Friday, January 30, 2009

Vista 64 Upgrade Tips for Video Editing Systems

So it's getting to be that time for Windows OS 64 bit upgrades. God I remember (though I'd prefer not to), months of utter frustration for me and my clients, upgrading Windows 2K to XP Pro. So I figure I'd share a few hints to make everything go a little bit smoother.

First off let me say that these tips are specifically for DV411 systems and the like: editing, special effects, color correction and other task oriented systems. For general computing you'll probably not want to do any of these.


Update your system BIOS, preferably before you even put in the upgrade CD or DVD. For the majority of our systems this should be relatively painless, most you can do from XP using a utility provided by the OEM or motherboard manufacturer. Disable any devices in the BIOS that you are not using (e.g. SAS controllers, parallel ports etc.).

Now take a look at your device manager, make a note of all the devices in your system and make sure there are 64-bit drivers and if so download the to a flash drive or burn them to a CD. The easiest to forget are the chipset and drivers. If you have any question about which ones you need, check your '_archive' folder (that we install on our systems) and you'll find the 32 bit drivers in there. Also be sure to get the HDD controller driver, you may need this to even install the new OS.

Now I am going to recommend everyone start with a new system drive, keep your XP drive with all your software just in case some catastrophe happens and nothing works. At least you don't have to worry about being down for any length of time. I will add as far as drives go the faster the better as always.

Some recommendations

  • New solid state drives are writing 80 to 100 MB/s and reading over 150 MB/s with capacities up to 250GB. I'm not quite ready to say grab one right away, but if your in the mood to experiment, well why not.
  • WD raptor 10K SATA drives are around 50 to 70 read/write
  • Any 7200 RPM 32MB cache drive (most of you will use this) is around 30 to 40 MB/s read/write
As always I recommend getting the smallest (in GB's not form factor) that you can get away with. The bigger the drive the more likely you are going to be lax on system maintenance and the more likely you are going to save stuff you shouldn't, to the system drive. Bear in mind your system drive is the hardest working drive and the most likely to fail. So plan on keeping it to software only if possible.

Right, so I guess we're ready to begin.


Remove unnecessary devices:

  • First, disconnect any peripherals, printers, HDD arrays and the like.
  • Next lets unplug any internal hard drives, including the current system drive, however if possible, leave it in there. No need to spend time un-mounting the old system drive if for whatever reason we have to use it.
  • Secondly and only if you are comfortable doing this lets remove every card in the system save the graphics card. Pay special attention to the second PCIe 16x slot, sometimes the retention lever is hidden by the card. Do not apply excessive force to remove or adjust anything.
  • Ok, let's just pull the power and sata/pata connection from your current system drive and put it on the new one.

Now lets take a step back and check out what we have. You should have only the system drive, DVD-ROM or other optical drive, and the graphics card connected to power. If so, we are ready to go.

So I am just going to assume the initial installation, until you need to install drivers, went smoothly and you have that annoying Vista screen in front of you. Let's plug in that flash drive
or CD and get your graphic card drivers in there first. After you reboot, lets get to a working resolution (display setting are accessed the same way as XP).

Let's bring up the device manager (Control Panel | System and Maintenance | System | Device Manager); hopefully the list of yellow is not too bad. You should have everything on your flash drive. I would start with the motherboard and onboard device drivers first e.g. Ethernet, audio, etc. You can go ahead and install any cards besides your I/O such as Fiber cards, eSATA and the like. And repeat the driver installs until you run out of yellow warnings.

