With very little around in the way of 4k content I decided to set about creating something for myself and others to enjoy.  Of course the project ended up snowballing and has resulted in the release of the “Textures” video (I believe the first commercial 4k release in the UK!).  I thought I should write something to accompany the release and shine some light on the steps that led up to it:

Disappointed with the smattering of 4k content on the web, much of which seemed effects laden (I always wanted the focus to be on the resolution/detail and nothing else). And so it was that I started to think about recording some 4k content myself: Having already photographed much of the three Counties for ‘Vantage Point’ my first thought was to utilise the same great historical scenery to show the level of detail that can be captured in 4k. 

I guess that was when I had one of two epiphanies:


1. I realised that focussing on great architecture (or any great subject) actually distracted one from the main objective – which was to highlight the sheer quality and detail) *

2. I found that the more subtle and static the subject matter was – the more one engaged with the quality and detail that was there!

These two realisations led me towards thinking about different subject matter and  in reviewing the content that I already had the answer seemed obvious (if a little counter-intuitive when expressed in print)  – ignore the traditionally interesting subjects and find something less obvious, yet more relevant instead!

After some experimentation with smaller 4k video devices I decided that to do the project justice I would need something closer to the professional 4K rigs that are out of my reach.  I settled on the Panasonic FZ1000 – which although essentially a stills camera, has had some stunning reviews relating to its 4K video quality.

I quickly started to appreciate that just a little movement within a detailed scene was far more effective than anything Michael Bay might produce (!) and it followed that my own garden, with it’s gentle breezes and meandering streams, was an obvious place to start.  I have to say that I had not fully anticipated the depth of content that sat so close to my own front door and yet I stumbled several times after devising “great panning and zoom shots across the meadow”– only to realise again that these simply detracted from the main objective.  I am reminded of a phrase that has oft been repeated in my career as a software developer that was revealing itself to be just as relevant with my new hobby – “Keep it simple, stupid! ” 



* I realised that this was always going to be true for the majority of movies and TV releases in 4k – sure the detail is there but you are actually engaged in following the storyline rather than focussing on the medium itself – this is, of course, just as it should be, albeit at odds with the objective here.


So if you want to see what that new 4k TV can do, and you like the look of the clip above then please take a look!

NB The full version of the video can be ordered here:

Textures 4K Video (USB Stick)


All video was shot using a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 camera (F2.8-4, 25-400mm lens).
The result was edited in Power Director 13 and the final result made ready for distribution on EX-FAT USB Sticks by encoding with the H.265 video codec.


Where to next?

I have no idea if anyone else is really interested in what I have tried to do here – for me I now feel I have a good appreciation of 4K.  But there were always going to be some technical shortcomings and compromises (HECV is good but any compression medium has to be a bad thing for quality).  I am also not a professional cameraman, nor do I have professional equipment but I guess there has to be a starting point and all in all I am very happy with the results of my first endeavour!

Please be supportive.

Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – 4K Quality Test


So having already stated that I bought this set as an HD upgrade to my existing set I obviously have half an eye on what this set can do with a 4K video source.and also as a 4K development desktop

I’ll start with my conclusion – in two words – absolutely stunning!

NB For this test I used this PC linked via HDMI 1.4 at 30Hz and ran through some 4k content I had picked up on the net.

Having seen the set looking this good, but not wanting to have a Desktop PC Base in my lounge I am now definitely thinking about what is the minimum spec PC that I can get away with that delivers this sort of quality?  Although this desktop machine uses an AMD GPU (which is fabulous) I don’t really need that kind of grunt for watching 4K video and am already thinking in terms of one of NVIDIA’s Kepler based GPUs (if for no other reason than to experiment with 4K at 60Hz (though having witnessed these demos running at 30Hz I seriously doubt the value of the extra Hz!)


(Actual Screen Grabs from the Hisense)

Interestingly I found that the TV would output at what I understand to be UHD (3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall) but actually has a default capability that is even higher than that (4096×2160)!  An unexpected bonus!

Conclusion: Congratulations to everyone who managed to pick this up on Cyber Monday but even at £1499 it represents excellent value for money!

And it is also good to see the following quote from Hisense UK

“We will be releasing boxes next year capable of playing 4K content and providing new HDMI and HEVC capabilities for these monitors as and when more 4K sources become available” (I have confirmed that this monitor is included).

Not sure but possibly the box that Hisense are talking about may be something along the lines of this?

