Monday, December 31, 2007

Have a Great 2008 - Inspiration for All

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing (to paraphrase BBC World Service radio's ident), have a great, peaceful and prosperous 2008! Lots happening in the next 12 months, Olympics, US elections, LeWeb08, DLD, LIFT, APMMediaLab, 3GSM. Fraid I won't have much influence on the first two - but I will have a lot of fun being involved with the others. Saw that someone has put a lampshade on one of the street lights in Gouda, the famous cheeze town in the Netherlands. May the light guide you to wise decisions. Keep smiling and safe travels.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Funx in Den Haag

Funx in Den Haag
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Interesting to see the line-up of stuff that urban music radio network FunX uses for remote broadcasts, in this case from a room in the Hague city hall to commemorate World Aids Day 2007. Proof that analogue technology isn't dead just yet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BBC Memoryshare - Jamming the Germans

BBC Memoryshare - Jamming the Germans

The 75th anniversary of BBC WS has started some very interesting recollections - including how the BBC was prepared to jam its own network in the event of a Nazi invasion of Britain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Marantz PMD620 Digital Audio Recorder Update

John Bancroft provided us with a shot of the new PMD620 digital audio recorder on show in the US at the Podcast and New Media expo. It takes SD or SDHC memory cards and uses 2 standard AA batteries (you can use rechargeables if you want).
It seems the Marantz PMD620 Professional Handheld Field Recorder is now retailing in the US at just a few cents under US$400. The photo may lead you to believe otherwise, but this relatively small solid-state device is only slightly larger than a deck of cards. Records either MP3 or WAV files in 16- or 24-bit rez. The display screen uses OLEDs just like many cellphones, and it has two high-quality omnidirectional condenser mics built into the top. If you don't like those, you can plug in your own external mic, albeit with a 3.5 mm jack input, not XLR (Canon). If you want to check out all the specs, there here is the owners manual.

This is obviously going to be a serious competitor to the M-audio recorder which came out last year at around the 300 Euro mark. One immediate advantage is the fact that it uses ordinary AA batteries rather than built-in rechargeable cells. I think the case is a lot more studier on the Marantz than the somewhat flimsy plastic of the M-Audio. I always seem to find that the batteries on my M-audio are empty at the moment I need the thing, especially if it has not been used for a couple of weeks.

So could this also be the end of the Marantz 670? I sincerely hope so. Everyone I meet complains about the size of the thing and that (at least early models) have problems that the software shows a dead battery when there is still life left in them. I have never met anyone who got the claimed "7 hours" out of a single charge. The PMD620 at least shows that Marantz has been thinking about the reporter in the middle of nowhere who can usually find some AA batteries before they can find a reliable electricity supply. It has an advantage over the HHB Flashmic in recording in stereo and having a removable flash card. The built-in microphone of the HHB unit though is even more compact than the PMD620, and would probably win if you're part of a press scrum trying to get a quote out of a politician. Comments?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Logging the output of 50 radio stations

What do you do if you're the BBC World Service with just over 50 feeds leaving the building at some peak periods. You log the output on hard drives from this company. Comes in models with 8, 10 or 15 Terabyte raw capacity. Those vents are indeed for cooling fans.

Radio Comuniaria, Bajo Flores

This station has made a terrific contribution to a deprived neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have been looking at what equipment these guys use out in the "real world".

Beyer 297 headset

Beyer 297
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Seeing more and more of these headphone/close microphone combinations being used in radio studios around the world...the latest siting in BBC World Service South-Asia broadcast centre. The microphone sounds great, providing it is not put too close or knocked out of the way - it needs to "look" at the mouth it is listening to. I find the response better than Sennheiser. Not sure why the data sheet says it is preliminary. Price? About 180 pounds sterling in the UK. I use one for HD-camera work when I am interviewing someone. My questions are on track 1 with these headphones, the interviewee wears a Sennheiser wireless lapel mike recorded on Track 2.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sony USB Sticks with Microphones

The Sony NW-DB105 and NW-DB103 in a shop window in Buenos Aires. The only difference is the storage capacity. In Euro the 1 GB works out at 80 Euro in BA, whereas in Europe it is 39 Euro in on-line shops. I am interested to see if such a device could be used for simple recordings by community radio stations. There would be a market for a simple "push to talk to record" device.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Snowball Microphone

Let's face it, most webcams produce less than ideal sound. Loic le Meur, who is just setting up a new social software platform with video does a test here of the Snowball Microphone from the US/Latvian company of Blue. Headquartered in Westlake Village, California and with engineering and manufacturing facilities in Latvia, Blue Microphones continues to come up with cutting-edge designs. Blue is also known for its vintage microphone store and restoration services.

The Snowball USB microphone isn't all that new, but it hasn't really been discovered by the podcast community yet and it is probably the wrong shape for reporters in the field!. But it is easy to use. Just plug it in, adjust your input level and you’re up and running.

The Snowball is a condenser microphones but derives its operating voltage from the bus voltage always present on your USB port. As long as the red LED is glowing, the microphone works. The Snowball does not require batteries or phantom power.

To get the most out of the Snowball, you’ll want to have some kind of software that allows for digital signal processing and non-linear editing that will accept audio from the USB port. As long as you are using Windows XP, Vista or Apple OSX, you will not need any drivers. Not sure whether there are any compatability issues with Mac's Leopard.

