Thursday, January 24, 2008

capturing WinAmp visuals

Like a lot of us who are into film and video editing, I am also a part-time musician. For Christmas, I received a very exciting present: a digital model of an old analog synthesizer, the Creamware Prodyssey:
Sound on Sound review of Prodyssey

Oh, how lovely it is to create sounds with this box of sliders and switches! The music part will come later, but right now I am enjoying creating rythymic bleeps and bloops the old fashioned way using oscillators, filters and envelopes. Attack, decay, sustain, release, LFO and all that lot. As I was creating this cacaphony, I thought that it would be cool to have some visualizations to go along with the audio.

Years ago using Windows XP, I streamed music visualizations from WinAmp out through S-Video to a second computer that would capture the pretty pictures. The quality wasn't that great. Of course, if WinAmp had an export feature, that would be the best. But working with what I had today, I figured now that I've purchased a mighty dual quad core, I should be able to capture the screens within the machine itself. Of course, my primary OS is now Linux. And WinAmp is not made for Linux. And I didn't know of a Linux based visualizer that looked quite as good as WinAmp. What to do? I remember using Wine, the Windows emulator for Linux, back in 2001, but it wasn't very stable. I wonder if it's more stable these days?

With thoughts of sugar-plum visualizations in my head, I installed Wine the other day. Given my past experiences, I wasn't very hopeful. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the latest version of Wine was easy to setup on my Fedora 7 x86-64 system. Once Wine was setup, I installed WinAmp through a short series of steps. Excellent! I opened an MP3 file and was again, glad to hear the MP3 playing. Wow! Two in a row! Can we go for a trifecta? With the audio coming out of WinAmp through Wine, I decided to go for broke and started up the Advanced Visualization Studio visualizer. I could hardly believe my eyes when AVS played in gorgeous colors in a window on one of my monitors!

So now I have WinAmp working under Wine. But how to capture the beautiful screens? Here, Cinelerra came to the rescue. Using my BFG Geforce 8500 GT PCI Express 256MB card and a dual-head configuration, I opened Cinelerra in my right monitor, started WinAmp under Wine and kicked off the visualization in the left monitor. I expanded the window to roughly DVD resolution (720x480) and tweaked my Cinelerra screencapture recording settings to match the visualization window. Lo and behold, Cinelerra was capturing the resolutions at DVD quality! I looked carefully for frame drops. This is listed in the Cinelerra Recording window as "Frames Behind". I did not see one frame drop! Awesome!

I synchronized the results of the screen capture with the music on the Cinelerra timeline and output the audio and video to DVD-compatible formats. I then burnt a menuless DVD and was off to the races! I had created some "music", added a visualization track and burned a DVD! Sweet!

Next up:
How cool would it be to capture the visualizations in HD and play them on my HDTV at 720P resolution? Ooooh. Aaaah.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

new 500GB SATA RAID1 mirror

For fault tolerance, I finally got around to upgrading my drives to a RAID1 mirror this weekend. I bought a pair of Seagate ST3500641AS-RK Barracuda from for $99 each. Sale is over now, of course.

Here's what I had to do:
  1. partition the drives using fdisk
  2. create the mirror
  3. wait for the mirror to sync
  4. format the mirror
  5. test a mount
  6. add to /etc/fstab
  7. reboot to make sure everything comes up

Partition the drives with good ol' fdisk
I had to partition each drive and give each drive a partition type of "Linux raid autodetect". This is type "fd". Here is a snip of my fdisk session for one of the drives:

[mule@ogre ~]# fdisk /dev/sdf
Device contains neither a valid DOS partition table, nor Sun, SGI or OSF disklabel
Building a new DOS disklabel. Changes will remain in memory only,
until you decide to write them. After that, of course, the previous
content won't be recoverable.

