Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

It's just radio with pictures! :)
TheSigma
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by TheSigma » Fri Jul 09, 2010 7:38 am

PID_Stop wrote:You are right: the controller and drive don't care what version the chassis is. The original version can be upgraded to a plus version -- in fact, I had to do it to our original chassis when we got the second, in order for the two to be compatible. It's been a number of years, but as I recall, it involved replacing a number of PALs and EPROMS, cutting several traces on one of the boards, and soldering a couple fine jumper wires. The backplane is the same, as is the power supply.

I can't say this with certainty, but I believe the memory boards are interchangeable for either version, but the boards that actually perform address computation -- which would be every other board -- are version specific.

If nothing else, having a spare controller keyboard is a worthwhile thing: the power regulator IC it uses went out of production years ago, and I had to retrofit a whole new regulator into one of our keyboards.

By the way... is this the unit that has smoke coming from one of its boards? :shock: That could be anything from the NICAD battery (easy to fix) to bad tantalum bypass caps (also easy to fix) to one of the IC's (a skilled job, if the particular IC is even available). If you do wind up with this, I would resist the urge to do a board swap until you know that you don't have a power supply problem that's encouraging smoke to escape...

-- Jeff
Yes, it is the smoking A51+. That guys warehouse is about 20 minutes from my house, I've gotten many good items from him, and only a couple duds, most of which I took a chance on, only ever returned one item that was not quite working as described.

I"ll let you know what I find out as far as the source of the smoke. I'm picking it up today or monday, but I'm out on vacation after that so it will be a couple weeks before I know much. spare parts never hurt, even if I can't get the thing going.

Can you describe how your setup is layed out? I understand you have the combiners and all that but how do you have the a51(s) in the signal chain? Are the inputs assigned from a router and the output fed into switcher (VisionMixer)?

Thanks again,
I'll keep you posted.

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PID_Stop
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by PID_Stop » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:44 am

TheSigma wrote:Can you describe how your setup is layed out? I understand you have the combiners and all that but how do you have the a51(s) in the signal chain? Are the inputs assigned from a router and the output fed into switcher (VisionMixer)?
You bet!

Just some general background first: in our plant, every source hits a video distribution amplifier; one output of each hits our main router through identical length cables. We set system timing at the router, with the result that sources automatically wind up matching phase at the DAs. We feed several router outputs to the production switcher through matching cables, and the production switcher's internal pulse generator is set up so that internal black and color backgrounds match phase with the router feeds. Finally, we have a bundle that goes from the video DAs to the other production switcher inputs; this bundle is cut to the correct length so that video going from a DA directly to the production switcher arrives at the same phase as the same signal going through the router.

Okay... now for the A51. I'll describe how the original system was wired -- that is, without the combiner option -- which will be closer to what you would be doing.

The A51 has two pairs of composite and key inputs, 1 and 2; each pair is fed from a Di-Tech dual 16x1 video switcher that is remote controlled by the A51. The idea is that the A51 directly controls which key and fill source show up as input 1 or input 2 -- among other things, it will automatically switch sources in coordination with an effect or according to a timeline. At any rate, the feeds going to the Di-Tech switchers come from the main distribution amplifiers. You need to have sources at the Di-Tech matching each other in order to prevent chroma flashing when sources switch; otherwise, the A51 auto-times the inputs.

The A51's video and key outputs go to the production switcher: the video to a primary input, and the key to one of the external key inputs.

Timing and setup are really critical to making the system run right:

1) In the A51's setup menu, adjust the horizontal and subcarrier timing to make it match phase with your other production switcher sources.

2) Feed a good video source into the A51 (if you have a test generator, a flat field is good), and set it to squeeze the picture down to about half size, in the middle of the screen. Set up the production switcher to key the A51 over some other source -- generally, I use the color background set to light grey. Get into the A51 setup menu again and adjust the key timing so that the A51's video lines up exactly with the hole being cut in the video. You might also need to adjust the blanking width if you have a black edge on both sides of the inset.

