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Old 03-09-2005, 01:37 PM   #1
Heuer
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TiVo SDI

Update on my search for SDI output on TiVo. Just had this message from PJ Hi-Fi in Guildford:

"Great news! The box has been looked at by the board manufacturers head programmer and they have written the custom software build required for the FPGA to work correctly with Tivo. The box is now on its way back to us where we will fit the board properly, soak test and return it to you.

Thanks for your patience, we got there in the end

Best Regards

Elliot

Elliot Hicks

Custom Install Manager
Company Director

PJ HI-FI Limited
Tel / Fax: 01483 504801
elliot@pjhifi.co.uk "

Just shows about anything is possible with TiVo and I commissioned this to prove it. Not had the box back yet but I will add an update on video quality when I do.
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Old 03-10-2005, 02:13 AM   #2
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I'm curious why are you adding an SDI output to TiVo? I'm assuming you're tapping off (8 bit I presume) straight after the MPEG-2 decoder before the digits hit any analogue back-end - and then bolting on an SDI I/F? If you're using an FPGA to do this (and I know it can be done) then that could give you a nice useful programmable back-end to TiVo. What FPGA is being used? Are they giving you programmable access (JTAG or otherwise) to it? I'm excited about this (in a sad h/w way )
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Old 03-10-2005, 04:36 AM   #3
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No idea on the technical background, suggest you contact Elliot for more information. I decided to do it to see what could be acheived by by-passing the on-board DAC and letting my Lumagen HDP Pro scaler have more to work with. Getting rid of the flashing in Mode 0 being one goal, pushing the TiVo knowledge base being the other.

It does indeed open up a number of other opportunities and given this was a custom software development, at my request, there is a gateway for more enhancements.
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Old 03-10-2005, 04:40 AM   #4
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well - I'd be very interested to hear what you get up to with it. And am happy to lend my "ahem" expertise if there is now a hackable FPGA that you can get access to.

I suspect though that bypassing the DAC may mean that the MPEG artifacts are a little bit more visible - having not ben smeared by the analogue backend. I hope I'm wrong though.
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Old 03-10-2005, 04:45 AM   #5
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and just having a look at the convergant site they say that the advantage of having SDI in is
Quote:
... that the video goes through less digital to analogue and analogue to digital conversions. This results in more detailed image with less artefacts. Below are some simplified flow diagrams:
More detailed - yes.
Less artefacts - hmmm - I'd say different artefacts.
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Old 03-10-2005, 05:09 AM   #6
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Time will tell as I have not had the unit back yet. More info from Elliot:

" The mod will be slightly above the standard cost due to the requirement of a special software build for the SDI board. Not to bad though at £350, only £25 more than our normal mods. As for performance, i need to see some decent material through it as we have not set anything up on this one, i'm sure once Heuer has finished with all his hacking bits it will be awesome. The OSD'd are razor sharp."
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Old 03-10-2005, 05:57 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heuer
Time will tell as I have not had the unit back yet. More info from Elliot:

" The mod will be slightly above the standard cost due to the requirement of a special software build for the SDI board. Not to bad though at £350, only £25 more than our normal mods. As for performance, i need to see some decent material through it as we have not set anything up on this one, i'm sure once Heuer has finished with all his hacking bits it will be awesome. The OSD'd are razor sharp."
£350 - Ouch! If you have access to a friendly Xilinx or Altera representative then they can usually be persuaded - if they want your company's business - to part with one of their nice little SDI capable development cards - usually with a multirate HD/SD SDI capable FPGA plus cable equalizers and drivers for free. It would need a small amount of tweaking to hook up the FPGA to the TiVo MPEG Decoder backend - but not a huge amount.
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Old 03-10-2005, 06:54 AM   #8
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Great idea although I do not have access to any of that kit. If you do then please pursue it and let's compare notes and increase the knowledge base.
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Old 03-16-2005, 04:06 PM   #9
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is that a £350 charge to convert your existing tivo

That is an awful lot of money to spend when you consider HDTV is not too far away and hardware to exploit it is sure to follow. I wonder what the quality of the modded tivo is like to a standard sky+ (not talking about functionality of course)
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Old 03-16-2005, 07:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bardsm
is that a £350 charge to convert your existing tivo

That is an awful lot of money to spend when you consider HDTV is not too far away and hardware to exploit it is sure to follow. I wonder what the quality of the modded tivo is like to a standard sky+ (not talking about functionality of course)
Sky + is still likely to look better than an SDI output modded Tivo fed by a Sky box. Even with a Mode 0 hacked Tivo you are still adding an extra MPEG2 encode/decode process (done using low-end, low-cost MPEG2 encoding kit) which Sky + doesn't have.

The best bet would be an SDI modded Sky+ if you were after the best picture quality.
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Old 03-17-2005, 10:13 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sneals2000
The best bet would be an SDI modded Sky+ if you were after the best picture quality.
SDI mods on all new (V2) Sky+ boxes is impossible as the MPEG decoder and DAC are on the same chip, so no way in. You can still mod the older SKy+ boxes but the cost is the same as for TiVo.