The Tweaks

Now, I have a few tweaks for you before you start installing software:

  1. Disable Windows indexing - another one of those unneeded resource cloggers. If your system is incredibly fast you can keep it on. Essentially it caches files so you can search them faster, this feature will kill older systems. Go to the properties of the C: drive and uncheck “index drive for faster searching” and the check “include subfolders and files”.
  2. Turn of window search. Open a shell (start menu/run) and type Msconfig. In the services tab you'll see windows search. Uncheck it and hit OK.
  3. Turn off UAC (this feature made me want to kill people).
    This is the function that makes you confirm every bloody keystroke in the belief that it will magically prevent viruses. Click on Start and then click on your username picture top right of the start menu, then click on 'Turn User Account Control on or off',
    uncheck (or check) User Account Control, select ok and restart.
  4. Next let's get rid of a few things you'll never use. Press Start/Control Panel/Classic View and select Programs and Features, Choose 'Turn Windows Features On and Off. You can safely unselect 'Indexing Service', 'Windows DFS Replication Service', 'Windows Fax & Scan' (unless you use Fax through a modem), Windows Meeting Space, Games, 'Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications'.
There are a bunch of other things you can do to remove process bloat, but I think this much will get us started. As well there are things like disabling autoplay and going to a more classic GUI scheme, but those don't matter much with the powerful graphics cards these days. Anyway it's all matter of your comfort level with the interface.

At this point we should power down and reconnect any internal drives and mount the new system drive in the place of the old one. Just pop the old drive into a static bag and find a nice shelf for the old guy. Lets reconnect any fiber or SCSI arrays at this time. If you have large arrays we will want to plan on reformatting them, but let's not get into that now.

Lets go back to the device manager and make sure everything you just connected shows up and has drivers. Also check if any drives need to be reactivated or imported.

Software Installation

Now the fun part - installing your software. Just get it all in there, I usually do the Adobe suites first. And don't forget to run any updates that are available. Also make sure any plugin's you have are 64 bit compatible. I have a feeling this is going to be our biggest problem. But I am going to assume it went fine. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Right, let's shut down and install your I/O card (AJA, BMD, Matrox, etc.). You might want to send me an e-mail, I sure there will be some card specific tweaks for each manufacturer that we'll have to deal with. I can't write about them yet mostly, because no one is giving me any yet :).

Last but not least, lets install these new fangled I/O card drivers! I'm hoping they're painless and easy (again at the time of this writing, I ain't got ‘em). Testing protocols will be different for each type of card (and each client). The first thing to check is your output plugins. The easiest is to load up After Effects, set the preview settings to the card and make sure you are getting some output. I recommend a standard test pattern. Don't forget to test both digital and analog. Next test capture, this is going to vary depending on what camera/deck you have. As well, try importing footage captured from your previous version. Now lets import a couple of your CS3 projects/comps.

So that's basically it. This little article Is not complete at all mind you, I just wanted to give you all a heads up with what you're in for. As time passes I will have a much better idea of what specific hardware/software configurations work best. Stay tuned! Get it, like tune up…You know puns used to be the highest form of comedy *sigh*.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grass Valley up for sale

A well informed colleague of mine tipped me off that Grass Valley is up for sale as its parent Thomson has to shed weight in order to stay in business, according Thomson's yesterday's press release, and to an article on Television and Broadcast site. Says Thomson:
"The Board of Directors has approved the Chief Executive Officer’s proposal to divest its non-strategic operations. These assets, which include Grass Valley and PRN, accounted for approximately 1 billion euros of sales in 2008."
Grass Valley started in 1958 (wiki), merged with Tektronix in 1974 and has become one of the most recognizable brands in the television broadcast industry. It was acquired by Thomson SA in 2002.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WD puts out a 2TB drive

Hard disk makers manage to squeeze more and more stuff into smaller and smaller spaces. Wish they'd do the same with my girlfriend's closet.

Only yesterday, a 1.5TB drive was big news, and today, a 2GB one makes a big splash. Enter "WD Caviar® Green" WD20EADS.

At first, the "green" part sounds like a gimmick, and yet the drive, according to Western Digital, is the "the coolest and quietest in its class", which is indeed green, and there is a lot of power consumption related information on the drive's page. Well done Western Digital.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Component to FireWire conversion?

Q: How do I convert from component video to FireWire?