The number of cylinders for this disk is set to 60801.
There is nothing wrong with that, but this is larger than 1024,
and could in certain setups cause problems with:
1) software that runs at boot time (e.g., old versions of LILO)
2) booting and partitioning software from other OSs
Warning: invalid flag 0x0000 of partition table 4 will be corrected by w(rite)

Command (m for help): p

Disk /dev/sdf: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 60801 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System

Command (m for help): n
Command action
e extended
p primary partition (1-4)
Partition number (1-4):
Value out of range.
Partition number (1-4): 1
First cylinder (1-60801, default 1):
Using default value 1
Last cylinder or +size or +sizeM or +sizeK (1-60801, default 60801):
Using default value 60801

Command (m for help): t
Selected partition 1
Hex code (type L to list codes): fd

Command (m for help): p

Disk /dev/sdf: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 60801 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/sdf1 1 60801 488384001 fd Linux raid autodetect

Command (m for help): w
The partition table has been altered!

Calling ioctl() to re-read partition table.
Syncing disks.

Create the mirror
I created the mirror using mdadm. Note the "--level=1" for the RAID1 mirror:
[mule@ogre ~]# mdadm --create /dev/md2 --level=1 --raid-devices=2 /dev/sde1 /dev/sdf1

Let's check out the details:
[mule@ogre ~]# mdadm --detail /dev/md2
Version : 00.90.03
Creation Time : Thu Jan 17 19:58:30 2008
Raid Level : raid1
Array Size : 488383936 (465.76 GiB 500.11 GB)
Used Dev Size : 488383936 (465.76 GiB 500.11 GB)
Raid Devices : 2
Total Devices : 2
Preferred Minor : 2
Persistence : Superblock is persistent

Update Time : Sun Jan 20 16:19:10 2008
State : clean
Active Devices : 2
Working Devices : 2
Failed Devices : 0
Spare Devices : 0

UUID : 1705b387:1c71d83e:364b60b4:fb0cce92
Events : 0.6

Number Major Minor RaidDevice State
0 8 17 0 active sync /dev/sde1
1 8 49 1 active sync /dev/sdf1

Wait for the mirror to build
You can also look in /proc/mdstat for status information:
[mule@ogre ~]# cat /proc/mdstat
Personalities : [raid0] [raid6] [raid5] [raid4] [raid1]
md2 : active raid1 sdb1[0] sdd1[1]
488383936 blocks [2/2] [UU]

md0 : active raid0 sda3[0] sdc2[1]
483411456 blocks 256k chunks

unused devices:

Format the partition
The -j parameter to mke2fs creates the filesystem with an ext3 journal, for another level of safety. File access on an ext3 filesystem is a bit slower than on an ext2 filesystem. However, the benefit is that you have a journaling filesystem that recovers from errors quickly and safely. Here's some documentation on the ext3 filesystem:

Here is the command I ran to create the ext3 filesystem:
[mule@ogre ~]# mke2fs -j /dev/md2

Test the mount
You should always test mounting the new filesystem. Since this filesystem is going to store all my videos, I am going to create my mount point and mount the new RAID mirror to /mnt/videos:
[mule@ogre ~]# mkdir /mnt/videos
[mule@ogre ~]# mount -t ext3 /dev/md2 /mnt/videos
[mule@ogre ~]#

You see no errors after the mount command. This means that the mount was successful. Yes!

Add to /etc/fstab
Of course, we want the new filesystem to be mounted when we reboot, so I add the following line to my /etc/fstab:
/dev/md2 /mnt/videos ext3 defaults 1 1

The final test is to reboot. The following lines in dmesg output make me happy:
md: md2 stopped.
md: bind
md: bind
md: raid1 personality registered for level 1
raid1: raid set md2 active with 2 out of 2 mirrors

Rock and roll! We're good with the new RAID mirror and safe from drive failures!
The Mule

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

dvd file for iTunes

Last night, I was putting together a presentation on my MacBook and wanted to incorporate a DVD resolution video from Cinelerra. Since the Mac world is so tightly controlled, getting the format correct for iTunes was a royal pain. I tried a number of different renders, but only one worked:

file format video audio result
QTforLinux MPEG4 MPEG4 no (crashed iTunes 7.1)
QTforLinux MPEG4 MP3 no
QTforLinux MPEG4 WAV yes
QTforLinux H.264 MPEG4 cinelerra hung

