Thursday, 2 August 2012

Day 9 - Quietest full day so far

There's a definite drop in events today with 21 channels, 21 sports, 46 slots and the first full day under 200 hours of recording (173 hours and 28 minutes). We still manage to get another 5 sports starting simultaneously at 08:55 though.

It struck me today that it's possible the BBC Olympic theme tune for these Olympics has now aired more times than any other song in the history of the BBC (and maybe the history of the world?)! Think about it - 48 channels on sat/cable all looping the song and it started playing maybe a week before the Olympics (not sure exactly when) and whenever there's no live video on the 48 channels (SD+HD, which must be at least 12 hours a day per channel). The previous record holder for UK TV was probably something like the Coronation Street theme tune I bet.

Some basic calculations for the tune coming up. Assuming it is 3 minutes long (at some point I'll time it, but I'm so sick of it at the moment, I really can't :-) ) and it aired for 7 full days before the first events and for 12 hours a day (that's conservative because there were probably less than 10 hours per day of live sport per channel) from 25th July to 12th August (19 days). So that's (24 * 7 + 12 * 19) * 48 = 19,008 hours! If it is 3 mins long, that's a staggering 380,160 times it will have been played. The mind truly boggles and let's hope the BBC negotiated a fixed fee for it, because the performing rights alone could pay for, well, an hour of Graham Norton's salary.

I thought I'd actually try out the BBC's Flash-based Olympics video player today to see what the quality was like and also what events you could watch after they've finished their live stream. After all, the BBC Sport site heavily plugs them as "catch up" video and I suspect that's how the majority of people will watch them. After all, there's several HD channels (dozens if you have sat or cable) to watch or record the events live, without needing a Net connection too.

The first thing to note is that you can't seem to get the entire video coverage that is on the 24 channels I've been recording (i.e. an exact copy of every minute that they transmitted) once the live stream for an event has finished. All the events seem to have been edited right down to the actual live sports action and nothing more. One advantage with that, at least, is that each sub-event is properly split, unlike the sat coverage which is just hours of blocks of video (often doing nothing but showing a live picture of the stadium or showing timetable video - football being the worst offender here with its stupid 2-match 5-hour slots with nothing happening in the middle for an hour).

Also, Gary Lineker's endlessly repeated plugs for the video player claim that you can click on fullscreen and see the sport in HD. Well, that's a lie on two fronts I suspect - the fullscreen option still leaves huge black borders down the left, right and particularly the bottom (though not at the top for some reason) and also the quality seems to fall well short of HD to me (no idea if it was a bandwidth issue, but I typically get 8Mbit/sec and wasn't doing anything else on my connection at the time) and wasn't even SD quality I reckon. It all goes to show that recording the original HD transmissions was indeed the way to go.

I also had a good look around on iPlayer to see what they were offering, but they seem to have just the terrestrial channels on there - it's as if the 24 sat channels never existed. Considering iPlayer is available on loads of platforms, it's a shame that the full set of Olympics video coverage isn't on there.

transmedia on pc1 and pc2 is now using the second 3TB disk on both machines. pc1 only has two 3TB drives, so in 5-6 days, I will swap out at least one of the drives in pc1. It might be two drives swapped out then, depending on calculations as to how many swaps will be needed on both PCs. pc2 may need one more drive than pc1, but it's not clear yet if that's the case.

The Now/Next (EIT) system has been working fairly well so far with automatically setting recordings on the various channels - though I have to put all the sports strings that are in actual live sport programme titles into tvheadend's Automatic Recording otherwise I'd have recorded loads of "This is BBC Olympics X HD" timetable videos :-) Predictably, it's not been perfect so far and here's some of the weird things that have been happening with it to date:

  • Fresh Now/Next info (I have "idle scanning" set in tvheadend to pick the EIT info up regularly) just seems to occasionally appear from nowhere and add to a currently recording slot! Although the Web interface of tvheadend doesn't allow you to record the same programme to two separate files simultaneously, if the new info does add to the current slot, it does end up with you recording the same channel twice from that point onwards. I just leave both running unless there's SSD space issues, because often the new info may extend the current slot's running time.
  • I have EIT enabled on terrestrial channels too and a few days ago, it set about 12 identical recording slots for the red button channel 301! I just deleted 11 of them and that was fine.
  • Today, I had a tennis slot at 12:00 being continuously updated with seemingly exactly the same EIT info, but for about 20-30 minutes, the tvheadend Web interface kept refreshing every few seconds and a new log line appeared in the logging window for each of the EIT "updates". It eventually stopped and there was indeed only one event scheduled for the tennis after all that!
I suspect that Now/Next with some sort of string-matching automatic recording facility is the only way to actually schedule the 24 channels without doing a huge amount of manual programming of the EPG. It's even worse if you have two "recorders" (PCs + tuner cards) because that's double the effort too. Of course, I don't think any well-known brand of sat hard disk recorder can do more than 2 or 3 channels out of the box, though I believe some firmware hacks can raise that limit. Plus twin tuners limit you to a max of 8 out of the 24 channels of course, so you'd have to buy 3 of those recorders and hack the firmware, at which point you're better off with a PC media centre IMHO.

You also wonder if the BBC has dedicated anyone to actually look at all 24 video streams in, say, a 6x4 mosaic and have something flag "5 minutes or less to end of slot" on a particular video stream. If the live sport continues with less than 5 mins left of the slot, that video should be touchable and an option to extend the slot by, say, 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes should appear. When one of those extensions is selected, the Now/Next info changes and introduces a new slot starting at the same time as the original one would have ended and also shortens the next originally intended slot (though the BBC usually space out the slots with an empty one inbetween, hopefully exactly for this purpose!). That would allow anyone like me recording as much as they can to be able to get all the overruns too.

