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H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far

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Mark Brunkhart
H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:40:31 pm

I was pointed to these forums by BlackMagic tech support today. We are very interested in getting the ProRecorder device working as advertised, and it's been a bit of a challenge.

We're almost there, but the device appears to have encoding problems that would appear to be in the firmware/device itself that cause glitchy video.

Some initial help for others from our experience so far:
- It works on Windows 7 64-bit only. The box says "Windows", but it definitely does not work on Windows XP, Windows Server 32-bit, or Windows 7 32-bit. We tried all three. After an hour on the phone with tech support, we discovered to everyone's surprise that Windows 7 64-bit is the only option. I'm hoping that XP and Windows 7 32-bit are in the works. It would probably also be very helpful to have the installer point this out if you try to install on an unsupported OS. Figuring this out the hard way was not ideal.

- You MUST have an audio device attached and turned on. The behavior of the software is odd and erratic without it. We struggled for a long time with this one.

- You almost certainly need an NVIDIA card that supports H.264 decoding support on the card or an ultra high-end machine because the software decoding for preview is a big CPU hog. It's a little frustrating because the H.264 decoding in Media Express is actually more CPU intensive than H.264 encoding in software on the same machine. A lot of the value of the device (offloading compression from the CPU) is lost because the decoding consumes so much CPU.

- MP4 output only. Unless you're a Mac/Quicktime user, this isn't great. There's a dropdown for this, so I'm hoping that AVI is in the works.

Here's our problem:
- With an NVIDIA GeForce card in place and good dual core box, we can capture video almost perfectly. The only problem is that there are what appear to be encoding glitches every 2-3 minutes (irregularly and seemingly unrelated to the contents of the video). The glitches are a hesitation (mostly repeated frames) with blockiness around areas of detail. My guess is that we are seeing the device fail to encode the video frame successfully. With the exception of these moments, we are getting great video, but the glitches make is unusable for professional work. The CPU is nowhere close to maxed out, the drive can do 80MB/sec both directions which I think should be more than enough, we're using a 3Mb/sec stream, and have a pretty good graphics card. So, my suspicion is that the problem is inherent in the firmware on the device. I would love it if that weren't the case, but at the moment, that's where the signs are pointing.

Any help would be appreciated.

I'm a few glitches away from a usable product, so hoping for the best.


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Eric Lanouette
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 6, 2011 at 4:29:22 am

Mark,

I got my H.264 Pro Recorder one week ago and I have the same glitches problem. I'm also thinking the problem is firmware related.

Like you, I note the high CPU usage that MediaExpress require to playback the content during capture. An option to disable it during the capture would be welcome in a future release of the software.

Here is a copy of the email I send to the BlackMagic tech support on August 1st and i'm still waiting for a reply :
Hello,

I just receive my H.264 Pro recorder and I already have 2 mains problems with it. I use the last Desktop Video 8.2 on Mac OS X and I updated the H.264 Pro recorder to the last firmware.


01. There is no option in Media Express to capture interlaced source, only progressive and it auto select the project format to 1080p29.97. As most of my content is broadcast 1080i59.97 fields based, a progressive capture blend the fields together causing gosting.


02. I'm unable to capture 1080p29.97 HD footage using component or HDMI without H.264 encoding artifacts as seen in screenshot01. They appears randomly and if I capture the same clip multiples time they showed at difference places. They last for about 6-14 frames and it show around 4-8 times during a 2 min capture.

Here is what I try :

- I disconnect all others devices to get the maximum bandwidth from the USB bus. No change, I still get encoding artifacts.

- I lower the bitrate from 18, 12 and 6Mbps to see if the 7200RPM hard drive in my computer could not be fast enough to handle the bandwidth from the USB bus. No change, I still get encoding artifacts.

- As my computer run Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, I booted it back to Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard but I still get encoding artifacts.

- I use another computer with an SSD drive, I try the same things I write above but I still get encoding artifacts.

As I'm able to capture 720p59.97 content without theses artifacts I may guess the box is working correctly but it's hardware doesn't seems to be able to handle 1080 HD content as advertised.


I hope you will have some good news for me and that a fix is coming soon because this box is useless now as I buy it for 1080i59.97 HD encoding.

