Retrotechtacular: Studio Camera Operation, The BBC Way

If you ever thought that being a television camera operator was a simple job, this BBC training film on studio camera operations will quickly disabuse you of that notion.

The first thing that strikes you upon watching this 1982 gem is just how physical a job it is to stand behind a studio camera. Part of the physicality came from the sheer size of the gear being used. Not only were cameras of that vintage still largely tube-based and therefore huge — the EMI-2001 shown has four plumbicon image tubes along with tube amplifiers and weighed in at over 100 kg — but the pedestal upon which it sat was a beast as well. All told, a camera rig like that could come in at over 300 kg, and dragging something like that around a studio floor all day under hot lights had to be hard. It was a full-body workout, too; one needed a lot of upper-body strength to move the camera up and down against the hydropneumatic pedestal cylinder, and every day was leg day when you had to overcome all that inertia and get the camera moving to your next mark.

Operating a beast like this was not just about the bull work, though. There was a lot of fine motor control needed too, especially with focus pulling. The video goes into a lot of detail on maintaining a smooth focus while zooming or dollying, and shows just how bad it can look when the operator is inexperienced or not paying attention. Luckily, our hero Allan is killing it, and the results will look familiar to anyone who’s ever seen any BBC from the era, from Dr. Who to I, Claudius. Shows like these all had a distinctive “Beeb-ish” look to them, due in large part to the training their camera operators received with productions like this.

There’s a lot on offer here aside from the mechanical skills of camera operation, of course. Framing and composing shots are emphasized, as are the tricks to making it all look smooth and professional. There are a lot of technical details buried in the video too, particularly about the pedestal and how it works. There are also two follow-up training videos, one that focuses on the camera skills needed to shoot an interview program, and one that adds in the complications that arise when the on-air talent is actually moving. Watch all three and you’ll be well on your way to running a camera for the BBC — at least in 1982.

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Hackaday Links: August 13, 2023

Remember that time when the entire physics community dropped what it was doing to replicate the extraordinary claim that a room-temperature semiconductor had been discovered? We sure do, and if it seems like it was just yesterday, it’s probably because it pretty much was. The news of LK-99, a copper-modified lead apatite compound, hit at the end of July; now, barely three weeks later, comes news that not only is LK-99 not a superconductor, but that its resistivity at room temperature is about a billion times higher than copper. For anyone who rode the “cold fusion” hype train back in the late 1980s, LK-99 had a bit of code smell on it from the start. We figured we’d sit back and let science do what science does, and sure enough, the extraordinary claim seems not to be able to muster the kind of extraordinary evidence it needs to support it — with the significant caveat that a lot of the debunking papers –and indeed the original paper on LK-99 — seem still to be just preprints, and have not been peer-reviewed yet.

So what does all this mean? Sadly, probably not much. Despite the overwrought popular media coverage, a true room-temperature and pressure superconductor was probably not going to save the world, at least not right away. The indispensable Asianometry channel on YouTube did a great video on this. As always, his focus is on the semiconductor industry, so his analysis has to be viewed through that lens. He argues that room-temperature superconductors wouldn’t make much difference in semiconductors because the place where they’d most likely be employed, the interconnects on chips, will still have inductance and capacitance even if their resistance is zero. That doesn’t mean room-temperature superconductors wouldn’t be a great thing to have, of course; seems like they’d be revolutionary for power transmission if nothing else. But not so much for semiconductors, and certainly not today.

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This Week In Security: Good Faith, Easy Forgery, And I18N

There’s a danger in security research that we’ve discussed a few times before. If you discover a security vulnerability on a production system, and there’s no bug bounty, you’ve likely broken a handful of computer laws. Turn over the flaw you’ve found, and you’re most likely to get a “thank you”, but there’s a tiny chance that you’ll get charged for a computer crime instead. Security research in the US is just a little safer now, as the US Department of Justice has issued a new policy stating that “good-faith security research should not be charged.”

While this is a welcome infection of good sense, it would be even better for such a protection to be codified into law. The other caveat is that this policy only applies to federal cases in the US. Other nations, or even individual states, are free to bring charges. So while this is good news, continue to be careful. There are also some caveats about what counts as good-faith — If a researcher uses a flaw discovery to extort, it’s not good-faith.
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Why Get Dressed When There Are Software Pants?

