Posts Tagged ‘videophill’

Finally – an Osprey Alternative

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

For years, video capture, at least for media monitoring companies, was dependent on Osprey capture cards.  They are the best there are in the field, and once you try it, you don’t look for anything else anywhere else.  You just pay the price and are satisfied with it.  The card has excellent drivers with tons of options, SimulStream as an (paying) option, …  real real beauty.

However, as we said above, it is pricey.  For Osprey 460e, you need to hand out about $1200 USD.  That’s $300 per channel.

Now, click here:

http://www.vd-shop.de/simultaneously-capture-d130fpsinput-interface-rcabnc-inter-p-591.html

YES!  6 channels for 320 Euro ($400 USD).  I won’t calculate per channel price here, since it is already obvious that Osprey is beaten, at least as price is concerned.

In fact, lets see, on a setup of say 24 channels, how much do you save using new cards:

Osprey: 6 cards, $7200
VCAE: 4 cards, $1600

So only on capture hardware, you could save $5600.  Add to that lower cost of hardware (servers) since you can pack everything in lesser amount of PCs.

So, to follow up on the excitement of finding that this card exists, I immediately ordered a sample to try it with our capture software.  It came in few days, and we went on and installed it…

And the story has to end here, since card works as it should out of the box, enabling media monitoring installations to be even cheaper now.  Not only that, a card has an interesting form factor and low consumption, and will prove ideal in multiple channel scenarios.

I will update the article with 24/7 testing in real world, as soon as we make an installation that has such properties.

Setting up an automated ad monitoring service for TV

Friday, October 26th, 2012

So you want to set up your own automated advertisement monitoring for some TV channels?  And you probably have an idea how to sell the reports from the whole system?  Let me try to explain one of the possible ways of doing it.

Overview

Advertisement monitoring system isn’t so complicated, but it isn’t simple either.  You’ll need computers, people, and some kind of service to automatically track advertisements that are spotted once.

Recording

For starters, you have to be able to record all your needed TV channels.  Depending on the TV system used in your country, you’ll have several options for it.  From our shop, we can solve recording for analog tv, DVB-T, DVB-S, IPTV.  In any case, if you can get composite video signal from your set-top box, you will be able to record it with VideoPhill Recorder.

Storing and archiving

Recorded broadcast should go to some storage, depending on the number of days that you want your broadcast archive to be available.  To calculate how much storage space you will need for it, you can use this on-line calculator.

Clipping and tagging

So now we have recordings of the TV broadcast.  Next step is to form a team of people who will find and tag the first occurrence of an advertisement.  Number of people and workstations required for the job depends on many factors:

  • number of channels monitored
  • channel ‘difficulty’ (how easy is to find commercials on the channel)
  • number of shifts that people will do

In short, you’ll need some way of accessing the archive and clipping the portions of it in order to have clips of advertisements extracted and prepared for automated archive search.

One possible way of doing the job is by using VideoPhill Player application.  To see it in action, please see video below…

Automated search

Almost there…  Now, you have your archived broadcast, and you have your clip library.  To find all of the occurrences of all clips on all your channels, you’ll simply pass whole archive and clip library to a PlayKontrol Service and get your results.  Results can be in any format that you require, such as text, excel, PDF, XML, and so on.

Producing reports for your customers

Really final component of the system (apart from selling the reports) is a team of people who will use raw data that PlayKontrol will provide and produce nice reports for your customers.  People on this job should be able to understand the needs of the media buyers and planners, and generate the reports that would be useful for them.

How to reduce hard drive fragmentation

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

The topic of drive fragmentation might be a little out in this days, but since I spent great deal of my youth watching PC Tools defragment my drive in a graphically pleasing fashion, I am inclined to think that drive fragmentation (when excessive) can severely reduce both computer performance and hard drive life.

As this might be true for the common day-to-day user, it is particularly true for corporate/enterprises that do need their data to be:

  • accessible,
  • quickly accessible,
  • accessible for a long time

In a common computer use scenario, most of the files are there for computer to read an use, either as software that has to be loaded into memory, or documents that have to be shown to the user.  Writing to the hard drive is uncommon operation (when you put it against the number of reads) and thus the drive fragmentation however present is in fact easily ignored.

