Digicaster 3.0 Troubleshooting Guide Beta 1.2


I am encoding nothing but black.

You may be recording, but not actually seeing the record window.  Confirm that you are recording null signal by playing back the recorded clip on the Digitizer.  You may also import the null clip into SMPro to confirm that no signal was recorded.  (This eliminates the problem being a Digitizer video output error.)  Play the clip using SMPro’s Device Control function.

Confirm that under Encoder settings in MPEG Works Pro, you have File Output Enabled.

The latest build of the REALmagic card (which powers the Digicaster signal output) does not output VGA and Composite Video simultaneously.  (Older versions of this card do perform this function.)  

To check your video output settings, open the REALmagic Netstream 2000 file in the Program menu.  Open the Advanced submenu and check your Video settings.  Confirm that you are outputting a composite video signal to a preview monitor (or a VGA signal to the encode window, if you prefer).  D.Co recommends that you choose composite video for now, so that you can route a signal into an external monitor for diagnostic purposes.

In addition, you may want to check that all cables coming from the card have been installed correctly.  Please refer to the Netstream 2000 guide for the correct hookup of these cables.  Note that S-Video connectors do not lock into place, unlike BNC connectors; if your facility uses the Digitizer rack sliders frequently, this connection may have come loose. Confirm that your sources and destinations are correctly routed.  At the back of the Digitizer there is a place where the video is being feed into it, plug that signal into an external monitor to confirm that you are receiving good signal.

If you confirm that you are getting good source into the Digitizer, and it is still encoding black, confirm your input configuration for the MPEG Works Pro interface.  We have included screen shots of your default Video, Stream, and Source Parameters.  Confirm that these have not changed.  Pay special attention to the Video Input; make sure that the program is seeing the correct format (Composite, S (y/c), and on some systems component, or SDI601.

If you are encoding audio but not video the problems is most likely, wiring, input selection setting, output file enabled setting (all of these are discussed above).  In the unlikely event that you have confirmed that you have a valid video source at the point of input to the Digitizer and you have verified the three items then you may have a defective component in the Digitizer.  You should call D.Co's technical support department.

My encode window (on the Digitizer) is black, even though I have no problems encoding.

See above.  Your REALmagic card may have been configured only to output composite video.  If this is the case, there is most likely nothing wrong with your system but you'll need to hook up the output a TV video monitor. Confirm that your Player settings in MPEG Works Pro are correct.  Under Player Setup, you should be using DirectShow. Confirm that your Encoder settings in MPEG Works Pro are correct.  You should have Preview Enabled.       

My Digitized clips “freeze” on the final frame after playback.
My Digitized clips return to the first encoded frame, then “freeze”, after playback.

Confirm that your clip has been edited correctly by Importing it into SMPro and testing it using Device Control.  It should appear normal.  The freezing phenomenon is due to the Sigma output card (REALmagic Netstream 2000, at current build) – which is only used for local monitoring – will not reset to black unless the final image frames are black.  Even in this case, the image freezes, but since it freezes on black, it can’t be seen.

My Encode Monitor loses vertical hold.

The loss of vertical hold should only occur while the source deck is in pause or stop mode.  This phenomenon is an effect of the V-LAN serial control interface not being synced or genlocked to the source deck or the source deck itself not generating a true still frame.  This will not affect the encoding process, nor will it affect the playback process.  The Digitizer has no separate genlock capability, and will encode from the source at the refresh interval determined by the source. Confirm that your source deck and the Source Parameters in MPEG Works Pro are set to the same frame rate.  MPEG Works Pro can see SMPTE 25, SMPTE 30, or SMPTE 30 DF.

I am not getting frame-accurate editing.  
My digitized clips are being trimmed at the extremes. 
The timecode shown in the MPEG Works window is not the same as the timecode shown on my source deck.

In some instance Confirm your source deck format.  Sony® UMatic™ ¾” tape decks are notoriously frame inaccurate.  You may need to build 15 or 20 frames of black into your Edit Decision List (EDL) in order to compensate for this problem. Confirm the source tape you are using matches the settings in the MPEG Works source tab.  They are SMPTE 25, SMPTE 30, or SMPTE 30 DF.  If your settings here are different than the how the tape itself was created the time code on the MPEG works screen and the time code window on the deck itself will not match.  This will case encoding problems with accuracy at the beginning and end of the encode process. Confirm that your V-LAN serial interface is synced to House Reference and terminated at 75 Ω.  This may improve the frame accuracy. Note that the V-LAN serial interface operates at 9600 baud.  There may be a delay of a few seconds before a given command line is enacted.  If you are advancing your tape by single frames, multiple mouse clicks may advance your clips beyond or behind the intended timecode destination unbeknownst to you, due to the inherent baud rate delay.  Try advancing your single frames more slowly.

