Friday, November 24, 2006

Another very long posting gap.

Yes I have been very very busy, and it is hard to maintain a blog when you're not collecting advertising dollars from it. So here is a summary of what has kept me away.

Silicon Imaging's SI-2K camera.
We were nearing the completion of the software about three months ago when the idea to integrate 3D LUTs (Look Up Tables) for a highly versatile "look" engine came up. First SI said they could do it in camera, but they wondered about the post workflow. About 18 months earlier I had modelled a technique for doing 3D LUTs in software (no GPU) for a different application, so I thought it would work and I set out to give it a go as part of the decoder. It turns out the software was straight forward, but wrapping you head around all the implications is an ongoing process. We keep having ideas along the lines : "now we have 3D LUTs, we can do this ..." major feature creep (it will be a good thing for the end user -- bad thing for software engineers.) We have learned a huge amount during this process, one of which is selecting curves for optimum compression quality, particularly when dealing with downstream 3D LUT processing. Some maybe remember my discussion on a couple Red forum's of 12-bit linear vs 10-bit log, we had just made the decision to switch from 12-bit linear in the shadows (the CineForm codec internally is 16-bit), to a far stepper 10-bit log curve, we are finding far greater bang for the bit (i.e. the quality and image robustness in post went up greatly.) Of course these cool curves will be our winged keel for a while, but do I want get into this in detail in a later post.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 Marketplace for TV and Film
Yes, weirdly have a lot of CineForm technology involved, and this all happen in the last six weeks. CineForm AVIs via Wafian HR-1 disk recorders are used to store much of the HD and SD content before it remastered to VC-1 for distribution. Microsoft needed a sub-80Mb/s 10-bit 1920x1080 24p "mezzanine" format to consolidate the whole range of source formats, and archive for later processing and editing (via Prospect HD.) I personally worked on upgrading the inverse telecine algorithms (reverse 3-2 pulldown) necessary to reconstruct 24p masters from CSI:NY HD episodes (which could get pretty wacky.) Read more in the press release.

Open HD certification.
We sell most of our software tools directly to the end user, but when you would like big players to integrate your software, they like the backing of an Adobe certification. This is process is very rigurous, testing elements of our products I don't know existed. As a result we have been addressing many weird little corner-case bugs, which make our whole product line more stable. Even through we where doing certification for Prospect HD under Open HD, many of the fixes and enhancements have been automatically rolled into Prospect 2K, Aspect HD and Connect HD where appropriate.

One damn bug.
It is pretty typical for CineForm to make very regular updates of our software, yet had released nothing for long while as we where getting a strange report for the field that some users (only a few precentage of them) couldn't run the latest release of either Prospect HD or Aspect HD (yet older versions worked fine.) Normally this would be easy to track down by finding what has changed to see if a bug was added, and then test against a PC that experiences the problem. However, out of all our PCs, and we have a suprising number of PC configurations, none of them had any issue. One week we had an engineer dedicated to trying our software of everything we had, including PCs not intended for video production (at work and home) -- all worked fine. The happy news of an important clue came from an enterprising end user who noted that the problem went away by changing video drivers. With that a-ha, a problem that existed for a month was solved in a few minutes. All the current software reflects this fix, which was of course a tiny change, making a lives a lot less stressful and free us to work on new cooler things.

Dual Quad core demo for HP/Intel.
I got to appear on camera for a promo spot we did for HP regarding a new Intel dual-proc quad core system (8 real CPUs.) On this class of system we demonstrated real time editing of 4k Dalsa Origin footage. You can catch the spot from the CineForm web pages, and somewhere on the HP site. Although this didn't take too much of my time, it marks a milestone for CineForm moving forward into some new areas, like that of Xbox 360 Marketplace, places you my not expect us to go. :)