Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Fibre for breakfast - keeps you regular...

I've have been a terrible blogger over the last couple of months; just super-busy at work, but I have done a couple of presentations in Jigsaw24's ongoing series of Tech Breakfasts.




All the slides are here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A few notes on DolbyPQ & the new 4k AppleTV and TV High Dynamic Range.

STOP PRESS! 27th Sept. 2017 Update;

So it turns out that the new AppleTV does support HLG.


- Why did it take somebody hacking around with a firmware update to discover it; perhaps big corporations (Apple and Dolby) talk and would rather not highlight the fact?


HDR is half my life at the moment; the distinction between "Display Referred" and "Scene Referred" video is lost on most people, but is pretty central to understanding why the BBC/NHK "Hybrid Log Gamma" system is ten times more appropriate for television (non-theatrical video) vs anything based on the SMPTE 2084 (AKA Dolby/HDR10 etc) curve.

For my presentation on "intro to HDR for TV" download here.
  1. Display Referred HDR makes no sense for TV (when I say TV I mean all non theatrical video). DolbyPQ makes video dimensioned (so code values actually represent light levels) which makes a lot of sense when you have complete control over the environment you're viewing in - a theatre. To define where black and white sit (and actually assign light-levels to them) is problematic for TV workflows. Remember, you have to give the colourist/racks-engineer/domestic-viewer the liberty to set black according to the room. Although BT.1886 is commonly accepted to mean 100Cdm-2 peak white a lot of colourists drive their rooms at 80Cdm-2 and at least one film guy I know prefers to work at 60Cdm-2. Also - what happens in three years when everyone is selling TVs with specular highlights that can hit 2,000Cdm-2 and people can see the difference between PQ content mastered with peaks at 1,000Cdm-2 ( the current standard) and new content? The same will be true all the way up to Dolby's max light level of 10,000Cdm-2. Dolby at least has the benefit of dynamic metadata to allow or this, but HDR10 is static metadata and so has all the problems of display-referred HDR with none of the DolbyPQ benefits.
  2. BBC/NHK HLG is a much more pragmatic solution as it doesn't assign code-value to light-levels (when has that ever been a thing in TV?!) and allows HDR content to look good on all devices capable of displaying it; tablets, TVs, laptops etc. It also allows the broadcasters to make a gradual change to HDR. None of the broadcasters I've spoken to have any appetite for having Dolby CMUs all over the place to manage the metadata (which, being a licensed format, they would be obliged to have). HLG also tracks 1886 for most of the curve (to around 65%) which means conversion to/from is easier and even when you get it wrong the pictures look OK. It's why scene-referred video makes sense for TV.
  3. Having seen the same SLog3 (so camera HDR gamma) played out from Transkoder in both DolbyPQ (mastered at 1,000Cdm-2) next to the same machine converting to HLG with two Sony X300 monitors set for the appropriate gamma curves and the same Rec.2020 colour calibration you could not tell them apart in a blind viewing. 
  4. It's typical Dolby - they are trying to dominate the domestic space by shoe-horning their theatrical format into TVs. Broadcasters get hobbled with licensing costs, onerous upgrade requirements and pictures that are locked to whatever version of PQ/HDR10/HDR10+ they were mastered for rather than allowing the display to make the best of what it's given; scene referred pictures.
  5. The good thing about HLG is that rec.2100 ratifies it, the DVB have too. It's also trivial to upgrade HDR10-capable sets to support it (unlike PQ). I imagine it'll be the case that broadcasters will deliver HDR (for the reasons mentioned) and either you have to upgrade your TV (but pretty much all the current ones support it out of the box) OR your STB will do the conversion.
Which is why the new 4k AppleTV is a damp-squib...   

Friday, July 07, 2017

EDID will get you every time...

I was helping to configure a new board room. This one is a tiny bit different by having two nice big TVs mounted on the walls and the cable run to each is at least 30m. So - HDMI does not reliably go that far over copper cable (I know - somebody always has an example where they've made it work, but this has to be reliable!). It's probably why so many training/presentation rooms still have SVGA on the desk plate; it's reliable.
The other requirement was that with no operational changes you should be able to plug an HDMI laptop into the desk plate and "...it just works"!
So - Barnfind are my favourite fibre parts and so a couple of BarnMini03 & 04s with single-mode fibre between (spliced, of course!) takes the HDMI up to 80km. I used these nice wall-termination panels from ADC Krone.