VTR encode doesn’t work.

This could be many things.  Confirm first that the Video Control window in MPEG Works Pro is reading the tape correctly.  Visually confirm the status of the deck; it is probably Stopped, but it may be playing.  The Status window will read STOPPED, PLAYING, PAUSED, etc., depending on the status of the deck.  If the Status window reads OFFLINE, however, the deck is not being controlled by the Digitizer and must be hooked up.

Confirm that the V-LAN is installed correctly.  The proper installation of the source deck control should be as follows:

1.        A proprietary 9-pin D-sub male-to-male serial V-LAN cable (number 1838) connects the Digitizer to the V-LAN Serial In. (Note:  This is NOT a standard serial cable!  It must be model 1838.)

2.        A proprietary 9-pin D-sub male-to-male serial V-LAN cable (number 1808) connects the V-LAN Serial Out to the 9-pin RS-232/422 input on the source deck.

3.        The V-LAN should be powered.  Of the two LEDs on the front of the V-LAN, the left LED should be lit or blinking steadily.

Confirm that your Encode Method is VTR, rather than Manual or ECL.

Confirm that your TapeDeck settings in MPEG Works Pro are correct.  Your V-LAN serial port should be COM1 and the baud rate should be 9600.

Although the V-LAN may be able to function with a standard (non-proprietary) 9-pin serial cable connection between the V-LAN Serial Out port and the source deck RS-232/422 port, there is a limit to the length of this cable.  At 9600 baud, any destination further than 25 feet away is at risk of losing communication.  We do not recommend that you attempt this without contacting us first.

If you have more than one encode deck, confirm that you have selected the correct deck from which to encode.  This may involve interfacing with an external switcher such as a TecNec Route 4™.

The Encode window just says “Waiting” and everything is grayed out.

You are in ECL encode mode.  You cannot interrupt the software while it is in this mode.  Unless this is intentional, close out the MPEG Works Pro software out and reset.

How do I automate the encoding process?  How do I perform unattended encoding?

1.        The Source tab in the Parameter Control Window will allow you to do this.  Under normal operation, your Encode Mode is VTR Only.  Switching your Encode Mode to Scheduler Only, you will see that the Schedule window becomes available to you.  This will enable you to set times for starting and stopping a recording (for example, if you wish to record a studio or satellite feed that will be available at a pre-determined time).  If, on the other hand, you wish to begin encoding at a pre-determined time from your source deck, engage Scheduler and VTR mode.  Notice that you cannot define a stop-point via the Schedule in this mode; marking your VTR Out will set your recording end time.

2.        Make sure to assign your Output File a Clip Name that will be easily retrievable.

3.        Set your Encode Type to ECL.  Clicking Record will send the Digitizer into WAITING mode.  This mode cannot be interrupted, so make sure that you will not be needing to digitize anything else between the beginning and the ending of the ECL encoding process. The encoder will be offline until the internal clock triggers the encoding process.

How do I encode multiple automated streams?
I need to preset multiple download feeds for encoding without intermediate user interface.

1.        Establish the settings for the first Clip Stream as shown above.

2.        Determine if you wish your multiple feeds to be encoded as separate clips or as one large clip with multiple appendices.  If separate clips are desired, skip step 3.

3.        Append a clip by clicking on the Append Clip icon at the bottom of the Parameter Control Window.  The green arrow appends to the end of the ECL; the purple arrow inserts an Append command in the middle of the ECL.  An appended clip does not need a new name.

4.        For separate clips, insert a New Output File for each clip using the “yellow starburst” icon at the bottom of the Parameter Control Window.  Be sure to give each New Output File a different name under the Stream tab.

5.        Select the various times for each Clip Stream that you wish the ECL to encode.

6.        Select All of the ECL rows using the blue icon, or highlight only those clips you wish to include in the encoding process.