The Snowball’s digital output is set to 44.1 kHz / 16-bit, just like an audio CD. The sample rate / word length are not user-definable. The mic comes with a sturdy stand and a 2 metre USB cable. The ball itself seems very sturdy. Out of the box the Snowball is set to record at low levels (fine for instrument, less fine purely for speech), but the Blue website has firmware updates that will fix that. But there is no software to control the mic reception pattern settings. This can be done manually though, using Snowball's 3-pattern switch which allows you to choose from cardioid, cardioid with -10dB pad, and omnidirectional. Cost? In the US around US$100, that around 70 Euro. In Europe, there doesn't seem to be a dealer in the Netherlands, but Thomann in Germany will ship. They charge 99 Euro for the microphone and another 8 Euro for shipping. Not often you see "Made in Latvia" on a product.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Media Professional Website Launches

I have been gradually building the website which describes the "making of" a new media lab in Porto Novo, Benin. Located in the western part of the capital city, the new website explains how we managed to build a complete FM radio station in under a day towards the end of July 2007. The idea is that the "lessons learned" will be translated into local languages so that station managers are able to profit from our experiences. It costs around 25,000 Euro to build a community station of this type. If you want more range, then prices quickly climb to 40,000 Euro. The local versions of what we did will be distributed on USB memory sticks which are rapidly replacing CD's for transporting audio files around the country. ADSL is due in Porto Novo in January 2008, but it is still relatively expensive.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

EBU Audio Contributions Document

In the near future, if you're planning to buy some equipment to feed audio back to a radio or TV station, you might want to ask the manufacturer of that equipment if it is ACIP compliant. ISDN lines are disappearing in some countries (as soon as 2010 in some places) and so broadcasters are starting to use IP over broadband technology to get the audio back to the studio. Its obviously important that the equipment at both ends is compatible even if it is of a different make (just as your mobile phone works no matter who made the handset). I note that a group with the EBU Technical department has now published an interesting document in the hope that manufacturers will work on interoperability standards even if they are competitors in the marketplace. There is a publicly accessible website that's gone up as well.

So why is this important? For the punter in the field trying to do a decent reporting job, it's going to vital that this project moves from a well thought-out proposal into practice. Even if you're non-technical, if manufacturers get the message from reporters that compatability is important, that may help the development team squeeze the required cash out of the upper management.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

HD Radio University

HD Radio in trouble? I agree with Lou Josephs in Washington that the take-up of HD Radio hasn't been what observers expected. Now comes news that there are all kinds of skywave inteference problems which have prevented some stations switching it on. The backers of HD Radio have opened a sort of McDonald's Hamburger University, they call it HDRadio University to try and educate sales people. That is increasingly a challenge as discount retailers don't pay that much and staff turnover is huge.

Meanwhile, the trade journal InsideRadio has reported this week that the HD Digital Radio Alliance has set aside $230 million for marketing HD Radio. The biggest change next year will be the introduction of commercials to HD-2 channels. Stations will accept "name-in-title" sponsorships and limited sponsor mentions per hour. Programmers will also get more freedom when picking a HD-2 channel's format. So what will this mean? Great, creative, vibrant programming on a second channel? Probably not - a simulcast from AM is more likely. It is not the technology, it is the programming guys!

Cox Radio has installed HD equipment on a half-dozen AMs, but millions of wideband radios installed in DaimlerChrsyler cars, Jeeps and Mercedes are keeping them from flipping the switch. The wideband radios give better sound quality, but Cox Programme Directors have complained about hearing "a faint buzzing noise" on HD AMs. Cox has installed HD on 70 stations and they'll add another AM to that list by year's end. The engineering forums are full of polarised debate on the future of digital AM, especially as the technical roll-out has started and interference problems are cropping out. How come they didn't surface during the last 10 years of "testing" IBOC on mediumwave (AM).

Remote News Bureau?

At IBC 2007, I bumped into a French company called Alden that were marketing a steerable satellite dish for people in Eastern and Southern Europe who live too far away from an ADSL hub. It is a satellite TV and satellite Internet combination. The initital outlay of around 3500 Euro involves the purchase of a self-aligning dish and 100 days of Internet access (any 100 days within a year, no limit of the day during the day). For people who are never going to get connected to cable and/or ADSL, a rather neat solution.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vidblaster Pro

Get past the intro of the Kats Cast to see excellent camera work at the Uitmarkt in Amsterdam and what "Mike" (Versteeg) is up to with a Vidblaster Pro. The price of this software is amazingly low - just under 78 Euro. Certainly made for love, not the money. No commercial connection with these guys...just admire what they have done.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

MyDrive Music Disk

Perhaps because my original work was in radio, I tend to pay more attention to music and dialogue in video than most video editors I know. I have collected production music for years. I note that the racks of CDs in many video studios though are disappearing - partly because they are a magnet for dust.

A few weeks back I saw an ad in BBC's Ariel magazine advertising a (free) harddrive full of music. At the moment, in Europe, it only available in the UK. JW Media Music Ltd tell me they have explored various means of getting music to clients. They offer Internet downloads and have released larger itunes based hard drives in the past; both as attempts to cut down the waste produced by sending out so many CD's.

Although these endeavors have both been received well by clients, the MyDrive has been the most universally accessible format to date. The software (originally created by an Australian library we represent in the UK, Beatbox Music) offers a really straight forward search interface. You just plug it into a Mac, PC or Avid using the USB port and there are 10,000 tracks from five top music libraries waiting to be explored.

