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Dropping Frames in Deck Playback & Capture

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John Collucci
Dropping Frames in Deck Playback & Capture
on Dec 1, 2009 at 10:56:45 pm

Hello,

I am having an issue with my Blackmagic Decklink Extreme (not HD) card when attempting to capture using both Final Cut Pro 7 & even the Blackmagic Deck Control App itself (which is provided with the drivers and utilities). In both applications, the capture windows show extreme dropped frames in the video area, and the timecode area drops frames drastically... sometimes only refreshing once every two seconds or so.

This is an odd problem because sometimes the capture will work normally and everything is smooth as butter with perfectly captured media. Often when I have the dropped frames issue, a system restart fixes everything. Of course, if I actually attempt to capture while the playback is stuttering like this, FCP aborts with problems - usually reporting a timecode break just before the program becomes unresponsive. I then Force Quit. Restart. Hope for the best. This time however, it hasn't fixed itself after a few reboots.

I capture NTSC material, primarily from a Sony J3 deck via SDI. My work is for broadcast, so I usually capture to 8-bit uncompressed, 10-bit uncompressed, and when possible, DV/DVCPRO for offline work.

My media drive is a 1TB, eSATA connected, 4-drive RAID array - the XSPAND PRO from Kano Technologies. This storage drive has never failed me before. Blackmagic Disk Speed Test reports Disk Read Data Rate as 139 MB/s and Disk Write Data Rate at 105 MB/s (that's 156fps read and 117fps write in 10-bit YUV 4:2:2).

I don't have any audio/video software, plugins, or drivers installed other than Final Cut Studio 3, Blackmagic Decklink Extreme (not HD), and Flip4Mac Studio Pro HD.

Obviously this problem is a biggie and my projects (and clients) are now waiting on a fix.

I have placed a support request with Blackmagic Support and am awaiting their feedback. I should also note that the deck is working perfectly well and is not dropping frames when viewed directly. This is only happening when it goes through the hardware and software of my Mac Pro.

My inkling was that it was an issue with FCP because usually when this has happened, the Decklink Deck Control App has worked flawlessly while FCP was still having problems. Today is the first time that BOTH apps are failing.

Has anyone some help for a frustrated editor?


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Henry Truong
Re: Dropping Frames in Deck Playback & Capture
on Dec 2, 2009 at 1:04:10 am

What type of system are you working on? It is possible sometimes that the system may not be able to handle the codec you're trying to capture to.

-henry

HD Creative Services
http://www.hdcreativeservices.com
323.461.3715


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John Collucci
Re: Dropping Frames in Deck Playback & Capture
on Dec 2, 2009 at 2:18:03 pm

Thanks for the reply Henry.

My system is a Mac Pro, purchased new from Apple three months ago. Quad core - 8 gigs of RAM. I assure you it normally has no problems capturing to uncompressed 10-bit NTSC. Like I said though, the issue is present even during tape playback through FCP, and not only during an actual capture to file.

I have not yet heard back from Blackmagic, but I'm feeling unsure about what to do now that I have multiple deadlines looming down on me and I can't bring in my material from tape.


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John Collucci
Re: Dropping Frames in Deck Playback & Capture
on Mar 30, 2010 at 5:11:21 pm

UPDATE:

Blackmagic support seems to believe that it is NOT a hardware issue, since a system restart sometimes fixes the issue. I am not convinced that it is software, although it may be a driver or firmware thing?

This problem ONLY begins when I attempt to capture media. I can usually capture once clip successfully (if it's under 2 or 3 minutes), but beyond that the capture seems to lag, drop frames, and then begins stuttering/repeating the audio playback - which sounds like feedback when it happens. My system audio output is through my Blackmagic card.

NOW HERE'S THE KICKER. Once I have a failed capture on my hands, playback of any media on my system has the same audio issue - even with files played from the finder. Again all of my audio is output through the blackmagic audio out. A restart fixes the issue.

I am left hanging. Is this a problem with the hardware itself? Is it something in the software/driver/firmware pipeline? How would someone diagnose the source without purchasing a new Blackmagic card? That would be quite the cost if it turned out that it wasn't the problem.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Dropping Frames in Deck Playback & Capture
on Mar 30, 2010 at 5:27:22 pm

John,

How full are your drives on this system? Both system and RAID?

Here are the standard things you need to do:

1) Uninstall the Kona drivers using their supplied uninstaller, then re-install. The Kona drivers from time to time become corrupted, and reinstalling them can fix many aberrant behaviors.

2) Trash Preferences

3) Run Fix Permissions on your system drive from the Disk Utility.

4) Report back...

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™

EPK Colorist - UP IN THE AIR - nominated for six academy awards

A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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John Collucci
Re: Dropping Frames in Deck Playback & Capture
on Apr 1, 2010 at 12:27:58 am

Hi tehre David. Thanks for the helpful advice. I reply to each directly below.

How full are your drives on this system? Both system and RAID?
--> The System drive is a dedicated 150 GB partition of a larger drive. The remaining partition is used for storage of non-media files (standard office documents and such).

1) Uninstall the Kona drivers using their supplied uninstaller, then re-install. The Kona drivers from time to time become corrupted, and reinstalling them can fix many aberrant behaviors.
--> The Blackmagic (not Kona) drivers have been re-installed multiple times, with no change in performance.

2) Trash Preferences
--> Been there as well. After confirming that the problem is still present, I re-instate my backup prefs of course, but prefs are not apparently the issue.

3) Run Fix Permissions on your system drive from the Disk Utility.
--> Hadn't thought of that, although this problem existed on my old tower as well.

4) Report back...
--> I had a tech in today to look at the problem, but we are still without a resolution. Basically some time or money needs to be spent on a diagnosis. We noticed however that the Expansion Slot Utility app (found in System Library, Core Services folder) is refusing to run on my machine, which not only makes it difficult to verify that the card is being powered properly (16x for the blackmagic on slot #1), but also raises quastions as to why the OS level utility would refuse to run "on this machine".

The answer to that little problem is that my machine had it's OS installed via a clean 10.5.8 disk image (by my IT guy). The original disk image was apparently created on a dual-core Mac Pro tower, while I am running a newer Quad-Core. This is apparently a potential problem, and explanation as to why the core services utilities may not be correct for my tower. HOWEVER, this still does not necessarily affect the overall problem with capturing.

We have decided that the next step is really unavoidable: A complete system install. CLEAN. No user migration. Install the OS, FCS3, and the blackmagic drivers ONLY. PLug everything in, and see if it works. IF not, then we know it's the card....

*SIGH* Now to find a hole in my 20-hour workdays in which to do this.


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