7.        Set your Encode Type to ECL and begin recording as for a single clip.  Do not be alarmed when MPEG Works highlights only the first clip during the WAITING period.  After the first ECL row is enacted, the next row will become active and will be highlighted, and so on.

I am attempting to perform a multiple ECL, and only the first Edit Command is being followed.

Select All of the Edit Commands that you wish to be automated, using either the mouse or the blue icon at the bottom of the Parameter Control Window all items should appear highlighted (dark blue) then press the record button.  The encoder section should now display waiting.  (Note:  More details are in the above two sections)

I encoded a clip, but I cannot find it when I try to Import the file into SMPro.

Confirm that your Output File in MPEG Works Pro is on the E:\ drive of the Digitizer.  The default drive may be the C:\ drive.  For a quick reference, the E:\ drive should have much more Available Space allocated. Make sure that your DigiPlay Scan Location matches your Digitizer Output File. Some clients like to create separate encode files on the Digitizer.  There is nothing wrong with this, but you will need to add these folders to the MPEG Storage section of the SMPro Config Module.  The Digitizer default drive for encoding is E:\, which is mapped to the F:\ drive of the DigiPlay.  Define each E:\ drive folder on the Digitizer as an identically-named file on the DigiPlay’s F:\ drive.  Verify that the file location exists and Import MPEG’s as you normally would.

 When I hit the Record button in Encode Mode, nothing happens.

This is an occasional bug that occurs in the MPEG Works software.  D.Co will have a software patch available as soon as FutureTel releases it.  Simply hit Record a second time.

When I hit the Record button in Encode Mode, I get an error message.

You are in VTR or ECL Encode mode, and you have not marked your in and out points.  In effect, you are telling the software to encode a clip that is 0 frames long.

My audio distorts when I’m encoding.

The Digitizer’s input card is likely unbalanced stereo.  Depending on your switcher configuration, you may be outputting balanced or unbalanced stereo to the Digitizer.  The AGC (RANE Unit) is installed in the pathway between the Digitizer source deck and the Digitizer itself for the purpose of preventing overdrive.  Check that your AGC unit is set up properly and not in bypass.  Your particular AGC model and settings may vary. If you have an unbalanced switcher, confirm that you are using an High-Z output from your source deck.  Running +4 dBu, low-impedance audio from your source deck into an unbalanced, -10 dBV switcher will overdrive the entire system.  If you do not have an High-Z audio output on your source, but you are still interfacing with an unbalanced switcher, you will need an impedance matching transformer.  The Rane Balance Buddy is a good rack-mountable stereo level converter. Encoding at less than CD-quality (44.1 kHz) audio may introduce digital artifacts.  32 kHz encoding is not recommended for broadcast.

I have no audio when I’m encoding.

Confirm that your Audio settings in the Parameter Control window are compatible with your system requirements.  44.1 kHz (CD quality) is sufficient for encoding MPEG2 audio; 48 kHz (DAT quality) is unnecessary for broadcast purposes. Confirm that your audio connections are installed correctly and that your routing is universal (audio follows video) rather than separated. Confirm that the audio being fed into the Digitizer is valid by disconnecting the audio input into the Digitizer and into amplified speakers, a TV Monitor with audio, or a sound board.  If you have no audio at this point the problem has to do with wiring or your source deck.  If you do have audio reconnect it to the Digitizer.  You can try rebooting the Digitizer if the problem still exists contact D.Co.

My clip encodes fine, but just doesn’t look right.
My video looks blurry.
My colors are blooming.

MPEG1 video is considered to be VHS quality.  Settin your Stream Parameters to MPEG2 can significantly improve the detail of the video images. Your encoding bitrate can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the final product.  D.Co does not recommend a bitrate below 4 Megabits per second (Mbps), and 6 Mbps may be the preferred minimum bitrate.  Confirm that your Stream Parameter matches these requirements.  The optimal bit rate depends on many factors.  Two items in particular:  1.) When encoding at 4 Mbps half D-1 encoding generally produces better results.  Half D-1 Encoding is achieved by setting the resolution on the encoding parameters to 480.  Full D-1 requires resolution to be set at 720 but also requires increasing the encode bit rate to at least 6 Mbps. You should not have a need to change your other encode parameters.  However, note the default configurations and compare to your settings. 

ShowMaker Pro

My clips don’t play.

