-14A Dual Standard DVD & DVD-R and RW DVD Burner With Software from Novatech - £77 for what is the OEM version of Sony's 510 - less than half price.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Got my Mojo working
Avid introduced their new hardware platform at NAB this year - the DNA series includes the budget Mojo i/o box for their DV products ExpressPro and NewscutterDV. It's about a grand and allows you to do analogue i/o and with ExpressPro you can get at more 'traditional' Avid data rates - 15:1 and even uncompressed. It's all here on Avid's site and although they don't actually say it has broadcast output by mentioning uncompressed and component video o/p in the same breath you kinda imply it.

Now, tele people are notoriously cheap, and to engineers the idea of getting broadcastable pictures out of a £1k box seems laughable but we have clients that are buying it with just that expectation and I'm sure it's going to fall on the resellers when QC'ers start sending finished programmes back. Now this isn't just me venting my old-school engineering spleen but me and my colleague Rupert (see his blog in the side-bar) have now tested two Mojo units and they both exhibit the same problem - when driving it in component mode (from the video o/p tool) you get what looks like a vestige of the horizontal interval and subcarrier all over the U o/p. This is no suprise when you realise that in analogue component mode they re-use the S-Video connector for Y and V and the Composite connector (RCA, not BNC! cheap as chips!) for the U signal. I bet they've implemented some 50p switching chip to go between PAL and U and the inputs to the switch are cross-talking.


Oh, it has unbalanced audio as well - The Guild Of Wedding Videographers unite!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Friday, December 12, 2003

Just found a picture online of an edit suite I designed for resolution - edit 1

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Cabling for AES audio
An article by Simon Croft from Post Update magazine (November 1998) based on an interview with me (while I was working at Oasis TV) explaining the pros and cons of sending AES digital audio over balanced and unbalanced cable. Kind of innovative at the time but par for the course now!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Windows Media 9 Encoder & WDM capture cards
At work we're producing a media capture system that all revolves around Windows Media 9 Encoder which (according to the documentation) works with any video card that supports WDM capture - I've used the Hauppage WinTV PCI cards for this applciation for the last three years - firstly in Media Encoder 7.1 and then the beta of Media 9 Encoder - yesterday we hosed up a machine at work and although the card works with it's own capture app (and other generic video application - VirtualDub etc.) when you try to configure it in WM9 Enc it hangs the machine (at "Ring Zero", James our tech director assured me). Trawling Google showed several hundred people making the same complaint - the only advice (that I've not yet tried) is to revert to the standard mode non-WDM driver (the old Video for Windows standard) - to expedite matter we've bought Osprey cards (one of the few models mentioned on microsoft.com). Touched by the hand of Bill!

Oh, and another thing - I went home and upgraded the machine that has a Hauppage card from the Beta of WM9 Enc to full release and it stopped working with the capture card.

Monday, December 08, 2003

KinetiZ 7E motherboard
I've just upgraded my "media PC" (the machine I keep my movies and mp3s on) - the one hooked up to my TV & HiFi. Part of the reason of moving away from Win2K was for remote desktop (see below). Win2K didn't like the APCI power features of that board so I disabled them and all was well. BUT, WinXP wouldn't even boot with the BIOS set to disable APCI power management and the machine would crash every few hours with it enabled (Event log showed a flurry of APCI errors just before Windows would bomb). Thankfully there is a recent BIOS update which sorted it out. I'm not a person who upgrades merely for the sake of it but I'm glad QDI keep on top of these things (that motherboard is two years old!).

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Using a Mac G4 keyboard on my WinXP machine
They are such nice looking keyboards and they type beautifully! Over the weekend I hooked one up to my main setup (remote desktopping has freed me from ever having to use a KVM switch to get to my server and media PC) and here are the things that sorted it for me:
  • Travis Krumsick's KeyTweak allows you to re-assign the scancodes in the registry. I guess if you are a real Windows man you'd hack it by hand but it involves making the scan codes using four-bit combinations - use the utility. Since the G4 keyboard has no "print screen" key you can (for example) assign F13 to this function (most PC keyboard lack an F13). Anything else you need you can put on other keys. This works for all Windows software

  • Make sure you assign the keyboard as a US business layout (ControlPanels>Regional>Language>Details) then add a new keyboard.

Windows also recognises the CD transport keys above the number pad (which is nice!).

Friday, December 05, 2003

I am Master Shredder
This is one of the funniest prank 'phone calls I have ever heard - the first time I heard it I spent half an hour giggling continually. As you listen to it remember that it is the same guy doing the voices of the operator, the cop, the ninja master, and the teenage boy - amazing!