Having auditioned the tracks you want to use, simply hit export and save the file to your computer as you would a word document. All the music rights (MCPS) registration details are saved on both the track name and the MP3 meta data, so no need for post-it notes all over the place as with CD's.

Also featuring on MyDrive in the UK are Beatbox, Standard Music, Noise Pump, and LA Post. Although some other publishers have experimented with the idea, it is a device which has so far not been matched by any other UK Libraries. JW Media say they have over 500 in circulation at present in the UK alone, with more and more requests from editors, producers and sound engineers coming in everyday. The device is free, as the music contained within it is all set rate, MCPS administered music which the user pays for either directly to the MCPS or through their broadcasters blanket license (such is the case for the BBC).

I believe it is important that if music publishers want to get producers to log the right content details, they provide a device like this to manage the metadata. In the past, I have seen so many producers either get things wrong or make things up because they didn't regard the admin as part of their production task. And since this can be automated, I agree with them.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Mayah Sporty Codec Update

Saw this new version of Mayah's codec for in the field reporting at IBC 2007. In an earlier post I said I thought the price would be near 4000 Euro including tax. But Uwe Flatter from Mayah Germany reports that it will be 3350, with an introductory price of 2450 Euro for orders before November 15th. 900 Euro is indeed a huge discount.

I am not sure how long ISDN lines will be around in some countries. Some PTT's seem to want to get rid of ISDN as soon as possible - I believe Sweden is talking aboout phasing it out in 2011. Other countries, like Swizterland and Spain for instance - they have discovered quite a few customers using ISDN and have no immediate plans to migrate them. What I am finding in Spain and the US is that local operators are getting reluctant to organise ad-hoc ISDN connections and start charging a lot of money for the service.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Completely Blocked in China

It would seem my comments on this, and other blogs, about firewalls in China and some problems I see ahead for the Olympic Games in 2008 (the really hot weather) have meant that all the websites I operate cannot be accessed from inside China. Firewalled but surviving! At least they are consistent. Look at the stuff 1.2 billion people are missing ;-)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sony PMW-EX1

Interested to see this HD camera at IBC 2007. It records to flash memory rather than tape. The blurb at the stand says...

The PMW-EX1 is the first in a new range of professional HD products - called XDCAM EX - which record onto memory-based SxS ExpressCard media. Designed from the ground up to exploit the ultimate high performance of SxS PRO memory cards, the PMW-EX1 combines a state-of-the-art, non-linear XDCAM workflow with simply the best HD quality yet seen in a compact camcorder. It is also the first handheld camcorder to carry the legendary CineAlta 24P brand with multiple frame rate recording capability such as 59.94i, 50i, and native 23.98P, as well being 1080i/720P switchable.

There is also a choice of a 35Mb/s High Quality mode or a 25Mb/s, HDV 1080i compatible mode. To take advantage of this high performance recording capability, the PMW-EX1 uses an all-new imaging system consisting of three ½-inch type CMOS sensors, each with an effective pixel count of 1920x1080 to produce images in full HD resolution. In addition, there's a purpose-built Fujinon Professional HD ½-inch 14x lens and a unique dual focus ring mechanism.

In fact, there are innovations in every detail of the PMW-EX1, from its IT-friendly MP4 file recording to advanced creative features, such as selectable gamma curves and "Slow & Quick Motion" capability.

To maximise recording time, the PMW-EX1 has two memory card slots which means with a pair of 16 GB SxS PRO memory cards, it can record up to 140 minutes of HD footage.

They claimed the camera would be out in November 2007. Price? a few pennies under 6000 Euro is the rumoured price. I see some UK sites are advertising a delivery date on November 1st. If so, then HDV tape is dead in the water within 2 years don't you think?

Update December 2007- I see my local Sony dealer is now advertising a Sony kit for € 6490,-- including accessories which they claim is worth another Euros 1042.

Sony BP-U60 battery
AKG SE300B Power module
XLR audiokabel
Rycote so ftie
PortaBrace bag
PortaBrace rain protection
Firewire kabel 4-6
Firewire kabel 4-4
1 extra 8GB memory card

Flashman II from Mayah, Germany

German company of Mayah was showing off some new 3G capable recorders for radio journalists at IBC 2007 this year. At 2500 Euro, kinda on the pricey side. But rugged. The new device also has the ability to record locally on the device, while feeding Live – now gives a reporter complete control over their material and the ability to edit it after the transmission, for subsequent re-use. (I should point out that the HHB Flashmic can do this too). And thanks to MAYAH’s unique FlashCast technology, Flashman II is able to automatically recognise, and connect to almost any audio codec & format worldwide. Ideal for on-location situations where the destination codec is not known.

HHB Line-Input Flashmic

HHB in London has made versions of their Flashmics (omni- and undirectional version) which has a line-input jack at the base, so as well as the built-in microphone you can accept a line-in from another source. The price in the Netherlands for the modified version is somewhat expensive (retails at 995 Euro, ex VAT) when compared to the ordinary version. Personally, I wouldn't need it, but can imagine some situations where it could be useful. I'd like a Flashmic with more memory - 1 GB doesn't seem much these days. Seen at IBC 2007 in Amsterdam.