3) Feed a source of color bars into both the A51's input; on the switcher, set up a horizontal wipe between that same source, and the A51. Set the A51 to make the picture full size and centered (as I recall, hitting "clear" several times will do this). Go back to the setup menu, and adjust the video position (not the phase) to make the A51's picture line up exactly with the direct source. Adjust the black level and video gain to get the luminance values to match on a waveform monitor; then adjust the chroma level (I think they call it boost or EQ) and video phase to make the colors match. By the time you finish, the video going through the A51 should be a very close match to the original source.

4) Once you have all the settings nailed down, copy the current setup to the other three setup memories, and also copy it to a floppy disk. This is especially critical if your memory battery is shot, because all of these settings will revert to something random if the power is turned off.

It's not necessary to have the Di-Tech switchers... we could have fed the A51 inputs directly from our main router, but our production folks wanted the A51 to be able to select the video sources.

One approach that works very well: if you have a switcher with an aux bus (like a Grass Valley 300, for example), you can feed that into the A51... which allows you to send a mix-effect bus into the A51 without worrying about the timing delay.

Gotta fly... we just had a video encoder die. :shock:

-- Jeff

TheSigma
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by TheSigma » Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:49 pm

Thanks for the info.
so here is what i Discovered about the second A51+ (and they are both the Plus Version, 100% sure now). First I noted that the top was loose, some one had been inside and gthe screws never got put back in, now I myself only do that to junk so it was off to a bad start already. Started pulling boards, I immediatly went for the super warp board as that was my main target. pulled it and noticed that a couple chips looked melted from the top, not severely, but still not pretty, and not in a way that seemed like they overheated from within...so I pulled the board above it and whoa! that board is tottally burnt up, from the center out and almost total destruction. I'll have to post a pic of it because I have never seen a board burnt up like that. I can't believe the main fuse didn't go! So that was as far as I went with it, if nothing else I may at least have a second control panel and disk drive.

Would it be totally stupid of me to try that superwarp card in my good unit? normally I'd go for it but seing how bad that other card burned up kinda worries me.....I think the heat from it may have cooked some of the superwarp....still for the money spent, I don't regret purchasing it, but I don't want to ruin the good unit.

TheSigma
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by TheSigma » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:18 am

Here's the burnt board, looks pretty bad.
IMG00079.jpg
Burnt Board a51+
A close up of the burnt area.
IMG00080.jpg
close up of burnt area
And from the bottom.
IMG00081.jpg
bottom of the burnt board
Here is the superwarp that was below
IMG00083.jpg
the superwarp board below
Sorry for the blurry pics, my blackberry just does not take a good photo......

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PID_Stop
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by PID_Stop » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:59 pm

TheSigma wrote:Would it be totally stupid of me to try that superwarp card in my good unit? normally I'd go for it but seing how bad that other card burned up kinda worries me.....I think the heat from it may have cooked some of the superwarp....still for the money spent, I don't regret purchasing it, but I don't want to ruin the good unit.
Exactly -- there's no way I would try that board. Those are multi-layered boards, and there's a very high likelihood that there are multiple shorted traces. If that board applies the -5 or +12 supplies to some of the logic lines, you can wave good-bye to the other cards in your formerly working unit.

I've seen boards that bad... but only on their way to the dumpster.

-- Jeff

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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by esptv » Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:38 am

Hi Jeff

I realize this post is quite old but I'd be very interested in acquiring a copy of the Abekas A51 Operators Manual if you still have it.
We are looking at purchasing a particular one after our For.A MF-310 has been started to misbehave...
It would be good to get acquainted beforehand with it and know how easy it is to use in a live setting without pre-programming, as much of our work involves manipulating live video on the fly.

