Tuesday, December 17, 2013

RMS Express installation improved by using AGW Express Interface-Solution Set

Quite some time back I decided to use my amateur radio to send and receive packet messages, so I carefully researched what I needed, which included:
Hardware - 2 meter capable amateur radio; antenna; computer and interface between computer and radio AND of course "some" software.

Back then it was, to say the least, a challenge to get find everything you needed then get it all  installed, configured and running correctly.

Not so now!

Now, you can go over W2YG's Software web site and download AGW Express Interface - Solution Set which will assist you in installing and configuring all the software parts needed to send and receive packet messages.  BTW, it also covers HF messages as well, but I won't touch on that  here.

Here is my list of parts:

  • Yaesu FT-897D
  • SignaLink with appropriate cabling and jumpers
  • Old Dell laptop (running Windows 7)

Procedure for setup:

  1. I will assume that you followed the directions to install the SignaLink. If not, finish those steps using the Tigertronics web site instructions.
  2. You now have the USB cable coming from the SignaLink and the SignaLink's other cable plugged into your radio.  The USB of course gets plugged into your PC.
  3. Download the AGW Express Interface , also snag the documentation from there as well.
  4. Run the downloaded file.  Follow along with the instructions, carefully.  There are a couple of spots where the answers to the installation choices aren't exactly obvious.
  5. Once the installation is complete, you can run the AGW Express Interface and it will start all the pieces needed and then ask if you want to start RMS Express. Since you installed it as part of the solution set, of course you will start it.
That's all there is! Well, you need to get familiar with RMS Express, but also reasonably straight forward.  Just remember there are two parts the main screen and then the piece that does the send and receive.  This send/receive is started using the "Open Session" icon which looks like this

Previously, I was using AirMail as the packet client, RMS Express does both VHF/UHF and HF packet, plus it is being actively updated.  So it feels like a better choice.

Okay, I lied! There is one more thing you need and I bet you already asked... How do I get a Winlink email address?  Check out the How to get a Winlink RADIO e-mail account? It is fairly straight forward, but relies on you having the ability to connect via your radio to an RMS Gateway using your new packet setup. The information and links on this web page will be of immense help.  If you can find an local elmer it goes much quicker.

Good luck!  If you have questions, feel free to post comments or email me at K7RFH at arrl.net

Other resources:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Face palm: Why didn't I get a monopod? A DSLR video must, but I use a real camera!

Attended an online seminar which focused on cinematography.  Now as everyone knows video has moved to the DSLR realm.  Why use those heavy, bulky video camcorders, just doesn't makes sense.

Yea, right!

Nope, I love those big ol' cameras. BUT, never ignore the tools of the trade and experiment with everything!

I recently did a shoot that required handheld capture for long periods.  Needless to say by the end, I was quite shaky.  Could have hauled around my lighter tripod, but that would have been a bit disruptive in the small theater during the sensitive classical music moments.

Back to the seminar.  They talked quite a bit about using a monopod for run and gun action.  Their favorite one seemed to be the Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 Fluid Video Monopod and Head. This has proven to work well with the lighter DSLR rigs.  Check out one of the reviews.  This felt like another opportunity to try something new and solve the shaky cam, wearing out the old guy's shoulder issue.  But could this one handle the cameras that I use. The cameras are just too heavy.  However, Manfrotto makes another model  which can handle triple the weight of the 561BHDV.  Since I already own a couple Manfrotto fluid heads, this was an obvious choice.

I have had the monopod for a few days now and after experimenting with it, I find that this will solve my exhaustion shaky cam issue.  Plus, I now have several new options for shooting.  First, the monopod gives you the ability to perform a limited range dolly-style move for a forward and backward motion.  Next, it is far taller than my tripods so I can get above the scene and still occupy a large footprint. Finally, this allow a much more run and gun style for me and my big cameras.

Not all is nirvana.  Unlike a tripod, you can't just leave it stand while you prep some other aspect of the shoot.  It does require some planning to make sure you have everything ready prior to dedicating all of  your attention  to the monopod.

Also, I am using an old Manfrotto 501HDV Pro Video Head as the topping for the monopod, so I will still need to keep working out to make sure that I can haul this entire rig around easily for long periods of time.  But at least now I get to rest a bit during extended shots.

I really like this setup and can't wait to try it out for some actual assignments

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Even more serious about this video thing!

It has been a very long time since I last wrote about anything here at richhand.blogspot.com, well then, I guess it is about time.