Another important FlashMic development implemented in response to customer feedback is compatibility with mp3 files. FlashMic wavefile or .mp2 recordings can now be converted, whilst being transferred from the FlashMic to a computer, by the supplied FlashMic Manager Mac/PC software application to provide mp3 files – the preferred workflow format for some broadcasters. Existing FlashMic owners can download the updated FlashMic Manager software free of charge at

Handy Power Inverter

Mark Eylers showed me a mini 75 watt power inverter which he bought at a supermarket in France for 17 Euro. Made in China, it converts 12 volts DC into 220 volts AC. Perfect for recharging equipment on the go when you don't have a dedicated 12 volt charger, but do have the mains adaptor. Other inverters are mentioned here in this excellent article, which seem powerful enough to run a small radio station - though considerably larger. Have not seen the Krueger brand in the Netherlands.

Webradio Success

I attended a radio marketing seminar at EBU Geneva last month and was very impressed by a campaign for webradio in Sweden. It basically involves offering listeners the chance to design their own radios and send the result to friends. Christian Rauch (photo below), Deputy Head of Marketing at Swedish Radio shared some fascinating stats...

• During their campaign, four webradios were designed by the public in Sweden every second!

• 30.000 radios designed first day of campaign, 68.000 first week

• Over 160.000 radios designed so far i.e. over 10 % of the target group has made one radio each.

Studio Webcams

Anybody know if someone out there (a radio clubs perhaps) has compiled a global list of studio webcams? There was a time when most music radio stations installed them for a gimmick, but then they went away when their usage dropped off. In those days there wasn't much bandwidth and the audio quality was rubbish. Now things are much better, so I wonder if its time to build a radio matrix of the "World of Radio". It would be a bit like 10x10, but then a compliation of radio webcams, like Radio Donna in Brussels.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

VIZRT Mobile Reporter

Saw an interesting demo of how VIZRT has developed software for the Nokia 95 which allows reporters to send video from a location over the phone. The difference with this application is that is doesn't use MMS and chops up the file if the service provider has put a limit on the size of video files. Currently being rolled out to one of the main newspapers in Bergen, Norway. Disclaimer, VIZRT is one of my clients.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Where others fear to tread.....

Great to meet Mark Eylers again after many years. If you need a radio station built - plus a new management team in place, then Mark just gets on with it. He's one of a handful of people who have built community radio (and TV) stations in difficult places - like Congo, Kenya, Liberia, and Burundi. Based in Soest, to the South East of Amsterdam, Mark is brimming with practical experience about what is right (and sometimes wrong) with community media projects. Its clear that many NGO's underestimate the time needed for a radio station to make an impact. It is more than just dumping equipment and hoping a local engineer will figure it out. Unless the management is in place, and trained, the station is off the air as soon as the foreigners leave. Mark runs a company called Bestworx, still going strong after more than 10 years of travelling across Africa.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Clever Small Tripod for light Video Cameras

Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
If you have 135 Euro to spare, this mini tripod is brilliant. Manfrotto showed it at IBC2007, though the staff on the stand had diifficulty finding words to explain why it's such a clever design. My Italian isn't good enough. You can use it to put the camera on a table, grip the handle or rest it against the shoulder. Brilliant.

IBC 2010 Barcelona?

IBC 2010
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
IBC this year was interesting from a technology point of view, but disasterous from a logistics standpoint. The IBC has outgrown Amsterdam with a shortage of hotel rooms estimated to be in the region of 4000-6000 rooms. And the city has simply reacted to the situation by putting the prices up. The RAI is also going through a "makeover" but instead of gathering support for the make-over also put its (food) prices up and made parking sheer hell. IBC is back in Amsterdam next year to muddle through again, but in the mid-term definitely needs an exit strategy.

What is going on at Blogger?

Why are bits on my blog showing up in German? Software glitches in Google?

GPS Capable Laptop

According to Engadget, Asus claims to have made the "world's first mainstream notebook PC with integrated GPS capability." That particular distinction goes to the company's new U3S laptop, which relies on NXP Software's swGPS system for navigation duties. Among other things, NXP's system does all the necessary GPS signal processing entirely in software, which not only allows it to be much smaller, but also opens up the possibility of fairly significant software upgrades (including support for Galileo if the Europeans gets the system going within the lifetime of the laptop). Just don't expect "mainstream" to mean "cheap," with the laptop set to run €2,300 (or $3,200) when it's released later in September.

Now if only the GPS data from the microphone or camera is automatically added to the metadata about where the script is written. Just t5hink of how this could be used for journalists working in the field - and indexing their material automatically for later searches from the archives.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

IBC Radio Mystery

There was a special radio station at IBC 2007 this year (although I think it was a very well kept secret. It seems some free promotional radios that were supposed to be in boxes like this at the exhibition never arrived in Amsterdam. IBC tells me the podcasts of what was broadcast are available here. Don't look on the main IBC site, you'll never find it. Not sure if analogue radio is the best medium for this...IBC Daily news should get into VODcasting. But judge for yourself.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Made the front page of IBC Daily News

In 2020 and beyond we will still need public broadcasters
By Kate Bulkley

Future-gazing is always a tricky business but those who believe there should be a future for public broadcasters beyond 2020 were cheered when Duane Varan, the executive director of the Interactive Television Research Institute in Australia called the erosion of public service broadcasting "a big mistake."
In Varan's view, as audiences fragment and competition for them becomes more intense, the role of PSBs become more critical than ever, especially for news, education and information-based programming.