A: You need a converter, and there is a number of them, ranging from $140 to $3,000. All of these units can work with NTSC or PAL signals.
  • Grass Valley (formerly Canopus) ADVC-700, approx. $2,000: a 1U rackmountable box that does a great job converting, plus additional features: balanced or unbalanced audio, RS-422 (aka Sony 9-pin VTR control), LTC.
    Pros: compatible with nearly any FireWire-equipped device on Planet Earth, clean conversion that Canopus and Grass Valley are famous for, deck control, XLR/balanced audio, renowned brand.
    Cons: not exactly cheap
    Bottom line: if you need XLR, RS422 or LTC, take this one.
  • Data Video DAC-15, about $800: Component to DV/FireWire and back, RS422, unbalanced audio only.
    Pros: robust industrial unit from a well established manufacturer of broadcast appliances, large buttons to switch between inputs and outputs, mostly BNC connectors (a good thing).
    Cons: no balanced audio (XLR) I/O.
    Bottom line: need a decent quality professional converter? This is the one.
  • ADS Pyro AV/Link, (also: Google shopping search) about $140: RCA connectors, quality and reliability maybe so-so compared to ADVC-700, and the quality of its component input may not be that much better than S-Video. And if S-Video is good enough for you, I'd recommend ADVC-110, for the same reasons as ADVC-700: compatibility, reliability, quality. No RS422, balanced audio or LTC, of course.
ADVC-700 and DAC-15 units are bi-directional, i.e. convert from component video (YUV) to FireWire/DV and back, while Pyro AV/Link has component input only, but not output.

Vista 64 upgrades

So it’s getting to be that time for Windows OS 64 bit upgrades. God I remember the windows 2K to XP pro months (though I’d prefer not to) as a time of utter frustration for us and our clients. So in the next few days I figure I’ll give you all a few hints to make everything go a little bit smoother. I'll be posting here and of course the full "to do" on the DV411 website.
We are all looking forward to February when 64 bit drivers are expected for most third party I/O hardware. Lets hope they accomplish this feat!

The magic link: changing the administrative email address in PayPal

Do you have a PayPal account? Ever tried to change the administrative email address on it? How was it? For me, it was horrendours: 5 years of dismal failures - until today. And today is the day when I said to myself, once again: kudos to the powers of Google. I worship you. You helped me find the answer.

Aided by Google, I ran across a blog article about the same issue, posted by the incredibly nice folks at Tez and Dro. Their instructions worked like a charm:
  1. Log in to your account at
  2. Copy and paste the following magic link, in to the address bar.
  3. Select an existing email address from the drop down menu that you want to make the new administrative email address, and click "Continue". You are done! The email address you selected will now be the administrative email address.
Why is it a big deal? Because nowhere on PayPal site, you can find this information, and you cannot do it yourself without knowing that magic link above. Your attempts to contact PayPal Customer Service or Support will be futile. They will send you useless instructions without the magic link. They will promise to update your account themselves, only to never do it. They will ignore your requests. I have had at least five incredibly frustrating email exchanges with PayPal, over the past five years.

I honestly don't know why this is such a big deal, but regardless: thank you Tez and Dro!

Friday, January 9, 2009

SSDs are coming. No, really.

Sandisk announced a new line of SSDs on Jan 8 (thanks for the tip ZDnet!) that take a step closer to the tipping point where regular, spinning hard disks no longer make sense for some people. People for whom pure capacity per dollar is less of a priority vs. power consumption, reliability, or speed.

A 240GB G3 series SSD drive from Sandisk will sell for $499, and will come in either 1.8" or 2.5" versions. Its main advantage is speed - 200MBs read and 140MBs write speeds - about 4 times faster than those of a 7200rpm desktop drive.

Put 5 of these babies on a fast RAID0 controller, and there you have 1.2TB array with a theoretical bandwidth of 1GBs, for under $3K. While that may be still expensive, the kicker is that it is fast enough to pull two streams of 10-bit 1080/60p, which normally requires a stack of 20 desktop or server drives in an array requiring lots of power and cooling.

We are getting to a point where uncompressed HD editing can be done on a laptop in a Starbucks shop.

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