I also bought one of those cheap no-name HDMI splitter/DAs from Amazon as I've had no trouble with them in the past - they even work well as HDCP removers. However in this case as soon as I plugged in the second TV the system would fall over with the "signal present" light on the DA going out - TV A or B could be fed individually but not together. Sticking the EDID analyser on the feed to the DA i/p showed the DA was generating and EDID exchange ever second or so and alternating between the two different EDIDs - first Mr. Sony then Mr. LG (different models of screens).

So, after a bit of head-scratching I put one of these on the input of the DA - it essentially answers EDID enquiries without forwarding them upwards. Works like a charm;


My next test will be to see if the DA pulling the hotplug detect pin low and triggering the erroneous EDID exchanges. For this I need to dig out one of my famous Root6 Spoof'o'matics which we had manufactured in quantity after a similar problem with Avid and how it reacts to different monitors.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

2nd RetroPi handheld build - the GamegearZero

Recently finished the second Raspberry Pi based handheld games console - this one based around a RasPi3 and a Sega Gamegear.

https://youtu.be/Mt1VP-AjSQU


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The insanity of trying to control encryption...

Politicians and social commentators keep throwing up this idea that encryption is;
  • Bad (the bolt-hole for terrorists/paedophiles)
  • Somehow controllable (back doors, side doors) by the state.
It's clear that people like Amber Rudd either have no idea (or more likely choose to have no idea) about the nature of data encryption. If you want a little primer I did an intro around a year ago and so thus armed you can explain the difference between symmetric and public-key crypto like a pro!
A few points are worth noting;

  1. Cryptography is maths - all of the algorithms currently in use are published and a decent proportion of computer-science or maths graduates could implement them in code. 
  2. WhatsApp and everyone else that offers end-to-end crypto probably rely on the underlying crypto-primitives provided by the OS - only a fool tries to re-invent the wheel (particularly WRT cryptographic functions)
  3. If you could (and most crypto experts doubt it is achievable) devise a secure public-key algorithm with a back/side-door access how can we trust any public body to not let the private back-door key get out? Five years down the line we discover that some other nation-state has had access to all the private conversations? There is much precedent for this; remember last month's NHS attack was done with code written by and subsequently lost from the NSA. Examples of large governmental bodies loosing data they really didn't want to mislay are legion.
  4. Compromised encryption & identity algorithms will spell the end of eCommerce. No bank will want to expose themselves to that kind of risk.
  5. How do you oblige software writers (who may be anywhere in the world) to use the crypto-crippled algorithm?
  6. How do you oblige "bad guys" to use the crypto-crippled software?
The outcome will be that only people who aren't concerned about security will use the crypto-crippled version of the popular chat/speech apps. Encryption exists outside of laws & countries and people who want privacy (for whatever reason) now have the means to achieve it. No nation state can now stop that.

WRT point 3 (above) I have heard non-technical people say something like "Silicon Valley is full of very clever people - they can figure it out. We were able to put a man on the moon fifty years ago..."
Well, putting a man on the Moon is one thing, putting a man on the Sun is entirely different - and that's what you're asking for, whether you choose to believe the people who actually understand cryptography or not.



Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The 18th Edition is almost upon us...

It's been nearly a decade since the 17th Edition came into force.


Currently at the committee-stage the 18th Edition will come into force at the end of 2018. The request for comments runs through until the end of August and is well worth signing up to the BSI to read the proposal and have a say if you see anything of note.

The most interesting change (for me) is section 8 - energy efficiency. All the changes to sections 4 onwards are better definitions and tighter specs for RCDs and earth leakage etc which are all very important but build on principles that are well established.

