Friday, December 14, 2007

toon fans only...

... or should that be Pixar Pedants?

Impressively detailed post of the cross-references and in-jokes in Pixar feature films. Now how many did you spot beforehand?

read it in Jim Hill's blog here

Thursday, December 13, 2007

mac "compatible" iPlayer limps in

An early Christmas present of sorts for MacHeads (I guess that's us). The BBC iPlayer, previously not for Macs, as so frequently noted here, is due for a relaunch on Christmas Day in a Mac compatible version.

The beta version has soft-launched today. The interface is the same across all platforms, I believe, and has been slightly re-worked from the original beta. For Mac and Linux based users, it's a streaming-only service, which uses Flash (.swf files).

It works OK-ish. For full-screen playback you need the latest Flash 9, and there's a link on the BBC iPlayer site. Bizarrely you have to choose Intel or PPC downloads (Adobe don't know how to find out??). Quality is grainy full-screen on my MBPro, nowhere near as good as streamed H.264 files from the Apple site, but acceptable for that programme you missed and have to see. I don't know how they are encoded yet - all I can see are .swf files, which could contain any standard. Different programmes may be at different quality levels? Not all content appears to be streamable - this may be just a teething period, I guess, as they update the libraries of files on launch. Obviously you'll need broadband, and the speed of your broadband link may be critical. (Not to mention any data limits on your account).

Find it at

There's also an updated version of the BBC Radio player on the same site.

An End of Year puzzle.

What links the following numbers: 40, 87 and 4.43361875?

The last one is the easiest, or rather, it's one you know or you don't. 4.433 etc is the frequency in MHz of the PAL colour subcarrier. What do you mean, you didn't know that? To TV engineers from the Analogue era - either service technicians or broadcast engineers - it's as familiar a figure as 625 lines, or today's 720 or 1080 magic numbers. And this year marks the 40th birthday of the first PAL colour TV services. Soon it'll be no more, as we move to digital switchover: we use the term PAL loosely to describe the 625 line TV standard, but strictly speaking it's only applicable to the analogue broadcast signal and the CVBS analogue signal that comes out of the back of VHS and DVD players. All the rest: S-video, DV, HD of course, even component and SDI signals - they're not PAL encoded. So it'll be farewell to the invention of Dr Walter Bruch of the Telefunken company. As you might know, Telefunken held the patents for PAL, or, more accurately I suspect, for the decoding circuitry of PAL, which included that high technology of the day, the analogue quartz delay line. I was told that, when the first Trinitron receivers came on the market, Sony were unable or unwilling to purchase licences, and so the sets discarded half the colour information and decoded the TV signal as a modified form of the US NTSC signal. Hence the 'hue' knob on these sets which changed the displayed signal to the viewers' whim, be it blue or green. Farewell too to the 'Hanover Bars' of which more another time.

And the 87? By coincidence it's also the 40th anniversary of the Neumann U87 microphone, which, as their own website describes, is probably the most famous model of studio microphone in the world. Should you be so inclined, there's a special anniversary edition of the U87 for sale in a 'classic' case which looks very fine indeed, an upmarket suitcase if ever I saw one. Ogle it here.

More musings on these anniversaries in the next podcast, when I get time and studio space to spare.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The last wefcpug of 2007

Yes, it's wefcpug phil with the blog reminder of our final meeting of the year, back in the BBC bar on Monday next (10th Dec): 7pm kickoff. Notre vieux ami Richard has been detained by Cupertino agents in Paris this week to have his brain updated to version 6.1 and he's bursting with enthusiasm for Soundtrack Pro. I'll remind him he was going to talk about when I find my notes (or read the wefcpug website).

It's been quiet on this channel for the last fortnight, pressure of work I'm afraid. It's all been in aid of tonight's RTS West of England awards, in the luxurious Marriott Royal in prestigious downtown Bristol. Look carefully in the background of any local news footage of (their own) winners tomorrow and you might see yours truly lurking by the floor camera (wearing the classic combination of dinner jacket, headphones and clipboard). To any readers who are in for an award tonight, good luck! And if you win, the drinks are on you.