"Audience fragmentation pushes news to the edge - it's what I call the Fox News effect - where the idea of objectivity loses out to the need to shout to be heard in a fragmenting universe," Varan told the packed audience at Future-gazing: the Broadcasting world in 2020.

Jonathan Marks, media anthropologist, journalist and producer, said the move to an all-digital world means that PSBs have a mandate to preserve a country's heritage. "PSBs have a role to serve the citizens not consumers - 80% of the world's broadcast archives are rotting and in 10 years many of them will be gone," Marks warned.

Wendy Hall, professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, predicted that our digital personas would become increasingly complex and rich, begging questions about who owns and controls 'your' information. Hall suggested that we might entrust third parties with personal information, "much like we use a bank today."

Another potentially huge problem discussed by the panel is what we record and store all this information on so it is 'playable' in the future. "You don't want to store it for yourself because the formats may change," said Hall.

Sony Vegas Pro 8

Interesting to watch the extended demo of Sony Vegas Pro 8, launched today at IBC 2007. It was the most interesting Non-linear editor I saw at the show, bearing in mind the readers of this blog. There are useful features here not in Final Cut, especially the ability to mix and mash-up video in different formats and qualities. Seems they have also cut down the rendering time and addressed an old problem - namely the titles were rather simple in version 7. Must confess I was thinking of changing platforms to Mac as the machines here are due for upgrade. Now I am not so sure.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

NPR Research

Interested to see that NPR has come up with the equivalent of teletekst for digital radio. Its a way to put text of a broadcast using the HD-Radio standard now being rolled out across the USA. Looks like HD Radio will be a evolution rather than an evolution. I see the Taiwanese company of Sangean now has HD Radios on the market.

Good news...

Felt better wandering around Halls 1 & 2 today at IBC 2007 and seeing some excellent restoration work being in a European project for both tape and record archives. Brilliant work that will save a lot of great stories from fading into the noise.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Components arrive from Holland

Building a media centre in West Africa at the moment. Will be blogging my challenges in doing so a little later in the month.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Sony has finally announced a HD Video WALKMAN – a portable solution for viewing both HDV and DV tapes while you’re on the move. I say finally because a portable back-up unit for this market is long overdue bearing in mind the HDV format is already a few years old. The press release sings the praises of the new unit, due out in September 2007. But there is no mention of price, nor if the unit will play back 1080p tapes recorded by Sony's latest HDV camera. So what are the bets on the price? 1500 Euro?

Sony's story continues...

The clear, bright 7-inch widescreen (16:9) LCD offers a resolution of 1,152K (800x480x3[RGB]) dots for monitoring video and still images. An All-scan function ensures that 100% of the recorded frame area is displayed on the LCD monitor for accurate reviewing of shots. Up to six LCD panel setups can be stored and loaded at any time. The on-screen position of displayed timecode can be moved to any of six positions according to user preference. The screen folds down when the GV-HD700E is not in use for maximum portability.

The HD Video WALKMAN is generously equipped with interfaces for recording and playing HDV1080i and Standard Definition DV video from a range of sources. An HDMI output allows HD viewing on any connected HD-ready TV or monitor.

It’s also the first Video WALKMAN supporting x.v.Colour. Based on the new xvYCC standard, x.v.Colour almost doubles the gamut of colours that can be displayed accurately on an xvYCC compliant display. HDV tapes recorded with x.v.Colour can be replayed with x.v.Colour signals available via HDMI and i.LINK outputs. x.v.Colour signals can also be read via the i.LINK input, and x.v.Colour information is passed through to the portable deck’s HDMI output.

A separate HD/SD component output is provided in addition to the HDMI output. An i.LINK port allows direct recording and playback of HDV and DV signals, while analogue video and audio can be recorded and monitored via S Video and RCA input connectors. In addition, still images can be captured from tape (HDV or DV) during playback and stored onto Memory Stick.

For convenient operation, any of fourteen commonly-used functions (including search, index mark and playback zoom) can be assigned to three function buttons. There’s also a Status Check mode that gives a handy on-screen confirmation of key Audio, Output, Assign and LCD settings.

For extra versatility the GV-HD700E can be used with InfoLITHIUM L and M Series batteries. Supplied accessories include an AC Adaptor, wireless remote controller, component cable and AV Multi Cable (without S Video).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Heading totally in the wrong direction

close but not really
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
I used to be a fan of Archos in the days when their AV340 used to make great quality audio recordings, as well as fairly decent quality recordings. We waited for the same features, only with a better quality recording, screen and wifi. After a lot of teasing, at places like IBC 2006, Archos has finally come out with the 605 wifi. They must be mainly aiming for the French market because they have signed deals with French suppliers of content. Since it is all DRM protected, I cannot imagine purchasing a film for 12 Euro which will only play on this device in "dvd like" quality - well not on the big plasma screen I have it won't. Perfect example of technology driven products which don't understand the power social currency. Shame, but I am writing these guys off the list of innovators.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Earth TV Interview

This is the company that provides all kinds of pictures for TV stations from 55 special cameras positioned around the world. They hate being called a webcam company.

Doublecam from Germany

Interesting device for cameramen collecting Voxpops. Seen at MIP-Tv in April 2007. Cost? 19000 pounds sterling. Quality is excellent. Not sure if I'd want to use it in a warzone though.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Farcast Project

The Dutch research organization, TNO, pops up at many trade fairs, marketing what they're up to. Kobus Smit explained to me what they're doing with the Farcast project aimed at radio and newspaper reporters.

