Bok-AWWW, Sacramento

I heard some happy crowing in the studio this morning and went to investigate.

“Sir, are you aware you’re a rooster?”

S H 🐣 🐣 K

Yeti the rooster and Patty the duck were wonderful guests and gave us all plenty of happy butt wiggles and little chirps.

420 smoke semiconductors every day

Did I ever mention that I’m glad I don’t have any Screen Service rigs in my care?

These RF Central ENG microwave rigs are quite enough thank you!

I dunno, Italian transmitters aren’t my cup of tea, but at least they’re leaps and bounds better than PissTek. 😉

/!\ DANGER: THIS POST CONTAINS COMIC SANS /!\



This dumb thing has never once inspired any confidence in me, between the choice of font on its GUI (various old Harris / Leitch products are infected with Comic Sans including whatever this was based on) and the fact that it ROUTINELY makes one of our stations fail to black and has to be bypassed out brutally with a patch cable and whacked in the face with a large trout with great vigor until it reboots. As an added bonus, the setup / diagnostic screens do not work, you instead get a big fat flash of “Not Available” in Comic Sans.

 

this inspires about as much confidence as it should (none at all)

also wordpress literally reverted automatically to the default style and will not allow me to type more than one block of text in Comic Sans and this is probably very much for the better ok

At least the actual keyer card (as unstable as it is) presents a tiny bit of data via a… perplexing, tiny, graphic VFD display on the module edge. Why a VFD here? At least it’s not an OLED that goes unreadable after a year.

ok that’s enough comic sans now i’m gonna go wash my eyes out with tape head cleaner

 

The best testimonial I’ve ever seen

From a fellow engineer:

Our guys were so impressed with the Selenio at our sister station that as the NetVX aged into backup status, we bought a Harmonic.

selenio shitpost
sorry, I only have M$ Paint on this workstation and it’s fairly useless for proper shitposting

 

For the uninitiated— what this unit does in its most common configuration in a TV station is it takes in one or more audio/video inputs, encodes them to MPEG-2 program streams for digital television, and finally sends the output out as an ASI stream. An ASI stream is a combined feed of all of the subchannels to be sent over the air plus the metadata (PSIP), and is what is actually modulated and sent out by the transmitter. The PSIP is used as an index by your receiver and populates both the channel definitions and the program/station info that gets displayed in the program guide. That being said, it is the house of cards upon which your entire station is delicately balanced. 😉

In all seriousness, this is one of the strangest, most fragile, and most inherently unsupportable pieces of hardware I’ve ever worked with. The UI from which you have to perform most configuration tasks is based on Microsoft Silverlight, which is a dead-ass format M$ came up with to compete with Flash, which is also a dead-ass format. Double-dead-ass? I dunno. It’s pretty awful and soon I predict that’ll require us to keep some old computer around with an EoL version of Windows and Silverlight installed and no auto updates allowed because M$ will just decide to flush Silverlight away entirely.

There’s also a telnet interface into the thing for which there’s little documentation. Certain configuration tasks (which is to say most of them) require a call in to Imagine Communications support because it’s just… well, at least one person who worked on the software knows how it works, right?

The hardware design is kinda questionable and the firmware hocks up hairballs for no good reason. So far across the three of these I’ve worked with, I’ve experienced phantom frame controller failures, A/V desync, audio loss, video loss, video freeze, video macroblocking, unreported loss of ASI output with invalid picture input, reported loss of ASI output with valid inputs, and one that just plain powered off and restarted during the evening news. Oh, and you see that little display on the front? It CAN display useful status information, but…. doesn’t. Also, Imagine Communications’ idea of a “screen saver” for the little OLED screen is to display “Imagine Communications” on the top line, unmoving, forever… so when you try to view any status/fault info, you’re reading it through a permanent shadow of “Imagine Communications” that’s practically CHISELED into the matrix. Ew.

 

How to stir the pot with bad statistics

This one TV station keeps posting news stories about InSANeLy HiGh gAs PriCeS!!!LOL to Facebook and it stirs people up.

Each time they’re going on about $5+ gas.

Each time, they are using a Chevron station somewhere as an example, and I’m guessing they’re using one near the rental car return at LAX.

You know…. That One Station That’s Always A Couple Dollars High.

Here’s an example from the comments:

It is also worth noting that Chevron is usually more expensive than other brands.

Yeah, uh….

No

Sync Pulse of Horror

Copied from where I wrote about it on Facebook…

Let me take a moment to tell a tale of horror. Sorry, I missed Halloween with this one….

