Real practicality in test and measurement

We are quite an unusual company, a unique hybrid. On one hand Flotsam Films is an independent producer but we also provide full production capabilities and consultancy for other filmmakers.
The other part of our business is our own post production facility in London, used by our in-house productions and by other external clients, particularly independent producers like ourselves, who want to concentrate on the project in hand and not worry about the technology. We set it up with the hardware to support anything from DV to full HD projects, tapeless acquisition and complex workflows, but always recognising that the indie producer often works long, late hours to finish the project and needs somewhere comfortable and intuitive to work.
Quality control is obviously critical: no-one wants to do all those long hours only for a programme to be rejected because of a technical failing. But test and measurement instruments have the reputation for being complex and potentially intrusive. We wanted to find a device that would give us reliably accurate measurements of the basics, in a simple form.
We chose on the Hamlet DS9000 DigiScope, which is part of their on-screen range. That means the device itself does not have a small display like the conventional 3U, half rack waveform, vectorscope monitor, but has a video output which can be routed to any screen. That is the first big benefit: you do not have to look down at a small, technical device. The test display is convenient to see, so you can glance at it to check. There are DVI and XVGA outputs so you can use computer monitors as well as video screens.
Inside, it is based on the common digital platform that Hamlet designed for all its new generation test products. For engineers who are familiar with the Hamlet MicroFlex it is the same digital hardware, but in a 1U cabinet with extended display features. The same FlexiScope modules can be plugged in to tailor it for your requirements. Ours is set up for HD monitoring, which means it can also do standard definition (analogue and digital) if we need it. It also shows sound metering and phase.
Probably the biggest single reason we chose Hamlet is that the people there are very helpful. A lot of broadcast kit is made by huge, unapproachable corporations. Hamlet took time to understand what we wanted to do, and really listen to use. It is great to deal with people we know at a very specialised technical company. Steve Nunney of Hamlet told me that their emphasis is on developing products for operational areas, focusing on making them user friendly and not over-engineered for practical use.
Because of this relationship, and because the DS9000 fitted into our operation so well, we have been looking at the Hamlet VidScope-HD software-based test and measurement system. This puts all the video and audio tools you practically need into a package which runs on a Windows PC with a suitable graphics card.
The tests include vectors, waveform monitoring, area of interest, colour gamut, audio levels, surround sound and phasing, and even photo-sensitive epilepsy. The software lets you select up to six simultaneous test displays and put them any sized windows on one of more LCD screens.
I think this has a great deal of potential. Traditionally you would have to use a number of fixed hardware devices to check for all these parameters simultaneously, but the flexibility of the software solution is great. If you are in a suite facing long hours of colour correction, knowing you can drag the windows to give you the test patterns you want in the places you want is fantastic. This product is years ahead in terms of the functions real users need.
Technically, the VidScope-HD software is as stable as the bespoke hardware in the DS9000, which is very stable. Once installed you do not need to worry about factory recalibration. You can rely on the results it gives you. Having a quick and simple way to be reassured that the work you are passionate about is technically sound is great. Hamlet products offer that reassurance in a very practical form.

Tags: Flotsam Films | iss054 | test and measurement | DS9000 DigiScope | hamlet | flexiscope | VidScope-HD | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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