Frauenhofer MP3 Surround

The Frauenhofer Institute in Germany is best known as the place where the MP3 compression standard was developed. Now they've finalized a new compression system to put surround sound onto the mobile using DVB-H

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Yahoo & Broadcast & Mobile

What is Yahoo doing in the mobile world? This is what they're telling the mobile operators at the world's largest exhibition and conference called 3GSM in Barcelona. Curiously, Google wasn't there, yet 60,000 others did make the trip to beautiful Barcelona.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Wanna beat roaming charges on the mobile phone when you're sent as a freelance reporter abroad? With a local SIM card, Skypeout account and this box you can. Although launched at 3GSM back in February 2007, I have yet to see this in (online) shops just yet.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Babelgum - Joost's Nightmare?

Thinking of starting you're own TV station? There may be alternatives to Youtube if you have material longer than 10 minutes.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

GSM Association

Dawn Hartley explains what this young organization does in developing countries like Kenya and Namibia and why. This may be mobile, but I believe what they do is definitely of interest to broadcasters too.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nursing the Phone

Just reposted this video because I wasn't happy with the quality of the video on Youtube. There was something wrong with the lip-sync. This Swedish company has a brilliant strategy to market their phones - Swedish nurses looking after a new born baby phone. I notice that this video had been downloaded 500 times in a few hours on Youtube.... It shows you what people are searching for. Katherine was at 3GSM...and they are way ahead of the Apple iPhone, in my opinion.

Monday, May 07, 2007

HHB Flash Microphone Recorder - Price reduction

This is an update to a post we put up in September 2005.

Way back on Friday Sep 9th 2005 at IBC Amsterdam, the UK company of HHB launched a great device for radio reporters. Basically, they have built a flash recorder into the base of a Sennheiser microphone, the same looking type which is marketed by Sennheiser as a wireless model. Instead of the transmitter, HHB has put in a flash-recorder into the same housing.

On the bottom are connected for a pair of headphones and a USB jack to the laptop. You can transfer recordings to the laptop at 90 times faster than real time, and there is no quality loss in the transfer since you're copying a digital file. The flash memory unit cannot be taken out (and lost), but you can get plenty of audio in - 3 hours at 48K linear, 18.25 hrs using the MPEG-1 Layer 2 standard at its lowest bitrate. I purchased a unit in 2006 and have found the 3 hour memory capacity to be fine for ordinary reporting. If you were using it to make a documentary, you'll need to dump content to a hard disk on a laptop. HHB say they have no plans to make the memory card removable in this model.

You do the editing of an item on the laptop, not on this device. The beast came out in Jan 2006 at a price of 699 pounds sterling in the UK (VAT extra) and 999 Euros (VAT extra). At the time we complained that the price was on the expensive side.

A press release on May 1st 2007 indicated that the retail price has now dropped to 529 pounds ex VAT in the UK, partly because of volume production and the drop in the cost of internal memory. I asked HHB in London whether this meant they would consider putting 2 GB instead of 1 GB, but the answer was that the feedback from clients indicated that 1 GB was enough for most purposes. Personally, I'd prefer 2 GB so I could use it for longer periods without having to dump to a Hard-disk. But I do more documentary work.

The audio quality of the recordings is great. For very noisy environments, there is also a cardioid version of the same device (the DRM85-C is the same price) which is far more directional. For my purposes, the omni-directional version is fine.

Unlike some other competitors, this Flashmic works on two standard penlight (AA) cells. I use the 2650 mAH capacity rechargeable cells from Duracell and get around 8 hours of recordings without a pause. Always have a couple of batteries spare in case. When the batteries go, they tend to fade rather suddenly.

I plug a pair of closed-type headphones into the base to monitor the sound and spot popping. The casing is rugged and well designed against hand-noise.

Things to bear in mind though;

- There is no audio buffer to allow the unit to be in standby and still capture the start of an important statement. Wouldn't be that practical anyway - you can't remote control this Flashmic since it is built into the base of the microphone.

- No line-in to the recorder. It's a flash microphone.

- Only Mono. No stereo versions

- Flash memory is not removable.

As well as broadcasters, this device might interest some podcasters too who want to interview famous people. There is a social factor here. Somehow the HHB looks better than the M-audio or a mobile phone stuck under someone's nose. They treat you like a professional because the device looks familiar.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Solar Power Interview with GSMA

Did you know that 60% of the cost of running a mobile phone network in Africa goes in trucking diesel fuel out to base-stations. This interview with Dawn Hartley of the GSMA looks at solar power solutions, which may well be of interest to some reporters in the field.


469 pounds is a lot to pay for a recorder. Yes it is cheaper than the HHB Sennheiser, but it is also considerably more expensive than the other handheld recorders we've seen. The good news is that the recordings are clean, and you can even get away with using the built-in mike, though politicians may be wary of speaking into something the size of a mobile phone. But the internal memory is either 512 or 1 GB and with MPEG-2 compression (or just WAV) that means very short recording times. That's a pain if you switch the thing on to record a press conference in WAV format and it lasts for more than 40 minutes. Memory full? Have to dump it to a PC before you can continue. Come on guys - haven't we learned anything from the photo camera market? Please lets use removable flash memory - it is cheap enough now.

Overall, I'm disappointed. Decided not to buy..