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

DVD region hacks brought to you by those nice people at DVDRHelp.com
I've yet to find a domestic player built in the last few years that you can't make region free! After that why not buy all your movies for $9 from Play.com?!
Encoding MPEG-1 cheat sheet
Another training doc I wrote during my time running engineering at Resolution - a tad company specific but the principles are good - aspect ratios, resolutions, data rates etc.
Extended Menu on Digital Beta machines
If I had a pound etc. etc. for every DVW500 I've had to enable extended menus and do the -18dBfs audio mod (shutup, you're showing your age!). Anyhow - On the SS52 system board (the first long PCB running the length of the deck) it is switch 1 on the S100 block (at the very back of the VTR).

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

BBC NEWS | Technology | Broadband arrival for GNER trains
Wow, you'll be able to get network access while on the train! Limiting it to first class is a little off though.
Digital Video for TV
There was a time when the term digital video implied quality rather than compromise. See John Watkinson's primer article that is ripped from Studio Sounds magazine in July 2001 (but to be honest it's the same article he runs in numerous industry rags every year!). Page 1, and Page 2.

Monday, December 01, 2003

TV Safe areas
Here is an image (PAL resolution - 720x576) that is really only goodf or 4x3 work - but it shows the safe areas for graphics and action as defined by the BBC spec. TV safe area.jpg

Monday, November 24, 2003

RS422 over cat5 cable
I cable a lot of TV facilities and the tendency nowadays is to use the ubiquitous cat5 data cable for carrying everything that doesn't require a better grade of cable. RS422 for machine control used to be universally carried on Star Quad cable but now cat5 does the job - here is the pinout I have settled on:

  • I avoid the blue pair because that is often used to analogue voice and if you mis-patched you may wind up terminating a data pair in a low impedance.
  • The brown pair often carries power in POE (Power Over Ethernet) implementations and if you mis-patch the sending switch sees a low impedance and shuts off the current.
  • The orange and green pair carry the Tx and Rx pairs as per ethernet (which expects to see a 110 ohm termination).
That's why I do it thus!

Friday, November 21, 2003

I often have to specify monitors for computer and TV usage - I recently put an Acer AL1731 into a client's facility - best TFT I've ever seen - 17" (1280x1024 native) with SVGA, DVI, Composite video and S-Video inputs. Pristine picture quality and bright. It has a lovely machined aluminium stand and a rubber flap that covers the input sockets (so that it looks like all the cables disappear into it while you can easily add or remove feeds). I got it from Kingmaker who were knocking them out at £329!

Thursday, November 13, 2003

AEC-BOX-1/2/10/20 Stand-Alone LTC/VITC Time Code Reader
This unit allows you to have an application that can't read audio or vertical interval timecode but can drive a VTR down an RS422 connection - typ. Avid ExpressDV etc. The box spoofs a VTR and returns timecode when asked either from it's XLR input or by extracting it from the VITC - an application I've ued it for is logging "live" video (i.e. MediaLog on reality shows).

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Smartphone2000 - good set of SPV downloads.

Monday, November 10, 2003

VirtualDrive emulates your computer's CD/DVD-ROM drive, which enables you to run CD & DVD programs directly from your hard drive without the use of the physical CD/DVD-ROM drive or the actual disc. It spoofs mixed-mode disks (some games won't run unless they can see the audo tracks), and it also emulates most of the copy-protection systems - it means the kids need never spoil another CD!
See it here

Friday, November 07, 2003

I use my SmartPhone to listen to MP3 content every day - music and spoken. My beefs with the Microsoft Media Player are:
1. Takes an age to fire up - I presume it scans my entire 256meg SD card for content every time it runs.
2. It often stutters during playback (doesn't seem bitrate related - 32kbit spoken content or 160kbit music is equally effected),
3. It doesn't save the playback position when you leave the application - half way through an hour long radio programme and you're stuffed!
4. No jog/shuttle within a file (see note 3!)
5. If you receive a 'phone call when listening it quits the application (see note 3 and 4!),
6. No eq.
7. No playlists.
8. It slows the 'phone down so that other functions are unusable while it is running - can't compose emails etc.
PocketMusic suffers none of these inadequacies and is free! get it here.
Oh, it also supports WinAmp skins (hmm - not top of my agenda! I'd rather a command line interface!).
That URL was wrong - now it's right!

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I love technology, particularly in the way it allows better ways to communicate - Instant Messaging, SMS testing etc. gets my juices flowing (oh yeah!) BUT the thing that gets my goat is the cold calls from companies trying to arrange salesmen to call. Nobody I knows appreciates having a call at eight in the evening when you're reading to the kids or getting them into bed. We were averaging one or two calls a night but after registering with the Telephone preference service they have totally stopped!

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

A couple of MPEG-1 clips encoded for the SPV telephone:
Dead Parrot sketch
Black Eyed Peas promo

Use this to play them on your SPV, and here is a TMPGEnc tamplate that I've been tweaking for a while.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Wow - I always maintained that I'd never extend VGA feeds over cat5 cable. I've tried maybe a dozen units over the last few years and they always seem adequate for a sys op to dive in and do five minutes on the server (creating an account etc.) but never good enough to drive monitors at hi-res that someone has to look at all day (in an edit suite for example). They all look smeary and soft.
Scene Double have a range that works splendidly - they use skew compensation (and in fact you get a whole host of LF and HF adjustments) to make the picture spot on - even at 1280x1024 over 50m of cable. I'm a believer! (I've just installed eight sets - they ain't cheap though - £899 a set).