Thanks!
Scott

www.esptv.com
scott@esptv.com
Scott Kiernan
E.S.P. TV
www.esptv.com

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PID_Stop
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by PID_Stop » Fri Nov 18, 2016 8:28 am

Hi Scott,

Sorry... I don't have the operator's guide, but I can tell you that the A51 is remarkably easy to use without pre-programming. In 2D mode, your joystick controls position and picture size (the latter by twisting it); in 3D mode, it lets you control perspective and rotation. Buttons on the keyboard give you immediate access to the most useful functions, and eight softkeys line up with the control monitor to give you context-sensitive options. It's a very user-friendly piece of equipment, generally; the only quirk that seems to catch people is that the first thing you need to do is 'capture' which video channel you are controlling (the A51 platform, when equipped with the control combiner and video combiner options, can handle up to four video channels in a coordinated way to create effects like three-dimensional cubes and other shapes). In fact, even a full blown multichannel system with the optional source switching is remarkably easy to use live, because it takes care of the source management automatically as you perform your effects. (We had a two channel system here, so that consisted of two A51 frames, the control and video combiners, four DiTech 16x2 switchers, and three frames of Grass Valley variable delay equalizing amplifiers. The whole thing took up a full rack, and took me several weeks to install because every source had to be presented to both A51's input switchers exactly in time, so every cable had to be carefully cut and tested to precisely match the delay.) That's one thing to bear in mind, come to think of it: while the A51 does synchronize input video to its reference, if you switch the input and there's significant horizontal or subcarrier phase shift, the A51's input clock will unlock briefly and you will see the picture hop or a brief rainbow while it relocks to the new source.

Here's one idea to try, though: Ross Video bought Abekas about two months ago, and Ross is amazingly helpful with even their oldest equipment. There's a possibility that they might have access to legacy documentation, and might be able to make it available to you.

Best of luck!

-- Jeff

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jeremyabel
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by jeremyabel » Sat Mar 18, 2017 4:06 pm

Sorry to revive an old thread, but I came across this while searching for info about my own A51+ I recently bought on ebay. In a sales video for the A51 I saw it could be used with a monitor display to show information about the state of the machine. Is that just a straight BNC connection from the Status output on the back to a monitor? (The unit hasn't arrived yet so I can't try that myself, but if I need an additional monitor for the status display I'll need to dig one up)

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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by PID_Stop » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:18 am

jeremyabel wrote:
Sat Mar 18, 2017 4:06 pm
...In a sales video for the A51 I saw it could be used with a monitor display to show information about the state of the machine. Is that just a straight BNC connection from the Status output on the back to a monitor? (The unit hasn't arrived yet so I can't try that myself, but if I need an additional monitor for the status display I'll need to dig one up)
The status output is a black-and-white analog video output (525 line for an NTSC system, 625 line for PAL), and it's what the operator uses in combination with the control panel. It's how they navigate through all of the operating controls, and it's how you know what the softkeys on the panel are going to do in a particular situation.

Jeff

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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by jeremyabel » Wed Mar 22, 2017 6:21 pm

Sweet, just got it hooked up and the status output looks good! Another embarasssing question: how the heck do I take the boards out of this thing? I removed the metal locking plate but they're all still stuck in there. I've pulled about as hard as I feel comfortable pulling, as well. Am I missing something?

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PID_Stop
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by PID_Stop » Thu Mar 23, 2017 7:00 am

jeremyabel wrote:
Wed Mar 22, 2017 6:21 pm
...how the heck do I take the boards out of this thing? I removed the metal locking plate but they're all still stuck in there. I've pulled about as hard as I feel comfortable pulling, as well. Am I missing something?
Don't be embarassed -- it isn't at all obvious. If you're lucky, you should find a roughly triangular piece of black plastic with "ABEKAS" stamped on the side; on a new system, it's screwed onto the front of the machine next to the power supply. This is a card extractor tool, and you just unscrew it when you need to use it. If you look at the boards, you will see a vertical metal stud on each board's left edge; there's a matching size hole in the extractor tool that slips down on that stud, and then the tool becomes a lever that pries the card out of the frame.

As you have noted, the cards are a tight fit... but go easy. I used to simultaneously pull the right side of the board with my hand, trying to apply force more evenly with a bit of a rocking motion.