Continuous stream recording, enter…

In my business (my clients businesses’ to be exact) the hard drives are working in opposite.  They WRITE all the time, and read only on occasions.  And the problem that will surely lead to fragmentation is that in most situations they need to write MULTIPLE long files continuously.  Let me try to explain what, first from the aspect of why, then move to what…

When either running VideoPhill Recorder for recording video, or using StreamSink to record internet media streams, in most cases user has MULTIPLE channels recorded on one computer.  Files that are created by that recording are commonly created at one time (all of them) and are grown continuously until closed.  Since Windows is, as it is now, an operating system that can’t reserve drive space in advance (maybe it can, but software doesn’t know how long the files would be) the space for them will be allocated as the time goes by.  If we have 4 files that are written slowly but concurrently (and are grown at the same time), we’ll certainly have the following situation on the hard drive (I’m talking ONLY about the data that is stored here, and am simplifying physical hard drive storage as a continuous slate):

file1_block1
file2_block1
file3_block1
file4_block1
file1_block2
file2_block2
file3_block2
file4_block2
.
.
.
file1_blockN
file2_blockN
file3_blockN
file4_blockN

That means fragmentation.  File isn’t in continuous blocks, but is scattered in evenly and can’t be read sequentially from the hard drive.  You might be lucky and your blocks could be scattered in a way that sectors on the drive will be adjacent and this won’t pose a problem, but what are the chances? :)

And when file1 gets deleted, what remains on the hard drive?  A blocks filled with nothing, left there for other files to fill them.  New files will try to fill them, and the drive will soon be completely jumbled.  It will all be hidden from you by the OS, but still, OS will have to deal with it.

And that is the story of 4 channels.  What about situation when you have 60 channels recorded on one machine (I’m talking about internet stream recording, of course).  Such an archive could be found here: http://access.streamsink.com/archive/

If you aren’t convinced that this really IS a problem, you can stop reading now.

Rescue #1 – Drive Partitioning

It is feasible in situations where there is low number of channels that needs to be recorded.  If you have 4 channels, you’ll create 4 partitions, and each partition will have nice continuous files written to it.  Done.

However, you can’t have 50 partitions on one drive and get away with it.

Rescue #2 – Queued File Moving

Other solution for large number of channels presents itself in a form of a temporary partition for initial file recording, and then moving out the files to their permanent location later, but ONE FILE at a time, in a queue.

Queued Moving of Files in StreamSink

This is implemented in StreamSink, and it even has an ability to throttle data rate when moving the files to another drive.  Only thing that is of a problem here is wasting of a temporary hard drive, because it gets beaten by fragmentation.

Rescue #3 – Using RAM Drive on Method #2

While I was writing the article about NAS, thought flashed across my mind – can we avoid writing to the temporary drive and reduce the load ONCE more?

Yes, we can.  I know that RAM Drives are also out of fashion, but here one will come handy.  It’s the shame that support for it isn’t included in the system already, so with little googling I found this: http://www.ltr-data.se/opencode.html/#ImDisk

I installed it on the testing server, re-configured the application to use new temporary folder, and from now on, it runs so smooth I can’t hear it anymore :)

Some technical stuff:

  • in this instance, I am currently recording 62 channels and cumulative rate for it is around 5 megabit/second
  • my files have duration of 5 minutes, which means that recorded chunks are closed and moved to permanent storage every 5 minutes
  • during those 5 minutes, each file will grow so much that the whole content for those 5 minutes won’t get over 200megabytes
  • I created 512 megabyte ram drive, just to be safe

Conclusion

Take care of your hard drive, and don’t dismiss old-techs such as RAM Drives just yet.

If I was about to implement this on an application level, I would have to spend a great deal of time, and some media types won’t even be possible to implement – Windows Media for example, writes to disk or to other places if you employ magic…  With use of RAM Drive, it was done in a matter of minutes.

Windows Media Encoder – loss of conection

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

When using WME (look at the title) common problem is that out-of the box application doesn’t handle connection problems when using PUSH method. We adressed that problem with VideoPhill Recorder and made so it reconnects automatically every time connection is lost. So you won’t lose any effort for reconnecting to the server mannually if your connection is shaky.

So, if you have VideoPhill Recorder, and want to do streaming from the same computer, give us a call.

Bitrate Calculator

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

In contact with customers, or prospective customers, hard drive capacity questions are most common ones.  To that effect, I prepared two tools: one being PDF file with various bit rates, days, and hard drive spaces, and other being this little calculator that you can use on-line to help yourself see what hard drive you need.

