11/15/2021

Using Cyberlink PowerDirector for Video Capture from within SONY Vegas Pro 11

CyberLink is and was known for making a very good PowerDVD and Goto DVD set of DVD viewer and burner programs.

But they also released over 20 different versions of a NonLinear Editor called PowerDirector.

PowerDirector evolved quite logically from one strength to the next taking advantage of improvements in video capture hardware and processors and gpu processors in a straight line up to the present day on Windows 10. Its an unbroken chain.

They even have a version of PowerDirector for Mac, which I am only vaguely aware of.

The key module or "tab" of interest with PowerDirector is the Video Capture tab, which does a great job with Analog video as well as various Hardware assist compressed video formats (aka DV, HDV, MPEG1/2/3/4).

The SONY Vegas Non Linear Editor is known for robustness, training materials and ease of use far more than Cyberlink products.

It is possible to configure SONY Vegas to "outsource" the video capture of DV materials from its own built-in or bundled standalone VidCap6.exe program to an external program when Capture is started from within the SONY Vegas menus. - 

This is done from the [Options > Preferences... > Video "tab"] 

Mid-way down check the box [X] Use external video capture application:

C:\Program Files\Cyberlink\PowerDirector20\PDR.exe


When initiating the Capture process from the SONY Vegas [File > Video capture...] menu

 

 

The dialog box will note that the capturing of DV video will use an external tool and that it can be reconfigured to point at other programs, which the trick used here.. to start PowerDirector instead and perform the Analog capture first.. then the resulting video capture product file can be Imported into SONY Vegas using the Explorer Undertab in the Media Panel.

In theory VirtualDub, VLC, OBS or other custom video capture tools could be use with SONY Vegas to acquire Analog video content and Import it through the Explorer Undertab.

Its also interesting to "know" that AverMedia went a different route and wrote a Capture "Plugin" for SONY Vegas that once installed lived in the "Media Generator" Undertab plugins. Dragging and dropping the plugin on a Timeline initiated the SDK developed plugin which took that as a signal from the SONY Vegas "operating system" to display its capture window and search for AverMedia Video Capture products it knew how to use to capture video. The end result when the video was captured was a segment on the Timeline more in line with an intuitive workflow.. but functionally identical to spawning an external capture program.. which SONY Vegas itself does with VidCap60.exe.. so arguably using PowerDirector is slightly more like the normal workflow.



Video Capture - with MPC-HC

MPC-HC ended active development in 2017, but before it did they added in much of the VLC and VirtualDub video capture features in 64 bit.

This is an example of using the Raw UVYV (aka YUV) 422 video capture capability of the Dell / Lumanate Angel II TV Tuner card from an S-Video source.


It came to my attention while looking at the File drop down menu that it looked very familar (for VLC) with an option to Open a [File Device...] from there it was a matter of back tracking where the menu for configuring the Video Capture Device was located. View > Options > Capture



Another Important location is the [ Play > Filters > MPEG Device, Crossbar, TVAudio and TVTuner]

Directshow panels for setting up further details for the card through its device drivers.

For some reason with this particular capture card it can get lost and permenantly configured to not address the UVYV input stream. For one thing the YUV 422 capture capability of this device on a native Windows 7 64 bit device driver that is Windows Media Center compliant is not well documented and only specified on the Lumanate website for one channel, of the dual channel card. 

Normally Windows Media Center only uses the Time Base Correction and MPEG2 hardware compression of the card. Its likely MPC-HC gets attached to the MPEG2 output pins of of the Directshow device driver filter modules by default or merit and never search any further. The Play Filter menus "might" offer help in this area.. but I've never been able to make them work after spending maybe five minutes wrestling with it.

The hackery shortcut way to reset this is to open regEdit and wipe a key to return it to a default profile and then try again. It will offer up UYVY as an output choice and start working again.

Simply delete the keys below the node "Capture" and close regEdit and it will rebuild them upon discovery of the card.


Its not a smooth way to capture with this card, there are a number of unpolished "issues" but it may be smoother with other capture devices.

Notably the versions of VLC that have similar feature menus are a bit harder to configure, even ffshow commandline methods. And people often think VLC is based on Directshow when it is most certainly "not. It reuses a libav codec library sourced from Linux.. so there is no Graph to study.

Since this exposes many Directshow filters is seems like it borrows the menu interfaces but more closely aligns with VirtualDub and Directshow filter models instead.. especially the DMO filters.

I've not tested it with many other video capture devices, but it could prove a very interesting alternative to both VLC and VirtualDub for video capture.



11/08/2021

Lumanate and PowerDirector 20.0 and 10.0

It seems the Cyberlink (from Taiwan) PowerDirector program can capture with some of the Lumanate sourced video capture devices.

So far I've found the Angel I and II and Wave USB video capture devices do capture and with sound.

The performance and ease of use for Capture seems much better than the software that was called out as compatible.

Cyberlink removed or hid the Capture feature in later versions of their PowerDirector program, but its prominently displayed in earlier editions. Not all capture devices work with PowerDirector.. but a lot more than I expected.