Modded TiVo will be here tomorrow so I can report on what the output looks like. I only did it to prove it was possible and for a bit of fun. Not suggesting others follow but it seems clear that Sky and others are determined to make their machines unhackable and unmoddable. - but no surprise there.
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Old 03-18-2005, 08:53 AM   #12
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SDI TiVo is now installed and working. Performance is excellent with no screen flashing on Mode 0. Picture quality is absolutely superb with more natural colours than using RGB/Component - both are connected so I can switch between them very easily. I would say it is impossible to tell the difference between Aux and SDI and I am viewing it on a very high grade 50" Pioneer Plasma screen and both fed via the Lumagen

So it can be done and I am personally delighted at the result - a large step forward.

Cost:

SDI mod: £350 (I also paid the one off TiVo software development cost)
SDI high grade cable: £40

Obviously a SDI enabled scaler is required but I already had the Lumagen HDP-Pro in my system anyway.

Edit: My wife, who normally has no interest in these things, just described the picture as "three dimensional".
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File Type: jpg dscf1895.jpg (56.7 KB, 256 views)
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Last edited by Heuer : 03-18-2005 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:22 AM   #13
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That is one SCARY picture.. don't think I'll be modding my Tivo like that anytime soon!
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:30 AM   #14
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Certainly not a DIY project!
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heuer
Certainly not a DIY project!
I have to say I disagree . I'd have said that that looks pretty do-able - if you're at ease with a fine-tip soldering iron and have worked on TQFPs or similar before. It would require a bit of patience - but could be done.

I have to say I'd be a little concerned at the mechanical stability of all those flying leads though. I can see they're encased in "gunk" but it wouldn't take a lot to knock one loose I reckon.

Still it's an interesting mod no doubt.
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:49 AM   #16
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Leads are well soldered and secured with silicone. It survived being sent from PJ Hi-Fi to the Software designers and back. Then it was sent via the TNT bruisers to me. Not planning on moving it around anymore!
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Old 03-19-2005, 07:34 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heuer
SDI TiVo is now installed and working. Performance is excellent with no screen flashing on Mode 0. Picture quality is absolutely superb with more natural colours than using RGB/Component - both are connected so I can switch between them very easily. I would say it is impossible to tell the difference between Aux and SDI and I am viewing it on a very high grade 50" Pioneer Plasma screen and both fed via the Lumagen

So it can be done and I am personally delighted at the result - a large step forward.

Cost:

SDI mod: £350 (I also paid the one off TiVo software development cost)
SDI high grade cable: £40

Obviously a SDI enabled scaler is required but I already had the Lumagen HDP-Pro in my system anyway.

Edit: My wife, who normally has no interest in these things, just described the picture as "three dimensional".
Interesting that you're not getting flashing in Mode 0. This must nail it down to being a D/A issue rather than an MPEG2 decoding one?

Interesting that you don't see much difference between AUX and SDI - though presumably an SDI modded Sky box (or Sky+ box) might show more of a difference as it will not have been D/A and A/Ded anywhere after the camera in the broadcast process? (Bit like watching Freeview via a DVB-T capture card in a PC)
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Old 03-19-2005, 11:52 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sneals2000
Interesting that you're not getting flashing in Mode 0. This must nail it down to being a D/A issue rather than an MPEG2 decoding one?

Interesting that you don't see much difference between AUX and SDI - though presumably an SDI modded Sky box (or Sky+ box) might show more of a difference as it will not have been D/A and A/Ded anywhere after the camera in the broadcast process? (Bit like watching Freeview via a DVB-T capture card in a PC)
So far not a single flash on a mixture of programmes suggesting the DAC chip was causing the problem rather than the IBM MPEG decoder. But I will remain vigilant

The picture is now so good I cannot think there is much room for improvement even with a SDI Sky STB, and any difference would be lost at a 6 ft viewing distance. There are no visible artifacts and pictures have lost that TiVo colour glow. I am sure the picture will improve still further as Lumagen release more software enhancements to their PAL de-interlacing algorithms.

Out of interest I made a MPEG/VOB copy of a programme (purely for research) onto DVD and compared that to the TiVo original. Played back through an Arcam DV27A SDI there was no difference in picture quality suggesting the TiVo MPEG decoder is a resonably competent chip.
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Old 03-20-2005, 05:26 AM   #19
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Yep - AIUI most MPEG2 decoders these days (and for the past few years) are pretty good performers. MPEG2 was designed to be assymmetric in its processing requirements AIUI - requiring far less number crunching for quality decoding than encoding. (The current caveat to MPEG2 decoders is that many have a "chroma bug" - due to a mistake in implementing the correct interlaced chroma sub-sampling structure for MPEG2 4:2:0 AIUI)

The more interesting comparison is between the MPEG2 encoding performed by the broadcaster on uplink for DSat/DTT and the MPEG2 encoding performed in the Tivo.
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Old 03-21-2005, 05:28 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sneals2000
(The current caveat to MPEG2 decoders is that many have a "chroma bug" - due to a mistake in implementing the correct interlaced chroma sub-sampling structure for MPEG2 4:2:0 AIUI)
Which, unless I'm reading it wrong, does not rear it's ugly head unless you're talking about progressive output, which here in PAL land isn't too common still.

