RC 2013 WW – The Final Episode

Project: The Sound of Violence.

Well, it’s been a lot of “fun”. The hardware/software development was tricky but no so bad. However, documenting the project was somewhat more challenging!

The problem was video. The SunVideo SBus video-capture card is quite capable, but the sample software that comes with it is very buggy and completely lacking in documentation. One factor that took a long time discover is that if you start the software and *then* connect the video source, the software will immediately crash 90% of the time. Connect the video source first, and it only crashes 10% of the time!

Secondly, the SunVideo software cannot save as constant-bitrate MPEG-1, but only variable-bitrate, in spite of presenting an option to do the former. If you choose that former option, it locks up hard.

Thirdly, although not the fault of the software, it took me a while to discover that MPEG-1 video (PAL format) *must* be recorded at 25 frames/second if you want to play it back at normal speed – I had dialled the “quality” setting upto maximum (as you do), in the expectation that the resulting 15 fps capture would be fine. It is, but won’t play back properly on any other system, so is useless for publishing to the ‘net. After a bit of googling about MPEG-1, I dialled the “quality” setting down until the capture rate got to 25 fps. It took several days to realise I needed to do so.

Final Hardware
The PedalBox had a couple of late-ish adjustments: addition of sponge blocks to get the “feel” right, a revised hinge-location to enable a “heel-and-toe” method of operation, and a bit of color (Sun purple, of course).


PedalBox – The Motion Picture
Before we get to the video of the PedalBox in action, a few excuses:

The video makes the PedalBox appear to be overly sensitive; in fact, I was recording the video late at night and was worried about waking the chaps upstairs, so I was jumping and pressing the pedals very hard! The lateness also explains why the lighting arrangements are so idiosyncratic.

The video itself is very low quality – I dialled the recording quality very low, lower than it needed to be. But as capturing the video was such a pain, I am not going to do it all over again!

The PedalBox switches sound very loud on the video, due to the cheap microphone used, but they are actually quite discrete in real life.

Also, the video as uploaded plays fine from twitpic on the iPad, but generates a “cannot load resources” error when accessed from both my XP machines. It looks like a recent change on twitpic.com is a bit buggy – putting an invalid URL into the wrapping script presented on their website.

Finally, next time I am going to get a tripod for the video-cam – I had the camera balanced on the end of the ironing-board, and angled slightly downwards by judicious wedging with a library membership card and a debit-card.

So the project itself was a great success, but my attempts to document the project progress were an utter failure. Darned new-fangled technology!

Dear Hollywood, no need to worry, I’m staying on this side of the big blue watery thing.

PedalBox - The Motion Picture

UPDATE: after messing with twitpic.com for a while, I came to the conclusion that there is a problem with their “flowplayer” video wrapper. So I resorted to YouTube: PedalBox – The Motion Picture – YouTube.That’s much better, I can see the video on iPad1, XP and Solaris. I think twitpic.com had decided that my SPARCstation-10 was an iPad!!!!

Would I do another RetroChallenge? Yes, but only after getting more used to twitter and twitpic, and perhaps laying my hands on a Windows 7 machine, just for interoperability with these new-fangled websites… I have still got items left in my RetroChallenge-ideas list, but most of them are more tricky than the PedalBox. Time to start thinking about RC 2013 Summer!


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