Confirm that ShowPlayer MPEG is operational. Confirm that your clips are showing up in the schedule.  Confirm also that your clips are appearing as either the “Current Event” or the “Next Event”.  If your clips do not appear at the proper times, check your scheduled clip Properties and confirm your scheduled times.  Reset To Now, or schedule a time in the near future (maybe 30 seconds ahead of current time) to test your clip. Confirm through Device Control that your MPEG Players are switching and playing clips correctly.  Check each of your Players.  Remember that they must all work, even if you do not constantly use each player, because of SMPro’s switching and preroll command structure. Confirm that the ShowPlayer MPEG and ShowSwitcher modules are up and running.  If not, close out all active windows and restart each module, beginning with ShowMaster Pro. Open the ShowPlayer MPEG module (currently running in the Taskbar) during or immediately after your attempt to play a clip via the SMPro Schedule.  (Be sure not to hit Enter, as this will shut the module down.)  Note the most recent command lines.  Check which channels and cards have been playing.  The lowest number is 0; therefore, the first channel on the first card is Channel 0, Card 0.  Note the times for each command.  An MPEG Player STOP command almost immediately after a PLAY command suggests a file or player error.  Close all modules and restart. Open the ShowSwitcher module (currently running in the Taskbar) during or immediately after your attempt to play a clip via the SMPro Schedule.  Note the most recent command lines.  Check which inputs have been switching.  Failure to switch to an active MPEG player may be the cause of your schedule error.  This may be the result of a temporary software bug or of a failure of the switcher to initialize properly.  Confirm from SMPro Config that your switcher driver is correct.  Also, verify any Lead Time built into your switcher command.  A large Lead Time may prevent your switcher from switching at the correct cue point.  Close all modules and restart. Compare the data in the ShowSwitcher module, the ShowPlayer MPEG module, and the SMPro Config Device tab.  Confirm that the MPEG Players match the correct switcher ports, and that the switcher is actually switching correctly.  Confirm that the Interface Info for each MPEG Player is correct:  the first four players, in order, should be “0:0”; “0:1”; “0:2”; and “0:3”. Confirm the Device settings for each MPEG Player.  If your DigiPlay unit has and Enseo card you should have a minimum of 1000 ms of Play leadtime.  You may also have 1000 ms of Prep lead.

My clips are being cut off.

Confirm that you are experiencing this problem with pre-scheduled items, and not just with clips that have been Reset to Now.  The time delay between setting the schedule and closing the Time and Properties windows and Submitting the new setting may only be a second or two, but that is enough to trim a clip quite noticeably.  Confirm that your Frame Rate (under SMPro Config’s General settings) is set to 29.97 fps.  A frame rate of 30 fps may introduce clip length errors. Check your switcher Lead Time (in SMPro Config: Switch).  A nonzero lead time may cause your switcher to jump early, switching away before the clip is complete. Try playing the clip back using the ShowMaker Player (device control) to your preview channel.  If the clip is still cutting off here then it most likely was a problem during the encode process.  To verify this play the clip back on the Digitizer.  If it cuts off there as well then re-encode the clip.

My Next Event appears to be several hundred hours away, and I have an empty schedule.

Somewhere in the schedule a few weeks or months ahead, you have an event scheduled.  This will not affect your performance.

When I schedule a live event, the Current Event lists a clip instead.


How do I schedule a tape to play over the air?

Note: you will want to perform this process well in advance of actual airtime, as will be explained later. Tapes are treated as clips by the system.  Instead of the clip referring back to a particular MPEG file on the RAID, however, the clip is treated as a series of deck control tape commands.  Under the Edit menu in SMPro, you should see a category New Tape.  Opening this will enable you to name the clip, choose a client from a preset list, identify the length of the tape, and identify the amount of preroll necessary.  Keep in mind that your preroll command will be enacted before the scheduled airtime, so be sure to budget enough time for yourself  

Your tape clip will be created in the Show window.  You may transfer the clip to the Clip Bin if you prefer by deleting the show.  (Deleting a Show does not delete the clips which comprise that Show.)  Schedule the tape as you would a clip, by dragging and dropping.  (You may also reschedule your tape via the Properties Window, just as you would a clip.)

You may have noticed upon entering the Tape Properties that you were not given a choice for your Playback Deck, even though you may have more than one.  This is because SMPro automates your Deck Traffic; you need merely to insert your tapes in the prescribed decks.  This is done in a manner determined to create the least wear on any one individual deck.  