I'll post more as I get familiar with the draft, but here is the intro stolen from the IET site;

New section - energy efficiency 

The worldwide need to reduce the consumption of energy means that we have to consider how electrical installations can provide the required level of service and safety for the lowest electrical consumption. The draft proposals enable a client to specify the level of energy efficiency measures applied to an electrical installation. Installations can also be awarded points for energy efficiency performance levels, for example, transformer efficiency. These points can be added together with points for efficiency measures to give an electrical installation an efficiency class, ranging from EIEC0 to EIEC4, depending on the number of points awarded. The new section will cover several energy efficient areas, such as electric vehicles, lighting, metering, cable losses, transformer losses, power-factor correction, and harmonics.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sony VPL-VW320ES Projector colour profile

A recent trip to Edinburgh for my colleague at Root6 Scotland had me calibrating a new Sony SXRD-type 4k projector. Here is how it behaved from a colour profile point of view.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Calibrating monitors for HLG-1.2 High Dynamic Range working

I've now done a couple of Sony BVM-X300 (4k/HDR OLED panel) monitors for HDR-TV deliverables to the BBC. The Beeb are behind the Hybrid Log Gamma standard, currently at 1.2 for broadcast. It's benefits over Dolby's 10-bit version of their Vision HDR system (also called DolbyPQ) are many and rather splendidly the DVB as well as most manufacturers are now behind HLG. I'll write further about why a scene-referred system is a better bet for domestic TV than a display-referred one (like DolbyPQ) but I just wanted to get down some notes on monitor calibration for HLG.

So first up you need to get the monitor into HDR mode (the correct one! As of v.2 firmware the X300 supports several; the camera gammas; CLog, CLog2, SLog & SLog3 as well as the deliverable standards; SMPTE-2084 (DolbyPQ) as well as SMPTE-2100 (HLG 1.2).


You'll notice the EOTF setting (lit. "Electronic - Optical Transfer Function") is NOT set for HLG 1.2; this available but in the current v. 2.0 firmware it is wrong. Select HLG (Variable), click the know again and dial in 1.2

Next up display a 50% grey field (100% can't be done as the monitor power-limits to stop 1,000Cd/m2 being displayed across a lot of the screen) and point your probe at the display. Remember that unlike DCI-P3 we are still at the 6504K white point of tele. However - at 50% grey we should be seeing low-50's Cd/m2 being emitted from the screen. 


You might have previously heard Sony's "best practise" (sic) advice of setting 50% grey to 100Cd/m2 but this is wrong. Look at the graph; this is the result of profiling an X300 (and they all seem to do it consistently) and notice what happens over the last couple of hundred Candelas at the top end. If you set 50% grey to 100Cd/m2 you get loss of detail in the specular highlights. For the correctly 1.2 HLG curve you need to set 50% to around 50Cd/m2 to 55Cd/m2- remember the Y-axis on this graph is logarithmic. 

The one display I had previously followed the Sony advice for was sufficiently out of it's linear range that the dark-greys drifted red minutes after I finished adjusting the monitor and (like all OLEDs) the noise in their blacks is sufficient to make the final tweak to 6504k hard work - the Klein probe was having to average over 32 reads to accommodate the OLED panel. Remember - the K10A is accurate to less than 0.001 Cd/m2 and not the 1.0 Cd/m2 it reads at 10% up the curve of HLG 1.2

So - once you have those under your belt you can PLUGE the display to set blacks correctly for the room (what did I say about scene/display referred?!) and then set about getting the deep greys and the 50% colour balance correct. I've done this now on two X300s with BBC R&D engineers in attendance and they have given this method their blessing!

For a probe I was using a Klein K10A with Klein's own ChromaSurf software. If I get the chance to profile an X300 for myself I will do it with LightSpaceCMS - still the choice of champions for display profiling and LUT-building. They also have an excellent article introducing HDR.

Friday, February 24, 2017

My favorite music podcasts

For me the last ten or twelve years has seen an almost 100% move to on-demand radio listening. The only live radio I listen to is the Today Programme on Radio 4 whilst having breakfast; I do put Six Music on at the workshop for the wiring guys, but for me (even shows produced for radio) are consumed as downloads.  Here are the things about music that I never miss.