Since PD spans from Windows XP to Windows 7 and up to Windows 10, there is a chance that it would be a very good long term source of at least an MPEG2/4 capture program. And it does seem to capture AVI with some devices I have tried. It is not perfect.. but its really nice to find an alternative.

I am not sure how it compares to Adobe Premiere or FinalCut Pro but compatibility with a number of brands of capture cards is desirable.

Compared to VirtualDub and OBS it fills a niche between bare bones and something targeted for streaming.

Optimized Video Capture with ATI USB2.0N TV Wonder

 

This works best on Windows XP, the device driver available is 32 bit only. There is no 64 bit device driver available.

Windows XP (will not!) enable the Audio subsystem for a USB Audio device unless you have a Sound Card installed.. even if you don't use that Sound Card. It has something to do with not loading the Windows Mixer service.

The Effect is being able to capture Video but with no Audio. That is you can capture video, but there will be no audio stream.

VirtualDub "seems" to be able to capture video and audio even if there is no Sound Card.. but its a heavy work around. The only test I made was to turn on the Volume Meter and see that it could detect audio input from the video capture device.

For PowerDirector 10, I had to actually install a Sound Card (Santa Cruz) and the Windows Mixer service was installed and started. Then in PowerDirector, I had to (and could) select the Video capture device as the Sound source. Its a strange sort of dependency.. but it works. Then I could capture 4:2:2 AVI or 4:2:0 "Software" MPEG2 video with sound.

Per usual playback on Windows 7 in the Windows Media Player required changing the file extension from the default .mpg to mpv2, then the video would playback in Windows Media Player, or in the Windows Explorer Preview Pane.. which made surfing videos without loading up a heavy playback viewer far easier. Trying to play the default .mpg file produces an error that the file type is not supported. I think it looks for the four CCCC inside the file to figure out the contents, or looks at the file extension for a hint as to the contents. And it defaults to not trying for plain .mpg files.. at least the ones produced by PowerDirector.. and many other capture software.

The ATI USB2.0N TV Wonder device produced good capture video.. but is Very sensitive to the quality of the external Power Brick used to provide power. If the Power Brick is getting old, banged about or is in anyway damaged. The Video captured can have a series of Diagonal lines seemingly ghosted or overlayed "Superimposed?" upon the overall image. They produce alternating lines of dark and light over the underlying image. -- This can be cured completely by switching to a new or "known to be fresh or good" Power Brick. The problem goes completely away.

I used to wonder if this was random interference or bad cables.. but it was simply a bad or failing power supply. These power supplies, even the wall adapters.. have capacitors in them that dry out and go bad.. before they completely fail.. or make the video capture device fail.. they begin producing low frequency interference probably through the shared ground connection with the video capture board in the device. There isn't really a practical way of shielding from the interference since it is a shared ground.. a filter of some sort might work.. but its an indicator the Power Brick is nearing its end of life.. and could further damage the video capture device anyway.. its best to simply get a new one.

Since most of the ATI USB2.0N TV Wonder video capture devices are over ten years old.. it makes sense that most of the Power Bricks are near end of life anyway and will be introducing interference to the video capture image.

The Power Bricks are generic enough and available from places like Digikey under the Phong brand name.

I have seen similar things with PCI video capture cards and now suspect the Electrolytic caps surface mounted to the board. They are intended to filter out low frequency noise.. but when they dry out they stop doing that and permit more low frequency noise to invade the video inputs and super impose upon the video capture raster.

Since most of the NTSC signal is based upon or synchronized with the 60 Hz line frequency (a low frequency source of interference) it makes sense that the inputs are not as well protected after the capacitors begin to fail.


9/23/2021

GPD P2 Max - Updating the Windows 7 graphics device driver

 The GPD P2 Max is a hand held (Ultra) PC that weights around 600 grams. It comes preinstalled with Windows 10 and can run Windows 8.1 but really shines when running Windows 7.

Its not advertised as having support for installing or running Windows 7 because the underlying mainboard of the platform is beyond that which Intel and Microsoft agreed to as the cutoff point for installing Windows 7 on new hardware.

It appears however this is simply an arbitrary cutoff as Windows 7 can be installed and runs perfectly fine on the GPD P2 Max.

The BIOS of the GPD P2 Max does not have a Legacy CSM BIOS extensions for supporting the INT10 interrupt call which some of the installers and post install support systems depend on.

 This has led to many people trying and eventually giving up installing Windows 7 on platforms without the CSM support.

 Most BIOS today are not really 16 bit BIOS, but rather UEFI Firmware pre-boot operating systems. As such a small program or shim can be written and loaded into memory before the User operating system boots in order to provide features like an INT10 BIOS call routine.

The consumer program called Flashboot Pro provides such a program and offers it during the creation of a USB boot media thumb drive for installing Windows 7. In addition it offers to inject generic copies of NVMe SSD and USB3.0 device drivers to assist with boot hardware that depends upon those devices since those technologies did not exist when the original Windows 7 installation media was mastered.

