Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Protools and the mighty XMon

I'm about to install a Protools rig and the one box I can never remember the correct cabling for is the XMon - so here is a list of the i/o and what you need to do;

CUE inputs: These are the feeds you are going to switch through to the headphone/monitors (typically the booth in a TV suite) - these should be normalled to the outputs of the 2nd 192 interface.
MAIN inputs: These are what will be fed to your surround speakers and so should ideally be normalled to the output of the first 192 interface.
SURROUND inputs: These would typically be the confidence return from a Dolby encode-decode path - so you could monitor how the surround mix is going to sound once it's been converted.
STEREO inputs: Like the 2TR return on an audio mixer this is the switched monitoring return of the VTR (typically) - folks often put the unbalanced output of the computer and maybe an iPod jack on i/p's 5-8.

CUE outputs: These will feed the booth headphone amp and in the case of a music studio any floor wedges.
MAIN outputs: These feed your 5.1 (or 7.1) monitoring system, your expensive Dynaudio speakers (for example).
ALT outputs: Used for grot monitoring - typically a stereo set of speakers (small ones) to test for domestic compatibility - can also drive a 5.1 amp.
TB/LB/Util: This D-type has in and out - an extra T/B mic for example, and the feed to the big plasma TV's speakers.

So there you go - remember that all eight of the D-types can carry eight audios, but in the case of none music studios (film & TV) you're unlikely to have more than stereo cue monitoring (for example).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Arghh! Broke the XML link!

Sorry - this is the last entry that will work on this feed - can you re-subscribe (in the right-hand column).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

URL of this blog

Having been re-arranging my network and server a bit this blog should preferentially be accessed from rather than the which has two DNS hops. Both will always work and the XML feed will remain but for the good of the internet....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tomato firmware

The tomato has got to be the best food-stuff ever - sliced tomato brightens up any sandwich and grilled tomato sets off any cooked meal. Where would Italian cookery be with it? If God made anything better he must have kept it for himself....
Anyhow - in the same way the best open-source router firmware is Tomato v.1.23 - I picked up a Buffalo WHR-G54S router on eBay for £14 and blew in the new firmware. It offers everything you'd expect from a corporate-grade firewall in a tiny package - QoS, all maner of MAC, IP, port & protocol routing and filtering as well as the ability to run C-Shell scripts on an event or times basis. I took me a couple of hours to set up but my network seems snappier, wireless devices connect quicker and I can monitor (in realtime) bandwidth usage by machine or protocol.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

The failure of big IT projects

A new NHS computerised medical records system on trial at a London hospital has been criticised by a hospital boss for causing "heartache and hard work".

I have a friend who was contracting for EDS (who are famous for burning tax-payers dollars and never delivering on time/budget) before they pulled out of the NHS unified records project. He told me that they were developing their own VPN solution to use between hospitals for it. Now VPN isn't a problem that needs to be solved - there are complete and secure implementations in both open and closed-source flavours. VPN is done - but in a sense it didn't surprise me. Big organisations are famous for having that not invented here mindset. At the BBC I saw wheels being re-invented often because "..nobody understands what we do as well as us". Truth to tell there aren't many problems that haven't been cracked a few times already and designing your own VPN protocols (or whatever) never brings you the benefits that using a ready made solution will give - many people will have hammered hard on it and it's likely to work (and even more so if it's open-source where thousands of eyes have looked at the code - very important for security applications).
If you want a robust, distributed database that can serve thousands of look-ups per second on commodity user hardware then I would suggest that you maybe talk to Google!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Can our natural rhythm heal us?