Footnote: I am looking at adding one of these to play back 4K video until such time as the above box becomes available.

There is a good article about the likely availability (and reasons for the current lack of) 4k content):




The Android M8 has arrived and thus far is looking like a good short term partner for the HiSense.   By default it pops up in 720p resolution and so the first thing to do is to set it to 4K:

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The one I got came with XBMX and a 4K video player pre-installed:

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It played all the 4K videos I had downloaded flawlessly:


I downloaded PLEX to pick up my networked photos and videos – this worked as anticipated and everything looked great!


I noticed that someone has posted their own preferred settings for this TV which turn out to be similar to the ones that I had set myself:

Pic mode:user
Brightness: 41
Sharpness: 10
Noise reduction: off
Backlight: manual/15
Colour temp:standard
Dynamic contrast: off
Skin tone off
Motion effect: off.

Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – Upscaling


If I am honest I bought this TV because it fell within my upgrade criteria (see my last post but one if that sounds remotely interesting) I was familiar with 4K TVs but had no real plans to get one just yet.  But when I spotted the Hisense ar such a good price I could not resist!  When I think about it the most use that this TV will currently get is in watching standard HD, and so the up scaling quality to 4K is quite important.

I haven’t had the device long but reading the article below suggests that Hisense have favoured the “Halos effect” which to my eyes reminds me a little of the ‘oil painting’ filter common in graphics packages (Paint.Net has a great oil filter – use it just a little on a photograph and you will see what I mean).


Examples of the different artefacts produced by up-scaling algorithms

So that is no bad thing but my gut feeling is  there might be better options for up-scaling (by better I also mean more processor intensive) and so I am already starting to think about alternatives (perhaps one of the newer BluRay players that sport custom up-scaling technology up to 4K)

A good (and straightforward) explanation of up scaling issues:


Is up-scaling important?

As this diagram shows the further away from your set you sit the less important up-scaling is (you might have the best up-scaler around but be sitting too far away to really be getting any benefit!)


“Mastered in 4K”

I will come back to this but have to say that I was a little disappointed with the BluRay for “Taxi Driver” which to my eyes looks quite grainy.  of course the age of the film is largely responsible for this perhaps making it not the best choice as an example of this process. (though I welcome the chance to see this film again on the ‘big screen’(!))


Taxi Driver / After Earth /Angels & Deamons (Mastered in 4k 1080p BluRay)

(Not sure how these come across on the web but they look pretty impressive in ‘real life’ 🙂



YouView remote control


I use a YouView box most of the time for watching and recording TV.  It up-scales well (both SD and HD).

I found it handy to program the YouView remote with the code for the Hisense  which enables me to control a lot of the Hisense’s functionality without having to pick up a separate control.

Incidentally the control code for the Hisense is “491” – to program hold down the TV button for 3 seconds, enter 491 (The TV will switch off) then press OK and you are done.!)

Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – Device Mirroring

Office Lens_20141205_124430



So one menu option on the Hisense that caught my eye was “AnyView Cast”.  This is supposed to allow your phone or tablet screen to be mirrored on the big screen over wifi.


I selected the option on the TV  (see screen 1) and picked up my HP Stream 7 Windows 8 device and proceeded to pair the two devices





Office Lens_20141205_123251




I am an optimist but even I was a little surprised when It worked first time!  (The HP Stream is a fantastic device and definitely seems to be able to punch above it’s weight in the specs department)..

NOTE: Having said that it worked first time I did find that subsequent connections sometimes failed!





With apologies for not thinking out a better scenario (and the lack of sound)  but at least you can see this functionality in action: in the short clip below:


BTW In case anyone is wondering this scenario is not going to give you 4K – but it’s a useful thing to have built into your TV nevertheless!

Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – Initial Setup & YouTube App

On switch on you are presented with a series of screens to setup the basic configuration of the device: (click on any image to enlarge, I have tried to keep the images in their logical order with selections shown where possible):

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After selecting your region and internet settings you can access the devices own web based menu and select from a series of apps and options from which the below is a selection:

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YouTube App

Selecting the YouTube App gives the option to search for videos (I searched for “4K” and selected “Star Wars”)

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Sadly the videos do not play back in 4K though they do look OK – this perhaps isn’t surprising when you think about it as the TV would require copious amounts of it’s own memory in order to buffer the video. 

Perhaps in the future the App could be given the option of buffering to an inserted (and empty) USB stick and also an option to allow playback at any of the available YouTube default resolutions?