After booting from the thumb drive (which requires a keyboard combo of FN+DEL to get into UEFI bios and selecting the USB boot media as preferred) . The Windows 7 installation proceeds as normal.

After first boot and user setup.

Several orange safety cones in the device driver manager alert the user to missing device driver support for some of the  hardware attached to the mainboard of the GPD P2 Max. The physical keyboard also doesn't seem to work, so I used the onscreen keyboard to complete setup.

Most driver issues can be resolved by downloading and running the Internet enabled Snappy Driver Installer application. Its advisable to take things slow and repeatedly backup using a full system imaging tool like Macrium Reflect and a bootable large USB thumb drive to capture and deploy backup images.

Device driver hunting is full of unfortunate events that often lead to unrecoverable BSoD messages.

Its faster to restore from a Macrium image backup to a working condition than to repeat the Windows 7 installation procedure.

The most important device driver to replace or update is the windows standard video driver. By default the Basic device driver runs in the maximum pixel resolution of the LCD display possible and this can be very hard to navigate.

Windows Update and Snappy Driver Installer will Not be able to deliver a working Intel HD device driver for the GPU built into the Mobile processor.

Rather you need an Intel HD device driver of a particular vintage which supports both Windows 7 and Windows 10 installs. Many of these have been removed from the web by Intel. Third party sources still abound.

The INF file for the graphics folder needs to be modified after downloading it so that the device ID when atttached ot the PCI bus matches the device driver to install in the INF file.

This works:

%iKBLULTGT2% = iSKLD_w7, PCI\VEN_8086&DEV_591C

 Its rather confusing if you look at the problem straight on.

The literature says this CPU should have an Intel HD 615 GT2 GPU. However that device driver does not work.

What does work is the device driver for an Intel UHD 620 GT2, but once all the Intel support tools are installed they report the GPU as an Intel HD 630 GT2

 Basically.. ignore the confusion and declare victory and move on.

The device driver is fully functional and video playback is superb and quite reliable.

If I had to guess I would think the confusion arose because they released an enhanced version of the Mobile CPU and partnered it with a later more capable GPU and didn't bother updating or creating a specific device driver for Windows 7. Instead they used a later GPU which was already partnered with older CPUs which already had working Windows 7 device drivers. So effectively it has an older higher performance GPU for which there is a Windows 7 device driver.

This CPU was the first 14 nm process (smaller) die which could accomodate the larger older higher performance GPU.. so the result was a win-win for the customer.

 Effectively.. I "guess" they preleased what they thought would be accurate information at the time, and changed the die design during production, once they found they had the capability.

Windows 7 Aero is fully functional, DirectX11 is available. The Windows Experience Rating is 6.8 out of 7.9 possible exceeded only by the higher performance of the CPU. The weakest link is the high performance GPU.

I am not a Gamer.

But I would assume this is a sweet spot for gamers, this is the scenario you would prefer.. to have a more capable CPU partnered with a high performance GPU. Closely matched in fact to take best advantage of the strengths of each.







9/02/2021

Black Snow, A Fast way to Warm up Mars

The Martian moons Phobos and Deimos are made up of some of the darkest material in the Solar System. If a solar powered mass driver were placed on Phobos it could be mined for the dark material and used as a kind of rocket fuel by the recoil of the mass driver hurling mined slugs of the material into and over the Martian Polar Ice Caps. 

This would also change the orbit while also lowering its mass, and eventually place it in a Polar orbit. Larger chunks could then be deployed to continue to cover the Polar caps with Dark Carbon like material which could absorb light and melt the polar caps.

The lowering of the mass of Phobos would make it more likely to break apart and easier to mine, close to the Roche limit it should be very easy to redirect huge portions into a controlled break up over the Martian polar caps to maximize coverage and heating effects.

As relics of the Frost belt and being in orbit about Mars when it lost most of its water there is also a good chance a significant portion of the material may contain water and could be salvaged for rocket fuel for orbital travel and deceleration of incoming spacecraft.

Deimos being in a higher orbit and smaller, could also be used as an Electromagnetic dynamo to create a sustained magnetic field. Powered by its orbital kinetic energy, by trailing a long dipole antenna from the moon a distance towards the planet. 

This was proven in an experiment conducted on the space shuttle in Earth orbit. Scaled up.. it should provide some protection at certain altitudes for any travelers or bases in orbit.. as from a solar flare.. and on the surface at certain latitudes.


8/26/2021

Artweaver How to Unlock Background Layer

If you Save an Open Image file as PNG and choose 32 bit not 24 bit.

Then close the PNG file and reopen it.

The Image opens as 'Layer 1' with no Background Layer, and its unlocked.

If you save this same file with no Background Layer as an Artweaver .AWD file it retains this property.

If you save this same file with no Background Layer as a Photoshop .PSD file it retains this property.

 If you save this same file with no Background Layer as a JPEG file it looses this property and gets converted back into a locked Background Layer..