To identify the proper deck allocation, open Media Traffic in the Tools menu.  You will see either your Tape schedule, your MPEG schedule, or Both.  Media Traffic will tell you which tape, as per your identification scheme, should be inserted into which playback deck.  You may need to manually reinsert tapes throughout the broadcast day, depending on your usage rates verses the number of decks you have configured to work with your system.

I have two clips on the same tape.  How do I get them to play?

When you create a clip, you set the preroll and the playtime as it appears on the tape.  To create a second clip from later timecode on the same tape, you must set a new preroll time encompassing the entire first clip and the standard preroll for the second clip.  For example, a tape consisting of 5 seconds of bars, 1 second of black, a 15-second clip, 5 seconds of black, and another clip would require 26 seconds of preroll to cue the second clip correctly.  

Keep in mind that the system believes the clips to be on two separate tapes.  This may have two consequences.  One is that you need to be sure to allow enough time for the automated rewind utility built into the deck control interface to function correctly.  The second is that the assigned deck for that tape may change, depending on which clip is scheduled to play.  In other words, the Master Control Operator may need to physically place the tape in a different deck in order to play the second clip.  This issue will be improved on future version of ShowMaker.

Where do I access the Clip Properties?

There are actually two different Properties windows for clips.  Double-clicking on a clip in the Clip Bin (the lower right-hand corner of the SMPro interface) will bring up the General Properties of the clip.  These will include the clip length and source file, and will enable you to change the Code and Name of the clip.  Double-clicking or right-clicking on a clip in the Schedule will enable you to access the Schedule Properties window for the clip.  This is where you can change the time that a particular clip is scheduled to be broadcast.

How do I change the time of a scheduled clip or show?

Right-click on the Schedule item.  Clicking on the Fixed Time button will bring up the Time Schedule Interface.  Set the desired time, Submit it to the Schedule, and OK the Properties.  After refreshing, the item will now be scheduled correctly.

My tapes will not play.

Confirm that the ShowPlayer Tape module is operational (it should be running in the Taskbar). Open the ShowMaker Config Device menu.  The Interface Info should be 2:x, where x is the ordinal number of the deck being controlled (1 for the first, 2 for the second, and so on.). Open the ShowPlayer Tape Module.  With the window open, type x.  This will enable serial interface 2, which is the default tape control interface.  Type 1 and verify that the ShowPlayer Tape Module received the PLAY command.  Visually verify that the first playback deck is playing your tape.

Repeat this process using q for STOP and a for REWIND. Verify that your tapes play correctly using the Device Control.

My tapes don’t cue up properly.

Your tape decks should have been pre-configured for the correct lead time for that particular type of deck.  We recommend a 3-second lead time (3000 ms) for 3/4" U-matic decks.  Others such as Betacam, S VHS, and DVC Pro are likely less.  This setting is made in the ShowMaker Config Device menu.  However, you may need more or less lead time.  Note that this lead time bears no relation to the pre-roll built onto your tapes; this is merely the amount of time the system needs to process the commands and activate the tape players; how long it takes the deck to spool up the tape. Confirm that you have built the correct amount of pre-roll time into your defined tape clip.

My clips have digital artifacts (MacroBlocks) in them.

Verify that you have a clean clip by attempting to reproduce it in some other playback device.  The Digitizer is a good one; Windows Media Player works as well. If you do not have a clean clip, you may need to encode at a higher bitrate. If you are encoding at a very low bitrate (below 3 MB), you may wish to try MPEG 1 instead of MPEG 2.  MPEG 1, while less sharp a picture, will macroblock much less than MPEG 2 at low bitrates. Verify that the problem is universal to the system.  Check each MPEG channel and card; if only channel or card demonstrates a problem, you may have a hardware failure.

When I go to import my MPEGs, it doesn’t see them.

Verify that your clips were saved to the E:\ drive of the Digitizer.  Remember, just because the clip stream output in the ECL says E:\, that doesn’t mean you actually saved it there.  Search all local drives for the filename to confirm its location. If you created special files on the E:\ drive for different categories of files, verify that you created new MPEG Storage locations in ShowMaker Pro Config that match those filenames.  Keep in mind that the E:\ Drive on the Digitizer is mapped to the F:\ drive on the DigiPlay.  Therefore, if you create new files on the Digitizer E:\ drive, list them on the F:\ drive of the DigiPlay for MPEG Storage.
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