If the actual tool is missing, you should be able to come up with a substitute. In a pinch, I think you could probably use a pair of slip-joint pliers to do the same thing. (We were lucky: we had a two-channel system with combiners, so there were several extractors floating around).

-- Jeff

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PID_Stop
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by PID_Stop » Thu Mar 23, 2017 7:14 am

Another note: I don't know if you've used an A-51 before, but there's one really non-obvious thing that catches just about everyone: the control panel won't let you do anything until you take control of one or more channels. (You would think that a system with only one channel would automatically skip a multi-channel setting, but they didn't design it that way!) Once the system boots up, you need to press the ACQUIRE button (it's on the left) so that it changes from red to green; the A, B, C, and D channel buttons will flash if there is a channel available. Press the channel button(s) you want to control so that they stop flashing and light solidly, then press ACQUIRE again. The ACQUIRE button will turn back to red, the channel buttons you are controlling will be lit, and the status display will show you the main page of operator controls.

I wish I had a nickel for the number of panic phone calls I got over the years from new directors who thought the A51 had died, when in reality they hadn't selected a channel to control...

Jeff

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jeremyabel
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by jeremyabel » Thu Mar 23, 2017 8:15 pm

PID_Stop wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2017 7:00 am
Don't be embarassed -- it isn't at all obvious. If you're lucky, you should find a roughly triangular piece of black plastic with "ABEKAS" stamped on the side; on a new system, it's screwed onto the front of the machine next to the power supply.
Sadly my machine does not seem to have that piece. Could you provide a photo of the one on your machine? It sounds like the sort of thing I could make with some sheet acrylic and a laser cutter.
PID_Stop wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2017 7:14 am
Another note: I don't know if you've used an A-51 before, but there's one really non-obvious thing that catches just about everyone: the control panel won't let you do anything until you take control of one or more channels.
I've had experience using a GVG DPM-700 which is a similar machine in purpose at least, but that seems to be a bit more... well-designed than the A51! I noticed the wire-wrapping on the backplane, connecting the boards together, and the fun fact that I get to make my own cable for the keyboard because it's a DB15 to DB9 situation of all things. Although maybe mine isn't indicative of the later models, as it's serial number 66, which I imagine is pretty early?

Is the A51+ a single-channel system despite having connectors for 2 channels? There's nothing in the startup status screen that indicates whether it has a 2nd channel, and I'm waiting on cable-making supplies so I can't hook the keyboard up yet.

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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by PID_Stop » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:28 am

jeremyabel wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2017 8:15 pm
Could you provide a photo of the one on your machine? It sounds like the sort of thing I could make with some sheet acrylic and a laser cutter.
Sorry... we haven't had these machines since we converted our plant from analog to digital nearly ten years ago. But yes, you should be able to make it pretty easily. Imagine a roughly triangular piece of plastic, perhaps 3/16" or 1/4" thick, where the base of the triangle is about an inch and a half, and the other two sides are four or five inches. Round off the corners to perhaps 1/4" radius, and hollow out the base (that is, the short side) a bit so it's slightly concave. Drill a hole in one of the base corners just slightly larger than the diameter of the studs on the card, staying far enough from the edge so that you don't just break off the plastic. Come to think of it, you would probably have better success machining a piece of aluminum -- after all, you aren't going to be pulling cards when the machine powered on. At any rate, the exact design really isn't critical: all it's doing is grabbing the stud on the board, and using it to pry the card out, against the left side of the frame.
I've had experience using a GVG DPM-700 which is a similar machine in purpose at least, but that seems to be a bit more... well-designed than the A51! I noticed the wire-wrapping on the backplane, connecting the boards together, and the fun fact that I get to make my own cable for the keyboard because it's a DB15 to DB9 situation of all things. Although maybe mine isn't indicative of the later models, as it's serial number 66, which I imagine is pretty early?
Do you have an A51, or an A51+? The plus version is a refinement, and there were quite a lot of pre-plus version frames out there.
Is the A51+ a single-channel system despite having connectors for 2 channels? There's nothing in the startup status screen that indicates whether it has a 2nd channel, and I'm waiting on cable-making supplies so I can't hook the keyboard up yet.
Abekas designed system to be modular functional blocks. A single A51 chassis -- which is what you seem to have -- is a single-channel DVE. You can build it up to a four-channel DVE by adding more A51 chassis, plus a video combiner chassis and a control combiner chassis. The video combiner receives the output video and key video from each A51 chassis, and produces a combined output video and key signal that is the coordinated composite of what the different channels are doing. It keeps track of the order of layering, so that you can build three-dimensional objects that have sides appearing and disappearing appropriately as the object rotates. The control combiner pretty much simulates a keyboard from the point of view of each channel; the operator's keyboard plugs into the combiner, allowing one keyboard to provide unified control over as many channels as it acquires. (If you have a facility with several control rooms, you can plug several keyboards into the combiner, so that each room can use different channels at the same time.)

