Nerdalert: German TV Producers’ Amazing Vectorscope Animations

German weekend late-night comedy show “Neo Magazin Royale” has a bunch of super-nerds behind the screens in the production studio. This is apparently what they do when they’re (not) working: making test screens that render as multiple animations on their test equipment.

While others out there are limited to displaying cool graphics on oscilloscopes, these guys have vectorscopes and waveformer monitors. A vectorscope is like an oscilloscope in X-Y mode, but with one screen that decodes the color space and one screen for the audio (in stereo). A waveform monitor that plots out the brightness levels of a test image. Normal studio techs use these to calibrate their colors, brightness, and audio levels.

Apparently, these guys programmed a custom test screen that would: a) encode a small animation of a 20-sided die spinning around the show’s logo in the color channel b) encode the show’s logo in the left and right sound channels, and c) their production company’s logo in the screen’s brightness.

At the end of the video, the director Patrick (in the glasses) admits that they’ve spent about three months working on this project and everyone starts laughing. “And who gets anything from this? Nobody!” says the show’s host.

One way to rectify that, though. Post the source code!

21 thoughts on “Nerdalert: German TV Producers’ Amazing Vectorscope Animations

  1. Vectorscopes only decode color information. Stereo audio monitors render audio information in a graphical sense.

    Working at a cable channel I think I need to figure out what they’ve done and add it to our stuff.

  2. I use to work in an Analog to Digital encoding room for a the advertising sales division of a well known MSO. We had these displays on each rig. Yeah, I’m one of the folks who would see these and laugh.

    1. Actually no!… Blackmagic Design do give an SDK out for most of their kit, which is a rarity in the broadcast industry.
      That’s a blackmagic smartview they’re using to display their image. The media server software (if I’m not mistaken) they’re using (you can see the control GUI for the server in the background), is CasparCG, an open source broadcast grade piece of awesome by SVT.
      We do things like this for fun when bored in the TV industry. – Some things are under boring law though, so I can’t show you a 200+ tile, 20ft wide multiviewer with various profanities written in test bars.

  3. Translating the babble would give the report even more of an edge. Quote: “And here you see nothing at all, as we all can clearly see.” (OK, slightly paraphrased)

  4. Hey guys,

    the screen test was despite me saying ‘3 month’ programmed in 7 hours. We started off with the audio logo which was done using Rabiscoscopio with lots of tweaking to our logo. The vectorscope view as well as the waveform display was rendered with a python script in blender and composited in nuke. It’s amazing that there is almost no information around on how to achieve any of this. We might post a step-by-step guide soon.


    1. Yay! Encouraging you to do that is half the reason I ran the post. (The other half is that it’s hilarious and pretty sweet.)

      Let us know when you’ve got some more info up.

  5. Well the waveform monitor exploit is the black and white top half of the picture, the vectorscope exploit is the wierd, slightly coloured bottom half of the picture and the stereo sound display exploit is two amplitude and phase modulated audio tones that I don’t remember hearing in the video. Very cool bit of geekery, and very lousy camerawork in the video.

  6. This brings back memories of doing this at MIT back in the 80s. The titles on my videos for class always had one set of images for people watching the video and a second set of images for the people in the studio running the video playback equipment. It was great fun to hear them snickering while the audience wondered what was so funny.

    To get control over the vector scope you did sometime have to use some odd and garrish colors. That did make for some really strange looking title screens though. Fortunately you could always use white text since that didn’t move the beam around. Our videos were recorded off of a 640 * 480 frame buffer, with code written in PL/1. I do have that source code around (in printout form) if anyone cared… :)

  7. Harrumph. Please allow me to pour some brine in your Diet Coke. I am German and therefore I have to pay a monthly fee for the TV programme even if I don’t have a TV, because I COULD download some ghastly media from their sites. Obamacare^2 for the media. And while I do appreciate the nerd-factor and while I do acknowledge that ZDF Neo is one of the least embarrassing programmes, I still have the inkling that someone is horsing around with money that has been extorted from me. Cool hack, though.

    1. If they’re taking your money anyway, you should be happy that folks are doing cool stuff with it. Every euro wasted to geekery is a euro not spent on Verbotene Liebe!

      1. Affirmative. As long as they publish their geekiness. In fact this vimeo video is more appealing than most of their programme. I always get the hives watching those stultifying ‘infotainment’ shows. How about providing some ‘information’? C’mon, stations like (and ZDF Neo) already have few enough viewers and the system of the monthly fee was introduced to relieve them from having to look at the rating of their shows. They COULD make top-notch science broadcasts and art-shows and that really go deep and what not, instead they decided to insult me with an endless stream of lies-to-children. I am not sour about paying that money, I am sour about my feeling of it being wasted. Currently I get more out of Youtube, Udacity, Coursera and Stanford online than from those people who are paid by me.

    2. Be advised: This was done in our free time…

      And even if we would have done it during working hours the money for this would not have come from the ZDF, but our production company itself. Or do you think the ZDF pays external production companies by the hour?!

      But no matter what, we Germans tend to complain about “our money” spent on anything in the name of public TV or radio stations. This system (“Rundfunkstaatsvertrag”) is actually the reason we have at least some decent programs. Otherwise only private stations would spam us with their nonsense TV (GNTM, DSDS, IBES, RTL2News etc.).

      In my opinion, we should not think about financing the whole public program with everyones 17.50 €. But there might be one or two shows in the public program which even you like. Think about supporting THEM with your money, there are a lot of other people who would sponsor the bad shows anyway.

      And BTW: I don’t own a TV as well, but I’m glad we have our public stations.

      1. One last thing: re-reading my posts I see that I inadvertedly might have questioned your professionality. I did not mean to do that, had no reason to do that and I do apologise. This is a cool hack and I really would like to learn more about it. For instance I did not know that vectorscopes were still used for digital TV. I thought they were relevant for FBAS/CVBS only.
        And I do agree that the Rundfunkstaatsvertrag is probably the best option, given the alternatives.

        Thanks for the hack, thanks for your reply.

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