Now I’m The IT Guy

snapshot_000DC5D4C863_20150221162928When I started my studio project I had no idea I’d become “the IT guy.” Everything is digital. Nothing is analog… except me.

The good news is I like this stuff, but this is way deeper in than I’ve ever been. I’ve got servers and a bunch of other single purpose computers, like my switcher and the modem that allows me to send HD video over the Internet.

Nearly every device is sharing with every other device. Files need to be available no matter where I am or they are.

I poked holes in my firewall and forwarded ports to allow the outside world to communicate directly with some of my gear. It’s not without danger. Miscreants are robotically probing for weaknesses in systems like mine 24/7.

In the analog days video and audio were like water flowing through pipes. You could cut the pipe at any point and split it or meter it.

Not today.

The flow is more orderly and intensely complex. Data doesn’t flow, it’s routed. As you might imagine, 1080i video consumes lots of data. Every hour my studio is feeding it sends around 5Gb of data.

Packets are flying through my network at breakneck speed, but it’s still the bottleneck of my system… of most complex networks. Optimization is everything. I’m working with vendors’ experts who know their systems to tweak every last bit of performance.

This isn’t a never ending project, is it?

It’s Starting To Look Like A Studio

I was just in the garage. It’s more studio now. Boxes still litter the floor. The rugs we ordered haven’t yet released their folds. The lights aren’t properly pointed. But there are signs it’s not for cars anymore.





I was just in the garage. It’s more studio now. Boxes still litter the floor. The rugs we ordered haven’t yet released their folds. The lights aren’t properly pointed. But there are signs it’s not for cars anymore.

The sideview monitors are mounted. That’s how I’ll see the maps while on-air. There’s another monitor in the TelePrompter.

I’ve also erected a sound baffle/equipment room from an old cubicle KMIR let me have. Inside are utility shelves I brought home from Lowes. Equipment sits on them, waiting.

My Blackmagic Studio Camera has arrived, as has its zoom lens. The focal length was a guess. The camera itself is as cool as can be with a large flat monitor on the back.

The size and cost of cameras and everything electronic has dramatically plunged. This seems a good time to get in.

There are just two pieces missing. I am praying they arrive this week. Hey, NewTek, I’m talking to you. Pretty please. Seriously.

NewTek makes the Tricaster Mini. It’s the brains of the operation, acting as a full broadcast control room. Without it there is nothing.

I’ll be directing my own segment while on-the-air with its assistance. Yes, that is totally crazy!

The other missing item is the tripod. It will hold the very light camera and the much heavier Teleprompter.

I went to Fry’s and bought some cable last night–75 ohm coax with bnc connectors on each end in varying lengths. Even the nerd at Fry’s didn’t know where it was. These will be used to tie equipment together. I overbought. It’s inexpensive enough to consider an insurance buy.

I ordered a few 50 foot lengths of HDMI cable today. These will be used on the sideview monitors. 25 foot lengths were originally ordered. Oops.

Once the studio’s complete I’ll need to test with the station and make sure everything’s perfect. A week from today would be nice. It’s my goal.

I think I’ll call it Studio 5E, after the apartment I grew up in. I’m living the dream.

It’s Starting To Look Like A Studio

studio 5E

“Take Doppler to piddle, but stop in the garage before you come upstairs.” Helaine wanted me to see what she’d accomplished while I was gone.

Holy crap. It’s a studio!

It took lots of work on her part preparing and painting the wall. The electrician removed an outlet right in the middle. Helaine patched and sanded before applying two coats of Behr Sparkling Apple.

It looks amazing. She’s amazing.

Two backlights are overhead. The key lights are on stands. They’ll be held in place with sandbags. That’s how it’s done in real studios.

There are mounts and power for monitors and a clock hung from a beam.

Cox came and installed service. I’m told I need 6-8 mbps for high quality, low latency, HD video. I’ve got triple that.

Most of the equipment is still enroute. I’d like to set it up next weekend, if possible. I’m itching to get started.

Little things keep popping up. We’re starting from scratch. I ordered a charger, 8 AA NiMh batteries, a few 25 foot HDMI cables and light meter, tonight.