Thank you,

Eric


Update to the e-mail : 720p59.97 content also show glitches when capturing clip longer than 2 minutes.

I would say to anyone looking to buy this 500$ box to wait they fix the problem. The quality is awesome but glitches makes it useless.

Eric


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Mark Brunkhart
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 6, 2011 at 7:57:30 am

Eric,

Thanks for the response. You just saved me from testing an SSD drive which was on my list. With both of our experience combined, I'm more convinced than ever that the problem is inside the ProRecorder box.

Overall, I agree with your assessment that people considering buying the device should wait until/if the box works. With the glitches and the massive CPU usage just for preview, I agree that it is useless in its current state.

Mark


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David Debono
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 6, 2011 at 5:18:47 pm

I am also experiencing the same issues of random glitches and artifacts when Capturing HD1080. I am using the Mac version of software.

I have tried internal and external drives, run disk speed tests etc and changed the capture bite rates from 8 to 20 Mbps with no improvement.

I can only get reliable results (no noticable randwom glitches) if i use the AppleTV setting which has max quality setting of 5mbps and only records at 720p (not good enough for my purposes).

I tried all the latest s/w drivers etc with no impact.

The other thing I have noticed when capturing is that the black levels also get crushed a fair bit (I am feeding it 1080i source via HDMI). I wonder if anyone else has notice this black level issue.

It seems to me to be a problems with the BM firmware or software that relate to 1080 processing... when I received the unit it did not even have any software included, just a note telling me the software was not ready at the time of packaging and to download it from their site.

Usually I have had great experiences with BM products. I hope BM can quickly release updated firmware and s/w to resolve ... otherwise this is an expensive paper weight ... it seems to have been rushed out the door and is not ready for pro use.

Hopefully someone from BM can respond to this thread.


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Eric Lanouette
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 6, 2011 at 7:57:07 pm

Guys,

Maybe all the H.264 Pro Recorder do not show theses problems but being 3 in the same situation is probably not a coincidence. I am somewhat reassured not to be alone in it. BlackMagic have to do something quick and I'm sure they will.

An other thing that scare me is that the box become really hot about 5 minutes after I plug the power cord. To avoid stressing the parts in it and shorten it life, I always unplug it after capturing content. Can you comment on that please?

@David : On my side the black levels and color balance are perfect from HDMI or component input. To my eye, they are precisely were they should be.

For now there is no nothing to do except waiting that BM fix it.


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Scott Francis
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 3:39:41 am

I will be waiting to see if these are resolved...I was just about to order one too.....here is hoping....keep us updated guys and thanks!

Regards

Scott Francis
Mind's Eye Audio/Video Productions


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Kristian Lam
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 4:02:27 am

Hi,

Thanks for the report. We should have a fix for the glitches in the video soon. If anyone of you contact our support team, they should be able to send you a build we are hoping to release really soon.

regards

Kristian Lam
Blackmagic Design


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Mark Brunkhart
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 7:57:31 pm

Kristian,

Thanks for the response. Glad to hear that there's a build out there that will solve the glitches. Look forward to trying it.

Echoing some other comments on the board plus a few other features we'd like to see:

- Lower CPU preview decoding AND an option to turn it to I-frame only decoding. If you decode the exact same ProRecorder-created video with freely available ffdshow, the CPU usage is MUCH lower than when decoded in your software. It seems the decoding library being used for the preview is a resource hog.

- Smaller interface. The "compact" interface is huge. I support the suggestion for a minimal, resizable GUI with 'start/stop recording', preview, time captured so far, filename, a frame drop count and nothing else. Capture is one of those things that you start and then wait a couple hours for. During those couple hours, you'd like to move it to a corner of the screen and mostly ignore it.

- Software isn't set to be 'single instance' so you can buy multiple devices and use them on the same machine (without the hack of making a copy of the .exe)

- AVI output files are a must for anyone on a PC. (We also have the rather unique need to allow these AVI files to be read while they are being written...just a flag to turn off the read-locking on the file when it's created...maybe a registry parameter or something we could toggle since I imagine there aren't many out there who need this feature.)

- Support for Windows XP and Windows 7 32-bit would be nice.

- Better ability to set detailed encoding parameters. We need to be able to set I-frame spacing. Recording profiles are nice, but for a professional level device, the more variables we can set related to the codec, the better.