The Evertz 7700ADA7: A wonderful piece of hardware. Truly wonderful, I have nothing but glowing things to say aboutAAAAHH HELL IT’S A PIECE OF CRAP.

https://evertz.com/products/7700ADA7

Look in its manual and you’ll see a big contradiction. The block diagram says it has buffers on every output. The text says it has three output buffers. In reality, best I can tell from physically inspecting the card, it has ONE and all the outputs are just paralleled… maybe in pairs or something? Look closely and you can see the ICs at the right where the outputs come off. Everything to the left of center or so on the card is the power conversion and fault detection circuitry.

The input can be set with 75 ohm termination onboard or hi-z. This is like the inputs on the old Grass Valley Group analog video DAs, except that those had a far more convenient setup with two BNC spigots on the back – you used it either as a loop thru (short BNC jumper to the next DA card in the frame if you needed more ouptuts) or popped a terminator on the unused one.

Evertz says you can use BNC tees to do the same thing on theirs, except… there’s no physical space for the tee to fit back there… and if you do somehow manage to physically connect the cards up this way it’s obvious their idea of “hi-Z” loads the line down BADLY after connecting two or three cards.

So, someone who came to that facility before me wired the cards with the black burst coming from the Evertz GPS locked sync generator and switch unit of HORRORS (more on this later!) to the input on the first of like six 7700ADA7’s, then a short jumper from output #7 to the input of the next… and so on…!!!

I mean, luckily, by some grace of Farnsworth’s ghost himself, this still managed to work… HOWEVER…

Please note that I said the outputs are not individually buffered.

The DA outputs were all full up when I had to connect a long cable to a new video playout system, except for one output on the first in the chain that went to some long abandoned weirdness halfway across the building.

I will state the following now that the statute of limitations is over and I am several thousand miles from anyone who would want to throw things at me for what happened.

We were in a newscast and a break was rolling at the time. I disconnected the mystery cable and there was no excitement. I connected the cable that went about 100′ over to the new playout system, and I heard screaming.

Apparently when I connected the new cable, a glitch occurred on the output of that DA, and since it had no buffers, it propagated down to all the others and effectively to every other piece of equipment in the plant. The people in the control room were treated to the sight of every source suddenly melting down and laaaazily reclocking and coming back one at a time.

At the same time, this lit the FU Cracker on each of our Ericsson satellite receivers. See, this model.. I think it was RX8400? … if you paid for a ton of extra option codes you got an internal frame sync/converter. This was EXTREMELY FRAGILE, though– if you caused any problem with the black burst sync, the FU Cracker’s 45 second fuse was now lit and there was not a thing you could do about it. Once the fuse burned down, BANG!!!! The video and audio were gone. It’d sometimes come back after an agonizing 15 seconds or so, but if it did, this would keep recurring until you rebooted the receiver.

You could practically hear the hissing.

Fortunately no sat feeds were used in the remainder of this newscast and I was able to go around and do the mass reboots once it ended.

So, as for that Evertz failover switch unit that fed the stack of DAs with blackburst… boyy that thing had a … failure mode… about it.

So the way that unit worked was it took the output of two independent GPS locked timecode generators that I think put out SMPTE timecode and trilevel sync. This fed into the failover box which would “seamlessly” take over if one of those went invalid or failed, I guess, and it also generated blackburst with VITC, had a small DA for the trilevel sync (4 ports or something), and also generated a 10 mhz reference signal and some other stuff I’ve long since forgotten.

The chief engineer needed trilevel sync for something near it, so he removed the terminator from one of the taps on that DA.

“Tick tick tick tick tick tick”, responded the failover unit.
Cue MASSIVE screaming from every corner of the facility. Bad sync hit HARD, all the satellite receivers puked their guts up instantly, just about the only thing that survived it was the Omneon playout boxes and the Kahuna switcher. No more live shots as the receivers decoding their ASI streams died. Yes, we were in a newscast. Recorded packages were frantically bumped up the schedule as the Omneons, Grass Valley K2 playout and cameras were the only thing left alive.

The Omneons and K2’s were really good about sync loss, if the sync went invalid they just switched to free running without any further ado. Everything else was just a fecking drama queen.

A broadcast engineer’s nightmare.

I’m referring to a literal nightmare here, not a figurative one. I had a pretty frighteningly vivid one last night. I blame being a bit tired out after having subjected myself to transistor horror.

