Saturday, August 29, 2009

James Murdoch - yet another reason I'll avoid Sky

I could hardly have avoided the ruckus at the Edinburgh TV festival because of the large numbers of mentions of it on Twitter. James Murdoch who runs Sky has not missed an opportunity to rubbish the BBC and the state of broadcasting in the UK generally. The first thing that caught my attention was his rather tenuous link between the pseudo-state run nature of the Beeb and Creationism in the US;

Creationism penalises the poorest in our society with regressive taxes and policies - like the licence fee and digital switchover;
It promotes inefficient infrastructure in the shape of digital terrestrial television;

He doesn't spare news and current affairs either;

And now, in the all-media marketplace, it threatens significant damage to important spheres of human enterprise and endeavour - the provision of independent news, investment in professional journalism, and the innovation and growth of the creative industries.

One of the funnier tweets I saw ran something link " can almost see the strings being pulled by his father".

Anyway - on the subject of news - does he really suppose that Sky News (or, heaven forbid Fox News) represent anything other than biased reporting coming straight out of the executive team at News Corp.? Something you can say about BBC News is that it is accurate and relatively unbiased. One of the things you often hear leaders of political movements against tyranny in other parts of the world say is that the World Service is the news source that kept them going. I've heard Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi say just that in interviews. Can you imagine if Sky or Fox News had the job of championing democracy in this world?

Regressive tax - The BBC offers remarkable value for money when compared to Sky and the ITV network. If you compare the £180 per annum cost of the BBC license fee with the cost of even the most modest Sky package or the £350 that the cost of ITV-based advertising places on the average family's annual grocery bill then you realise that the license fee is less of a tax than having to fund commercial TV. I have a choice if I pay the license fee - I do because I value the Beeb but I have several friends who don't have a TV in the house and so don't have to pay for the BBC but they do have to pay for commercial TV regardless.

Infrastructure - ITV couldn't make OnDigital work - they weren't willing to be in it for the long run and it took the BBC to make Freeview a success. Not everyone wants to pay north of £25 per month for a TV package and digital terrestrial makes a lot of sense. Added to this the relative poor technical quality of Sky's HD service against the superb 10mbit/sec H.264 pictures that can be delivered over DVB-T2 and you can see why I'm a bigger fan of Freeview (both technically and content-wise) than I am of Sky.
Sky has not been good for Britain - it represents the worst aspects of our society - celebrity obsession and trivialising of everything. Give me the Beeb (and particularly Radio 4) every day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Framestore shuts DI department

About four years ago everyone was banging on about how Digital Intermediate work was so important - at the time we were building Midnight Transfer's (now defunct) DI dept. I suppose the most significant investment in your DI department is the scanner or the 4k telecine and with more films being shot on Red/D20/Dalsa etc there is little need for high-quality film scanning. By comparisson a Film Light grading rig is quite cheap and presumably if that's where all the work is going you can't fund the TCO of a Spirit 4K on the margins of the grading room.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I want to like Blackmagic

If you’re tired of hard to use and ugly waveform monitoring, then you’ll love Blackmagic UltraScope. We have included all the features you need when editing or color correcting, and then, combined it with an elegant user interface that looks great when added to your studio!

The reason some things are hard to use is that they are complicated - like video test and measurement. The reason Fisher Price don't make television test gear is because it's not for children! Anyhow - I sat down to have a tinker with this new gadget (in fact it's a PCI-e card you put in a spare computer) - it then hijacks the Windows desktop and runs full-screen. I don't imagine anyone would be willing to sacrifice one of their Avid or FCP monitors (aside from the fact that you'd be taking at least a couple of lanes of PCI-e bandwidth and hence making a non-supported config).

It is surprisingly uninspiring - you get only what you see - you can't move anything around or zoom in either direction. You have no measurement graticules and non of the features that are necessary in a modern rasteriser. It really is just the facade of a waveform monitor but when you look harder it is kind of useless. Seriously - save your money because this is pretty pointless. It might make a nice display for reception.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Back from holidays

Not much going on on this blog because I've been in Spain for the last two weeks.

Here are some of the power things I noticed there;

  • Mains sub-stations often attached to pilons - in small villages the 11kV transformers weren't in small brick buildings surrounded by a wall but were attached may 15m up on the tower.

  • Electricity meters - mounted in cavities in walls and finished with a perspex front panel - your meter can be read without them ringing your doorbell.

  • Our holiday main hook-up was of a much higher standard than I've ever seen in any British camp site - proper IP67 box with MCB & RCD per positions and the site manager came and inspected our mains before he'd turn us on. He was quite tickled that I had my Martindale death-tester to hand.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

It's the domain that serves up all Microsoft ads - the ones in MSN Messenger etc.

If you use OpenDNS (or any other kind of domain filtering) it's another way of stopping adverts. You could even stick it in your hosts file;

Stick it to the man!