First, since my last post in January, 2012 a lot has happened. I am now working full time for the Museum of Flight in the Seattle area. The work involves a lot of event and exhibit creation, preparation and take down. It also includes the best part, which is the video production. My last post noted some new equipment I purchased for personal use. This personal use has expanded to some gigs as a cameraman for Latona Arts and at times the equipment is also used to supplement event captures at the museum as well.

Here in my studio, we (Arlene & I) were using Sony Vegas Studio to create a variety of videos. In the year and a half since the last equipment purchases a lot of skill progress has been made and it is time to make the next leap in equipment and software. Software will remain in the Sony Vegas line, but now going with Vegas Pro and Sound Forge Pro. We will continue to use DVD Architect, but plan to look at possible improvements there as well.

Since the Rode NTG-1 microphone has worked well, it is on the new equipment list again.

Areas that needed improvement are - carrying cases, tripod and camera. The current cases are okay, but through experience, it is clear that the current tripod case is not rugged enough to protect an expensive tripod. With the newest tripod purchase and a replacement for the older case, Handmade Enterprises Video will be purchasing the Hakuba PSTC 300 Extra Large Pro Series Tripod Case. Large enough and padded enough for the various excursion the tripod will endure.

The next case improvement is to secure one large enough for the new camera and all the extra accessories that must tag along to any shoot. The current case fits the Panasonic AG-HMC80, but isn't as durable as I had hoped. Nothing new for the AG-HMC80, but for the new camera I will purchase the B&H recommended case. The Pearstone Professional Soft Camcorder Case with Wheels is the choice.  This is a little bit of overkill, but provides ample protection and interior room for camera and many of the accessories that must follow me around. This eliminates the need for many of the secondary cases I was hauling. The wheeled nature of the case now means that I arrive with tripod on the shoulder while pulling the camera case and that's it. Sometimes I still need to bring a cart for a full setup, where a full setup means adding cables, microphones, mixer, recorder and monitor, plus sometimes a lighting kit. May still need a roadie when that happens.

What holds up your cameras is often as important as the cameras themselves. Previous tripod purchase was the Manfrotto 055XDB Tripod (Black) with 501HDV Head. A very nice tripod for use where having the camera up high (to shoot over the audience's heads) and staying in one location (such as setup on stage or in venues where moving the camera would be too much of a distraction) is the order of the day. It is heavy enough to be stable and with the 501HDV head provides very smooth motion. That said, there have been several situations where rapid mobility would have allowed me to get to a new location to catch the action missed by a static camera. To that end, a different tripod was needed. Enter, a new combo for 2013, the Manfrotto's MVH502A Pro Fluid Video Head (75mm) w/MVT502AM Telescopic Twin Legs. This tripod is far lighter than the 055XDB and with its center braces allows me to grab and go quickly without much adjustment at the new location. The fluid half ball head permits near instant leveling and the new "Bridge Technology" makes for an overall fluid movement and a lighter rig. I enjoy using both the tripods for very different reasons.

 Next, a new, more capable camera was the order of the day. For compatibility and HD performance on the various shoots, I selected another Panasonic camcorder, the Panasonic AG-AC160A AVCCAM HD Handheld. The Panasonic AG-AC160A AVCCAM HD Handheld Camcorder is an upgraded version of the AG-AC160. The upgrade consists of the addition of 1080/60p and 50p recording (max. 28Mbps in PS mode), expanded focus assist functionality, and a "turbo speed" one-push auto focus function. Compatibility of accessories, batteries and software utilities were definitely a factor in the selection. HD performance is a step above the AG-HMC80 and with the added SDI features, it provides professional capture in line with Latona Arts and the future configuration at the Museum of Flight. In addition, the 22X optical zoom was just what I needed for those "I can't get that close" assignments on which the 12X zoom in the AG-HMC80 fell short. Another factor was the recording times, the AG-HMC80 has a single SD card slot, on long shoots it required a pause in the recording to change the card. Whereas, AC-160A has dual SD card slots which allow for tandem recording. Unfortunately, it does not allow for hot swapping out a full card during recording, therefore continuous recording is limited to however much fits on the two cards already in the camera. Since two 64GB SD cards provide 12+ hours of un-interrupted HD recording, I am hoping most of the shoots will be under that. However, having two cameras now allows pauses on one while the other covers the action. I guess technically I could shoot continuously as long as I had empty cards to insert.

Overall, I am really pleased with my selection of Panasonic equipment. I won't say that I am a Panasonic fan-boy, but thus far their cameras have definitely delivered. There you have it, always learning, always improving. Here's hoping someone finds this information helpful.