Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


HHI Offers Real-Time Encoding and Decoding Solutions

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:55 PM on April 14, 2014

HHI logoThe Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) featured solutions for high-efficiency real-time video encoding and decoding at NAB 2014. They also showcased their Hybrid 3D camera and ASP.

The Fraunhofer HHI Full HD 60Hz HEVC real-time software encoder provides a significant bitrate reduction for full HD video input at 60 Hz. They demonstrated the entire encoding chain at NAB. The real-time input comes over SDI from an ARRI Alexa camera and also from file play out together with audio. The HEVC encoded video output, packaged as a MPEG-2 transport stream, is fed over IP to the Fraunhofer HHI player system (which decodes it).

The Fraunhofer HHI 4K 60Hz HEVC real-time decoder offers real-time decoding of video content at resolutions up to 4K 10bit at 60Hz. A demonstration of it was also presented at NAB. The player takes the MPEG-2 transport stream input over different interfaces. Those interfaces include: Fast/Gigabit Ethernet (UDP/TCP/multicast), DVB-ASI, or from a file. Audio and video output is over HDMI 2.0 on an 84” 4K TV.

The Hybrid 3D is a cost-effective 3D production with trifocal camera material. It features the first After Effects plug-ins for generation of stereo content from trifocal film material. Fraunhofer HHI’s trifocal camera system enables stereo material to be produced just like a classic 2D production. It eliminates the need for special 3D camera expertise. The After Effects plug-in streamlines the post-production process.

ASP stands for Automated Stereo Production. It is a mirrorless side-by-side camera system with integration of high-end zoom lenses and compact smart cameras. Highly complex algorithms enable real-time correction and configuration of key parameters for stereo quality (like color matching, stereo geometry, stereo baseline and convergence).

Sony introduces 9.1 surround wireless headset

Posted by Alan at 6:05 AM on April 6, 2014

sony-headphonesThese days many of us have a 5.1 system set up in our homes, consisting of a center channel, two front and two rear speakers, along with a sub-woofer. Some folks go the extra mile to implement 7.1, which most modern A/V receivers are capable of handling. But what about 9.1 built into a wireless headphone set?

That’s what Sony promises. “Get a cinematic sound experience all to yourself in the comfort of your home with the new MDR-HW700DS digital surround wireless headphones system”, the company claims.

The dual band connection, 2.4GHz and 5GHz, allows for smooth wireless transmission without any disruptions, with a goal of giving users the freedom to move around without having to compromise the sound quality. There is also a selection of audio types to choose from, including cinema, game and voice.

“Both good for the eyes and the ears MDR-HW700DS is crafted for a comfortable fit over long periods of use with the pressure-relieving luxury ear cushions. The 50mm driver units provide deep bass and impressive sound power. Continuous use is no problem with a battery-life of up to 12h and fast recharge. All this is packed in luxurious and executive design. The headphones are outstanding in their compatibility with the 4K technology. The MDR-HW700DS allows native 4K video content to be passed through in its original quality to a 4K TV or projector, allowing you to experience the full 4K quality while listening via the digital surround wireless headphones system”, Sony explains.

The new headphones will be available later this month. Retail pricing was not included in the announcement.

vMix Debuts Live 4K and Social Media Integration at NAB 2014

Posted by JenThorpe at 2:04 AM on April 4, 2014

vMix LogovMix is a video mixing software that provides live HD video mixing. Version 12 of vMix has already been released, ahead of NAB 2014. It was created by StudioCoast, which is an Australian company. In order to use vMix, you must have a computer that runs on Windows 7 or Windows 8 platforms.

vMix has many interesting features. You can do live mixing, switching, and streaming of SD and HD (up to 1080p) video sources. The sources of the video can be from cameras, video files, DVDs, images, and more. It supports AVI, MP4, H264, MPEG-2, WMV, and QuickTime. It also supports audio files that are MP3 or WAV.

There are ten different transitional effects that you can use. You can customize 4 transition buttons in order to have easy access to your favorite effects. vMix comes with built-in Audio Mixer which allows you to mute, follow, and delay any audio source. A VU meter is included to help ensure that each input level is broadcast ready.

Another cool thing about the vMix is that it allows for simultaneous recording, streaming and output. You can use it to stream to Ustream and YouTube Live. It is also possible to stream to 3rd party software like Skype or Google Hangout. Those are just a few of the multitude of features in vMix!

