I figured out an important piece of cat logic today: the tail pops out once she’s full
Getting ready to launch!
Gingy is getting really affectionate lately and asking me to pet her… Always. She’s following me around again, isn’t she? I had also called her Sandy Beach in another post which is very cute and she seems to answer to that too.
As I walked into the core to figure out why I was observing what I thought was an unwarranted audio delay, and went to have some words with the Optimod 8685, it occurred to me I have no idea what my hair looks like from the back so I took an action shot of this vital conversation with said machine and it was grand.
You can pop the tire off, but where the hell can you get a new tire?
BVU-800, I would love to know why they bothered with those slip ring contacts since this deck is NOT dynamic tracking equipped – it’s just a 4-head player.
the hell is this thing, a wannabe corvair?
An example of a U-Matic cartridge. It’s actually pretty much as small as it could possibly be for the amount of tape it holds. This is mighty 3/4″ wide tape, but the image quality looks like you recorded your footage to Scott toilet paper.
In 1986, Panasonic felt the desire to launch a competing format to Sony’s Betacam SP professional videocassette system.
By 1990 it was all but entirely gone, a commercial flop, guilty of trashing so much footage entrusted in it with massive tape dropouts.
It’s bizarre. It uses cartridges that look a lot like VHS, and it’s in fact possible to stick a VHS tape into the MII deck— and get it jammed there because it’s not exactly compatible with the loading ‘elevator’ and tape transport. It’s actually kinda more like S-VHS, but… terrible.
Apparently my station is lucky enough to have been one of the few that used the format for a while, and still has one working deck to access video on it.
The only thing I like about it is that this deck has a really cool display and the firmware will actually report to you in plain English when something’s wrong. It also uses the same reel speed ratio trick to tell you approximately how much tape is left, which Sony has had on pretty much…. every one of their professional formats, ever, so that’s nothing special, but it’s cool that it stays on the display all the time. In the photo below of the transport, you can see a roller to the left of the yellow cadmium plated elevator motor. It’s got a slotted encoder on its base that lets the deck sense the actual tape travel speed for this calculation. Interestingly, this one also leaves the tape threaded in fast forward and rewind, so you can see the timecode spin away, but on a fresh unused tape that’s never been “blacked” or used before, these sensors are the only way it’d be able to calculate the time remaining.
I’m suspecting that’s a 40×2 char VFD under the plastic there.
When I first got the deck powered up, it said “ERROR: LOADING MOTOR” or something along those lines, because the threading ring motor’s belt had lost its elasticity and grip. I was lucky enough to still have a couple of belts that fit it.
Yes, it’s got a VHS looking cartridge and a threading ring……. believe it or not that’s not the only time that nonsense has happened, there was actually a VHS transport that threaded up that way. Oh, you’d think with a name like “MII” it would use M-shaped threading like a VHS, DVCAM, or DVCPRO transport, but that wouldn’t have been AWFUL enough.
See that spinning thimble to the left of the head drum in this photo? That’s the top of the capstan. That’s the only other thing I LIKE about this powerfully cursed device: you can hold an isopropyl alcohol soaked shop towel against the capstan and turn the thimble to scrub the crappy oxide off it.
It’s got two linear audio tracks (like standard VHS) and two FM multiplexed helical scan audio tracks (like Hi-Fi VHS) – channels 1 and 2 are linear, 3 and 4 are helical. It’s like someone decided to use the worst of both worlds. Fabulous.
So if you’re wondering why I love this thing enough to have put the little drawing of Popuko on it, this deck also has the nastiest weak rack slides accompanying it, which broke and turned into a horrible ski jump while I was trying to pull the deck out of the rack to clean its heads. I was sitting on the floor and all 80 pounds or so of the thing came flying out, landed on my lap, arm, and leg, and generally left me wanting to yeet it off the roof. I’ve never had a rack slide fail in the same way these did— the mounting ears just snapped off at the screw holes like some kinda Twix bar.
It will now remain on the CART OF SHAME until it’s eventually fecking e-wasted where it belonged in the first place.
I wonder just why Panasonic even bothered with this. Everything about the system feels like they had intended to be able to create a competitor to Betacam SP that would have had a higher profit margin, BUT—- then they took every step possible to make the damn thing insanely complex and difficult to produce ????
Sometimes things just hit the wall behind the scenes but the show must go on. In this post… Teleprompter Troubles!
At some point an executive decision was made that we need to not have a prompter operator and instead the people on set should control the prompter’s scrolling. These dumb “gas pedal” controllers were installed at great effort (like, long runs of Ethernet and USB Ethernet extenders had to be installed) and it worked for, oh, about a day.