The option to pair a mobile device (screen 3 above) is nice to see included though perhaps somewhat redundant in the light of the in-built support for streaming/casting from devices. 

Also interesting target advertising – when I selected Star Wars I was first given an advertising trailer of the new Hobbit film! (screen 7 above)

Incidentally I also tried the web browser and applied the same search but I could not get it to default to anything other than the mobile version of “YouTube” which defaults to a maximum 720p for playback).  I suspect if this were not the case the same buffering issue might rear it’s head?


Settings / Options

There are four main settings screens, some with sub menus which I will work through as they become relevant:

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Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – History



Historically my criteria for purchase of a new TV goes something like:

  • My current TV must be at least 3 years old
  • Budget  £1000

And so this formula has led me to:

Tosh circa 2000

Toshiba 28W8DB. CRT

I have great memories of this TV which came with a full Dolby Pro logic surround system and integrated stand.  I think I got this Circa 1998 (no idea what my foot is doing in this picture – sorry about that – and if anyone is concerned the answer is yes – I do have new slippers now!)

Next up was this Sharp Aquos 42” 1080P set:

Circa 2005 – Notable as the first high definition TV we owned and it’s massive size (at least in those days). this TV now does sterling service wall mounted in the kids play room.

(Note to self – those cables look a mess!)

Circa 2010 came this 50” Samsung Plasma – a significant upward shift in size and the first TV to support 3D – which was my main motivation for the purchase (read elsewhere on my blog – stereoscopy is a hobby of mine – yes, I am that nerd).  Not much changed otherwise (a spot of decorating and some new carpets maybe)

(Eagle eyed will spot the ill fated (but bargain at £799) Lenco 65” 4K TV in the background waiting to go back as it had arrived damaged)


The Hisense unboxed and in situ. (It is big – this picture doesn’t give you a sense of just how big!)

The first thing that struck me about the TV, apart from its sheer size  is how good it looks!  Aesthetically it is a nice bit of kit lRemoteooking every bit as good (and possibly a little better) than TV’s from the “name brands”. 

The remote is simple and although plastic feels better quality than the average remote.  I was able to navigate around what is quite a lot of functionality quite easily – so ergonomically I guess that is a good thing.  (It feels functionality better than the last two TV remotes I have owned from Samsung and Sharp).


The TV isn’t too heavy and I was able to un-box and attach it to it’s stand (which IS heavy) by myself (easier with 2 people but my wife is away at the moment!). Once assembled it was a struggle to lift it onto the existing unit (in the picture above) but again, I managed it alone.



The down side of being well packaged will be a trip to the dump at the weekend to rid myself of all the cardboard and inserts!



(I will save switching on the TV for the next post).

Intel Real Sense (“Realsense”) SDK

So while there is not yet any availability of Realsense 3D cameras Intel have chosen to make the Realsense SDK available:


So I downloaded the SDK and fired up some of the sample applications, many of which failed to run without the requisite hardware, however the emotion recognition sample recognised the camera attached to my device and allowed me to have a quick ‘play’. 

The app is capable of recognising the following facial expressions (and by and large does a pretty good job)

  • “ANGER”,
  • “DISGUST”,
  • “FEAR”,
  • “JOY”,
  • “SADNESS”,

In addition it attempts to interpret the sentiment behind these expressions as one of:



(with apologies for my face – it’s the only one I have)

It is a relatively simple sample with all the smarts being handled via a call to the CreateSenseManager() function within the SDK.  A loop then constantly reporting back a value relating to the emotion being displayed.  (To get my own involvement off the ground I modified the sample to return an emoticon instead of the text shown by default.)

NB All the samples are available in both C++ and C#

I look forward to having the opportunity to expl;ore this interesting SDK further!

Oculus Rift (on a budget …)

Anyone who knows me knows of my interest in all things 3d (stereoscopy) and won’t be at all surprised by my interest in the Oculus Rift. (DK2).

However, as most of my stereoscopic viewing equipment looks like this, and not having a particular interest in ‘gaming’ I found that I was lacking in the hardware required to do the Rift justice!

I also wanted to look at development opportunities for the Rift so decided to dip a toe into the water and build an entry-level gaming PC to utilise with it:


Using this page I set about picking out what I hoped would be good value kit with which to build my machine.