  1. BBC Mastertapes - John Wilson presents artists talking about how they recorded a classic album. The show slips in two ("The A Side" and "The B Side") with Wilson doing the interview in the first half hour and then the assembled fans asking questions in the second. Wilson is clearly a music fanatic and never fails to engage with the artist. It comes from BBC Maida Vale and there are currently 74 hours for you to catch up on! Billy Bragg's "Talking with the Tax Man about Poetry" was the first episode back in 2012 and the glorious thing about it is I've discovered some records I never knew about and been really surprised by how much I enjoyed artists I thought were not my thing. Rufus Wainwright is a prime example. The artists always do a minimal arrangement of the well known numbers off the album their talking about and so of course the format tends to favour performers who can do it live.
  2. Between the Liner Notes - A podcast (not produced for radio) that takes some aspect of the music industry and devotes an hour to it. Really engaging and has a big radio rockumentary production feel. For me - a Gen X'er coming of age in the eighties the episode on MTV is required listening.
  3. Music City Roots - this is a "proper" radio show out of Nashville. I like it because Mike Farris has a show (which sometimes makes it into the podcast feed) but the main man is Jim Lauderdale who is a real champion of Alt-country and Americana.
  4. Sodajerker on Songwriting - Sodajerker is a songwriting team from Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Founded by co-writers Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor who, like most jobbing musos, have to suppliment their work with teaching and podcasting. They have had some great guests in their (so far 97) shows. In classic podcast fashion the length varies and the best one so far (for my money) has been Paul Simon although I've enjoyed all of them (check out ep.80 - Marcus Miller).
  5. The Bored-Again Christian podcast - a notable mention even though he stopped making shows five years ago. I discovered a few artists via this podcast; Sufjan Stevens and Danielson to name a couple.
Podcasting is the answer to the dumb mass-market HeartFM/TalkFM/LBC type radio. It's no coincidence that you don't get anything like this kind of treatment of musicians and who they do on commercial radio.

Friday, February 17, 2017

My GameboyZero - build no. 1

I've been building a little RaspberryPi-in-an-old-Gameboy project for running lots of old console and handheld games. RetroPie is a superb project that unifies all of this and makes it very easy.

See my first video here.


3.5" Analogue Composite LCD 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0056WJP1M/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
3w Class D audio amp: 
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/111792407939?_trksid=p2060353.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT 
SudoMod: 
http://sudomod.com/game-boy-zero-custom-parts-guide-part-1/
Wermy:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRP1Zx7B4b66ZwkB2Ov5pMw 
Great Scott! 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MtN_s4tVK0&t=4s

Monday, January 16, 2017

LUTs are sometimes not the answer.

As I often tell people; a LUT can only reduce the dynamic range of a display. For the most part that needn't matter, particularly if you have the whole of the DCI-P3 (or a decent chunk of Rec.2020) in your monitor. Applying a look-LUT to simulate a delivery style is one thing but increasingly people see LUTs as the first answer to monitor calibration rather than getting the display to as close-as-possible before profiling/creating a LUT. Hugh and I did a podcast on the subject.

A problem I've recently discovered with a monitor's internal Rec.709 LUT is that although the monitor has a huge gamut in it's native mode (which you can see from this recording of ChromaSurf's output) but the 709 presets have trouble.



Notice how it can reach a full green value of 0.1879, 0.7317 (Rec.2020 calls for 0.170,0.797); you'd think there would be absolutely no trouble getting Rec.709 right, and in fairness the primaries are fine. BUT, when I use both primary and secondary colour ramps;


I wind up with some distinctly funny looking banding in the secondary colours.


On this 'phone photo it is particularly noticeable in the yellows, but it's there in the cyan and magenta ramps as well. The fault isn't there when the monitor is in native mode (or indeed P3, NTSC or EBU), only Rec.709 (ironically the only colour space we really need for TV!).
So, I'll have to profile it in native mode and spin a 17-point 709 LUT as the one from the manufacturer is clearly got problems.

Another way of stress-testing a LUT is to use the TrueColor LUT stress test image.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Power supply toroid in Mackie SRM450 PA loudspeakers

A friend brought one of these very common PA powered loudspeakers over to the workshop. An internal T4A mains fuse had blown and when I replaced it and re-powered there was a very loud 50hz hum for a few seconds and the fuse in the power cord blew. I assumed it was the audio path that was making the noise and I assumed that one one the probably faults was a short/open de-coupling capacitor that was letting 50hz through to the audio stage.

I found the schematic at Mackie-SRM450 actspk.zip (although this is for the rev.C of the board, but the PSU appears not to have changed).

