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Atlanta 2001

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Dog Sitting in Atlanta

Greetings!  A chance to reflect on the recent Atlanta tour and some of the lighter and darker moments in the week. 

"Tranquility Base to Houston ... the Eagle has landed."  Boy did this statement ring true on the tour.  The Eagle had landed, but not on the moon ... but on the lenticular screen of the RPTV.  I caught the toppling brass statue from the top of the TV and proceeded to heavily scratch the front of this particular set.  So awful ... an accident.  Reflex action was there to catch the object but the continuing motion of the hand took the statue straight into the screen.  Stuff happens ... and in the back of my mind ... I got absent minded for a moment and paid the price for it.  In the grand scheme of things, it could have been much worse too.

The nightmare for the calibrator is not about the accidents that might occur and Murphy's Law says will ... You do it long enough and you will eventually have some form of accident that you are responsible for.  My nightmare is to "blow a calibration."  That in itself is the worst case scenario.  Hasn't happened yet and am ever vigilant that it never will.

This was an interesting trip in the sense that most of the clients on this particular tour lives in the northern burbs of Altanta.  I also got a chance to see just how big Hartsfield International Airport was.  At least six concourse levels and a subway system to shuttle people to the various concourses.   Gregg Loewen, a moderator from the HTF joined me on this tour in order to "understudy" / "Apprentice" with me on the art of calibration. The mere mention of either of these two words sends chills down the spine. I'm not that old and yet I was supposed to take on an apprentice ...  such an odd feeling and something just plain wrong about the picture.  I was just some enthusiast puke not too long ago and now ...

So with Gregg in tow, I rented a roomy Dodge Intrepid for the week.  (Note to self ... never upgrade at the counter because they really get you good there.  Where internet upgrades cost a mere few dollars a day ... here we looked at $13 a day.)  I could go one further about how I hated that car and its high rear end.  Shoulder checks for people even of average height was a challenge in this set,  

The housing arrangements this week were funny in the sense that the organizer (Andrew) was to be away for most of the time so he graciously offered up his home as our home away from home.  There was just one catch ... dog sitting.  I hate to admit it, but I never did remember the dog's name and spent the whole week calling him "dog."  Gregg OTOH kept calling the dog "Puppy Dog" even though the dog was getting on in years.  Having never been a dog owner, I wasn't quite sure what Andrew meant before he went out of town when he said that the dog liked to sleep with people so I should close my door.

Well onto the calibration details.  The two main films being demoed on this trip were "Bring It On" and "Shakespeare In Love" with the occasional contribution from "Gladiator."  The usefulness of Bring It On was in the opening scene where the cheerleaders do their routine.  This is a very RED scene and included plenty of fleshtones.  If there were colour decoder errors here ... we would know ... It is also a great guage for setting the
colour and tint when you do not have access to the serive modes on the TV.

SIL ...we kept watching the contents of Chapter 8 over and over.  The things we were looking at in this scene were two fold.  As the scene closes, Will is at the bar talking with Marlowe ... look at the detail in Marlowe's costume.  And better yet ... look at the detail in Marlowe's face on the close ups.   The scene ended up being a way to test both the DVD player and the TV.  The dreaded beast known as edge enhancement would jump out at us many times in this scene.   This was a big issue with the Mits units I worked on,  Okay, so where is the enhancement?  On the medium shots of Marlowe at the table ... observe  the white sleeves and follow their edges.  When EE is out of control ... the edges just start to glow ... and that part of the image becomes terribly distracting to look at. This scene was also great for demonstrating the limitations of certain Progressive scan dvd players.   On some players ... the fine details on Marlowe's face were completely obscured or muddied.

Now here is the rub ... if you didn't know there was additional detail on his face, you would not look for it and you wouldn't miss it.   We saw so many of those poor performers that Gregg actually started to notice what I was talking about.  And when we went to some of these people's homes and saw the guilty players sitting there ... a silent cringe. On Gladiator ... Gregg kept going to the Tigers arena section. 

We also were building ourselves some primative red push attentuators for the Mits people on the tour.  We kept going to the different radio shacks and buying every variable attenuator they had.  Typically, each store seemed to only carry one ... what gives?

Just a little bonus here and there.  Additionally, I picked up a Cinema 7 remote and we also offered the 3:2 pulldown turn on service for the Toshiba sets when needed.  Not a big deal and so simple in its execution.  No waiting in lines.  

First up after arriving on Sunday was a Toshiba 40H80 ... and that was pretty much how the tour went.  Some 16 units including 5 mits sets, 2 Sony sets, One Panny, and the rest Toshiba.

I won’t harp too much about Gregg’s navigating ability since he admitted to me that he was pretty bad. It was really nice to have him along though as it provided some much needed relief between calibration in the social animal department. I also have to thank Gregg for introducing me to the Waffle House … Like weeds, they are literally everywhere you look. First up after leaving the airport and checking in at the host’s home was a 40H80 Toshiba coupled with a JVC progressive scan DVD player. Things were fairly straight forward with nothing out of the ordinary to report. The Calibration went like clockwork and the evening ended with promises of prized steak … but we never got around to checking out because of the timing. Too much to do with too little time.

The host lived in a very nice and spacious home, but it had a killer driveway that was at such a steep grade that it taxed my backing up ability. I really hated driving up that driveway and I hated the car we had rented. Nothing like backing up blind … almost. When it rained … and that it did, the ceiling leaked.

Errol suggested that I call the Atlanta trip "Dog sitting in Atlanta" because that was almost the way it was. The host gave us the run of the home when he had to leave town for most of the week to go on business. And while we did not have to feed his dog, we did end up doing something most unexpected. Playmates …

When someone says to shut your door at night if you do not want the dog sleeping with you … they mean it. The dog just crawls into bed with you and lays there all night. In the end, I just gave up and let the dog have his way with me. I just fed him a few Krispie Kreme Doughnuts along the way … tempered with some fruit. I hope he was not diabetic.

