Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Audio calibration on DVW-A500P

Since the format was introduced in 1993 (the year after I left the Beeb) I have been very close with these VTRs. It's fair to say that Sony pioneered pretty much all of the features we take for granted in a modern digital VTR - no tracking knob (thanks to the Viterbei decoder for ridding us of that particular foible!), pre-read editing, and repeatable tape-interchange!
Anyway - today I had to calibrate a machine for -18dBfs => 0dBu (or 4 on a BBC PPM) - which every superhero knows is how we do it in Europe. Now I must have done (literally!) a hundred DVW-A500P audio re-calibrations so I rocked-up with my soldering iron, tweaker, test-tape and schematic but clearly I haven't done a machine from the last revision of the APR-1 card (rev EP-GW of the 1-648-534-16 Googlers!) because they'd replaced the solder 'splats' with switches (labelled as well!) and put a load more headroom in the pre and post-amps - do it was easier than I remember it from the nineties!
I've often said it, but that machine was so well designed - to have a production run of over a decade and still be more sophisticated than anything the competition had to offer. The only reason Sony stopped it in favout of the DVW-2000 series was the European RoHS legislation!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hamachi rocks!

I was aware of Hamachi as a personal VPN solution last year and knew that security guru Steve Gibson rates it (check out his podcast on the subject here) - now I've been trying to get my Windows server at home to do the VPN-server thang but it seems so tempremental - and this is borne out by trawling the news-groups. Any change to the network config makes the routing service fail and this week I had the audacity to upgrade one of the network cards for gigabit and I've not been able to get the MS VPN to come back up - so (like every other network protocol that machine serves) I've discovered that a third-party solution is invariably more stable/faster than the one that Microsoft provides.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Mark's glass robot and the flying fists of Chris!

My work pal Mark Lloyd is planning a short film based around a VR game set in the real world (only the players see the robots) - here is a test of the first composites. He's shooting it HD on Panasonic P2.
An earlier robotic creation of Mark's is here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

five - they've got downloading wrong!

Sarah and I watch CSI (I know - not a thing you'd admit in serious company!). Currently in the UK CSI:Miami is the only one that's not showing old episodes - on five it's in the middle of season four (season five just started in the States). Anyhow - we can't miss an episode! We'd not claim to like it but we keep coming back for more.
I like to criticize the science (have you ever seen the OS they seem to run on all their computers?) and the look (graded by a colour-blind fool on acid!). Sarah prefers to mock the stories and acting -
Horatio; ¨Now I want you to let me worry about that¨ (removes sunglasses),
Token black lab-tech; ¨Sure thing H¨ etc.

Anyhow - I'm currently pulling twelve hour days to try and get a feasibility study finished (ironically for Channel Five!) because Sarah and the boys are off for half-term visiting my folks. Imagine my horror when I realizedised that having swapped a drive in my PVR machine (the mighty MediaPortal) I hadn't re-powered it and consequently missed this week's episode. I remembered that Stuart at five had told me about their download service and so off I went - £1.99 for an episode - fantastic - peace at home for the price of a skinny-laite! My heart sank when I tried to get episode fifteen - You have to use IE6/ActiveX/JavaScript for their download manager (have they not heard of security?!) to work and the file is DRM-crippled. Now I want to watch this on my PVR, not on my PC - this is proper tele after all, not a three-minute YouTube clip. So, I fell at the first hurdle - I was willing to pay but they made it easier for me to just go and snag it from Bittorrent (which I did - and it was in HD).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bluefish AES breakout cable

We have to make these and I always forget the pinouts!

Friday, October 20, 2006

The best reason yet to use Ubuntu

....in layman's terms, buyers of retail copies of Windows Vista will be able to transfer their software to a new machine only once. If they want to move their software a second time, they will have to buy a new copy of the operating system. If you buy your computer with the operating system pre-installed, you are not permitted to transfer it at all.

Given that neither my three month old laptop nor my ten month old graphics card at home are man-enough to run the aero-glass GUI I don't think I'll be embrassing Vista any time soon!
When I look at the number of corporate users who stuck at Win2k I can't help feeling that (aside from OEM copies on new machines) sales of Vista may be disapointing. The hardware demands are outrageous which confirms the old adage; What Mr Otellini giveth Mr Gates taketh!
Can anyone at Microsoft write code or do they just bolt objects together?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Quantum SDLT 600A continued...