Thanks for being on the forums and being responsive to the feedback here!!


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johan vermeire
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 9, 2011 at 10:12:53 am

Same Here guys, a lot of troubles
Random glitches, loosing sync, audio sometimes not detected, when i got lucky after a few times of plugin & unplug i have 2channel audio.

Whitout TBC analoge video does not show up correct.

Media express always goes back to NTSC settings -> i always have the new project settings warning.
Media express also quit sommetimes.


Missing features in software.

More decent presets
Real Time cropping
Trim and split of large video files.

It seems like a rush rush product at the moment :(


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David Debono
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 12:16:31 am

Hi Kristian Lam


Re: Glitchy capture issues

Note - I sent an inquiry on Aug 7th to BlackMagic Support requesting they send a link to download the new test build you referenced re Glitches in capture. I copied your response to this thread along my original posting but I have had no response from BM to date.

Can you please nudge this along with support as the h.264 Pro unit is not usable in its current form?

Thank you

David Debono


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Mark Brunkhart
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 12:29:47 am

David,

I spoke to support last week, and they apologized for being very far behind on the e-mails. (I think one of mine hadn't been answered for 3 weeks.) I got the sense that they'd given up on trying to respond. If you want a response, I think you need to call.

But, to save you the call, we did get the following links out of them yesterday:
http://seeds.blackmagic-design.com/H264ProRecorder/DesktopVideo_8.2.1rc3.zi...
http://seeds.blackmagic-design.com/H264ProRecorder/MediaExpress_2.4rc45.zip

Initial testing suggests the glitches are gone, but high CPU usage and the other issues discussed in this thread remain.


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David Debono
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 12:42:53 am

Thanks Mark for the links!

I will give the new software at try.

David


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David Debono
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 12:55:30 am

Hi Mark

I tried the download links but they were Windows versions so I could not use them on my Mac setup.

If anyone has info re the Mac version, can you please post the link.

Thanks!

David Debono


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Andrew Stone
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 1:17:43 am

Yes Mac versions of the apps please!

-Andrew
--
Steadicam & Camera Operator


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Eric Lanouette
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 12:54:22 am

If someone have the URL for the mac version, please post them. I already try to change .zip by .dmg in the url but it doesn't works.

Eric


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David Debono
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 11:22:29 pm

I finally managed to get through to tech support and now have the links to the Mac version of the latest test build.

I have not tried it yet but will do so soon.

Here are the links for any of you that need it!



http://seeds.blackmagic-design.com/H264ProRecorder/DesktopVideo_8.2.1rc3.dm...
.zip
http://seeds.blackmagic-design.com/H264ProRecorder/MediaExpress_2.4rc45.dmg.
zip



DD


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Eric Lanouette
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 11, 2011 at 2:41:01 am

David,

Thanks for sharing the links but that's exactly what I try yesterday by changing the file extension.

The links you post don't works now. I get an HTTP Error 404 - File Not Found...

Eric


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Andrew Stone
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 11, 2011 at 2:48:41 pm

Here are the links to the beta versions for Macintosh of the apps with the links "fixed".

Desktop Video (beta as of August 10th):
http://seeds.blackmagic-design.com/H264ProRecorder/DesktopVideo_8.2.1rc3.dm...

Media Express (beta as of August 10th):
http://seeds.blackmagic-design.com/H264ProRecorder/MediaExpress_2.4rc45.dmg...

-Andrew

--
Steadicam & Camera Operator


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Eric Lanouette
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 12, 2011 at 6:44:47 pm

Thank you Andrew for the links

I also confirm that the video glitches are gone with DesktopVideo 8.2.1rc3 and MediaExpress 2.4rc45. Good job BM!

Now, we need a proper way to capture interlaced content. I hope that bringing an interlaced capture mode is the next feature they will implement.

Eric


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David Debono
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 11, 2011 at 4:31:12 pm

Sorry,

The links to the test MAC software were indeed valid just the hyperlink did not grab the last few characters when I cut & pasted from the email I received from BM Support.

It should be okay if you just cut paste the whole string into your browser and bypass the built in hyperlink.

