Stumped, baffled, and perplexed.......

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Smarty, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I am making a DVD for low vision / nearly blind users which contains mostly
    audio content, about 8 hours of "talking book" spoken material.

    I want the video track to contain nothing more than a large displayed clock
    / timer which shows the elapsed time since the beginning of the 8 hour audio

    If the user were to be at, let's say, 5 hours and twenty minutes into the
    program, I would expect the display would read:


    I realize that many DVD players already have a timer built in, which
    optionally allows remaining time to be shown and could also possibly show
    elapsed time. I do not want to rely on this built-in timer since many DVD
    players do not provide such a function, and if they do, it is too small to
    be seen / read by my audience.

    The baffling question I have is:

    Is there any software available (short of writing a program to create /
    display such a timer) which would generate such a video or allow a timecode
    to literally fill a full NTSC frame automatically?

    Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    Smarty, Oct 2, 2009
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  2. Smarty

    Smarty Guest


    I seldom use the word "awesome" since it is over-used severely by my
    grand-children's generation, but I must make an exception here......... your
    program is literally "awesome" and perfect for my situation. I must have a
    screen capture program here someplace which will grab 8 hours of this clock.

    The foreground and background color choices and format choice are exactly
    what I needed.

    Superb and bravo!!!!!!!!!!

    Many many thanks......
    Smarty, Oct 2, 2009
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  3. "Frank" wrote...
    LOL! It was thrown together when I couldn't find anything
    else. They had a dedicated laptop to do the countdown, so
    efficiency wasn't a requirement. Should'a made it interrupt
    driven to play nicer with others. Its the kind of dumb
    programmer stunt that gives MS Windows a bad name. :)

    Its been out there for years. I never thought it was anything
    particularly special. Maybe I should have put it up on those
    freeware search/download places online where I couldn't find
    anything myself?
    Yeah, meanwhile (6-7 years) I have collected a few suggestions
    like this for improvements, enhancements, etc. Maybe I should
    write a new version to practice my C++ and .NET with Visual
    Studio 2008.

    I had wanted to make the font selectable, but couldn't find the
    font metrics lookup data to make it automatically scalable, etc.
    Well, it *IS* an old VB app! :)

    I'm currently using a small onscreen clock that shows running
    seconds. Sometimes I need to know time to that resolution,
    or to use the running seconds to see how slow my network or
    whatever is running today, etc.
    It has a few problems of its own, but whadda ya want for free?
    Richard Crowley, Oct 3, 2009
  4. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Welcome back Frank after a long period of absence. Your sage advice and
    website were invaluable to me in my earlier life in HDV and the FX-1 and
    successor HDV camcorders. I am really pleased to see a sudden rebirth of
    this newsgroup, not too long after the "RIP" condolence messages were posted

    Despite the VB implementation and its limitations, I will cheerfully report
    that I now have a very serviceable 8 hour long video with 1 second clock
    increments in a large and attractive font with nicely selectable foreground
    and background colors particularly suited for visually handicapped users.
    Richard's program and a freeware screen capture program (directly to XVID at
    3.5 Mbytes/minute) did the trick. Many thanks again!!

    Your Xmas present sounds fantastic Frank. Could it be an HP, a MacPro, a
    Dell? Do you intend to run it as a 64-bit Vista machine or some other
    flavor? Anything "special" in the GPU? And how much RAM will this beast
    contain? I am drooling.......

    Smarty, Oct 3, 2009
  5. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I owned some of the shop manuals years ago for my own gear, and filled my
    basement lab with signal generators, power supplies, 2 excellent scopes, and
    a lot of other tools and parts. When it really came down to fixing my own
    video products, it eventually became obvious that I lacked both the
    expertise and special tools / fixtures to do most of the really useful
    service. I did head replacements on a few VTRs (including some half inch
    consumer black and white units I bought in the 1960s) but most of the time
    the repair wound up costing more than if I had just sent it out to Sony or
    whomever and let them fix it. I am also finding now that the combination of
    my declining eye sight and the shrinking of printed circuit cards and
    components makes it entirely worthless for me to attack these type of
    repairs in the majority of cases. I still very much enjoy the "Theory of
    Operation" and such narratives to learn how and why the circuit designs were
    chosen, and the older Service Manuals used to provide these. I still have
    several of my earlier Heathkit, ham radio, audio, and other manuals around
    here from things I built in the last 50 years as nostalgia pieces.