I found the problem. Springs. Why did it have to be springs?
Why I wish I never had to— oh no wait no I’d better not do that!
The coil spring around the pot shaft that returns it to zero when you let go of the pedal, which has two springs to pop itself back up, was binding up and causing the pot not to return. I coated the pot spring with grease to fix it, and coated the pedal springs as well to eliminate loud crunching sounds that’d get into Tina’s mic because she prefers to leave the pedal on the desk and press it with her hands. This worked fine and left Tina to concentrate on things like presenting the news and making adorable snack handbags for hamsters. You think I’m kidding?
A few days after I’d gotten rid of the pedal problems, the system just seemed to be hitting the wall completely with increasing frequency and vigor. First it started occasionally losing the pedals; the USB com port devices would vanish and that pedal would lose control. If it had been pressed when it happened the scroll would run away unrecoverably and you’d just have to exit and restart. On one of its more spectacular crashes it pissed off the QBox, which crashed. I power cycled it and it didn’t come back with video. Show-stopping oopsie…
This particular system from Autocue uses two parts. A Windows based PC reads the stories out of Avstar/INews or a text file and provides the user interface, and the QBox generates the actual video for the monitors.
The QBox is a Mini-ITX computer in a solid little metal box with a handle on it. It boots Linux out of a weird solid state disk module in the ATA socket and there’s a strange little three port video distribution amp bodged onto the composite video out connector from behind. I added a fan, it originally didn’t have one.
I got very anxious seeing one popped capacitor right away but that didn’t seem to be holding it back.
The issue was just a dead CMOS battery and lost settings.
After the machine going to fsck itself a minute, it came right back.
Then it just started crashing entirely, which was new and awful. On Friday it decided it was done for good and would not last through an entire show, so I started trying to get a backup image of the system to run on a newer computer. Cue four hours of massaging the drivers into Windows including loss of the USB controller entirely and having to dig up PS2 input devices….
So why did this thing put us through such acrobatics?
I opened up the PC in the control room and was greeted by this.
The SMSC chip is a “Super I/O” that lives on the pci bus and priovides serial, parallel, SMbus, GPIO, and a lot of other interface functions. Adjacent to it is an Intel chipset debug/jtag port with no connector soldered to it, just lots of corrosion. I don’t know what the substance is. I don’t want to know. It didn’t smell like anything and was pretty much solid like cement. Ew.
The other contestant earlier in the week was the WSI Max weather workstation. It’d been getting flakier and flakier for months and is due for replacement, just not soon enough.
Long story short, the video card was rotting out. I suspect the capacitors in the buck converter at the end of the card are failing as it basically ran just fine until you made the system render graphics at which point it’d just start melting down with weird memory looking issues.
In the end this was one of those “this system is discontinued, out of support, out of warranty, go source your own parts and pound sand” cases so I put an old Quadro 5600 card we had as a spare from an older generation of WSI system into the traffic computer that only renders things in 2D and liberated its monster card too revive the weather machine that does 3d…..
… just in time for us to get an ugly new graphics package company-wide with terrain that looks like dirty crumpled paper. Ewwwww!!
Me at the age of 10, watching the computing industry flourish and invite lots of opportunity and innovation: “Wow, this sounds like a fascinating place to work”
Me at the age of 18, watching the computing industry get cost-engineered, offshored, asset-stripped and shoved down a hole in the back of a former mattress factory in India: “Maybe I should use my skills in radio instead…”
Entire broadcasting products industry: *lazily runs out of ideas and switches entirely to mostly software-based products running on a cost-engineered offshore sourced PC for even the most basic and mission-critical systems*
Me at the age of 37: “man, I’m glad COVID-19 mitigation policies required me to be wearing a mask right now, as it just helpfully filtered out all the hot flying ammonia from an exploded Hong Kong fake capacitor”
Meet the old Chyron Mosaic. We have replacements to the old Chyron Mosaic racked up and ready to go, except that we were supposed to have Chyron’s assistance in turning up the systems but their support staff (who PREVIOUSLY worked from home all along, best I can tell) were furloughed months ago and have never been brought back to work.
Yesterday it mysteriously dumped a drive in its RAID array, which apparently is not a new thing for it. It has a RAID with five Samsung 512 gig SSDs and one just simply… ceased to be. I pulled the failed drive apart and looked inside but didn’t see any obvious signs of parts being blown up.