In this dream I had been invited to visit an engineer at a local TV station. In reality, up here in the northern Sacramento Valley, there’s pretty much just one TV station that produces the news for most of the cities north of Sac.. anyway…

I walked into the facility which was in some nondescript warehouse bay, past a row of dusty screaming servers, and into a dark, cold little control room that had unpainted drywall walls and a window looking out on the news set.

Photo by Tiia Monto

There was just one guy there. He sat in front of some kind of really REALLY dummied down console that had a few faders and buttons on it which apparently did next to nothing as they were covered in dust. A small cheap netbook computer with the power lead duct taped into the side sat in the middle of this console. The only button that did anything was an illuminated and quite worn TAKE button on the lower right corner. Above this console was some kind of weird rackmount unit with two 16:9 CRT monitors and a satellite receiver. One was on program out, one was showing the output of a waveform rasterizer somewhere which revealed the same thing that the program monitor did: the cameras which were on robotic pedestals out in the studio, which were set on auto white balance and auto iris, were shaded very very badly. No controls were present to correct this.

Nobody else was present.

The news show opened and the talent began reading from their teleprompters. The prompters were fed from who the hell knows where (the engineer didn’t even know!) and there were really messed up lower thirds and captions that appeared and disappeared pretty much whenever they felt like it – the guy was reading the show rundown on the netbook screen and calling the scenes, as he pressed the worn old take button to transition between them, but only the people on set actually ever seemed to listen. The cameras often didn’t move when they were supposed to, or pointed at the ceiling or something, and nobody was here to fix it— he’d just smash the take button again and skip the scene where they were supposed to be used.

Of course, the Sinclair group ‘must read’ propaganda piece on fake news was read by the talent. (In reality, this one local news station we have up here is a Shitclair property, but they have never read this that I’m aware of— instead they just have this weird pretentious sounding statement about accuracy.)

The weather was then run, supposedly from a local meterologist, but in reality it came from a satellite feed from who the hell knows where. A low Eb/N0 warning flashed on the receiver display and it glitched out. The engineer just hit TAKE again and the commercial break began.

I just felt this horrible sense of terror and started running. The shitty little warehouse bay suddenly became an endless maze of alternately insanely dense or empty racks of nonsense equipment and cabling. At some point I saw a display showing the transmitter readings, the VSWR was high as hell, the signal was (miraculously) in mask, but the 8VSB eye diagram showed two entire levels smashed flat and missing… I thought to myself “well, at least that means nobody is able to watch this shitty trainwreck over the air!”…

Then I was suddenly back home in my bedroom watching this shit on the television. There was a badly corrupted picture on screen as they started talking about a farmer’s market up in Shingletown. I saw one of my enormous Yaesu satellite base radios sitting on the nightstand, which was actually a useful detail later in convincing myself I dreamed all this shit.

Then I woke up, but I was stuck in that horrible state of having to convince myself that this incredibly vivid dream was NOT real.

WHAT THE FUCK WAS ANY OF THAT, BRAIN?! What’s scary is, depending on who you ask, this is the grim future of television news. It was truly horrifying at the time.

Here, enjoy these ridiculous-ass 90s game commercials.

THE SAME VOICE IS USED IN THE NEXT ONE— which made me loudly exclaim “ohhhh hell nope”.

As a palate cleanser, here’s a Gak ad. (GAK FARTS INTENSIFY.)

Pop Team Epic is amazing.

I’ve never seen anything so wonderfully deconstruct every possible trope in the world of anime, the very medium of anime itself, and even the nature of humor itself as what I’ve seen out of Pop Team Epic, but then this gem appeared in episode #8—

This is actually still animation, technically. In fact, they’ve also used puppetry which can be classified as animation. I’ve just never seen a performance anything like this before and it totally blew me away. I watched it twice and the second time I was looking for anywhere they could have cut it between takes— I only noticed one cut in the last few seconds when they cut to zoom in.

Some years ago I had a dream where I had found an episode of “Dave Barry TV” on the tube late at night. The sort of situations and pacing in Pop Team Epic reminds me of what I saw in that dream— except, in that dream, the episode of Dave Barry TV lasted about four minutes after which Dave didn’t know what to do past that point so he spent the rest of the episode massacring low-flow toilets.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLabhPVVG2I

The Maddening Tale of Mr. Ramko.

Note: This is not about anyone named Mr. Ramko. It is about a real person though, whose identity I have replaced with the name of a manufacturer of really shitty audio gear.

This is a kind of long mess so I’ll use the “don’t make the main page ten miles long” tag as I did for The Scrolling Tray Of Horrors

Read more “The Maddening Tale of Mr. Ramko.”