Having upgraded and shipped a few of these (see here) we're starting to get customer feedback;
One of our editors has been busy with it since it arrived on Monday and ran into some problems. We then brought in our system's administrator to help him sort a few things.
It turns out that in general it all seems to work, but there are some majors faults that prevent us from using the device the way it is supposed to be used (and the way we would like to be able to use it).
This is the way the 'bugs' were explained to me:
When copying a project folder (with different files in there) to the drive onto a cartridge, it will alter the original date the files were created to a fictional date that the 600A seems to refer to. On copying it back to our systems, the files will again alter the dates to the system settings of the computer at that time.
This makes it impossible to distinguish between different FCP project files etc. thus making it very hard (if not impossible) to recognize the most recent edit if it was not named perfectly (lot's of times we like to refer to the 'date modified' for reference).
The only workaround we have for this, is to Archive the project folder first, so only the date of the Archive gets affected and the contents will be left untouched. The disadvantage is of course that we now have to take off the entire project folder and unpack it, before we can access the necessary files.
The other problem is that if a certain file has a slightly longer name, or a space or underscore in the name, it will copy to the tape just fine, but it will not let you copy it back to the computer from tape. The only workaround for that is the same as for the other problem, i.e. Archiving it before backing it up, so only the Archive name gets 'noticed'.

Hmmm - I'd never rely on a remote filesystem to keep dates accurately - particularly since you may be going between different filesystems that might mangle filenames, permissions etc. Anyhow - the word from Quantum;
I have done some investigation into this "bug". This is normal behaviour for FTP and therefore we need to think around this.
Technically we can preserve the file attributes in the metadata fields as a future enhancement.

So there you go - an workflow adjustment me thinks.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sony HD-CamSR in a 2k DI environment

The link is to a Sony training document from last year that goes into great details on the SR format and how it operates in both 440mBits-1 and 800mBits-1 data rates. It also explains why in a 2k workflow the SR's resolution of 1920x1080 actually outperforms most film scan resolutions.
Important stuff if you are interested in digital film workflows.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why do peope use the Foot-Lambert?

As a means of measuring the light output of a display device it is an obsolete measurement. Far better to use the Candela per sq.m which is the SI unit and not some horrible mix of imperial and metric. For the record most edit suite monitors are run at a white point of 80 cd/m2 which is approximately 30fL.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bill and Muriah played our living room!

I had a fabulous day Friday - took the day off work and went to collect Bill Mallonee and his wife Muriah Rose from Waterloo. They played a two hour set in front of thirty or so friends and they were great! I took them back to the Eurostar on Saturday so they can continue to Belgium (more gigs) before returning to the States.
Having chatted with them about the difficulties of securing gigs while you don't have a label behind you made me doubly determined to support them and other musicians who are doing it independently.

This YouTube clip is of one of the tunes they did on Friday. My middle boy Dan was very pleased Bill borrowed his guitar amp and I'm proud I was able to give Bill my D-blues harmonica (he'd misplaced his) - he did tell me he'll keep it for the next time he records!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Quantum SDLT600A drive, initial notes

The manual is here, my quick and dirty guide to configuring FTP clients for use with the drive and firmware upgrade instructions are here.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Test Instrument Computer Services (TICS) International Ltd

Test Instrument Computer Services (TICS) International Ltd has been established for 14+ years, supplying test and measurement instrumentation within the U.K., Europe and the rest of the world.