Note - my intial test with the Mac version (1 x 30 min video & 1080 - 20 Mbps) seems to indicate the glitching is gone but the CPU usage on my Macbook Pro is insane (ties up both processsor 90%) and the realtime display of the capture keeps dropping frames/ audio etc but the actual recording seems okay.


DD


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Kristian Lam
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 4:05:25 am

[Eric Lanouette] "An other thing that scare me is that the box become really hot about 5 minutes after I plug the power cord. To avoid stressing the parts in it and shorten it life, I always unplug it after capturing content. Can you comment on that please?
"


Hi Eric,

There's nothing to worry about. The heat is dissipated via the case so it will feel warm.

regards

Kristian Lam
Blackmagic Design


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Eric Lanouette
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 6:15:59 am

Thank you Kristian for the reply on the situation, it's greatly appreciated to have good news.

Now, I need to get my hands on that custom build... :)

Eric


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Richard Freemantle
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 1:26:00 pm

Hi Kristian,

Could you please respond to my related questions in this thread from 3 weeks ago?

http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/124/877024

A brief summary:

1920x1080 @60hz progressive doesnt work (should do according to specs)

Require an option to turn Video preview Off, as the current CPU use makes the hardware based encoding of the Pro-Recorder far less efficient than currently free screen recording software!
ie. Currently H.264 Pro-Recorder = $500 paperweight!

nb. the streaming server is using about 4% cpu (good). However with preview its 100% & cant keep up at all (bad).

Related specifically to this thread, I also start getting glitches after ~10 secs @ 1080PsF29.97.

Look forward to your response,
Thanks


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Andrew Stone
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 3:37:45 pm

Guess I am going to have to phone tech support to get on this "beta list". Really shouldn't have to do this... simply post beta builds on the support website, in my view.

One thing that struck me as soon as I began using the Media Express app is fixed sizing of the UI into the compact or full screen size which actually into full screen as it goes "off screen" on 15" laptops. The fixed sizing of the UI particularly the preview size destines the app to be a resource hog. It seems to me there is NO reason why the user shouldn't have the ability to resize the preview. I understand the reasoning behind not being able to disable it as there is no proof positive indicator that things are recording as they should, however, if it is known the preview is sucking up CPU cycles and the app is far from optimized why aren't you allowing the ability to get the preview down to a postage stamp size to free up the CPU for the actual encoding or decoding?

-Andrew

--
Steadicam & Camera Operator


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Richard Freemantle
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 5:45:07 pm

As the input preview seems to be a reasonably hot topic just thought I'd pitch some ideas.

Possible alternate preview modes:

1: Off = Dont decode the stream at all
2: Minimum = Just check stream integrity ie. gop/frame headers ok (pos unrequired)
2: Reduced = Only decode I-Frames in low priority background thread (allowing skipping frames if neccessary)
3: Full

The thinking being that if CPU use is an issue, a user could start at full (or reduced) preview mode & then drop to a lower level once they are sure everything is connected ok etc...

This would certainly make me a happier customer anyway!


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Eric Lanouette
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 6:56:57 pm

Andrew,

Decoding H.264 with GPU hardware acceleration off can require a lot of CPU if the file use some high profile options. H.264 Pro Recorder use high profile @ 4.0 level.

Scaling it down during playback won't change anything to CPU use because it have to decode the whole full size picture then preform a scaling procedure. So even if you display it at the size of a stamp, it will use about the same ressources.

If you are on a Mac you can test it by recording a 1080 HD clip using the H.264 Pro Recorder then open it in the old QuickTime 7 as it didn't use GPU hardware acceleration. Scale it down then check the CPU usage.

Eric


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Jack Welten
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 8, 2011 at 5:53:17 pm

Hello Kristian,

In my opion, the main idea behind this device is to produce H.264-files with a low spec computer, the heavy encoding work should be done by H.264 Pro Recorder. I still think this is possible.

I see the H.264 Pro Recorder more like a VTR which uses a laptop as storage, so no need for a preview (ok would be nice). The stream should correctly be encoded by the firmware and is currently max 20 Mbit/s, so never a problem to store for any computer. The glitches are a firmware-problem (main problem), the heavy CPU-usage is an avoidable softwareproblem.