You can do social media integration through vMix Social app. This makes it easy for you to send Tweets and Facebook comments directly to live on air graphics and lower thirds. Select content from a tablet or smartphone or have it sent automatically.

You can check out vMix and vMix Social at the StudioCoast Pty LTD booth at NAB 2014. They will be at booth C8312. Staff of vMix will be demonstrating live 4K production and Twitter integration on a portable production box.

Orca Gear to Launch at NAB

Posted by Andrew at 5:14 PM on March 26, 2014

Orca LogoPro gear and accessory firm Orca has announced that their official launch will take place at the upcoming NAB Show in Las Vegas on 7 April.

With over 30 years’ experience in the film industry, Orca’s research and development team has created a top-flight range of gear bags and accessories. The team produced the entire Orca line specifically for the audio-visual industry, designing a range of smart bags and accessories, carefully crafted to carry and protect video, lighting and sound equipment.

Integrating with their new Trolley System, Orca’s designs include the Audio Bag, Shoulder Video Bag, Light Case, and Backpack, incorporating aluminium frames and multiple access points for both protection and convenience. Additional offerings will include the Rain Cover and LCD Hood, and the full product line will be on show at NAB.

Band Pro Film & Digital have confirmed that they will carry the range following Orca’s NAB launch. Amnon Band, Band Pro’s President and CEO, remarked: “These are the best bags I’ve seen in a long time.  We’ve always prided ourselves on carrying nothing but the best, and that’s what Orca products are.  I’m really impressed with their entire product line.”

Drop in with Orca at the Band Pro Film & Digital’s booth #C10408

Audio Technica shows off new headset lineup

Posted by Alan at 10:21 PM on March 7, 2014

audio-technicaAudio Technica, as the name implies, is in the business of, well, audio products. Now the company is showing off its latest range of headphones, beginning with the standard ear-buds that most of us use daily. The new model is designed to conform to the user, and also includes an in-line microphone to handle those pesky telephone calls as well. It even utilizes a unique volume control that makes it cross-platform compatible — a concession to Apple’s proprietary controls.

The company also trots out its new gaming headset. This is an over-ear style, with a microphone built into it. That new model, the first gaming headset from Audio Technica, is based on the AudioPhile line, and that name alone should explain the quality here. You can find out more by visiting the site, and also watching the video below.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network

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Auro 3D Immersive Sound

Posted by Andrew at 1:20 PM on February 1, 2014

Auro 3DDon and Todd get a demo of Auro 3D‘s immersive sound experience which until recently was only available in movie theatres. The newly launched consumer version of the Auro 3D audio system adds a height component into the sound mix, giving the equivalent of 9.1 sound. Coming from a digital cinema background with over 150 theatres already using the system, Auro 3D is being introduced into home theater, gaming, mobile and automotive markets.

Especially watch this video if you want to see Don and Todd looking like smurfs while discussing the merits of smooth jazz and alcoholic beverages….

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Philips Golden Ears Challenge

Posted by Andrew at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2014

Philips Golden EarsThe mp3 digital music format has liberated music in a way that would be totally unthinkable to a previous generation. The Walkman made music portable and the CD digitised music but the revolution came as the mp3 format compressed music to fit into a fraction of its true size. Instead of music collections stretching from floor to ceiling, they could fit into a small box. However, audiophiles claim that this freedom has come at the price of sound quality, gradually eroding in the transition from vinyl to CD and finally to compressed digital, with serious deficiences in the sound output from mp3 music.

Are you one of the audiophiles or do you think that mp3 sounds just as good as vinyl? (C’mon, seriously?!) Do you want to put your hi-fi hearing to the test? If you do, the Philips Golden Ears Challenge is right up your street.

Philips has created a self-testing website that lets you find out “how good your ears are”. The Golden Ears sites educates you in everything anyone could ever need to know about sound, and helps to deepen the everyday listening experience, defining your own superior audio experience and understanding in what goes into creating quality sound equipment.

Golden Ears Legacy

The site takes the listener (you) through a number of challenges starting at basic then working up through bronze and silver before achieving Golden Ears!