One comment though: manufacturers of hard drives usualy have 1000 where should be 1024.  That means that 1G is 1.000.000.000 bytes for the manufacturer, and in reality it is 1.073.741.824 bytes.  So, after making a calculation with tool below, please add 7.3% to the hard drive space calculated.

Please note: you should enter all values EXCEPT the one marked with radio button.  That values will be calculated when you press ‘calculate’ button.

Here is the table: hard-disk-bitrate

Calculator below can be used to calculate all combinations of values – for example, if you have fixed hard drive space, and fixed days that you need to record, you can use it to estimate bitrate you should use. Just click on the radio button left of bitrate field, and fill all of the remaining fields. On the other hand, if you need to fix your bitrate, and you have disks of fixed capacity, and want to see how many days of recording that will come to, just click on radio button left of days field, fill in rest of the stuff and click calculate.

When experimenting with various drives/bitrates/days etc. you can make yourself a table of values for comparation. Any time you want you can press ‘add’ button and small table will appear at the bottom of the calculator summarizing your choices.

If still are not sure how to use it, click here to see short movie of it’s usage.

 
 
 

Windows Services to Kill

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

VideoPhill Recorder is a dedicated software, and it should have it’s own machine.  So, bare Windows XP, all the updates, all the right drivers, and that’s it.  By default, if you open Services in Computer Management, you’ll see that many of them are started, and they also have start-up type set to Automatic.  Which means they start with Windows, regardless of their usage.  They eat memory, and some of them eat CPU and other resources.  So I went further and compiled a list of services that VideoPhill users could and should kill, thus freeing about 400MB memory when system is running.  Other Windows XP user could do the same, but maybe to lesser extent.

Here’s the list:

  • Automatic Updates
  • Cryptographic Services
  • Distributed Link Tracking Client
  • Error Reporting Service
  • IPSEC Services
  • Net Logon
  • Print Spooler
  • Protected Storage
  • Remote Registry
  • Secondary Logon
  • Security Center
  • System Restore Service
  • Task Scheduler (if not used)
  • Themes
  • WebClient
  • Windows Firewall/Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)
  • Wireless Zero Configuration (if you don’t use WLAN)

I also plan to make a script, batch file that will make all the services have start-up type = manual.  On this page there is some useful information on how to do it.

Medianet visited

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

In our continuing mission to find new customers and enable them to remove their VHS bases video archives, we found medianet.hr company.  They do their press-clipping and media-clipping work and they really need video, audio, and other types of archives.  So, we engaged to provide video services for them.

I can say that guys there were really interested in our work.  You can’t really know how motivating that is.  Their main concern is their enormous archive that goes several years in the past, and is stacked onto the shelves of their office.

One repeating issue was brought up on the meeting.  That is our renown DVD export for VideoPhill player.  So, with so many interested parties, it seems like we are obliged to make it.

On to the Internet we go…  to find something that will enable us to do so.  I can take two roads here: GPL road and fully commercial road.  One leads to ffmpeg with dvdflick (or parts of it), and other leads to MainConcept.

Also, something that has troubled me for many times, is that they pay massive fees annually to the company that provides software for video clip recognition.  Since that feature lies exactly on my interest path, I guess that I will try to hit that road also.  I am thinking that some basic clip recognition could be build, but to fully test it we’ll need massive archive.  So another curious task, to build one.  My flat/office already is starting to look like a hi-tech warehouse, who know where it will go from there.

And at the end – it’s now very clear that stream logger project that I started as a pet project needs to be produced commercially.  There really is a strong need for such a product, or a service that we could provide to them.  Again, to test it and develop it massive storage space should be provided.  I found out that Addonics has very interesting gadgets to that effect.  But their shipping is expensive, so I’ll wait some more until I will really need something big from them.

Softing-eu comes to Zagreb

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Since the days I started cold-calling my future customers and searching for future customers and partners, I stumbled across KapitalNetwork web site, which is also Internet TV.  I was searching for a customer that will need my companies video logging services, and since there was an video publishing company already in the signature of their web, i proceeded to contact them.

That occurred last year and their director came to Zagreb today, and we had a very interesting meeting.

He found our company to be very interesting, I guess because that we are small and flexible, and technology oriented.  At the same time, I found that his company is one of the perfect corporate-mates that Informacija d.o.o. should have.

We introduced, we talked, and we found that we really have some major connecting issues.