I'm just talking to these guys about a Philips (now Fluke) PM5639 monitor colour analyzer.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Quantum SDLT 600A

We've got a couple of these gadgets in to see if they are the ultimate backup solution (sic) - they do look interesting though. It a 300gig DLT2 drive with an FTP server in it. The machine understands the MXF format and allows you to pull specific time-code ranges off. In theory it opens the way for a data-driven digital conform for film and TV editing. They do a robot for multiple tapes and when you have that the separate tapes appear as different folders off the root of the FTP - all very clever!
Oh - the mouse is attached to Rupert's laptop - the only connection on the back of the drive is a gigabit ethernet RJ45 - no SCSI or Fibre Channel.
Here's the blurb;
Quantum's new SDLT 600A is the first data tape system enhanced for professional video. This revolutionary system combines the well established benefits of data tape archiving with video tape convenience and accessibility.
The SDLT 600A’s feature set makes the drive MXF-aware which permits video tape-like access to subclips by timecode and provides an unprecedented level of interoperability between applications and environments.
With its built-in Gigabit Ethernet port, the SDLT 600A is a network attached device so it can be directly connected to any network and accessed by every edit workstation, networked server, graphics devices, or other computer based video equipment on the network.
Because it uses Super DLTtape II™, the SDLT 600A delivers a 30 year tape archive life to protect professional video, audio and data assets better than any video tape backup. Each cartridge holds 300GB of information and allows faster-than-real-time transfer rates of up to 288 Mb/sec. And, because each Super DLTtape II contains key MXF metadata in a tape-based file directory, your media is transportable and exchangeable for seamless application independence.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Old Faithful

This is the toolbox I was issued with when I was still wet-behind-the-ears at BBC Lime Grove studios around 1988 - so many colleagues tell me I need something a bit tidier but I love it!

Here are a couple of memories associated with it;

  • Flying to Saudi in 2001 with Tony Dwarika - we realised we were very late for a flight and while sprinting across the departure area at Heathrow it burst open, scattering tools all over the place - Tony was very angry (but he did buy the the Samsonite strap!). On the way back we made an emergency landing in Rome because of a bomb threat (it was the weekend the USA invaded Afghanistan post 9-11) and when the Italian soldier had me open it for inspection his eyes lit up and both of his colleagues released the safety-catches on their machine guns!
  • On the way home one night I had a small dog (one of those yappy little rat-like things) go for me - in shock I dropped the toolcase on it and the poor creature was trapped! Not knowing what to do (if I picked up the case the now very annoyed dog would have gone for me) I just stood there like a lemon wondering what my next move was - eventually the owner showed up and although he was less than pleased that his dog was pinned to the ground by a tool case he did accept that the animal was too aggressive.
So - long live the battered tool box!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Live music at Phil's house

I just sent this email to lots of friends;
On Friday 13th October I'll be hosting an acoustic gig in my house! Bill Mallonee who used to be the singer/songwriter with my long-time favourites The Vigilantes of Love is currently touring the UK promoting his new album ¨Permafrost¨ and because he's not got a gig every night he's keeping it real(!) by playing in fans' houses for friends and family and the chance of selling some CDs (and saving a few dollars on hotel bills!).

If you've paid any attention to my rantings about the state of music over the last few years you'll know I hold him in the highest regard and if you appreciate live acoustic music in an intimate setting then come and join us and we'll have a ball - we'll do some snacks and it'll be a nice evening. I'm inviting friends from work, the street, church,and further a field!

So - Sarah and I would love you to come - stylistically Bill is very much in the Americana vein - think Neil Young with a bit more melody or maybe what REM might sound like as a solo act. If you'd like to borrow a CD just tell me. He's turned out fifteen or so albums in the past couple of decades and so has an impressive body to work to draw on - you have my word that it will be an enjoyable performance. He's never made it as big as he deserves and is a jobbing musician. I can't over emphasise that music this good doesn't come your way every day - plus, the snacks and company will be good!

So if you want to come send me an email!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gnome Partition Editor

GParted is the Gnome Partition Editor application. Before attempting to use it, here is some basic background information.
A hard disk is usually subdivided into one or more partitions. These partitions are normally not re-sizable (making one larger and the adjacent one smaller) The purpose of GParted is to allow the individual to take a hard disk and change the partition organization therein, while preserving the partition contents.

GParted is an industrial-strength package for creating, destroying, resizing, moving, checking and copying partitions, and the filesystems on them. This is useful for creating space for new operating systems, reorganizing disk usage, copying data residing on hard disks and mirroring one partition with another (disk imaging).

It saved me this weekend - something to keep in every IT dude's toolkit. The nice thing is that it can manipulate NTFS partitions as well as many other file systems.