Golden Ears Challenge

Each step explains the terminology and related effect before letting you hear the differences. For example, “Spectral Balance is the relative balance between the low and the high frequencies. A bright sound has more high frequency content, whereas a dark sound contains more of the low frequencies.

Timbre Training

After training, you then take a test to see if you can pick out the modified audio track from the original. The changes get progressively smaller over six samples to see how good you really are. It gets pretty tricky when there are only a few dB differences. It really helps if you have decent headphones or speakers on your PC – I wouldn’t recommend doing the tests with a Bluetooth headset!

It does take a little while to work through the exercises but it is educational and rewarding to understand the complexity of audio reproduction. You could easily spend a couple of hours going through it to get “Golden Ears” but the site remembers your progress so you can leave and return as you have time. It’s very satisfying too when you correctly select all the distorted tracks in a test. The Basic Level will take about an hour.

If you think that mp3 sounds as good as a CD or that bundled headphones sound as good as those costing $100, then take the Golden Ears Challenge and you’ll be both educated and surprised!

Minimalist Momentum Headphones from Sennheiser at CES

Posted by Andrew at 6:30 AM on January 10, 2014

Sennheiser LogoSennheiser are usually my headphone manufacturer of choice when it comes to music, so I’m always interested in the latest news from the German team. To be honest, it’s not massive news but when the headphones look as good as these, who cares?

For CES, Sennheiser have updated their “minimalist urban” headphones, the Momentum On-Ear with three new colours; high-gloss black, classic brown and intense red. Nice. The ear pads and headband have been finished in Alcantara, a high-tech soft-touch material produced in Italy. Alcantara provides a combination of suppleness, durability and breathability that makes it popular in the fashion, interior design, and automotive industries, and the use of the material by Sennheiser makes the headphones very comfortable for long listening sessions. The headband is made of brushed stainless steel. All round, they look great.

Momentum On-Ear

Audio-wise, the On-Ear is driven by Sennheiser’s proprietary 18-ohm transducers, delivering the usual Sennheiser experience of incredible clarity and detail with a slight bass emphasis. The closed, on-ear design ensures reliable isolation from external noise for a great listening experience on the move, even in noisy urban environments.

The Momentum On-Ear headphones feature a single-sided detachable cable with in-line remote and microphone for Apple devices to control music playback, and to make and receive calls on the go.

With the three new colour versions, Sennheiser has reimagined this essential, cool design in richer, more subtle tones,” said Charles Cha, Product Manager at Sennheiser. “Where the Momentum On-Ear headphones first showed their playful and extroverted character, the new versions are a more discrete revelation of luxury that hints at their superb performance.

The MSRP seems to be US$299 but they currently seem to be on-sale in the Sennheiser store for $199.

I want.

Griffin Introduces StudioConnect HD for Mac and IOS

Posted by Mike Dell at 1:20 PM on January 6, 2014

Griffin_Logo_Secondary_RGB1 Griffin Technologies has a great looking new toy (or tool) for those who want to record on their iPad, iPhone or Macintosh. it’s called the StudioConnect HD. It’s a neat little piece of hardware that plugs into your device and give you 2 1/4″ or XLR inputs for microphones, guitars, basses or keyboards (Banjo’s too?). It can record multiple tracks to your Mac or IOS device.

Studio Connect

Features include:

  • Two ¼”/XLR combo inputs with individual Gain control, Pad switch, 48v Phantom Power and Signal/Clip LED indicator
  • USB MIDI and 5-pin MIDI support
  • TRS 1/4” balanced out for monitors
  • Dedicated Monitor and Headphones volume controls
  • Compatibility with iOS (30 pin & Lightning) and OS X (USB)
  • Conveniently holds and charges an iPad

The StudioConnect HD works great with all core audio software on the Mac and IOS apps:

  • Auria (iOS)
  • GarageBand (iOS and OS X)
  • Logic Pro X (OS X)
  • JamUp / BIAS (iOS)

This looks like a great device for the home musician or podcaster. Hopefully when they come out in the Fall of 2014 we can get our hands on one to test it out.

Price will be $199, and as I said, it will be available in the Fall of 2014.

Griffin also announced a handy mount for your smartphone or other small device on your guitar called the Guitar Sidekick for $19.99.

GuitarSidekick

This would be handy for using tuning apps or to display lessons as you practice. These will be available in March 2014.