So - I made sure both fuses were good and with Dave Jones's words "thou shall always check the rails" in my ears I disconnected the output of the large toroid from the two rectifiers/smoothing caps and tried again. I figured I'd make sure the o/p of the transformer was good (there is some de-coupling on the primary). However I got the same loud 50hz for a couple of seconds and one of the fuses failed. The toroid was also noticeably warmer than it had been! So - checking the DC resistance of the primary side showed it to be less than six ohms (so it was pulling an inrush of at least 40A!).


A quick flail around the web showed that the transformer is a known weak point of this design.

 The real bummer is that the transformer isn't stocked by Mackie (or indeed anyone else) and the folks at Save My Light only do a minimum order (ten pieces) from the Chinese factory that wind them when they have enough orders (and the chap there told me he sells an average of two a year).
So, do I just wait or pay him the thousand quid to have ten made?!

Time to keep my eye on eBay for a hopefully working second hand replacement?

UPDATE 16/01/2017: 

So after lots of flailing around the web and finding a few reclaimed ones for more than £150 I came across AJAudio on eBay (Alex Mathew sales@ajaudio.co.uk was super-helpful) and he sold me one for £99.
Job done.

For info - the failed toroid had around 5 ohms DC impedance across the primary whereas the replacement has 8.5 ohms.

It's been shaking the workshop with loud music all afternoon!

Friday, November 25, 2016

My favorite rockumentaries of all time

  1. "Still Bill"
    The film follows the life of Bill Withers, from his roots in West Virginia to his career in the United States Navy, to his famed musical career and post-retirement family life.

  2. "Sound City"
    In 1991 Nirvana recorded the album Nevermind at Sound City Studios. The band's drummer Dave Grohl was inspired to create the documentary after he purchased several items from the studio, including the Neve 8028 analog mixing console, when the studio closed in 2011.

  3. "Muscle Shoals - the greatest recording studio in the world"
    Documentary film about FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

  4. "Oil City Confidential"

    A film by Julien Temple about the early days of Dr. Feelgood, Oil City Confidential, premiered at the London Film Festival on 22 October 2009, and received a standing ovation.

  5. "Pink Floyd; Wish you were here"

    The film gives an extensive insight of concept, recording the songs and designing the album cover. It includes exclusive interviews with almost every key person, who participated in producing the album. It is the second Pink Floyd documentary by Eagle Rock.

  6. "You've got a friend; the Carole King story"

    In her own words, the story of Carole King's upbringing in Brooklyn and the subsequent success that she had as half of husband-and-wife songwriting team Goffin and King for Aldon Music

  7. "Classic Albums; 'Damn the Torpedoes' by Tom Petty"
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00x7chg

Thursday, November 24, 2016

HDR for Television; HLG, DolbyPQ etc - a primer

I have been such a poor blogger! It's been a month-and-a-half since I set finger-to-keyboard but I have been busy at work and home. Here is a presentation I gave at the Soho Screening Rooms for one of Root6's Tech Breakfasts.


You can download the notes from root6.com.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

HDMI, HDCP and SDi out from Bluray players

It's been a few years since the master HDCP key escaped into the wild and so it seems that particular content protection system is fundamentally wounded (if not dead!) but reputable manufacturers still respect the HDCP flag (even if no encryption is present) and the MPAA are still issuing device keys to manufacturers and volume keys to content producers.
So - I have been installing some Oppo Bluray players (nice, high end machines) and they support HDCP rather too aggressively; on a non-compliant display you don't even get the boot screen or any menus! So - an SDi converter is out of the question. 
The usual trick is to use one of these cheap'n'cheerful HDMI splitters which present a device key to terminate the signal but then send it to two outputs having done the decryption. 


Works perfectly with Backmagic HDMI->SDi converters with the exception of the audio; the Blackmagic knows nothings about DTS+ or DolbyDigital (or any of their variants) - it only understands the basic PCM stereo part of the bitstream and so that's what you get in the SDi stream.

However - in the case of these Oppo 103D players they have decoders on board and present the de-compressed audio out of the back as good old analogue feeds;

In these rooms I've fed them to the analogue inputs of the Tektronix WVR8200 test set and hence by selecting a different audio input you can toggle the TC Electronix ClarityX controller between 7.1 from the Avid and surround sound from the Oppo.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

New grading room - a few notes.

