You see, the thing is: I hate writing. Always have. I find it tedious and exhausting and very difficult. But it seems to be something I'm good at. So, yes, there is a Devil, and he gets you in the most cunning ways. I would much rather show off than ...

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"rabbit + crow blog" - 5 new articles

  1. Video - Watch A Writer Sulk For An Hour!
  2. Solving 3D Headaches
  3. Tarzan, Mon Ami
  4. "After Hell" & The Paradise of Audio Drama
  5. Gearhouse Broadcast's HD-1: An Expanding Truck For Australia's Expanses
  6. More Recent Articles

Video - Watch A Writer Sulk For An Hour!

You see, the thing is: I hate writing. Always have. I find it tedious and exhausting and very difficult. But it seems to be something I'm good at.

So, yes, there is a Devil, and he gets you in the most cunning ways.

I would much rather show off than write. If...If only I could find a way to mix showing off - shameless exhibitionism - with writing, well then, my life would be almost worth living, wouldn't it?

I know! I'll broadcast a LIVE video feed of me at work! And make it available to anyone and everyone in the world! And then...then I'll be happy.

So check on Monday, 1st June, 12 noon GMT, go to my LiveStream feed at:


At noon (GMT), for an hour each day, you'll get to see inside the monkey house. And live chat will be operating, so you can throw me peanuts. And maybe I'll throw back some poo.

As Peachy Carnehan said in "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975): "Keep looking at me. It helps to keep my soul from flying off."
    

Solving 3D Headaches

Solving 3D Headaches:
Matt Brennesholtz Helps
Negotiate A Challenging 3D Future

By
Neal Romanek

(as printed in April 2009 TVBEurope)

“I love watching 3D, it’s just that after 10 minutes I have a pounding headache.”

At tradeshows, exhibitions, screenings, even meet-ups of 3D devotees, one hears it over and over. At the Digital Television Group's Summit 2009 in March, an overview of Sky's plans for 3DTV was introduced with "Here's Chris Johns to tell us about eye strain."

There has been a mad rush to produce 3D content even though their may not be the viewership for it. Critics vocally wonder if the producers of 3D content are living in a fool's paradise, preparing for The Next Big Thing that may never come. The Beijing Olympics was touted as the "3D Olympics". 3D trials were to play in limited markets, primarily in Asia. The fact that few people have heard that Beijing was the “3D Olympics” may suggest how successful the experiment was.

Creating dynamic, believable and commercially viable 3D images is a challenge that has been around longer than most people suppose. 3D is usually associated with the 1950's and the spate of anaglyph-based 3D feature films - although the anaglyph technique had been used to create 3D images since the 1850's. The first stereoscopic motion picture patent was taken out in the 1890's and the first 3D camera rig was patented in 1900.

TVBEurope talked with 3D expert Matt Brennesholtz, a senior analyst at Insight Media who has worked in partnership with the 3D@Home Consortium. The 3D@Home Consortium was formed in 2008 to speed the commercialization of 3D into homes worldwide. It also attempts to facilitate the development of standards, roadmaps and education for the 3D industry. In 2007 Brennesholtz co-authored a 400-page report “3D Technology and Markets: A Study of All Aspects of Electronic 3D Systems, Applications and Markets”. This all encompassing document forecast the viability of 3D display technology in a vast array of markets into the next decade. Its scope included not just stereoscopic 3D displays, but a variety of autostereoscopic displays, and rotating image plane, vibrating membrane, and micropolarizer technologies.

Brennesholtz is an expert in display technologies, having been a lead projection system architect at Philips LCoS Microdisplay Systems. He has a masters of Engineering in Optics and Plasma Physics from Cornell University and has been granted 23 patents. Still, we asked question most on everyone's mind - why do we get a headache when we watch 3D?

"One of the fundamental problems with 3D displays," he explains, "is the problem of convergence and accommodation." Convergence is the ability of the eyes to stay trained on a point in space and allows you to focus on the text on a mobile phone three inches from your nose. Accommodation is the ability of the eye itself to focus in distance like a mini-camera.