Reciva 2.0

I was interested to see a demo of the next phase of software to be put in a series of wifi radios being rolled out in the UK and elsewhere. There are other companies working on the same thing, but Reciva have managed to stay ahead by offering a database of some 5000 stations which automatically loads into the receiver.


I had a fascinating talk with Dawn Hartley of the GSMA development fund who are doing some fascinating work with mobile phones in developing countries. I am even more convinced now that many of these ideas will merge with broadcasting, especially in Africa.

Vizrt Mobile at 3GSM

Vizrt has some very clever ideas for both the broadcast and mobile market. (Full Disclosure - I have done some consultancy for this Norwegian firm). They seem to have cracked the problem that graphics and subtitles look terrible on most mobile phones. Its only now that I have a chance to post these interviews - done in a different style to the 3GSM productions.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Day the Music Died?

According to the Radio and Internet Newsletter, the US Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has just announced its decision on Internet radio royalty rates, rejecting all of the arguments made by Webcasters and instead adopting the "per play" rate proposal put forth by SoundExchange(a digital music fee collection body created by the RIAA).
RAIN says the rates that the Board has decided on, effective retroactively through the beginning of 2006. They are as follows:

$.0008 per performance 2007

$.0011 per performance 2008

$.0014 per performance 2009

$.0018 per performance 2010

A "performance" is defined as the streaming of one song to one listener; thus a station that has an average audience of 500 listeners racks up 500 "performances" for each song it plays. The minimum royalty fee is $500 per channel per year. There is no clear definition of what a 'channel' is for services that make up individualized playlists for listeners.

For noncommercial webcasters, the fee will be $500 per channel, for up to 159,140 ATH (aggregate tuning hours) per month. They would then have to pay the commercial rate for all transmissions above that number.

Participants are granted a 15 day period wherein they have the opportunity to ask the CRB for a re-hearing. Within 60 days of this final determination, the decision is supposed to be published in the Federal Register, along with any technical corrections that the Board may wish to make.

Basically, that wipes out any chance of profit for niche radio networks on the web. The advertising they are able to command will never be enough to pay those bills in 2007, let alone in 2010. And remember these fees are simply the performance rights and do not include money that goes to the original composers.

It is also not clear whether these sorts of rights would apply if music was streamed to mobile phones, like on the DMB/DVB-H type networks being rolled out in Europe.

So what will this mean? A mass migration of US webradio services to servers outside the US? A great boost to non-RIAA music like that found on Podsafe music network? I think it just means that US radio stations will kill their Internet radio services for the time being until these lunatics realise they are truly throttling the music business. Hopefully it means European music stations now have a chance of a global audience. Radio is certainly scoring a series of own-goals.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sideview of the SkyQube

Sideview of the SkyQube
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
You slip your normal SIM card in the slot - and leave this box at home. I guess I'd want to try it out on a trip when it didn't matter too much if my phone wasn't working.


Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Now this is interesting if you do a lot of travel. You connect it up at home and put the SIM card of your mobile into it. When you get to your destination you buy a cheap prepaid SIM that allows you to receive calls for free. This green box uses Skype to beat the roaming charges levied in other countries. Also features a recording function and callback. Cost? About 300 bucks to start with. Might be worth experimenting with for reporters in "difficult" countries? More details at Seen at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona last week.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

DRM85CSHEETV31.pdf (application/pdf Object)

DRM85CSHEETV31.pdf (application/pdf Object)

I see that HHB in the UK is now selling a cardiod version of the integrated Flashmic 1GB flash recorder. The older one uses an omnidirectional mike. This one is better for noisy surroundings, but less handy for doing general interviews because you have to make sure it is pointing accurately or you'll hear nothing off mike. I wonder why they can't put 2GB in the device now for the same price. 1 GB is super cheap these days.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Power Alternatives

So you're out in the middle of nowhere in a jeep (or on a plane). What about charging your recorder, laptop, camera, moviecamera, torch, etc. You could take spare batteries for everything, or get one of these inverters for around 100 dollars. It also has USB power outlets to charge iPods, Blackberries, some phones. Haven't seen 220 volt models. Doesn't matter for most travel devices these days - 110 volts is fine.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

EJamming nears Launch

Interesting to see how musicians are collaborating on line. Just a few weeks ago, noticed a demo of eJamming. The blurb on the site reads....

Say you’re putting a band together and you can’t find a killer bass player in your town. Or you’re sitting there sequencing a great piece of music but your drumming sucks and you’re no Eddie Van Halen on guitar. Or your old band mates now live in Seattle, New York and Nashville and you’d kill to play together again. What’s the answer?

Just plug any digital instrument that’s enabled for GENERAL MIDI – a MIDI-enabled keyboard, a MIDI-enabled guitar or MIDI-enabled bass, MIDI-enabled drums, or a MIDI-enabled wind-controller -- into your PC or Mac computer, fire up the eJamming® Studio and we’re connecting you over the Internet to a whole world of musicians across town – or across the ocean.

In Sync. In Real Time. Or in as close to real time as the laws of physics allow.

And now that eJamming Studio comes with our own exclusive Sonic Implants Sound Set inside – it’s even easier to create and collaborate together over the Internet!