    I can't sit back and read some of David's comments and suggestions
    passively. When the question gets the wrong answer, or an answer which
    obfuscates rather than illuminates, I feel compelled to jump in. Such is my
    nature. I have, for a variety of reasons, been far less energetic on the
    Internet in recent months, so my more recent posts tend to have a
    disproportionate percentage of nagging / critical flavor which I take no
    pride or pleasure in. In days past, I spent more time being responsive
    directly to inquiries, but now I am, by neccesity, more limited, but I have
    to get involved when I see distortions being offered as "facts". I take the
    attitude that truly disinterested parties always have the choice to skip
    over these messages, and there is no gun at anybody's head forcing them to
    read through this drivel. I am sincerely concerned for the integrity of the
    newsgroup as an information resource, and don't want my messages to add to
    what is already a very polluted resource here resulting from the "Google
    Group" crowd and spamming.
    I was, indeed, a bit concerned about the 8 hour length of the DVD, and the
    attendent audio issue. The source material, as it turns out, originated from
    mp3s sampled at 64 kbits/sec monoraully, so I had little to work with. I
    brightened the audio with a bit of equalization, and am relying on the fact
    that many blind and near blind "viewers" have substantially better hearing
    than normal. The audio is actually very 'listenable'.
    I can see the logic of ECC given the size of the RAM, but wonder if the
    trade-off is really worth-while for choosing ECC. Apple chose it in one of
    the MacPros I had here not too long ago, and it certainly is a standard
    feature on server-class machines of the type you are considering, but there
    is a big difference in transaction processing high availability server
    workloads versus video editing desktops. Perhaps the alternative might be to
    get non-ECC memory but buy the memory carefully from a vendor with
    exceptional heat spreaders, high chip quality, etc. Crucial (aka Micron) and
    some of the triple channel Muchkin DDR3 come to mind.

    Might be worth tasking a peek at 6-core "Gulftown"or "Westmere", both (I
    believe) close to being sampled now.

    (If we could only get Richard to elaborate...)

    I expect to need major dosage increases of "Mycoxaflopin" as time goes on
    here, with an I V drip being a likely next step.......... Mrs. Smarty
    thankfully finds satisfaction in gardening, crochet, and

    Smarty, Oct 3, 2009
  6. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Thanks Arny. Both of these programs like very versatile in terms of font and
    screen selection, but as far as I can tell they both seem to do output in
    ..avi containers with no claims to support a compressed format for output. I
    wish they offered a trial version of either so as to see if they can make
    mpeg2 or other output. Absent this particular feature, they will make
    totally huge files for an 8 hour avi.

    Smarty, Oct 3, 2009
  7. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    One more observation Arny after a little experimentation with these 2
    software alternatives. Both seem to only offer "countdown" timers but
    neither appears to be able to count "up" (the need I had yesterday). Perhaps
    this is a feature which I overlooked in my reviews here?

    The biggest single virtue of these 2 programs, and not especially important
    in my situation, would be the ability to create an 8 hour long video in less
    than 8 hours time. Richard's program / approach worked superbly, and I
    literally walked away from this particular computer in the training room and
    came back late in the day to find the video nearly completed. It would be
    useful for some users to have a speedy alternative to make a long time
    stamped video in minutes or seconds rather than many hours as I did.
    Smarty, Oct 3, 2009
  8. Smarty

    J. Clarke Guest

    Just dinking around with Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements I found a
    way to make a timer by brute force and awfulness--create stills with
    Photoshop Elements that have the times, pull them into Premiere, then adjust
    the timing.

    For my first try I just made images that say "0:00", "0:01", "0:02", "0:03",
    "0:04", and "0:05" and showed each in turn for a second. For 8 hours that's
    going to be cumbersome.

    The second time I made images of "0", "1", . . . "9", displayed each of
    those for 1 second, copied that 5 times for 6 total, then made images of "0
    ", "1 ", "2 ", etc through "5 ", and put those on a separate track, each
    displayed for 10 seconds.

    Now if I copy that whole shebang 10 times and add another digit displayed
    for a minute eacd I'll have 10 minutes, and another 6 will give me an hour,
    then 8 of those will be 10 hours.

    For a short clip it takes longer than just pointing a camera at a clock, but
    for 8 hours it should be much quicker.

    I'd suggest making up a short clip that just shows all the numbers in
    sequence first to fine tune the spacing.

    Same technique should work for any editor than can import stills.
    J. Clarke, Oct 4, 2009
  9. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    My apologies Frank. I overlooked that specific topic. The screen recorder I
    used was the trial version found at:

    My reasons for using it were the following:

    1. It worked with Vista on this hardware with no apparent problems or
    issues. (Several other downloads did not.)
    2. It had some good references I found in a brief Google search / review of
    similar products.
    3. It had a rare ability to use whatever encoding codecs were installed on
    the computer, selectable in the Tools/Options menu. Most had a single
    encoding choice, typically uncompressed.

    I used the trial version for this single situation, but the purchase price
    of $39.95 seems reasonable based on my limited favorable usage.

    The frame rate is adjustable, but only to integral values. Thus, NTSC is not
    an explicit choice, but 30 fps is, as are values from 1 to 200 fps. File
    size grows proportionately.

    I hesitate to "recommend" this product since I have not used others of its
    kind in years, and can't really make any comparisons. It did the single job
    I needed to do with no issues, so I guess that it is my only real
    'endorsement' of the software as such.

    Hope this answers your question, and sorry to have overlooked it previously.

    Smarty, Oct 4, 2009
  10. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I like the technique you developed mostly for the situation where I wanted
    to precisely control visual effects such as fades, dissolves, or other
    transitions which would make the digits behave exactly as I desire, versus
    the mostly mechanical "look" of a counter. I have to admit that I lack the
    patience to put together the stills, the layering of tracks, and the
    associated timing / spacing controls needed to make this all look just
    right, given that my audience can barely see the screen. They are using the
    time base as a means of coming back to where they left off when they last
    watched / listened to their 8 hour audiobook on DVD.