I've been building a Baselight room recently - the monitor is a Sony X300 UHD/HDR display (expensive!) with an AKA custom grading desk. Here are some photos;



All courtesy of my colleague & pal Graham McGuinness

  1. The X300 is a heavy beast at 16Kg and if you want to hang it off a monitor arm - the only one I found suitable was from Novus; we've bought a few things from them recently and they are a very high quality manufacturer. The TSS-range is here but we tend to purchase from our friends at MW/ThinkingSpace as they hold stock and are super-helpful.
  2. The X300 out-of-the-box was a tad hot in 2k mode (they distinguish between rasters as 2k/4k - not HD/UHD; just to keep the DCI film snobs happy!). I was expecting the EBU recommended 100Cd/m2 but was 125 Cd/m2 and a bit blue-in-the-whites, but not enough to bother adjusting unless you were pointing a probe at it! So - this one is correct for rec.709 but the customer (hasn't yet) decided what their wide-colour-gamut and high-dynamic-range workflows will be.
  3. I had my friend and carpenter Tony Andrews (Andrews Construction - for all your carpentry and building requirements!) built the lightbox. In the past I've talked about Crown Plain Grey 5574 Matt Emulsion as being suitable for the backwall, but that's now a discontinued paint and so an excellent match is Delux's "CN8 Grey Steel 3".
  4. Display Port monitors and Baselight-1 - so running Baselight v.6 on an HP Z840 means you have a four display-port output nVidia card. Historically they would prefer you to use DVI monitors, but this is 2016 and a pair of HP Dreamcolor 27" monitors are being extended via Amulet (my favourite KVM extender). In this case you need to have Filmlight provide a new version of xorg.conf for X to see higher order monitors as primary and secondary GUI displays. 
  5. The Blackboard2 control panel is fed over a DVI adaptor hanging off port 2 of the nVidia. Be warned! It runs at a very funny raster (3460 pixels wide!?) at only 15 FPS. It doesn't respond to EDID requests and so consequently you have to use a very simple extender to run it to the suite - no KVM-over-IP, just a fibre balun (I used one of these).
  6. Similarity the USB for the Blackboard declares itself as an HID device but then ignores HID-probes, so again, only use a balun to extend the USB, no over-IP.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fuji IS-Mini software for colour space conversion

For patch generation and LUT testing the Fuji IS-mini is hard to beat for sub-£1k. LightSpace will drive it for profiling monitors and since it has both HD/SDi and HDMI outputs it is very useful all the way to 1080 lines at 60P.

The software that comes with it is kinda utilitarian but can speak to multiple IS-minis over either USB or ethernet. So you can load LUTs to several units from a single computer and it will even listen to the commands from a Tangent Wave control panel and you have a very canny little grading system (all be with no memory!) - but for live colour correction it is used everywhere from HDR cameras feeding BT.1886 productions to folks who need to correct for unusual cameras in an otherwise standard OB environment.


Having said all that it isn't a patch (pardon!) on LightSpace but they have just released an unlocked beta that feature colour space conversion LUTs which might be of interest to general colour-tinkerers.

From Fuji's site;

The rapid adoption of 4K Rec2020 and the development of HDR has necessitated an increased need for colour space conversions, such as color gamut, various LOG curves and numerous other standards. As requests for products to handle this have increased, FUJIFILM has begun to develop a system for IS-mini users that will allow greater flexibility with colour spaces.

And the obligatory bullet points;
  • Convert the content of Rec709 to Rec2020. 
  • Convert the image data of SLog3 / SGamut shooting to HDR ST2084 / Rec2020. 
  • Convert Legal range to Full range 
  • Convert the image data of the various cameras to SLog3 / Rec2020. etc... 

Grab it here.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Memories of 1999 at Resolution Soho

I'm working the weekend in a building that has been a TV facility for the last couple of decades. I had the privilege of being Chief Engineer here during 1998-2003 when it was the Soho branch of the Resolution Post Group. 
Having opened a few cable-risers it looks like this place is largely the same (aside from the decoration) and in many of the rooms there is still equipment I either purchased or had the pleasure of fixing or calibrating.