The objects below are a mic lavalier clip that simply isn’t strong enough to survive our extremely rigorous use (notably, nobody remembering to unclip it from their jacket before trying to put the mic away?)
Today it started freezing and locked up REALLY nicely to where I had to actually remove and reapply power to the box. Upon reconnecting the cord to the upper power supply, the machine powered up and all the fans came on. Upon reconnecting the lower one, it gave me a Capacitor Money Shot right in the face with the powerful stench of ammonia and metal oxides.
Somehow, though, after about five reboots, it lives just enough to be functional on air. What.
Why is everything on the SHITTIEST PCs imaginable? Sometimes I’m lucky when PC issues arise and it’s something as simple as the damn thing having overheated due to dust accumulation. This weather computer was lucky. One in our other studio just let out very expensive smoke that the vendor is balking at forcing back into it under warranty since the card that smoked went out of production before they even shipped the machine to us and its only replacement is several grand more expensive.
You may notice that in this video, as I take apart the weather computer, not a single thing inside it even remotely resembles industry standard PC parts, aside from the video cards. This Fiorina-Shenzhen (“HP”) workstation contains no standard replaceable parts, not even the cooling fans. They’re all molded into a giant plastic tray that costs several hundred dollars. Last time I had a fan failure on one of these, the tray things were still available. I have no idea if they still are.
The power supplies for the particular flavor of server chassis the Chyron Mosaic was built on are long out of availability and can’t even be opened for repair – they are spot welded shut. This was an “innovation” I first saw on Foxconn provided parts for “HP” servers.
Me: Yeah, sure, I’m turning the lights off back here every day to save energy, that’s it.
Also me: this is……. the perfect aesthetic
The powerful fiery orange flow at the end of the aisle there comes from a couple of Elemental video streaming encoders. These units have the coolest front panel… it’s got kind of a snap-on tub that covers the front of the machine with an LED strip in it and plugs into a front panel USB on the machine. These have orange hexagons. An earlier version I used at another station had green circular bubbles reminiscent of an unequal sized circle packing algorithm.
I think the three really brilliant spots of blue light are the old Ultimatte keyers.
While the humans are social distancing and working from home, the turkeys are trying to take over…
Don’t Let The Turkey Drive The Truck!!!
A previous attempt to take this picture led to a weird little toast popup on my phone that said something about saving the photo, I didn’t catch it. Apparently what happened was it got glitched! Excellent.
I actually kinda miss this. I used to have a weird HTC device that’d do this often and it was kinda excellent.
Another day, another case of being thoroughly perplexed by RF Central gear—
When the mast goes up but the signal doesn’t go out, it’s time to investigate.
The forward/reflect/12vdc return meter always seemed to show 00.0 if the PA was off… -1 if the PA was on, in any field.
TWO different bad amplifier units…. one was waiting on the shelf as a spare, one just came off the truck.
So what’s inside? I forgot to take a photo but if you remove the hex screws on the back it reveals a Stealth Microwave SM2025-44L, 25 watt linear amplifier for 2000-2500 megacycle DVB applications. Sadly. Stealth Microwave is long gone.
Interestingly the amp bricks are specified as having an internal output isolator. Nifty.
The other major part inside the amp brick is a bias tee that splits 12vdc power sent up the coax out to run the fan and the amplifier.
And now, it gets… horrifying.
I found a datasheet on the SM2025-44L and it’s specified as taking a mighty 8.5 amperes. I mean, at least it isn’t gonna arc furnace anything, but the voltage drop CANNOT be nontrivial anymore.
This has to get to it on the coax. The coax from the indoor unit in the truck to the outdoor amplifier unit is not a short sweet little run. See the big black coil up the mast in the first pic? There’s probably at least 45 feet of coax in there, plus another dozen at least to land it from the feedthrough in the roof to the IDU in the rack.
WHY DID THIS EVER WORK AT ALL? Or does it? I don’t….. I can’t even——- No——— I need to go home and collapse in bed and place the kitteh on top of me and stop trying to think for this week. DONE. I’m so done. What the hell.
Holy heck. I think I’m looking at a piece of terrible broadcasting history here— the Tektronix RFA400A.
It ran Windows NT Embedded.
It has a dual Pentium Pro Slot 1 400 Mhz backplane PC inside, which does not boot, and chances of finding a replacement are probably zero. I’d guess probably about 31 of these boards were ever made and the other 30 have already been thrown in a Homer Paint Bucket full of acid by some gold scrapper in their backyard.
I’m estimating chances of being able to repair this thing at approximately HELL NO percent. Thankfully we have far better, newer test equipment in place already. YEET!