With so many of us working from home over the last two years, it’s really become apparent that people generally dislike sitting all day with pants on. Until such a utopian time when all clothing is considered unisex, and just as many men as women are kicking it in loose, flowing skirts and dresses, you may want to remember to actually wear something on your lower half, uncomfortable though pants may be. But there is another way — you could build [Everything Is Hacked]’s pants filter and continue to be a chaos agent. Check out the video after the break.

These pants go as wide as you please.

That’s right, whether you forego or just forget to dress yourself below the equator, the pants filter has you covered. It works like you might expect — machine learning tracks body landmarks and posture to figure out where your NSFW region is and keep it under wraps.

By default, it blurs everything below the belt, or you can draw on pants if you’re inclined to be in revealing tighty-whities and prefer more coverage. You can adjust the width of the pants to cover the covid-19 you may have put on since 2020, and even change the pants to match your shirt.

We love that [Everything Is Hacked] had the um, gumption to test the pants filter in public at what appears to be a local taco joint. After the first few rounds of weird looks, he switched to a pants moustache to save face.

Want to add even more fun to those boring video calls? Try connecting up some vintage hardware, or install a pull chain to end those sessions with a gesture that won’t get you fired.

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Hackaday Links: August 8, 2021

Do you have burning opinions about GitHub Copilot, the AI pair programmer that Microsoft introduced a few months ago? Are you worried about the future of free and open software? The Free Software Foundation is funding a call for white papers of 3,000 or fewer words that address either Copilot itself or the subjects of copyright, machine learning, or free software as a whole. If you need more background information first, check out [Maya Posch]’s excellent article on the subject of Copilot and our disappointing AI present. Submissions are due by 10AM EDT (14:00 UTC) on Monday, August 23rd.

There are big antique books, and then there are antiphonaries — these are huge tomes full of liturgical chants and things of that nature. When one of them needs a lot of restoration work, what do you do? You build an all-in-one housing, display case, and cart that carefully holds it up and open (YouTube). Otherwise, you have to have multiple gloved people being extra careful. Jump to about the 14-minute mark to see the device, which is mostly made from extruded aluminum.

In more modern news: you may be waiting out this chip shortage like everyone else, but does it require renting out a bunch of real estate in perpetuity? We didn’t think so. Here’s an aerial photo of a stockpile of Ford Super Duty trucks that are waiting for chips at a dead stop outside the Kentucky Speedway. Thousands of brand new trucks, exposed to the elements for who knows how long. What could go wrong?

While we’re asking questions, what’s in a name? Well, that depends. We’ve all had to think of names for everything from software variables to actual children. For something like a new exoplanet survey, you might as well make the demonym remarkable, like COol COmpanions ON Ultrawide orbiTS, or COCONUTS. Hey, it’s more memorable than calling them X-14 and -15, et cetera. And it’s not like the name isn’t meaningful and descriptive. So, readers: do you think this is the worst name ever, planetary system or otherwise? Does it shake your tree? We’re on the fence.

Avoid Awkward Video Conference Situations With PIR And Arduino

Working from home with regular video meetings has its challenges, especially if you add kids to the mix. To help avoid embarrassing situations, [Charitha Jayaweera] created Present!, a USB device to automatically turn of your camera and microphone if you suddenly need to leave your computer to maintain domestic order.

Present consists of just a PIR sensor and Arduino in a 3D printed enclosure to snap onto your monitor. When the PIR sensor no longer detects someone in range, it sends a notification over serial to a python script running on the PC to switch off the camera and microphone on Zoom (or another app). It can optionally turn these back on when you are seated again. The cheap HC-SR501 PIR module’s range can also be adjusted with a trimpot for your specific scenario. It should also be possible to shrink the device to the size of the PIR module, with a small custom PCB or one of the many tiny Arduino compatible dev boards.

For quick manual muting, check out the giant 3D printed mute button. Present was an entry into the Work from Home Challenge, part of the 2021 Hackaday Prize.

Project Starline Realizes Asimov’s 3D Vision

Issac Asimov wrote¬†Caves of Steel in 1953. In it, he mentions something called trimensional personification. In an age before WebEx and Zoom, imagining that people would have remote meetings replete with 3D holograms was pretty far-sighted. We don’t know if any Google engineers read the book, but they are trying to create a very similar experience with project Starline.

The system is one of those that seems simple on the face of it, but we are sure the implementation isn’t easy. You sit facing something that looks like a window. The other person shows up in 3D as though they were on the other side of the window. Think prison visitation without the phone handset. The camera is mounted such that you look naturally at the other person through your virtual window.

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