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About the Cambox.

Monday, 9 September, 2013

I’ve spent some time over the last couple of weekends taking notes and doing some research on a device I’m calling the Cambox. I am either imprisoned or freed in my ignorance of the current state of consumer-level computing technology.

Once I kept up with that sort of thing, but since buying a time-bomb iMac in late 2007, I just have not bothered. As you might imagine the world has moved on without me over the last six years. Many name brands I do not recognize. Really.

I am investigating the Rivendell open-source, all-in-one system intended to automate radio stations independently and without cost. The manipulation of live video, and the devices one could use for such has been a subject of study for at least a couple of years. Romantically, I would love for the devices to operate on linux, perhaps evolving into a distribution intended for this specific purpose, but given the state of video manipulation after all these years this appears highly unlikely. With the cost, dependability (of late) and inflexible nature of Apple hardware it’s use appears unreasonable for this idea. We’re stuck with Windows.

Instead of posting specific plans, I shall outline the technical objectives of the device. I am also quite interested in suggestions to achieve the objective outlined below. Cambox is a reasonably priced, ideally under $700 in parts although this appears unlikely, specifically “tuned” to accomplish the following through hardware or software.

  • A live, 720 pixel-high (or more) video feed, via Flash or similar, through either ethernet, or wifi for remote broadcasting.
  • Enough processing overhead to readily composite images live, supers, titles, chroma key, generating images on the fly such as visuals inspired by music which is playing, having guests on cam through Skype or similar, and so on.
  • The ability to cope with feeds from up to four full-motion video cameras at full resolution and switch on the fly, possibly automatically. I can’t imagine needing more than four, and with the assumption such cameras will not have on-board processing like the Logitech 920C or a Chinese-sourced “action camera”.
  • The ability for guests to “call in” to a live broadcast, possibly even through a telephone of all things, with calls held in cue until ready for air.
  • Cue. Audio in cue is something I can’t quite work out just yet.
  • Full video-editing suite on a common application.
  • Disk arrays which will permit extremely quick processing of edited video and creation of ISO images
  • The device should be workable from one monitor, even if that is not ideal, and configured in such a way that it is readily portable. The ability to broadcast remotely is critical, even if it shall be plugged in. Think about broadcasting from cars, city parks, relatively remote areas presumably within 4G range, night clubs, bars, coffee shops, possibly even “where the news happens” and so forth.
  • A software solution that displays artist and title information of songs being played on iTunes, Songbird or similar, possibly even from streaming audio from Pandora, Icecast or similar.
  • a virtual audio board, or equivalent, that sends audio through Flash or another communication-device stream which is more flexible than live audio through Stereo Mix native to MS Windows.
  • related to the virtual audio board would be a virtual jingle box, an array of buttons that you can hit and the jingle, theme, ad, music, announcement just plays without any additional configuring.
  • The input of audio or video through dedicated, that is not split, USB ports, or something better than USB which is yet to be determined … or invented.

The most looming question I have, which I can’t seem to wring out of the internet, is the use of higher-end video cards and how they relate to both video manipulation, rather then display, and the use of these cards for generating images, editing and so forth. Which packages, if any, push editing to the graphics subsystem? Would the addition of a second graphics card be fruitful?

A related development would be what I have long called The Edison Carter device, after the lead character of the television show Max Headroom which permits proper, professional “webcasting” at a moment’s notice from a device or system of devices which may be readily carried on one’s person, possibly discretely. This would include directional audio, the ability to somehow generate titles or other supers, providing an option for supplementary or replacement audio other than live (think “test card music”) and going to a test pattern or card if things get out of hand, such as nudity, gruesome accident, boredom, &c.

Another development would be a device which is a dedicated automotive unit for broadcasting with multiple cams, quality audio, possibly even integrating the audio system within the car itself (think about local radio), yet with absolutely minimal intervention from the operator (presumably the driver of the car) once the system is active. Potentially with titles automatically working out the name of the jurisdiction from which one is broadcasting, specific coordinates, and the local time and time zone. I imagine something not unlike a live travelogue within the confines of a mundane vehicle and transmitting over the 4G network. An example of this is the many over-the-road adventures of the programme Top Gear or Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but done live, and ideally operated by a single person.

All live programs should default to being processed and recorded on the device while happening for future reference, especially replay, editing or uploading to Youtube, Dailymotion or similar.

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