Stereoscopic images rely on the brain's default setting of always making a single image out of the pair of images received by the eyes - as opposed to how chameleons do it. The perceived "space" between the two side-by-side images in a 3D show is compensated for by convergence with the eyes going from being parallel towards being crossed and back - just as they would in watching a live event.

The element that is challenging for the brain - and for some viewers - is the image in a 3D display is always exactly the same distance away, on the surface of the screen. The convergence of the eyes sends the message that objects are moving forward and backward in space, but the real image each eye is capturing stays put. The brain is trying to tackle two different ways of seeing at once, like a computer running two memory intensive applications at the same time. The fact that the eyes are making very few focus changes, doesn't mean that the brain is not revving like an engine every time it thinks something is moving toward it or away from it. Perhaps, like the trick of being able to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time, the brain may get the hang of it with repeated viewing.

"There can be other human factor problems associated with bad 3D displays," Brennesholtz notes, "with certain types of encoding, for example, but this is a fundamental problem that really is inescapable in the 3D display world."

The most serious aggravation of the accommodation-convergence discrepancy is when the content creator puts images in the virtual space in front of the screen - the monster reaches out to camera, the enemy fires a hundred arrows at us, and the like. These are the effects that producers may push because they have greater visceral impact, but they are also the things that most bother the eyes. Brennesholtz says the solution is to place most 3D effects at the level of the screen or behind it.

Another significant issue, one to induce headaches in content creators rather than viewers, is that the content has to be created for the screen size and viewing distance of the intended audience. Analogous to needing different sound mixes for DVD, theatrical, and mobile device content, each 3D version of a programme must be mastered with its final destination in mind. Sound mixers have managed complex sets of presets for each intended format, it seems likely that 3D mastering will have to learn to do the same.

Although some roadblocks to the perfect 3D experience are exactly the same as they were in the 1950's, Brennesholtz points out that the sophistication of today's technology may overcome the others. "Some of the other problems that have been associated with 3D, like dimness or differences in brightness and color between the two images, can be overcome with proper display, screen and video signal design."

Brennesholtz underlines the consumers demand for a quality experience that is the principle factor in adoption of 3D. “The end user, whether he’s watching broadcast television or cable or blue ray or is sitting in the cinema, is not going to give up anything to get 3D. He’s not going to give up resolution. He’s not going to give up frame rate. He’s not going to accept flicker. He’s not going to accept headaches. Basically, he wants his 2D experience – which right now when you look at HDTV is really good – but with 3D.”

Questions about 3D are in no short supply. Approximately 10% of the population are unable to properly see 3D, and what kind of a strategy must be developed when such a large segment of the audience must automatically be discounted? Most people are unaware that many TV's are already "3D ready", but where is the extra bandwidth going to come from if 3D TV is going to become a reality? And finally, if eyeball convergence and focus are such core issues in 3D viewing, what happens to the 3D experience after the third beer?


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Tarzan, Mon Ami

TARZAN, MON AMI

(from his faithful friend Paul d’Arnot, Capt.)

by Neal Romanek

How princely you are, my friend,
In the new suit from La Confection des Élysées.
How you honor them
By condescending to wear it.

When I was in the jungle
With you, at your mercy,
I was afraid of you.
Now here in La Ville-Lumière,
Where no man like you has walked for 10,000 years, now you are afraid.

You showed yourself to me, naked in your jungle - the only fearless man in all the world.
And now I see you, hackles up,
Moving from stillness to stillness like an unquiet animal.
When the marquise shakes your hand and says “Honored. Honored,”
You smell the blood on his
Breath, and you chill and wonder why no one else does. Are they all in league?
When the girl in service curtsies, says “Bonjour, monsieur,”
You hear her heart breaking, and you wonder why no one else does.

Return to the jungle my friend, out of this dangerous place.

Return to the tranquil jungle, under your mother’s canopy,
Where the names of things come easily to your mouth, where things are called what they are.