There are a few places where I feel naturally relaxed - riding a bike, waking up on a Saturday morning and sitting behind a drum kit....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Deluxe closes Midnight Transfer

Wow - the first DI build I did (back in 2005) is being closed. Lot of good equipment there for 2k/4k work. The Filmlight scanner is a machine to behold.
It's a shame - I assumed that when Deluxe bought them their future would be assured.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

High Def 25Psf video

More than a decade ago when Mr Sony was developing what would become HDCam (with some small contribution from the previous 1" open-reel HDVRS analogue & digital formats) they realised that progressive video was the future but existing HD equipment (typically the BVM-D series monitors) couldn't lock to such a slow framerate (24/25/29.97 as opposed to 48/50/59.98 fields). The answer for progressively-sourced pictures was the Psf standard which makes progressive frames look like interlaced video. So as to make film people think that this was better than video they have a new name for a field - the segment. In fact Psf is interlaced video (but there is no movement between the fields) - it just shows that good old interlaced video is able to faithfully reproduce progressive pictures (but the reverse is not true as progressive video with the same frame-rate has only half the motion rendition as interlaced video).

So - let's dismiss a couple of misconceptions;

  • There is no difference between a Psf signal and an interlaced signal from a technical standpoint
  • Sending 1080 pictures via Psf doesn't degrade them in the slightest - in fact if you're laying off 1080 to HDCamSR then anything below a 5800 (in 50/60P mode @880mBits) is recording Psf!
Now then - below are screen-grabs from my trusty WFM7120. The first shows the output from a Symphony NitrisDX BOB. The footage had come from a Sony EX3 cameras recorded at 35mBits 1080/25P onto Memory Stick and imported straight into a progressive timeline. The Avid plays back Psf which the Tek shows as 1080i (for the reasons discussed above). Laying this off to HDCamSR (a 5500 deck) gives a 25Psf recording on tape. The second screen shot is the Quicktime sample movie imported into a new 25P timeline - it just serves to comfirm that the BOB output is always Psf.

This last picture is the down-convert output of a Leitch X75 which is a great little get you out of trouble box (basically does everything->everything with a few extra tricks thrown in - profanity delay etc.) but it's not a multi-frame broadcast standards converter (like a Snell & Wilcox Ukon).

Although you can't see it from this screen-grab the SD output has had it's field-dominance changed and the quality of the video ain't great. This wouldn't be an issue for VHS/DVD review copy or if it was the pre-processed feed for web-conversion but it's not suitable for SD delivery.
For that the best option (short of a £20k Ukon!) is to use the SD-downconvert from the HDCamSR machine.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Snouts in troughs?

It strikes me that you're either a died-in-the-wool capitalist or you're not. I think I've grown up enough to realise that not all folks who believe in free-markets are the very devil incarnate but these people who are willing to accept government handouts and then say their pay should be decided by the market are being a tad two-faced. If you believe in laissez-faire economics deep down in your heart and you're a banker then you should (if you're true to yourself) not accept state intervention. The market should decide if you sink or swim - then you can take whatever package you can get. If, however, you're happy to receive tax-dollars to keep you afloat then you have no right to claim the free-market high-ground - you've moved beyond believing exclusively in free-markets and you're now a different kind of banker.

Maybe they should have thought about this when they decided to butcher the economy for short-term personal gain.

Friday, February 06, 2009

My friend Cynthia's cake business

She makes some good cakes! She's just re-launched her website and is available for weddings, birthdays and barmitzvahs...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

New face-recognition in iPhoto '09

I've been playing with the new Apple iLife and have been very impressed how well the face-tagging feature works. The picture above was after the software had learned maybe half a dozen examples of my family. The maths and programming degree I did in the eighties had quite a large slab of pattern-recognition (automated speech recognition was my thesis project) and I remember being taken to see a system the MOD were playing with in 1986 - they had either deployed it (or were going to) at Greenham Common (remember that!) - I think it was called Wizzard (or something like that). It was pretty impressive and it ran on a network of PDP-11s!

Anyhow - below is a paper I had to read for my degree about early efforts in face recognition;

M. Nixon, Eye Spacing Measurement for Facial Recognition, Proceedings of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrument Engineers, SPIE, Vol. 575, No. 37, August 1985, pp. 279-285

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Quantel pulls out of NAB

Bit like me(!)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snowy day - London grinds to a halt!

Only a couple of us made it into the office - I walked from home, hour and a half door to door (I took this picture as I passed Euston) and probably the nicest commute ever! People were very cheery and the silence that snow brings is lovely. All three of my kids were very excited as their schools are closed and they're off to the Heath to go sledging.