In a few weeks my garage will be a chroma key driven sound stage. It’s for work. It’s a toy. This is a very cool project.

Here Comes The Gear For My Studio

The only real difference is I’m running everything. No director. No cameraperson. No audio operator.


I start in Palm Springs Thursday. My home studio goes live in a few weeks. Right now it’s still a garage! Lots of work to be done.

Boxes are starting to arrive. Think of this as a giant jigsaw puzzle. I know what the finished project needs to do. Now I pray the pieces are the right ones in both fit and function.

IMAG2014-w1920-h1400The garage will be a real TV studio, 21st Century style. There will be a control room, though it won’t be bigger than a breadbox. It’s actually a Tricaster Mini, a special purpose PC designed to process video. The show gets ‘stacked’ beforehand, then I sequence it while on-the-air.

Weather maps will still be produced at the TV station, sent to me via FTP, stored in a server and played back live. Phew!

behr sparkling apple green for chroma keyThe wall separating the garage and kitchen will be painted Behr Sparkling Apple. That’s the Internet consensus for chroma key green.

Chroma key is a process in which one color (Sparkling Apple) is removed and replaced digitally by weather maps and graphics. When I’m on TV I stand in front of a green wall and point at maps that aren’t there. I see them in a few off-camera monitors.

It will be exactly the same process in my studio. The only real difference is I’m running everything. No director. No cameraperson. No audio operator.

The video gets back to the station via a Dejero VSET encoder. Stations use similar methods for ‘backpack’ liveshots. While testing, my video made the trip to Palm Springs in under a second.

Those are the major pieces. There’s also the peripheral stuff–microphones, lights, tripods, monitors, converters and on and on and on.

The station is letting me take a surplus cubicle off their hands, allowing me to isolate any noise from all the gear and providing me with an office.

This is all the more interesting because it allows me to send this live, high quality video anywhere at virtually no additional cost. To other TV stations? Maybe a news website? Who knows?

I’m the general contractor. I’d better not forget anything.

I Hate This Part


I am set up for my least favorite job, logging. I’ve done everything possible to put this off… even this blog entry.

“You’re like Steffie in high school,” Helaine remarked as I walked by her for the fiftieth time.

Oh, Stef. If you’ve inherited this from me, I apologize.

After interviews are complete and before a story is written you log the potentially useful soundbites and take notes on story content. A minute of interview can take five times that long. You’re transcribing by hand. Some folks have tried kludges with YouTube making an automated transcript. The results underwhelm.

In order to keep ‘focus’ in my video player (allowing me to use a ShuttleXpress for video jogging) I’ve brought a laptop upstairs for my notes. Two computers, no waiting.

After this comes writing and editing. I enjoy those stages. Not this one.

The Job My Computer Was Built For


Back in Connecticut my friend Peter Sachs has become infatuated with a utility quadcopter. It has an onboard camera. Really cool video (see below).

He’s in on the ground floor.

I though the video was a little shaky, so I asked him send it to me.

Here’s the power of the net. He sent me this high quality, full HD video in just a few minutes. That’s when my computer took over.

This PC was built specifically to edit video. It has a fast and powerful CPU with a video card chosen to make it even speedier.

I fired up Premier, Adobe’s video editor and dragged in Peter’s video. A couple of clicks later I’d installed a filter which dampened movement. Very math intensive. It worked in the background as I moved on.

On a separate channel I brought in the original video. Diagonal wipe. Font. Render. Lather. Rinse.

I sat back like the chief engineer on a large ship. My feet were up on the desk. On screen graphs showed my CPU working at 100% on all four cores. 11.5Gb of RAM, the max I allow for Premier, was fully in use.

You should be awed by this technology. I am awed by it. Video production has been democratized. Anyone who wants to make video can make video. The cost barrier has been shattered.

In the late 80s Channel 8 put in a room that could do most of what I’m doing today, but in standard def and on video tape. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This setup is a hundredth the price with the ability to render work at today’s professional standards.

It’s just crazy. My career in TV started as film was moving out. Tape beat film for ease, but today’s technology blows away everything that came before.