Every word of French I taught you - like ashes in my mouth.
I said "God made you a gentleman at heart, my friend”!
Dieu!
I feared you so.
I hoped to make you into something more like me. How could I know that I was making you More dangerous with every word? Injecting you slowly with urbane distemper,
Pasteurizing you with good intentions.
When tantor became l'éléphant,
Numa, le lion,
Hista, le serpent - per Académie! -
I turned the sweet opera of your world
into the jeers of packs of lunatics, the whoops and hoots of cannibals.

That you would save my life and mother me back to health and I in repayment, would set the dogs on you.

Forgive me, Tarzan.

There was a moment, mon ami, when you were almost saved.
Do you remember? Did you know?
I put on my helmet, ready to go,
Picked up my revolver from that wide table stump, the one I’d made my toilet table.
And - perhaps in fever still? – abruptly threw it into the brush.

I didn’t know why then.

But I know now. After that month with you, I felt so naked, vulnerable, clinging like a child to his rattle. I had to throw it away or lose all my courage forever.

But you retrieved it for me.
You dived after it.
You put it back in my hand.
“Tu, tu, tu, tu, tu!” you chirped like a jungle bird, pressing the revolver on me.

And I accepted it.
I shouldn’t have accepted it, should I?
I ought to have thrown it again, farther still, and turned my back on you.
Should have run away down to the river and never seen you again,
Emerged from the jungle a better, braver man.

I waited for you to run away,
While hoping you’d stay
To lead me home.
Hoping – again, yes – that you'd do my work for me. Poor slave.

By nightfall, you had brought me to the Solomougou Post
Where the men smelled like bloody earth
And more vermin creeped than in the deepest jungle.
I held your arm.
Together we found a man who would take us down river next day.

All night you perched in a tree - do you remember? -
Watching the coolies, after hours, stagger and sing below.

On the river the pilot asked many many questions about the strange white man out of the jungle -
Not about me, one more European out of his depth - about you.
I answered them. I answered all his questions!
What a villain!
The gall I had to answer his questions about you!
Maybe I was fevered still. Not in my right mind. Not in my right mind.

Forgive me, Tarzan, my White Skin. Forgive me.

C'est une drôle d'idée - that you should be “White Skin”.

Among my shallow, colorless people, you are deep and black as your rivers, deep and black as your night,
Deep, black as the great expanse that cradled and suckled the world before the mind of Le Dieu blasted away all that was peaceful, wiped away all that made sense and was sweet and perfect.

I have a black top hat and a black coat. And in Belgium the winters are white and and wide and cold.

The Africans, in those hell-squalors we saw along the river,
I swear I saw them shed tears at the sight of you.

I swear I heard them sing:
“Oh there goes an African. Africa has made that man. And only Africa made him. He was not deprived of his lordly heritage, no. No. He was rescued and exalted. Exalted by the land. Saved by Africa. Taught by Africa to be strong and wise and to hear all the knowledge pouring in like cataracts from within, from without. Oh, Africa, that unites spirit and mind. Oh, Africa, that unites heaven and hell. And, look, they are taking him away! And they are taking him away!”

Mon Dieu, my white ape.
I have returned you to the hands of your captors.
I have delivered you back into the clutches of the slavers.

Forgive me, Tarzan.
Forgive me, Tarzan.


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"After Hell" & The Paradise of Audio Drama

Having just launched the horror site, "All The Hells", how I could I not listen to an audio drama called "After Hell"?

"After Hell" a supernatural drama, a mix of police procedural and "28 Days Later"-style Armageddon story. It's enthusiastically presented and - the key to any good audio drama - uses an intelligent sound design to create spaces, describe scenes, illustrate scenes in detail.

I was sent one of the new CD copies from SciFind Ltd., UK based aggregator of all things scientifically fictional. I was sold on the concept, sight unseen - or sound unheard.

I love audio drama - as anyone who has heard my delightfully self-indulgent (yes, delightfully!) "Wretched Goo Of The Imagination" podcasts will tell you. One of my first forays into media production was the recording of a thrilling audio space adventure with my older brother. It was entitled "Face To Face With The Planet Scanodon!" and recorded in the living room of our Ohio apartment on glorious reel-to-reel tape. I wonder if
my parents still have that tape in storage somewhere.

