Discrete Pong Project Goes Big, Adds a Player

Some projects just take on a life of their own. What started as a pleasant diversion or a simple challenge becomes an obsession, and the next thing you know you’ve built a two-player color Pong game with audio completely from discrete components.

If this one seems familiar, it’s because we were dazzled by its first incarnation last year. As impressive as version 1.0 was, all the more so since it was built using the Manhattan method and seemingly over the course of a weekend, it did have its limitations. [GK] has been refining his design ever since and keeping accurate track of the process, to the tune of 22 pages on the EEVblog forum. We haven’t pored through it all yet, but the state of the project now is certainly worth a look. The original X-Y output to an oscilloscope was swapped out to composite video for a monitor, in both mono and color. This version also allows two people to play head-to-head instead of just battling the machine. It looks like [GK] had to add a couple of blocks worth of real estate to his Manhattan board to accommodate the changes, and he tidied the wiring significantly while he was at it.

It’s a project that keeps on giving, so feast your eyes and learn. We suspect [GK] doesn’t have any plans to finish this soon, but if he does, we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Thanks to [David Gustafik] for reminding us to check back on this one.

Know Your Video Waveform

When you acquired your first oscilloscope, what were the first waveforms you had a look at with it? The calibration output, and maybe your signal generator. Then if you are like me, you probably went hunting round your bench to find a more interesting waveform or two. In my case that led me to a TV tuner and IF strip, and my first glimpse of a video signal.

An analogue video signal may be something that is a little less ubiquitous in these days of LCD screens and HDMI connectors, but it remains a fascinating subject and one whose intricacies are still worthwhile knowing. Perhaps your desktop computer no longer drives a composite monitor, but a video signal is still a handy way to add a display to many low-powered microcontroller boards. When you see Arduinos and ESP8266s producing colour composite video on hardware never intended for the purpose you may begin to understand why an in-depth knowledge of a video waveform can be useful to have.

The purpose of a video signal is to both convey the picture information in the form of luminiance and chrominance (light & dark, and colour), and all the information required to keep the display in complete synchronisation with the source. It must do this with accurate and consistent timing, and because it is a technology with roots in the early 20th century all the information it contains must be retrievable with the consumer electronic components of that time.

We’ll now take a look at the waveform and in particular its timing in detail, and try to convey some of its ways. You will be aware that there are different TV systems such as PAL and NTSC which each have their own tightly-defined timings, however for most of this article we will be treating all systems as more-or-less identical because they work in a sufficiently similar manner.

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Video Standards Are More Than Video Signals

The number of hours we spend staring at screens is probably best unknown, but how about the technology that makes up the video on the screen? We’ve all seen a reel-to-reel projector on TV or in a movie or maybe you’re old enough to have owned one, surely some of you still have one tucked away real nice. Whether you had the pleasure of operating a projector or just watched it happen in the movies the concept is pretty straight forward. A long piece of film which contains many individual frames pass in front of a high intensity lamp while the shutter hides the film movement from our eyes and our brain draws in the imaginary motion from frame to frame. Staring at a Blu-ray player won’t offer the same intuition, while we won’t get into what must the painful detail of decoding video from a Blu-ray Disc we will look into a few video standards, and how we hack them.

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No computer Ambilight clone uses a computer

It may seem confusing that you’re looking at a Raspberry Pi when this hack is about an Ambilight clone system that doesn’t need a computer. The point here is that this system works no matter what your video source is, where many projects in the past have required the video to be playing from a computer.

This hack follows in the same path of the ARM based custom job we was almost a month ago. Just like that project you use an HDMI splitter to gain access to the feed going to your television. The split signal is fed into an HDMI to composite video adapter. The composite signal is captured by a USB video encoder. The GPIO header drives a strip of addressable RGB LEDs. The whole thing is powered as one using a bit of cable hacking.

It’s slightly convoluted. But all of the components are easy to source and relatively cheap. The one caveat is that it works best if you are already using a hardware HDMI source selector instead of the one build into your TV. That way there is just one HDMI cable going to the television, and this can siphon off of that feed.

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GoPro hack delivers live video feed for piloting your Quadcopter

The GoPro line of HD cameras seem like they were specifically designed for use with quadcopters. We say that because the small, light-weight video devices present a payload which can be lifted without too much strain, but still have enough horse power to capture video of superb quality. Here’s a hack that uses the camera to provide a remote First Person View so that you may pilot the aircraft when it is out of your line of sight.

The camera in question is a GoPro Hero 3. It differs from its predecessors in that the composite video out port has been moved to a mini USB connector. But it’s still there and just a bit of cable splicing will yield a very clear signal. The image above shows the camera in the middle, connecting via the spliced cable to an FPV transmitter on the right. This will all be strapped to the quadcopter, with the signal picked up by the receiver on the left and piped to a goggle display worn by the pilot. You can see the cable being construction process in the clip after the break.

If you’re looking for other cool stuff to do with your GoPro camera check out the bullet-time work [Caleb] did with ours.

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Demystifying camcorder CRT viewfinders

Every smartphone (and most dumb phones) has a video camera built into it these days. Some of them are even capable of recording respectable HD video. So we’d bet that the decades old camcorder you’ve got kicking around isn’t getting any use at all anymore. [John] wants to encourage you to hack that hardware. He published a post showing just how easy it is to salvage and use a camcorder CRT.

The gist is that you simply need to hook up power and feed it video. The board that is attached to the CRT has its own voltage hardware to drive the tube. He demonstrates a 9V battery as a power supply, but also mentions that it should be pretty easy to power the thing from a USB port. As for video, all it takes is a composite signal. Of course you’ve got to determine the pinout for your particular CRT module. The method he chose was to use a continuity tester to find the path from a capacitor’s negative leg to the appropriate pin header. Next he used a bench supply to inject a current-limited low voltage until he saw response when probing the pins. Finding the composite-in is a similar trial and error process.

So what can you use this for? Why not make it the display for a simple video game?

VISUALIST – a hardware visual effects synthesizer

[Berto] wrote in to tell us about the visual effects synthesizer he built. It works as a pass-through for a video signal, rendering crisp clean images into a more psychedelic flavor like the one seen above. On the one hand this does a dishonor to the high-quality video devices we carry around in our pockets these days. On the other hand it will make some really interesting background video at a party or at your local dance club.

This is not a filter for a PC, or an FPGA-based processing system. A set of analog parts alter the incoming composite video (NTSC or PAL formats) and pipes the result to a television or projector. [Berto] included controls to alter the effects. They’re mounted on a panel and everything is given a home inside of a handy carrying case. Check out the video clip after the break to get a better idea of the video manipulations this things can pull off.

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