Custom talkback box; this is a little thing I home-brewed around 2000 - it's just a talkback box with a cue-light button on it. Still in use though!


This wooden-surround for the Wacom tablet for a Softimage DS workstation had an little audio switcher built into it (selects between DS, VTR return and CD). The grahics tablet was originally hidden inside the polycarbonate sheet so you couldn't see it.


This monitor shelf was a bit of a mission; galvanised scaffolding poles are held in a triangle shape by chandler's wire & connectors. The tear-shape glass shelf sits on top of that (the ends of the poles have rubber caps) and the monitor's weight stresses the structure to keep it solid. I thought it would collapse in a week but here it is a decade-and-a-half later!
Also notice the PMC TB1 loudspeakers; most of the rooms here still have them. They were all purchased between 1999 and 2001 and are all still sounding good.


Back in 1999 there were no WiFi walkabout 'phones or office-grade DECT handsets. So - I bought the best domestic ones I could find and then spent a few days seeing where the best place was for the base-stations for maximise coverage for the runners, engineers and tape-ops (we still had those!). It turned out to be an external wall at the rear of the building. They're still there! (Although no longer used).

STOP PRESS!

My good pal Malcolm Baldwin reminded me that he'd made the talkback box - he commented that he'd never really liked it but I thought it was splendid. Just shows that some engineers have higher standards than other...!

Friday, July 08, 2016

HPA Tech Retreat, 2016 - I'm speaking about CWDM & signal transport for 4k/UHD/HDR

Next week I'll be representing at the HPA Tech Retreat; I even made it to the "featured" list!

From the Root6 blog;

In a session titled ‘Fibre/CWDM Infrastructure for Live and Remote Rec. 2020 and HDR Applications,’ Phil will argue that we now have enabling and affordable technology with CWDM to deliver high quality images without resorting to IP. “With the (some would say unseemly) rush to IP and Rec.2022, are we in danger of losing the very things that make broadcast video production so good – namely low-latency and uncompressed pictures? With a four-fold increase in data rates brought by UHD/4K and the last five years having seen commoditisation of CWDM, – we now have an enabling technology for quality in the face of the IT department!”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

USB current draw by HID devices and Amulet Zero Clients

One of the complaints I often get from Amulet users is that they get strange results when using power-hungry USB devices. The prime culprits are Wacom tablets (particularly the Intuos and Bambo series) but today I went to a facility where they were getting intermitent behaviour from the left hand control and shift keys which in Media Composer is a real pain. 
The most common third-party Avid coloured-keycap keyboards are from Logic
They come with a USB hub built in and so you'd expect them to draw a bit more than an HID device, but it's worth looking up what the spec is for USB power draw. This is stolen from Wikipedia;

There are limits on the power a device may draw, stated in terms of a unit load, which is 100 mA, or 150 mA for SuperSpeed devices. There are low-power and high-power devices. Low-power devices may draw at most 1 unit load, and all devices must act as low-power devices when, starting out as, unconfigured. High-power devices draw at least 1 unit load and at most 5 unit loads (500 mA), or 6 unit loads (900 mA) for SuperSpeed devices. A high-powered device must be configured, and may only draw as much power as specified in its configuration.
Or, in summary;

However, flipping the keyboard over gives a different story;


Wow, 1.1A - more than twice what the spec says. However - these keyboards are used the world over and it seems that motherboard USB ports are more than able to power them. I thought I'd get my own reading to see what the current draw was so I stuck one of those USB volts/current monitors in line. The keyboard continued to work but the USB-meter gave me a 0mA reading; it was working the day before, but today, no dice. When I got it back to the workshop I opened it up and discovered the current-shunt resistors was blown away!

 see bottom left on the +Vcc rail - where's the resistor?!

So I conclude that the keyboard is actually pulling a lot more than 1.1A (at least at in-rush).

So, Amulet can supply 2.0A across the USB hub on it's Zero Client with a maximum of an amp on any one port. All much better than the spec but somewhat less than the Logic keyboard is pulling. In the case of power-hungry, non-compliant keyboards and tablets I stick in a powered hub and that normally fixes the problem.