And I have not grown up - have not "changed my principles", let's say - that sounds better - one iota since then. Here is the planet Scanodon at The Cyclopedia Of Worlds:


And, heck, here's a movie of the planet Scanodon at The Cyclopedia Of World's video channel, that you can watch till your eyes cross:

The quality of writing and production design may have improved since I was seven years old, but the subject matter...remarkably the same.

Writer-director Joe Medina at Ollin Productions has put together something he should be proud of with "After Hell". I think Orson Welles would agree with me, if he were animated and rotting next to me in some kind of horrific horror story way, that audio drama - radio drama, we used to call it - is it's own, self-contained media form. Audio drama, like music, engages the mind and imagination directly - and can - in partnership with our brains - describe atmospheres, textures, spaces, and all manner of impossible absurdities (see again, The Wretched Goo Of The Imagination) with ease. I love it. And will do more of it myself some day, when I finish these several dozen other projects.

Well done, to Ollin Productions and the entire "After Hell" crew. Keep up the good work. We want more. We need more.
    

Gearhouse Broadcast's HD-1: An Expanding Truck For Australia's Expanses

Gearhouse Broadcast’s HD-1: An Expanding Truck
For Australia’s Wild Expanses

By
Neal Romanek

(as printed in Dec. 2008 TVBEurope)

Gearhouse Broadcast’s new HD OB truck, called HD-1, could very well be the biggest OB truck in Britain. There is no doubt, after it finishes its transoceanic voyage next year and arrives at its destination in Australia, it will be the biggest OB truck in Australia, and probably the Southern Hemisphere.

HD-1 will be used in Australia for Channel 7’s coverage of Australian Rules Football. Kevin Moorhouse, Technical Director of Gearhouse Broadcast, says that on the matches the vehicle will be operating at about 70% capacity. But he anticipates that with the vehicle’s 28 camera capability, it will soon become a one-truck solution for 95% of Channel 7’s onsite productions.

TVBEurope toured the vehicle as it was being systems integrated for its new Australian venture at the company’s European headquarters in Watford, UK. Gearhouse Broadcast’s trucks are coach-built by A Smith Great Bentley Ltd. HD-1’s project manager is John Fisher, who has been in the industry for over 40 years. HD-1 is the sixteenth truck John has built and he will start integrating number seventeen on behalf of Gearhouse Broadcast in the New Year.

Making their truck builds long-lasting and future-proofed is vital for the success of Gearhouse Broadcast’s integration business model. All in, to build and integrate HD-1 was a multi-million pound exercise. The chassis alone takes between 26 and 28 weeks to construct. All the cable in the truck runs down a single underfloor channel in the center, rather than in the expands, so that - stationary and supported by the chassis - there is negligible wear on the cable over time. Kevin Moorhouse says of Smith’s construction, “They build trucks like battleships. It costs around three quarters of a million pounds just to build the chassis, but we expect to get ten years out of that chassis.” In fact, the group’s first truck, Unit 1, built almost 20 years ago, has just been refurbished and is still operating.

Gearhouse Broadcast made the decision to have no video jackfields on any inputs or outputs of the router in their OB vans. Given the router’s size it would be impossible to overpatch the router if it failed on a production. Also, with HD signals, the addition of a jack field’s extra connections introduce losses into the signal path. Gearhouse trucks have back up Cross-Point cards and I/O cards in case of router failure. It is this simple stripping away of everything that is not essential, while retaining and augmenting the most vital features, that has resulted in steady improvement in each iteration of Gearhouse’s OB trucks. Solutions to the puzzle of cramming three dozen workers into a confined space loaded with sophisticated technology - technology which, literally, cannot afford to fail - are solved with a simplicity and elegance.

The HD-1 seats up to 38 people. The triple expand configuration allows for unprecedented floor area. Closed for transport the unit width is 2.5 metres and will be fully within regulations for travel on Australian roads. Deployed, the 16.5 metre long truck is an impressive 7,5 metres wide –with 40 kilometers of cable inside.