Another option was expanded input switching for each channel. Each chassis itself has two inputs, and if you squeeze the picture down a bit and spin it around, you can have it automatically show input A on the front side and input B on the back side. (This applies only to flat planes... if you want to do this with an effect like a page turn, it takes too channels.) The expanded switching option let you connect two DiTech dual-level switchers to the chassis, one switcher to the A input, the other to the B input. One level of the switchers handled input video, the other handled input key. With expanded switching, you could build an effect that would automatically cycle through different video feeds every time your object spun around.

As you might imagine, a system with lots of options wound up taking up a fair amount of space. We had a two-channel system with external switching, and between the two A51 channels, the two combiners, the four DiTech switchers, and three frames of Grass Valley distribution amplifiers (many of them with built-in equalized delay lines), the DVE alone took up a full rack.

Which reminds me: it's important that the A and B inputs feeding the DVE be matched in both horizontal and burst phase, and that they be locked to the same reference as the A51 channels themselves. The DVE's analog-to-digital converter locks to the incoming video in much the same way that a frame synchronizer does, but the problem arises if you have an effect that causes the chassis to switch from one input to another. If the two inputs don't have matched horizontal phase (or worse, vertical timing), the picture is apt to jump at the point of transition. If the two inputs have different burst phase, you will be treated to a fraction of a second of rainbow colors until the ADC's clock gets locked to the new source.

All of this sounds like it should be a nightmare, but the truth is that I really liked the system. About the only maintenance it needed over the years was occasional replacement of the NiCad batteries on one of the boards (if the batteries go bad, it will forget its programming when the power goes off... including settings like video levels and timing). We also had a keyboard voltage regulator die after a director gave it a Pepsi challenge.

Have fun!

Jeff

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PID_Stop
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Re: Old analog Gear, need manuals, etc.

Post by PID_Stop » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:44 am

jeremyabel wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2017 8:15 pm
...and the fun fact that I get to make my own cable for the keyboard because it's a DB15 to DB9 situation of all things.
Do you have the pinouts for the cable? It's not wired completely pin-for-pin. From the technical guide:
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 1: +24V supply to keyboard. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 1.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 2: + RS422 receive data from keyboard. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 2.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 3: + RS422 transmit data to keyboard. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 3.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 4: Signal ground. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 4.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 5: Not used.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 6: Reserved. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 6.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 7: - RS422 transmit data to keyboard. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 7.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 8: - RS422 receive data from keyboard. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 8.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 9: 24V supply return. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 9.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 10: Not used.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 11: Not used.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 12: Chassis ground. Connects to keyboard DB9 pin 5.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 13: Not used.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 14: Not used.
  • Main Chassis DB15 Pin 15: Not used.
Abekas specified 22 gauge wire for the cable, and warns that if you need to go longer than 150 feet, you must use a separate power supply at the keyboard because of voltage drop.

They also warn:
Note that separate conductors are used for chassis ground, signal ground, and 24V power return. These grounds are at differing potentials and should not be interconnected at any point.
-- Jeff

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