Don’t be confused. I can’t edit like a professional editor. I don’t have the chops. The equipment itself only takes you so far.

I’d like to get more involved with video production. I’m fully equipped.

Where Is Palau? Far!

palau   Google Maps

Turtle and Stone DSC_8863 emailThere are vacations and then there are VACATIONS. Friends of ours are just back from one of those. They are scuba divers. They went to Palau.

Where is Palau? Far!

They flew to Tokyo, then seven more hours of flying. I’m not sure they checked, but it’s 8839 miles that way.

Palau has some of the finest diving in the world. The seas just offshore are jam packed with life. You’ll agree after you see the video shot by their son, Stone. That’s Stone shooting video in the photo on the left.

All this is well and good and made better by the revelation of who else was there. I promised not to mention his name, but if you’re geeky you will know. The most famous open source software in the world is named after him!

That’s all I’m saying.

Enjoy the video.

Palau 2013 from Stone Fisher on Vimeo.

Trying To Get My Rig Together

When I decided to become a web developer I realized the only way to compete in a crowded marketplace was to offer websites with integrated video and photography. These are areas where I have expertise and many ‘devs’ do not.

I’ve got a website video shoot Monday.

My Canon 7D is primarily a still camera, but also great with video. Lots of TV shows and movies are shot with 7Ds and similar DSLRs

It’s just not ergonomically designed for moving pictures. For movies you need to add a ‘rig.’

A rig is a mount system for the camera which makes it more stable and easier to use when shooting video. I bought one with follow focus, hand grips and a shoulder brace. It came without instructions.

It was a little confusing to assemble. Even more confusing is deciding on a final configuration.

I headed over to my friend Steve’s house for some Allen Wrench therapy. He is the tool man!

There have to be at least a dozen possible adjustments. Each affects all the others. This is where instructions probably would have come in handy!

Did I want the hand grips moved forward? How I should I hold the rig for the camera to be parallel with the ground? Should the shoulder mount be long or short or… well, you get the idea.

We screwed with the assembly making loads of adjustments until it was reasonably comfortable. I shot some video of Steve, who at 6′ 5″, is a challenge to shoot. The video was steady. As I walked around, motion was smooth.

I’ll experiment a little more tomorrow, but I’m confident the rig works and will make a big difference. All I need is my own 9mm Allen Wrench!

My On-Camera Forecast

With snow on the way, I thought I’d go to the maps and show you a little of what’s going to happen.

It’s Pouring Snow – The Video

Take a look at the snow as it pours off my roof. By this time we had about a foot of blowing, featureless snow! There are drifts against doors, windows and walls.

Taken inside during the Blizzard of 2013.

Floating Up The Hudson: Video

This is a perspective of the river I hadn’t seen before. The Sun was just beginning to clear the towers of Manhattan. The skyline was backlit

Cruise ships ‘reload’ for their next trip in just a few hours. To facilitate that everything is perfectly choreographed. We knew from our visit with the captain we’d be at the Pilot Station before 5:00 AM and berthed by 7:00.

I was out of bed by 6:45 AM. We were just passing The Battery in Lower Manhattan. That gave me enough time to shoot around 250 pictures&#185. By this time my iPhone was back in local service and I pulled it out to shoot a few stills–quickly posted on Facebook–and a little video.

This is a perspective of the river I hadn’t seen before. The Sun was just beginning to clear the towers of Manhattan. The skyline was backlit. The Sun’s low angle caused noticeable shadows to be cast from one cloud to another.

This video was shot and edited on the iPhone with ReelDirector.

&#185 – Not quite as bad as it sounds because some where in series and meant to be used as pieces in a panorama or HDR image.

Tallulah: World’s Fastest Eater Caught On Video

We have decided Tallulah is the world’s fastest eater! She is tempted to go to Coney Island for the hot dog contest in a few weeks… though isn’t that awfully close to home for a wiener dog?

We have decided Tallulah is the world’s fastest eater! She is tempted to go to Coney Island for the hot dog contest in a few weeks… though isn’t that awfully close to home for a wiener dog?