For more information on Griffin, check out their website at griffintechnology.com

Philips Hue Android Apps

Posted by Andrew at 6:14 PM on December 28, 2013

Hue Personal Wireless LightingLast week, I had a first look at the Hue “Personal Wireless Lighting” kit from Philips. As I mentioned in the review, Philips has opened up the lighting system to developers via an API and this week, I’ll take a look at some of the apps available, both from 3rd party developers. As you’d expect, they run the gamut from “could do with more work” all the way through to “brilliant” but broadly fall into two categories, firstly those that are primarily concerned with setting the colour of the lights, and secondly those that do more interesting things. This review covers the apps that are currently available from Google Play and there are many similar apps available for iOS.

Hue Limited Edition, Colorful, Light Control, Speedy Hue and LampShade are all variants on the “set the colour of the lights”. All offer grouping of lamps into sets and the saving of colour combinations into favourites or presets. Here are a few screenshots, showing the main screens from each. As you’ll see, they pretty much do the same thing in different ways.

Hue Limited Edition

Hue Limited Edition

Colorful

Colorful

Speedy Hue

Speedy Hue

LampShade

LampShade

Light Control

Light Control

All worked as advertised, but I found that in this instance, less was often more. If I wanted to run an app with favourites or presets, I tended to use the Philips Hue app to set all the lights at once. However to quickly set the colour of a single light, I used Hue Limited Edition, rather than anything else. Light Control came a close second and Speedy Hue gets an honourable mention for the inclusion of a scheduler which will turn the lights on and off at specified times.

Speaking of alarms, Hue Alarm Clock takes waking up to the next level. Instead of an incessant beeping, Alarm Clock gently fades in a colour of your choice to wake you from your slumber. The screenshot is from the limited free version, not the paid version which has more options.

Hue Alarm Clock

There are two apps which purport to support voice recognition, and like “Star Trek”, you too can walk into a room and say, “Lights!” and the illumination comes up. Hue Talk takes an almost canned approach to the voice recognition with the user able to predefine the voice commands for  around 20 features, from turning all the lights on, turning the lights up and down, and changing the colour. The suggested voice commands are memorable phrases, such as “Yellow Submarine” and “Purple Rain” turning the lights the respective colours. You can change the commands to whatever you prefer so there’s no real intelligence here but it works well.

Hue Talk

On the other hand, SpeechHue, looks like it supports natural language but I could never get the app to work in the way that I imagined it should work. Some of the comments in the Google Play store say that it’s good once you work it out. Sorry, if I need to work out how the app works, it’s failed. Zero stars.

SpeechHue

LampShade and Colorful (after paid upgrades) work with NFC to set the lights. In theory, each room could have an NFC tag (or tags) such that when the tag is swiped by the smartphone, the app sets the lights just for that room or mood. It’s a neat idea but I wasn’t able to test the NFC features as I don’t have any NFC tags. I’ve ordered so I may report back later.

I’ve been saving the best until last and we come to apps from IJS Design who make the best Hue apps on Android bar none. Currently, there are four IJS apps, of which three – Christmas, Halloween and Fireworks – link holidays into Hue. So for the Christmas app, which includes New Year too, you get sound effects linked into Hue colour changes and effects. Think of it as a soundboard with lights. The apps also have moods which are longer music pieces with light effects and are more atmospheric, which are especially good when the sound is passed through a hifi.

Hue Christmas

Huey New Year

And finally, IJS Design’s Hue Disco is the single best Hue app on the market (IMHO). Simply, you play music on your hifi, place your smartphone or tablet nearby and Hue Disco changes the colour of the Hue lights in time to the track. There’s loads of adjustment possible, including microphone sensitivity, transition speed, brightness, colour temperature and strobe effects. For something more subtle, there’s Mood Control which cycles the lights on themed colours, such as sunrise or Christmas. All-in-all, totally brilliant and money well spent.

Hue Disco

A screenshot can’t show what it’s like in action, so here’s a video showing Hue Disco in action. You really can have a disco in your front room and it’s fantastic when paired with a music service like Spotify. I’ve been playing Christmas tracks non-stop.

That summarises the state of the Android Hue app space which appears to be growing healthily and similar apps are available for Apple devices. For me, the keeper apps are Hue Limited Edition and Hue Disco with Hue Talk close behind needing a bit of polishing. Have fun.