Friday, February 02, 2007

MicroHDTV Camera

A novel miniature camera allows viewers to enjoy a new live experience and watch a ski jump or a car race in high resolution from the actor’s perspective. The camera is so tiny that it even fits inside the cramped cockpit of a racing car. Until recently, this could only be done in standard TV resolution. Now these images have made the leap to ‘high-definition TV’ (HDTV), thanks to a mini-camera developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen. Several licensees will soon be putting the camera into series production.

Measuring 4 by 4 by 8 centimeters, the camera is smaller than a bar of soap and can even be accommodated in a cramped racing-car cockpit or a ski jumper’s helmet. »The MicroHDTV model is one of the smallest HDTV cameras currently available,« says Stephan Gick, group leader at the IIS. »We achieved this chiefly by taking two different approaches: The camera’s electronics have a very low power loss, which means that little heat is generated and the housing can thus be kept very small. By using highly integrated parts, we were able to fit all of the components such as the image sensor, the analog-to-digital converter, the color processor and several interfaces into the tiny space available inside the camera.«

With its format of 1920 x 1080 pixels and a variable frame rate of up to 60 frames per second, the camera meets all the requirements expected of a professional HDTV production. All parameters – such as color settings, white balance, image format and frame rate – can be controlled using the integrated software. All it takes is to open a web browser, connect the camera to the notebook via a local network and set the desired parameters. »Because the camera is so small and can be controlled via the Internet, it can deliver pictures of scenes that could not be viewed in the same way before – for example, recordings of sports events or applications that require the camera to be installed in difficult-to-reach places,« says Gick.

Another of the camera’s advantages is that it can be operated using standard optical systems. The MicroHDTV camera will be on display at the CeBIT trade fair (Hall 9, Stand B36), which will take place in Hanover, Germany from March 15 to 21 2007.

More information from Dipl.-Ing. Stephan Gick, Phone: +49 9131 776-521
Fax: +49 9131 776-598

Fraunhofer-Institut für Integrierte Schaltungen IIS
Am Wolfsmantel 33
91058 Erlangen, Germany

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Brilliant Resource to P2P

Michel Bauwens of the P2P foundation pointed me in the direction of their wiki which is turning into a truly excellent guide to editing and distribution software.

is the place to check out. Very well done - and clever to use the wiki concept.

Monday, January 15, 2007

GigaVox Media, Inc. » The Levelator™

GigaVox Media, Inc. » The Levelator™

If you are doing podcasts, then check out this excellent piece of free software to balance the overall levels before you post. There are versions for both Mac and Windows.

Here's what the author's say:

We've released the all-new non-beta version of The Levelator for Windows and OS X. A Linux version is coming soon. This is a major upgrade from the earlier beta-test release. Special thanks to our
team: Bruce Sharpe, Norm Lorrain, Tim McNerney and to the users and beta testers who sent in sample audio files and bug reports.

Here's what's new:
* A cool new interface.
* Significant improvements in the levelation algorithms. (Thanks
to all those who submitted challenging audio files. We used every one of them in our testing.)
o improved handling of background noise
o improved processing of stereo files
o fewer "breathing" and "pumping" artifacts
* All sample rates and bit depths are now supported. Previously,
some such as 22,050Hz and 24-bit were not.
* Renaming the application files to simply "Levelator" in order
to make the application easier to locate in alpahbetized
* Elimination of the Java Web Start user interface in favor of a
native UI for each platform.
* Easing of restrictions on commercial use. (Read the new
* You can now drag-and-drop an audio file onto the applications
icon, even if the application is not currently running.
* The application window can now be minimized.
* OS X 10.3 (Panther) is now supported.
* You can drag-and-drop an audio file onto the application's icon
in the Dock (OS X).
* Temporary files are managed more efficiently.
* T-Shirts and web-site buttons!

Download The Levelator (v1.1):
The New License:
T-Shirts and Web-Site Buttons!
An Important New Survey
If you love The Levelator -- okay, even if you don't -- please
spend just one minute completing our new survey. We're working
on the next release of cool new products for podcasters, and
your input can have a significant impact on what we do and how
we do it. Trust me, we really do take your input very seriously.
Our One-Minute Survey:

HairerSoft - Amadeus Pro

HairerSoft - Amadeus Pro

Has anyone had any experience with this Mac (only) sound editing software? I haven't seen it at any stations, but it may be a cheaper alternative to other packages for home/small business use.

Amadeus Pro is a powerful multitrack audio editor supporting a variety of formats including MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, Apple Lossless, AIFF, Wave and many others. Click on one of the thumbnails below to see a larger version of it.

Multitrack editor Amadeus Pro is a fully featured multitrack editor. Each track can have its volume adjusted independently from the others. Amadeus Pro fully supports multitrack WAVE files and allows you to render sound on up to 5 different loudspeakers simultaneously.

Batch processing There's that whole collection of files that you wanted to convert to Mp3, but you first wanted to normalize them and make them fade in and out nicely. Several hours of work in perspective? Let Amadeus Pro do the work for you! The powerful batch processor allows you not only to convert large numbers of files between any of the supported formats, but you can also instruct Amadeus Pro to apply any sequence of sound effects.

Repair centre The handy repair centre allows you to find and to repair cracks with a simple click of the mouse. Furthermore, Amadeus Pro's powerful denoising functions allow you to easily get rid of that annoying hiss on your old tape recordings or of that 50Hz hum picked

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007

Clock Radio, Media Gallery
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.

Hello, thanks for dropping by and may all the dreams and promises for new equipment come true in 2007. And a safe and healthy one too for all of us. See you further down the blog.