Sunday, June 03, 2007

How Avid differs from all other broadcast manufacturers

Avid have this get out of gaol card they play often - it's called the ¨..that's not a supported configuration¨ reason. They play it whenever their badly implemented version of an industry-wide standard doesn't play nicely with other equipment. The first time I came across it was the way they do P2 protocol over RS422 on the ABVB-based Mac systems. I was working at Oasis TV back in 1996 when we started to hook original D5 machines (the Panasonic AJ-D580) up to 9500-based V.7 Avids. We noticed that when capturing the deck would often take off in the wrong direction and then reverse and pre-roll correctly. Often laybacks would fail or be a frame late. Eventually I borrowed a serial sniffer and stuck it across the RS422 out of the Avid and discovered the following.

  • The Avid rarely issued commands in the 17-line window after the start of frame that P2 demands. Consequently the deck would queue the command and ignore it for a frame.

  • The Avid would sometimes issue the pre-roll command before it loaded the counter - the poor old VTR would take off on the pre-roll only to realise that it was going in the wrong direction.
So, a broadcast grade VTR that conforms to every relevent standard doesn't play nicely with Avid's sloppy implmentation of an existing standard and their justification is that "'s an unsupported configuration"!
I've just put in a couple of machines that rely on an outboard FireWire switcher. I would have sworn it was the switcher that was at fault but I had a Root6 ContentAgent to test the various ports with the VTRs. The Avid Mojos will drop the feed if you do anything with the switcher (like make another route!) and you have to re-launch Media Composer. It makes using FireWire decks a real pain and I didn't realise Mojos were so problematic until Graham sent me the following;
This just mirrors my experiences...
Firewire switches, hubs and splitters don’t work CONSISTENTLY. They just don’t. Firewire patchbays and good quality extenders DO.
I have tested half a dozen of these things and they just don’t work without a reboot, a reset, and a mess around.

The same can be said of SCSI, Fibre Channel, and even the way they handle the PCI bus - see a previous post here for details of their half-arsed ADAT implmentation.
Now, if a Sony VTR refused to record a standard PAL signal or a Grass Valley mixer wouldn't derive a key from an SDi feed then they would sort it out - I never heard the phrase ¨...I'm sorry, that's not a supported configuration¨ until Avid came on the scene!

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