    Thanks for the alternative approach, a very good solution for certain jobs.
    Smarty, Oct 4, 2009
  11. Smarty

    Smarty Guest


    What purpose does the integer variable frame_offset serve? I see it being
    passed to the display / fprintf routine through that subroutine call, but
    don't see it being modified. Is it a spacing for display purposes (like 100

    Smarty, Oct 4, 2009
  12. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    The trial is apparently crippled in only 2 ways. It has a 30 day time limit
    (unlimited use). It puts a small watermark in the visible frame showing the
    software name.
    My needs in this case were not for timing accuracy so much as timing
    precision (to use the engineering distinction). Thus, my audience merely
    needed a reliable, repeatabe way to get back to where they had previously
    left off viewing, and thus I can easily tolerate warps and time base errors
    The project is done from my end, and now the only truly important remaining
    issue is user feedback. The screen is literally filled with huge digits
    counting out the seconds, so I am pretty certain this meets the expectation
    I was skewed to fulfill. This was / is a 'gratis' effort on my volunteering,
    so I don't have any issues of customer rejection, non-payment,
    Smarty, Oct 4, 2009
  13. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    TYPO ALERT !!! - - - I intended to type "asked" but instead typed "skewed".
    Guess I had time bases on my mind.........
    Smarty, Oct 4, 2009
  14. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I will check out your website. Been awhile since I last visited, and I am
    looking forward to seeing some of the AVCHD camcorder details in particular.

    Indeed, and the spectral analysis of the voice content I see here when
    equalizing this audio track looks like it is band-limited to around 100-3300
    Hz. I am guessing it was actually sampled at maybe an 8 KHz rate but have
    not looked at the header to see what was actually used.

    Having paid the considerable RAM premium once for the Mac Pro RAM, I would
    personally opt for faster non-ECC, and would love to own a 1600 MHz DDR3
    motherboard and RAM. I have to believe that good thermal design with enough
    heat sink / spreader / blower / cooler hardware would give you a stable and
    extremely high performance solution for less total cost and higher
    throughput. I'm not a big proponent of liquid cooling, nor do I appreciate
    fan noise, so I guess I would have to take a hard look at the trade-offs.
    Some of the not-too old machines with SIMMs still support parity checking,
    but apparently DIMMs no longer offer this option other than the full ECC
    approach. I would be surprised if soft memory errors occur often enough to
    justify the extra cost for video work. If I were building a number cruncher
    for science or finance apps, then I would probably spend the extra $$ for
    MaximumPC magazine and elsewhere have been doing some reliable overclocking
    above 4 GHz, but I would personally never go that route. The NLE software
    and hardware is flakey enough that the last thing I would want to add was a
    marginally stable CPU and bus.

    I would want at least 5.1, possibly 7.1 editing and authoring, but it
    depends a lot on what your customers demands are and what content you will
    be handling. Then again, with Japan Incorporated ready to launch 3D
    television into the world market, it will be interesting to see what if any
    new formats arise which demand alternative video and audio processing.

    It is taking a long time for the migration of software to parallel
    processing architectures. Many if not most of the apps out there do not
    exploit the true parallelism which the cores provide, and Vista does a poor
    job of spreading the work and adjusting workflow dynamically. Multiprocessor
    OS designs have been around for decades, with IBM's Deep Blue and boxes from
    MassPar, Cray, Amdahl, and others, and even the minicomputer vendors of the
    1970s and 1980s like DEC were doing reasonable distribution of processing
    with VAX clusters and DataGeneral Eclipses. It will be a very long time,
    IMHO, before the PC world makes this migration, and thus the uber-fast
    single CPU (25 GHz!!) solution wins my vote for sure. The biggest issue is
    the liquid nitrogen cryogenic hardware, which is still a bit pricey. Not
    sure what temperature Gallium Arsenide melts
    at.......................................... And if Microsoft still "owns"
    the PC market for operating systems, they have yet to figure out how to get
    single threaded, single core code to run reliably, so I would speculate that
    our great-grandchildren may be among the first to see truly reliable and
    fast multicore solutions such as now used in the supercomputers with
    hundreds of cores. (Ironically, the Playstation 3 is a good example to the
    Smarty, Oct 4, 2009
  15. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I left the logo / bug in the final video. It is miniscule, far below the
    threshold where the intended audience will even notice it.

    Hours:Minutes:Seconds worked very well. It is intuitive and much easier to
    remember than some integer counter which counted frames, seconds, etc.
    I admit (sheepishly) that there were no titles, no credits, nothing other
    than the huge counter display along with the 8 hours of audio. I offer these
    'gratis' efforts with no attribution or publicity of any kind, and I have no
    commercial agenda whatsoever. I do very much appreciate the help from
    Richard in this effort, and his little program provided a very quick and
    very attractive result.
    Smarty, Oct 4, 2009
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