The HD-1’s Pro-Bel 576 X 576 Video Router was first employed at the Beijing Olympics. The company’s ability to swap components in and out from their own inventory allows for fine tuning of their budgets – and rates for their customers. When Gearhouse has already earned money on equipment from previous shows, they can then offer such “used” technology – in this case, three months old – at more flexible pricing, if need be.

The Production section at the center of HD-1 features a unique 3-level step area. An engineering necessity was, in this case, turned into an opportunity for design innovation. The fifth wheel of the Australian rig is higher than the British standard and so required more area beneath the floor to accommodate it. The resulting steps up, allowing space for the fifth wheel, also create a tiered production area with unrestricted line-of-sight for each one of its 16 positions.

The new Sony LMD monitors Gearhouse used at the Beijing Olympics proved themselves superior in quality and resolution. Accordingly the production area was fitted out with twenty-one 24” Sony LMD 2450’s and eight 17" Sony LMD 1750’s.

The Production area also features a fully specified Sony MVS 8400 4ME Vision Mixer, with 80 Inputs, 48 Outputs, and built-in DME.

The Vision & Engineering area, in addition to the Pro-Bel 576 X 576 Router, features 5 Sony HD Grade 1 Monitors, 24 HD/SDI External Remote Source inputs
5 HD down Converters, 10 Cross Converters, 10 Synchronisers, 4 SDI Aspect Ratio Converters and 3 HD Hex Splits.

The VTR section of the truck sports 12 six-channel EVS HD XT2’s with 4 Digital VTRs, as well as a Pro-Bel 576 X 576 HD/SDI and 256 X 256 AES Routers.

HD-1 has space for three audio engineers at a Calrec Sigma Audio Desk with Bluefin technology. The Calrec Sigma has 320 channel-processing paths, allowing up to 52 × 5.1 surround channels on one Bluefin signal processing card. The truck’s audio has 320 Channel Processing Paths, 128 AES Inputs & 128 Analogue Inputs, and 128 AES Outputs, & 112 Analogue Outputs, a Pro-Bel 256-256 AES Audio Router, and a Riedel 144 X 144 Talkback System. Also included are four Dolby E Encoders and six Dolby E Decoders.


While Gearhouse Broadcast is setting new benchmarks for OB systems integration in Australia, the company will also be flying in a new and better set of tools to Sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa-based satellite broadcaster Supersport has commissioned a flyaway kit from Gearhouse for domestic football matches. It will rival anything available in Sub Saharan Africa and top most kits available in the rest of the continent. André Venter is Head of Operations for Sub-Saharan Africa, a new position created at Supersport. He vetted several companies looking for an immediate – literally immediate – solution for 8 camera Supersports football broadcasting in Africa. The production infrastructure might vary widely from country to country and for Supersport to provide consistent, first-rate service, it would need a robust kit that could be moved and deployed quickly and easily - and they wanted it immediately. Gearhouse Broadcast was the only company who, when tasked with Supersport’s request for “immediately”, responded with “no problem”. It was able to supply a loan flyaway within a week, and then set about building the three permanent flyaways. André Ventre explained “We wanted to show the world that Africa is capable of producing high quality productions that are on a par with any broadcasters across the globe.”

The fly away kit will feature an 8-camera system made up of Sony BVP E30’s, a Sony 2.5 M/E DVS vision mixer, Teletest rack mount monitors, Harris Inscriber G1 graphics, 2 x 6 Channel SD EVS XT2, Pro-Bel router, Harris glue, RTS/Telex comms system, Yamaha DM2000K digital audio mixer, and Sachtler tripods. A wide variety of Canon lenses will go with the kit too.

Word is out across African broadcasting, and Supersport is ready to ask Gearhouse Broadcast for more. First-rate, reliable technology appearing at the right time and place has stimulated a demand for more of the same.

With the world-wide credit crisis on everybody’s mind, it is gratifying to see demand for Gearhouse’s services continuing to expand. Will the OB systems integration slice of the industry remain recession-proof? Managing Director Eamonn Dowdall says they have yet to feel the pinch and adds “When people cut down on the luxuries, their subscriptions to the premium football channels is one of the last to go.”

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