At this point, I'm not sure if its my Fedora 7, x86-64 libraries or just iTunes being very selective about what it likes and dislikes. Just for kicks, tonight I will render out the same file using Fedora 6, i386 and see if the results are the same. Once I finish my research, I'll update the Beginner's Guide.

the mule

Monday, January 14, 2008

MediaGate MG350HD v1.1.7 firmware

For my MediaGate MG350HD wired and wireless media player:

I upgraded to the latest MediaGate firmware version 1.1.7. The previous version I was using was 1.1.1beta. With that version, I had been experiencing poor playback of HDV MPEG-TS videos. The video would stutter and the audio would drop out. I downloaded the upgrade from here:

MediaGate firmware upgrades are always a pain in the ass because when the new firmware is written to the device, the configuration of the device gets reset and you need to re-enter all your configuration information. Most painful is entering the wireless security information. A long WEP key password is particularly painful because you have to enter the 20+ alphanumeric key using the remote. And, the video output settings are similarly reset, so instead of viewing the menus in HD, I have to use the separate composite connection and then reset the output type and resolution to DVI, 1080P. Ugh.

On the brighter side, once I got my wired and wireless network and display settings re-input, I was very pleased to find out that the video freezes and audio drop outs for the HDV MPEG-TS videos had been eliminated! Thanks MediaGate, for fixing those problems!

In addition, the new 1.1.7 firmware has an FTP server, so I no longer have to install the kludgy NDAS drivers.

Setup of an FTP Server with the MediaGate is easy:
  1. Start up your 1.1.7 Mediagate
  2. Press "Setup" on your remote
  3. Navigate to the "FTP Server" section of the setup
  4. Enable the FTP server
  5. If you wish to change the username and password, do so here
  6. Save your settings
  7. Verify the MediaGate is on your network. Use "ping [IP address of the MediaGate]" either wired or wirelessly) to make sure the device is on the network
  8. Test FTP access by logging in from another machine on your network. From the command line, this would entail a command such as "ftp [IP address of the MediaGate]".
  9. If you get a connection via the above command, enter your username and password. You should be good to go!
So I can now upload files directly to the MediaGate via good old FTP! Nice job, MediaGate!

One suggestion for the MediaGate people is to create a firmware upgrade that does not wipe out my configuration information. That would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

method to create a menuless DVD

Happy 2008, everybody!

I keep forgetting the commands to create and burn DVD-ready files from Cinelerra. As the following commands worked well for me, I thought I'd write 'em down for folks. I won't concentrate on creating the DVD-ready file, but more on the latter steps using dvdauthor and burning an iso.

In order to get a working DVD, you're going to do the following:
1 - from Cinelerra, create a valid DVD-ready MPEG file
2 - with dvdauthor, create a DVD filesystem from that MPEG
3 - with dvdauthor, create a table of contents for the DVD filesystem
4 - with mkisofs, create a DVD-ready ISO image in prep for burning to DVD
5 - with growisofs, burn the DVD



1 - Create a valid DVD-ready MPEG file
In Cinelerra, create a project with the following specs:
Samplerate: 48000
Channels: 2

Framerate: 29.97
Width: 720
Height: 480
W/H Ratios both 1
Color Model: YUVA-8bit
Aspect Ratio: 3:2 or check Auto
Interlace Mode: Not Interlaced

Render Options
File Format: MPEG Audio
Layer: II
Kbits per second: 384Kbps

File Format: YUV4MPEG

Either mpeg2enc or ffmpeg presets should work. Just make sure the aspect ratio of the resultant video is 16:9, because dvdauthor will not create the DVD filesystem if this is not the case. The switch to ffmpeg is "-aspect 16:9" or "aspect 1.777" like so:
ffmpeg -f yuv4mpegpipe -i - -y -target dvd -aspect 1.777 -f mpeg2video %

Since multiplexing to DVD-ready file in ffmpeg doesn't work as expected, I combine the audio and video with MPLEX using this command:
mplex -f 8 -o test.mpg video.m2v audio.mp2

I will try to figure out the source of the ffmpeg issue later.