Link

Cheers,

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Old 03-22-2005, 02:18 AM   #21
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While watching the extremly boring 'Archangel' last night I saw two or three instances of screen flashes. Went back and did some A/B ing between SDI and RGB outputs. SDI has about 25% of the instances of flashes compared to RGB/Component, but it is still there!

Suggests the MPEG chip is the culprit after all but I cannot understand why it is far less on SDI. Will test further.
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Old 04-01-2005, 05:23 AM   #22
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Having played around with this thing for a couple of weeks I thought I might give an update.

The quality of the picture (admittedly post processed by the Lumagen) is superb. Big increases in sharpness and better colour. I have seen no artifacts whatsoever and it is on a big screen. The only issue I had was the occasional white flash on poor black and white material (Hancock, Steptoe and Son) but at a far reduced level than with RGB/Component Mode 0.

I decided to play around with the min/max bit rate settings for Best and upped them from 586/768 to 768/990. For some reason this seems to have eliminated all traces of white flashes on a wide range of material. I have not seen a single flash in a week of viewing/recording even with old, poor B/W material from the Horror Channel.

Not sure how this sits with perceived wisdom on Mode 0 settings?
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Old 04-01-2005, 06:34 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heuer
Not sure how this sits with perceived wisdom on Mode 0 settings?
I don't think there is any consensus on what works and what doesn't, since it appears to stretch the hardware beyond the tolerances and varies for each Tivo. I only use Mode-0/VBR for resolution and space-saving, and use bobones' settings. However, I only get white flashes every few months or so, but I do get a flickering pixel in a fixed position every now and then.

I doubt that I will ever get a plasma since I find a 32" Sony flat-screen CRT perfectly acceptable and, to me, technically superior and cooler to run than all the plasmas that I have seen. I might consider a large LCD screen in the future for HDTV, once they bring the quality up to CRT standards. Currently, I find the viewing far too jerky on pans to be acceptable. I suppose one reason why I don't get enthused about large screens is that I spend far more time watching a 14" TV in my study than I do in watching my 32" TV in my lounge, and watching DVD's is the only thing that drags me back from my computers.

I think that HDTV is the only thing that will make large screens work for me, since just having the imperfections of low resolutions and digital compression enlarged enough to be noticeable seems a strangely masochistic idea to me. At least CRT's manage to blend the pixels together in at least one dimension.
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Old 01-03-2006, 07:50 AM   #24
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Sorry to drag this one up again.

A mate has a Panasonic 42" HiDef plasma screen (acquired for b*gger all from a job at work, lets just say the wall bracket cost more that he paid for the display oh and along with the TiVo he acquired in 2000 for evaluation!!!) with VGA input converted from TiVo SCART via a SCART to VGA converter. Also using TiVo mode 0 fiddles and VBR 7500000/9000000.

Would his picture benefit from a Lumangen scaler between the TiVo and HiDef display ?

If so any other signal converter or other leads or other Panasonic display "slot modules" required ?
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Old 01-03-2006, 11:43 AM   #25
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The scaler will indeed make a huge difference to both DVD and TiVo signals - basically high def from a standard def source, and HD ready. Screen should not need any extra boards although it will depend on what the Plasma was used for originally. Best thing would be refer your friend to Gordon at Convergent. He is very helpful and will advise, supply and calibrate if required.

http://www.convergent-av.co.uk/

Market leaders in scalers are Lumagen and Crystallio. I favour the former as the support and upgrades are free, the user forum is great, the people enthusiastic and the whole lot reminds me of this place - praise indeed!

Cheaper option would be to use a Zinwell Brite-View progressive scan box and a RGB to Component convertor and although I use this combo for my second TiVo to a Panasonic 42" plasma, it is a technical dead end.
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Old 01-04-2006, 06:46 AM   #26
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Heuer thanks for the info, I will pass the info on.

He was in fact looking into the £700 Lumagen product, which as he works in the broadcast industry get very good ratings, though nothing near the quality the £20k Snell and Wilcox kit he normally uses.

He was mainly worried about cabling issues and didn't want to buy the scaler and then have to faff around ordering more cables in order to get it working. Looks like if he talks to someone who knows about these things he could just buy the whole lot, unpack it, plug it in and away you go.

Shamethe scaler is £700 as I am looking into getting a HiDef panel and would definately be interested in going down the scaler route with my TiVo.
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