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

I'm currently supervising the installation of a TV facility that I designed for the company I work for. Part of the job is making sure we have a proper three-phase technical mains distribution. Last Monday the guy came from EDC Meter Services to install the meter, thus allowing us to liven up the power supply. Jamie, my chief electrician had warned me that we'd need to "buy the guy a drink" if we wanted the meter installed on the first visit - I was horrified to think we'd have to bribe the chap just for him to do his job. Sure enough - when he arrived he span us a load of stories about how he'd forgotten this and didn't have that and it was only when Jamie offered him a back-hander that he started to cooperate. Britain is truly a third-world country!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Last Christmas when I was working on Celebrity Big Brother the company's accountant warned us not to spend any of the cash float on 'fancy' biscuits "like those Jaffacakes I see the engineers eating!" - talk about red rag to a bull. I set up a webcam and enouraged everyone to only eat Jaffacakes and pile the empty boxes in front of the cam - Marcus, the voice of Big Brother kindly recorded us this tribute!
hear it here!
(many thanks to my chum Ian Staite for re-finding this mp3 - I'd lost it).

Thursday, October 16, 2003

USB Digital Camera Cables from Lindy - one of my favourite suppliers of computer bits. I got an extra one for my Fuji FinePix here.
I'm a big fan of the Orange SPV smartphone - it even has MSN messenger built in - but for a messeging app that supports to various other protocols (a kinda hand-held Trillian!) try Agile Messenger,
Get it here.

Monday, October 13, 2003

This text culled from the sig on an email seen at work:
Being a Mac user is like being a Navy SEAL: a small, elite group of people with access to the most sophisticated technology in the world, who everyone calls on to get the really tough jobs done quickly and efficiently.
Talk about being deluded! Navy SEAL - performing seal me thinks!
Modest hardware with an operating system that is more unstable than Charles Manson!
Our IT manager, Ben Brown, has a unique style - hear a recent voicemail he left for me here.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Couple of handy documents relating to video and audio levels - I wrote these when I worked for Resolution so they are a bit specific to the machine rooms at their facilties. Most of the technical details are good though.

Audio for assistants.pdf
video for assistants.pdf

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Free Public Proxies - handy if you want to get around digital rights management on the hi-def DVD of "Terminator 2"!

Monday, September 29, 2003

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Results of 64kbit/s Listening Test

Interestingly venerable MP3 codecs fair better than more recent Windows Media and Quicktime.

1. No codec at 64 kbit/s can claim to be as good as mp3 at 128 kbit/s.
2. High efficiency AAC (AAC with spectral band replication, similar to mp3 with SBR, aka mp3pro) makes a good first showing, being the first among equals (he-aac, mp3pro, and ogg vorbis).
3. WMA9, Real, and Quicktime AAC make poor showings. While better than the hoary mp3 at 64 kbit/s, they are definitely worse than the top three 64 kbit/s contenders.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Article blagged from PCW that shows how to use an Orange SPV 'phone as a USB/GPRS modem - details here.

Monday, September 15, 2003

blue.i - A great camera motion capture system I saw demo'ed at IBC (which I just got back from) - really clever idea.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

v 5.1 of the DivX codec is a gem of an MPEG4 implementation - aside from producing pictures that are visibly better than Xvid or Windows Media 9 (for similair bitrates) it has a great status display when it is encoding - you can really see what the codec is up to with motion vectors overlaid on the picture, a picture difference display (you realise how little goes on between frames in a video sequence) and an moving graph of several bitrate-related parameters - a lesson in digital video itself. Screenshot here
When I resurected the XP machine with the dead HD (see previous post) I foolishly left the USB Compact Flash/Smart Media/Memory Stick reader attached - the Windows installer recognises those devices and assigns them drive letters in preference to the primary hard drive - so when I installed XP and booted it for the first time I realised my system drive was labelled as H:\ - once set you can't change it from the drive manager - I suppose it isn't the last couple of hours I'll *waste* with a Micro$oft OS!

Friday, September 05, 2003

I'd heard of people putting a nearly-dead hard drive in the freezer to temporarily revive it but always believed that it was geek folk-law. Imagine my surprise last night when a drive that would stay alive for about four minutes before starting to click and whirr (and become unavailable to Windoze) stayed alive for half an hour after a couple of hours nestling amongst the peas and ice-pops - I was able to clone it off to another drive and all is well!
version 5.1 of DivX codec

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

First entry

Monday, August 04, 2003

Nice tits!

Big jugs

Hooters