2 - Create a DVD filesystem from MPEG
Using dvdauthor, run this command to create a filesystem in a folder called "dvd" from your test mpeg:
[mule@ogre ~]# dvdauthor -o dvd/ -t test.mpg
DVDAuthor::dvdauthor, version 0.6.14.
Build options: gnugetopt iconv freetype fribidi
Send bugs to

INFO: dvdauthor creating VTS
STAT: Picking VTS 03

STAT: Processing test.mpg...
STAT: VOBU 1488 at 394MB, 1 PGCS
INFO: Video pts = 0.133 .. 598.564
INFO: Audio[8] pts = 0.133 .. 598.621
STAT: VOBU 1499 at 395MB, 1 PGCS
INFO: Generating VTS with the following video attributes:
INFO: MPEG version: mpeg2
INFO: TV standard: ntsc
INFO: Aspect ratio: 16:9
INFO: Resolution: 720x480
INFO: Audio ch 0 format: mp2/2ch, 48khz 20bps

STAT: fixed 1499 VOBUS

3 - Create a Table of Contents
Using dvdauthor, run this command to create a table of contents for the DVD filesystem:
[mule@ogre ~]# dvdauthor -o dvd/ -T
DVDAuthor::dvdauthor, version 0.6.14.
Build options: gnugetopt iconv freetype fribidi
Send bugs to

INFO: dvdauthor creating table of contents
INFO: Scanning dvd/VIDEO_TS/VTS_01_0.IFO
INFO: Scanning dvd/VIDEO_TS/VTS_02_0.IFO
INFO: Scanning dvd/VIDEO_TS/VTS_03_0.IFO
INFO: Scanning dvd/VIDEO_TS/VTS_04_0.IFO

4 - Create a DVD-ready ISO image for burning
Using mkisofs, create an ISO image:
[mule@ogre ~]# mkisofs -dvd-video -o dvd.iso dvd/
I: -input-charset not specified, using utf-8 (detected in locale settings)
Unknown file type (unallocated) dvd/.. - ignoring and continuing.
0.51% done, estimate finish Mon Dec 31 20:31:57 2007
1.02% done, estimate finish Mon Dec 31 20:31:57 2007
99.07% done, estimate finish Mon Dec 31 20:32:50 2007
99.58% done, estimate finish Mon Dec 31 20:32:50 2007
Total translation table size: 0
Total rockridge attributes bytes: 0
Total directory bytes: 4380
Path table size(bytes): 42
Max brk space used 0
979076 extents written (1912 MB)

Here's nice tip on testing your ISO by mouting it from your filesystem:

5 - Burn the ISO image to a DVD
Using growisofs, burn the ISO image to a DVD. Note that I used this command on a DVD RW:
[mule@ogre ~]# growisofs -dvd-compat -Z /dev/dvd=dvd.iso
Executing 'builtin_dd if=dvd.iso of=/dev/dvd obs=32k seek=0'
/dev/dvd: "Current Write Speed" is 2.0x1352KBps.
3407872/2005147648 ( 0.2%) @0.5x, remaining 39:09 RBU 100.0% UBU 6.5%
12288000/2005147648 ( 0.6%) @1.9x, remaining 18:55 RBU 100.0% UBU 100.0%
1992097792/2005147648 (99.3%) @2.0x, remaining 0:04 RBU 77.9% UBU 100.0%
2001076224/2005147648 (99.8%) @1.9x, remaining 0:01 RBU 24.4% UBU 100.0%
builtin_dd: 979088*2KB out @ average 1.9x1352KBps
/dev/dvd: flushing cache
/dev/dvd: writing lead-out

Formatting a DVD RW
Using dvd+rw-format, format your DVD RW media:
[mule@ogre Desktop]# dvd+rw-format -f /dev/dvd
* BD/DVD±RW/-RAM format utility by , version 7.0.
* 4.7GB DVD-RW media in Restricted Overwrite mode detected.
* formatting 29.2/

That's it. Happy New Year!
The Mule