After working on the host’s 65" mits, the next set on line was a TW56X81 Toshiba which was being set up for both HD and SD signals. And here is a situation where I have to remind myself and others that when I do specialized set ups and colour temperature off sets, remember what I said when I said it. Please do not ask me two months down the road what the instructions were for your specific situation because quite frankly, I no longer remember. Too many people and too many sets later …

This one was memorable because I had to crawl behind the TV to do some wiring and I noted there were some dead bugs back there. The client said not to worry since they were dead. I begged to differ since these bugs were freaking huge where bugs are concerned. Big dead bugs, but were just hibernating and would they wake up in the presence of human blood plasma?

Up next was a 65H80 Toshiba and this one would lead to some banter all week between Gregg and myself. Couldn’t quite make heads or tales of the client since he was so reserved … we figured it was just his manner …

He had a JVC progressive scan unit and I finally just told him that I don’t like these units at all. I felt that their performance was sub par compared to Toshibas, Pannys, Sonys. I recommended that he go for a Panny RP91 and so he mail ordered for one. As a result of this action, we told him that we would return later in the week to see what difference it would make and I would make some slight grayscale adjustments to compensate for the differences in grayscale between DVD players. Things would take a strange turn when next we saw him. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that the TV is in the end, the client’s TV and he can make it look anyway he chooses. For when we returned later in the week, the colour analyzer gave some interesting readings. They were a little too different from the previous JVC unit. The image was too blue … and it was then that both Gregg and myself realized what had happened. In the ensuing days between visits, the client appeared to have gone into the service menu and changed the grayscale values to match something that was more pleasing to his eye.

While we never brought this up, both of us knew what had happened. I just shake my head in situations like this. What can I do about it and what the point of having me come in to work on the grayscale.

Next up was a 55" Mits in one of these secured communities. We ended up having to wait at the gate since the client had not gotten home just yet. We also gave him a couple of the Mits red push attenuators that I had built in between clients every time we went by a Radio Shack. The apartment was an interesting set up because you just knew this was a guy’s pad where no woman had ever tread before. Stuff all over the place … PS2 controllers … Dreamcast Controllers … Pirate Satellite stuff … and literally no place to work or site.

This is the first time I encountered a Mits that was really, really bad out of the box. Poor Focus and extremely sensitive to vibration. The mere act of moving the TV out a bit would throw out the convergence in a very annoying way. As the evening continued, I mentioned to Gregg that there was a 32" Sony WEGA interlaced set in the corner of the room and that maybe he and the client should go get some practice with my laptop colour analyzer, the CA-1. Gregg wanted to apprentice and this was his first big grayscale calibration attempt. (He would get better at this.) This got both of them out of my hair and I could finish up the job. I would also end up supervising the calibration of the Sony unit too.

This was likely the evening that the Dog invited himself into my bed well before I was ready to turn in. He knew I would close the door on him …

The next morning we arrived to work on my own TP61H95 clone. The client wanted not only the usual full meal deal, but he also asked for the creation of the 16:9 mode on his TV. This mode was created for the HDTV mode and not for the 480P mode. What was interesting about this client and his set up was that he was using a new HDTV tuner card for his HTPC and it was capable of recording HDTV off the air onto his hard drive. He had taped some of the PGA tournament and it looked great. A hog for space though.

Number two on the day was a 36" Sony HD unit. The HS20. This was an interesting trip since the client was going through a marriage break up and he had relocated to a condo. He then loaded the condo with boy toys of all sorts. The grayscale took 10 minutes to complete. And with documentation, we were out of there fast. The client was actually playing with his new NEC DLP projector so he was distracted during our stay.

The next client this evening was not sure that we would even make it, but we did. His home had apparently just taken a lightning strike not too many days prior to us arriving so most of his equipment was toasted and very dead. The elaborate surge protection that he had in place did him no good and as usual, no way to make the makers of the surge protection to actually pay for the equipment. It would seem that no one has ever succeeded on this claim.

The next morning, we were off to work on another Mits unit for an ex-patriot of Canada. A very straight forward calibration especially since the client was unusually quiet through the entire process.

On the evening, we went north to work on the 47" Panny 16:9 set. Straight forward, but like many of the Panny units, there were some severe focusing issues. Gregg kept the client busy enough so that I could enter the secret engineer menu to disable the Panny edge enhancement feature that resulted in a double whammy of SVM like effects. Gregg took the time to call in a Ticket change for me to stay two more days to get a few more calibrations in.

I shut my door this evening and the dog went to sleep with Gregg. Ha!

A couple more Toshiba 40H80 sets the next day and I let Gregg go at his first RPTV. He did everything and I just oversaw what he was doing. And I came in to clean up the grayscale work at the end.

The dog was waiting on my bed a full hour before bed time this evening. He did not want to be left out, but I took so long getting to bed that he got bored or restless and went looking for me instead. Dogs have dog breath.

Up next was a TW56X81 which was quick since the client actually had a friend come and do his grayscale some time before. I showed him that his work on geometry had caused some burn in of the CRT’s. Bummer.

The evening with the 55" Mits was the eagle incident … Yuck …

The next morning, I took Gregg to the Airport and I was alone in the house and in town. The Dog would keep me company.

I worked on a 73" Mits this day and then another TP61H95 Toshiba set in the evening. The client asked me what I would do if the check that he wrote me bounced …

Trip over and I went home. My first visit to Atlanta and a truly interesting visit it was. I was actually happy that it rained a lot that week as it dampened the dreaded heat …

Up next … Los Angeles in October.