Again a small program with one start/stop button, one preferences button, a box for the directory/filename and a displayed timecounter (recordingcheck) would be enough,

with kind regards

Jack


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Jack Welten
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 7, 2011 at 2:24:43 pm

Hello,

I run it under vista 64-bits version. I have also problems with glitches, once every 30 seconds by YUV-connector.
My ideal captureprogram would be very simple : One start and stop button, one button for the preferences and one box for the filename (with counter, to prevent overwriting of footage). And maybe an extra counter of captured time / MB's.
This would also make it possible to run it on simple laptops/netbooks.

I am happy they are working on new firmware/software


Jack


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Mark Brunkhart
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 2:15:15 am

A little more testing done, and it appears the newest firmware solves the glitches at 720p. (Thanks BlackMagic!)

Some additional information on the excessive CPU usage. On an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.93GHz with a NVIDIA GeForce 310:

Capturing or previewing 5Mb/sec off the ProRecorder:
70-80% CPU usage
Capturing or previewing 20Mb/sec off the ProRecorder:
95-100% CPU usage

Playback of 5Mb/sec captured from the ProRecorder using ffdshow:
5-10% CPU usage

So playback/preview of the H.264 being generated can be done very efficiently.

Finally, is there any developer information available on the DirectShow filters being used? Can they be used outside of BlackMagic apps? We might just be able to modify our own capture app to use the BlackMagic hardware if it's possible to use the filters ourselves.
From some of the filters BlackMagic installs on the machine (including a BlackMagic decoder that I suspect is the source of the slowness), it looks like this may be just a straightforward DirectShow app.

Would it be possible for BlackMagic to just provide an option where the user could use a different decoder (perhaps provide its GUID or provide defaults for common ones) or just render out from the pin using whatever DirectShow filters are present?

One more feature request (in addition to AVI output, I-frame spacing configurability, better CPU usage, compact GUI, and better support for multiple devices ;-): a capture limit...file size and time limits that can be set in preferences to stop capture after a set period.

If you're recording longer videos, this is a must to avoid having to monitor the capture just to press the stop button when it's done.


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Jack Welten
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 10, 2011 at 7:38:15 pm

Hello Kristian,

did also some testing, great improvement! No more glitches @1080p25 by the YUV-connection,

but still a high CPU-usage, I run it under Vista-64, with an Intel Core 2 Duo @ 3.16Ghz (E8500), 4 Gb RAM, NVIDIA Geforce 9600GT

@1080p, 10Mbits/s : 50-70% CPU-usage
@1080p, 20Mbits/s : 85-100% CPU-usage

again great job! but please keep improving it

regards

Jack


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Mark Beazley
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 12, 2011 at 7:03:12 pm

Just received one for demo today;

Have noticed video glitches and loss of A/V sync at 1080i59.94 playback from IoHD Edit system.

Also noticed some audio glitches after a 10min test; but so far that has happend only once.

Media Express is using 180% processor (which is almost the whole machine) of a 17" MacBook Pro (pre thunderbolt); 3.06GHz Processors and 4GB RAM. The overhead is just crazy. Decode should use the GPU.

One other feature that should be doable is using the SDI input and the analog audio inputs; this would be a great improvement for live show applications; unless it already does this, but it does not look like it does from the menu structure in the Media Express app.

Right now I am doing a test @ 20Mbps.

-mark



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Mark Beazley
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 12, 2011 at 7:10:21 pm

Yup still seeing video glitches. Audio seems to be out of sync on the preview, but will be checking the actual file here in a second.

This is with the latest software I know of, 2.4 Media Express; not sure how to check the Black Magic video drivers.

Interestingly as I was writing this, I completely lost audio preview while capturing.

Looks like they have a few bugs to squash.

-mark



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Mark Beazley
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 12, 2011 at 7:18:36 pm

Well the audio seems to be in sync on the actual file, and the audio was there the entire length of the capture even though I lost it in the preview.

Doing another test from 1080i59.94 > AppleTV

-mark



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Brent Hilgenkamp
Re: H.264 glitchy video and some experience with the device so far
on Aug 23, 2011 at 4:58:20 pm

Has anyone had an issue of audio channels being swapped on the recording? For example channel 1 out of my camera records to channel 2 in the software, and channel 2 on my camera records to channel 1. Also if I disable an audio track it still records both channels.


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