Monday, April 22, 2013

Barcamp Rochester Spring 2013 - Ridiculous use of Video Tech

On display at Barcamp Rochester this year was my Amiga-Genlock autotumblr setup.  It's a mix of technologies that span from 1985 to 2013.  It's fun, ridiculous and here's what's happening with it.  (Note: the complete list of technologies used is at the bottom of this post.)

Here's the basic workflow as it was planned:

And here's the slide I made to describe the system in Deluxe Paint 3, which is close to the same thing, but a little more (less?) informative: (Note: the color cycling is not available for this display, sadly.)

And here's a snapshot of it from the system itself, with some MST3K overlay goodness:

The Amiga 1000 is running Deluxe Paint 3.  You draw on a color 0-backed canvas.  The Amiga has an 8 meg ram expansion board attached to it via DataFlyer expansion module, and was running two floppy drives.

The Amiga 1300 genlock (which is hidden underneath the Amiga) replaces anything that is color 0 on the screen with the video input.  The video input in this case is connected to the old-school Minolta vidicon-tube video camera.  This gives us the Amiga graphics over top of the video coming in. I should note that all of this happens external to the computer itself, in the anlog video path.  The only thing going into the computer is the sync signal.  This means that if you were to "save" an image in Deluxe Paint, you will get only the mustache you drew, not it on your friend's face as well.

It's that overlayed image that we want here, so we feed that output video signal into the DV camcorder, which is acting like an AV-DV bridge in this case, only that we're ignoring the Firewire DV output from it.   Instead, we use a feature on this particular camera, in which it saves a screenshot of the current video to the SD card you have installed with it.

I should note that this camera came with an 8 meg SD card.  This should give you a sense of scale for the vintage of this thing.  I have instead replaced this with a 2 gig EyeFi card.  This EyeFi card is linked to my Macbook Pro via the wifi access point on the table.  The Eye-Fi software saves its content into a  Dropbox folder.  When a picture comes in, it then magically gets copied up into the cloud.

Once saved there, a script at (If This Then That) takes the photo, and puts it into a tumblr post, which is then viewable by all in a standard way.

Here's a list of all of the hardware and technologies used to make this happen.
  • Amiga 1000 (Spring 1986 vintage)
    • AmigaDOS 1.3 (1988)
    • 7.16 MHz 68000 processor
    • 512k byte RAM (graphics, cpu ram)
    • Deluxe Paint III software (1983)
    • Commodore 1300 Genlock
    • Dataflyer 8 megabyte RAM expansion (1991)
    • Sony Trinitron 9" monitor
  • Minolta K-520 Tube Video camera (1985)
    • "VHS" connector, with custom power supply and AV interface connector
  • Canon Optura XI DV Camcorder (2003)
  • Eye-Fi Share (2007) 2 gig SD card
  • WiFi Access Point
  • Dropbox folder syncing software (current)
  • Linux Laptop running Ubuntu and Dropbox software (current)
  • IFTTT script to post new Dropbox items to Tumblr (current)
  • Images posted to (current)
So... what happened?

In practice at home, this all worked well, both going through my home access point, as well as through the extra access point, connected to my laptop directly (whose wifi-based internet access was shared through the AP).  But once I got it all at RIT, that's where things started to break.

First of all, I forgot my Amiga floppy disks at home, so I had to run home to grab those.  Oops.

Next, there was a sync/color issue with the genlock when i got it all connected.  I'm pretty sure this is because of two things.  First, the Amiga doesn't sync with the genlock before the Kickstart disk is loaded... and without this disk on-hand, I couldn't fix this until I had gone home to get them.  Secondly, I think the RGB connector on the genlock is faulty, causing it to make a poor connection with the system.  I need to examine this more.

Next, the wireless network at RIT prevented me from re-sharing its network on my Mac.  It claimed some sort of 802.1x protection or somesuch. Next up was to get the Eyefi and macbook directly onto the RIT network. The Eyefi card I have (not sure if modern cards are like this) would not connecto to the RIT networks since the network required username/password, whereas the Eyefi software only supported a password for the network settings.  The Barcamp network dude helped me get both onto the unprotected RIT network (unlocked to the devices via MAC address, rather than user/password).  Unfortunately for some reason this didn't quite work with the card and laptop either.  I'm not entirely sure why.   I then had a friend with a linux laptop to share his wireless connection out through his wired ethernet, which then was re-shared via the access point I brought.  This kinda worked. but at rediculously slow bitrates to be useless.

It was pretty much at this point that I just gave up on the wireless aspect of the Eyefi card, and would just plug the SD card into my laptop occasionally and manually copy the files into the Dropbox folder.  Oh well.

Other than that, It worked pretty well.  All of the images captured are available on the tumblr site at least for now.

Here's some of them as well:

Brian and Skip at the Interlock table

Chorn talking with someone

Me, testing out the system

Dennis being frightened by a deadite.

Some Deluxe Paint fun

Just like old times, the Amiga crashed a few times.

Video feedback