Typical that as soon as I start talking about Now/Next info, I have the first real crisis involving it! Basically, tvheadend went berserk and put in hundreds of identical events for the evening hockey today on channel 13 on pc1, which is a terrible, terrible bug in the software. I started to delete them, but couldn't trash them fast enough (ludicrously, no bulk deletion of scheduled recordings is possible in the tvheadend Web interface) before they actually started.

You can guess what happened next - tvheadend tried to start hundreds of simul recordings, the load average went through the roof and the Web interface and all recording on pc1 ground to a halt. I found the solution fairly quickly - I moved the channel 13 config file out of the way and restarted tvheadend (at least it's good at resuming recordings in a fresh file when you do that). I then trashed the multiple recordings with endless mouse clicks and fired back up channel 13 again to record the hockey. So I lost a few minutes of about 5 events, maybe 15 minutes of the hockey and, no, before you ask, pc2's tuner/transponders were busy and couldn't record channel 13 as a fallback. Not best pleased with the tvheadend author - time for a bug report methinks!

Great to see three golds being won by Team GB today in cycling, shooting and canoeing, though sad to see Pendleton and Varnish get disqualified in the cycling. Did we actually ever get a decent replay of the early overtake? The one I saw already had Pendleton's wheel overlapping Varnish's when it started.

Just had a peek at tomorrow's athletics schedule on the BBC Sport Website vs. the athletics slots they've allocated tomorrow and I'm quite disappointed. Just like the gymnastics, the BBC aren't allocating enough channels to the athletics. We have 3 athletics sub-events overlapping tomorrow morning/lunchtime and up to 4 overlapping tomorrow evening. So the BBC decides to allocate just one channel to the first session and only two (in fact only one for the first 90 minutes!) in the evening. What's worse is that channel 24 is completely unused all Friday and channels 22 and 23 are free on Friday evening too...grrr!

 Day 9 recording size: 1097GB - grand total so far: 7317GB (7.1TB)


  1. Hi,

    Re: "You also wonder if the BBC has dedicated anyone to actually look at all 24 video streams"

    You should write to Jim'll Fix It and ask for a tour of the BBC London Olympics facilities. You could then tell them how they should be doing it ;-)


    1. I'll get in my Tardis and have a chat with Jimmy Saville then. Oh forget it, they didn't have HD TV, cable or satellite TV in the 70's :-)

  2. 3 minutes is a long time. You need to time it and then update your figures. You also need to find out how much they pay for a single play of a pop song on Radio One (assuming it was written and performed by The Spice Girls ft. Cilla Black) and calculate how much they would have to increase the TV licence by to cover the costs, before they host the next Olympics (which will be 116 / 3 + 2012 = 2052 OR ((40 + 64) / 2) + 2012 = 2064). Please produce figures for all eventualities. :P

    1. I should have qualified my original posting that it was about TV airing of songs and not radio which is why the example I gave to rival it was the Coronation Street theme tune, which surely has to be the only song/theme to actually stayed the same all these decades (apart from Eastenders, but that's a much "younger" show)?

      It does feel about 3 years to me rather than minutes judging by how many times I've heard it so far. BTW, It's a longer version than the one they play to intro the BBC TV coverage - we get the full torture edition on the 24 channels :-(

  3. I had a very disappointing day as I lost all recordings between 5pm and 6pm. I lost most of the Gymnastics stream, Cycling stream and BBC One HD and BBC HD in that hour. I have a feeling my DVB-T2 card is overheating by that time in the afternoon and is causing my problems. It is installed under my graphics card which I don't think helps. But I can't move it as it is the only available PCIe slot left. I have also tried updating my drivers from the TBS website but to no avail. It has really become quite frustrating as it is no longer a half second of blocking on terrestrial but a continuous thing. In the mornings after a night off it works fine but in the afternoon the problems start.

    When I did manage to get some recordings going again I found out later that the Cycling over-ran by quite a long time and so I missed our sprint teams victory and their victory ceremony!!!!

    I am sorry you also had problems today. What you are trying to achieve really is amazing and I am getting so frustrated with trying to record about 10% of what you are.

    1. Sad to hear your problems, but you're in a similar boat to me - the tuner cards aren't redundant and any failure means lost chunks of recording. The lesson I'm learning painfully here is that you really have to have 2 of everything (now if they made octo tuner cards, I'd have been laughing, cos I'd have got octo LNBS/cables on the dishes and have been fully duplicating everything).

      There's just too much that can go wrong when trying large numbers of simultaneous recordings - ones I can think of include loss of sat signal, tuner faults in the sat cards, running out of SSD or HDD disk space, power failures, motherboard/disk failures, tuner driver issues and PVR software issues. I've run into 3 or 4 of those already in my setup!

      With having to regularly monitor everything with my 7-tuner setup and an SSD that could fill if I don't split the recordings of some of the longer 6+ hour slots, it hasn't been a veg-out Olympics for me sadly. I think the longest gap so far without monitoring recording starts has been about 90 minutes, but it's usually 30 minutes with the odd 60 minute gap between recording starts roughly once a day. Gets a bit frantic with 4 or 5 simul starts, because I usually have to turn off double-ups to avoid lack of spare transponder slots later n.