My first ‘compromise’ was a new Lenovo desktop machine that came up ‘cheap’ at just under £250 delivered:


  • Processor: 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3470S Processor (6MB Cache, up to 3.60GHz)
  • Operating system: Windows 8.1 Professional 64 English (via included discs)
  • System Graphics: Intel Integrated HD Graphics
  • Total memory: 4GB PC3-12800 1600MHz UDIMM DDR3
  • Pointing device: Lenovo Edge Enhanced Optical USB Mouse
  • Hard drive device: 3.5″ – 500GB 7200rpm SATA
  • Optical device: HH Rambo 8 16x/48x SATA DVD-R/CD-RW
  • Network card: Integrated Intel 82579 Gigabit Network Adapter


I spotted a sell-off of some ‘custom RAM’, not the fastest, but good value at this price (£69.37)

  • Crucial Ballistix BLT2CP8G3D1608DT2TXOBCEU Tracer 16GB kit (8GB x 2) 240-pin DIMM (with LEDs) DDR3 PC3-12800 Memory Module – Orange/Blue


Next up someone posted a good deal (£149) on a mid-range graphics card (GPU).

 I liked this option as if it proved to be lacking I could always get another card and link them together to boost performance using ‘crossfire’:

  • VTX3D AMD Radeon R9 280 X-Edition Graphics Card (3GB, GDDR5, PCI Express 3.0)


Finally I opted to upgrade the PSU as the ‘business oriented’ PSU that came with the shell (180w) would struggle to power the GPU (I wanted 750w or ideally 1000w to give me the crossfire option).  If there is room in the case I will keep both PSU’s otherwise I will ditch the 180w.

  • Coolermaster GM-Series 750W Semi Modular 80+ Bronze Power Supply (£57.90)



So along with the monitor and keyboard (which I already have ‘knocking around’) this would be my starting point (with an SSD and second graphics card being logical upgrades should I need or particularly desire them).

My initial total spend was a little over £500 and looks like this:

  • Processor: 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3470S Processor
  • Operating system: Windows 8.1 Professional 64 English
  • Graphics: VTX3D AMD Radeon R9 280
  • Memory: 16GB  (8GB x 2) 240-pin DIMM DDR3 PC3-12800
  • Pointing device: Lenovo Edge Enhanced Optical USB Mouse
  • Hard drive : 3.5″ – 500GB 7200rpm SATA
  • Optical device: HH Rambo 8 16x/48x SATA DVD-R/CD-RW
  • Network card: Integrated Intel 82579 Gigabit Network Adapter
  • PSU:Coolermaster GM-Series 750W Semi Modular 80+ Bronze


UPDATE 26/08/2014

Kit arrived after a shipping delay – bonus as it also included keyboard, mouse and 3 Windows 8 related discs (I have got used to Windows 8 so am installing that instead of Win 7).

imageI found a 4GB stick in my toolbox so have installed that while waiting for the 2x8GB sticks.  The recovery session is underway as I type this …. my plan is to get Win8 up and running then substitute the PSU, check functionality, then substitute the GPU …

… Fitted new PSU and Left overnight running the update from Win8 to 8.1 so was ready for fitting GPU this morning.  All went smoothly and internals now look like the image here..


Now onto the process of installing Visual Studio and the Rift itself ….



… Oculus Rift up and running.  (wow)

and I cannot say that loud enough … The system coped well with what was thrown at it – if you get a chance sit down in ‘the chair’.  It coped well with all the animations only faltering with some head movement at the point at which I suspect the on screen animations and graphic density was maxed out.  Words do not do it justice :and I am looking forward to seeing what I can bring to the table with my own dev chops!


UPDATE 6/1/2016

Sadly this spec PC fails on the CPU and GPU reccomended minimums but my approach will be to wait and see how performance fairs on release with overclocking (see below) and then upgrade components as required (sadly I am not a millionaire yet Winking smile)

Here’s the recommendations from Oculus for the “full Rift experience”:

graphics card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
processor: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
memory: 8GB+ RAM
output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
input: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
operating system: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer

When you use the comptibility tool here and don’t meet the recommendations you will see something like this:



GPU Over clocking




NB There appear to be some notes on over clocking this GPU here

I ended up using the utility mentioned and the settings shown.

(I elected not to set these at startup as unless I am running a GPU intensive task I prefer to leave the card at the manufacturers settings, consequently running a little cooler).



Rift Code / Visual Studio

I fired up VS with one of the demo projects and had a ‘play’.  Not being a native C coder means that I wasn’t very comfortable – I look forward to the time when the current managed code native compiler helps to unlock the door to c# development for the Rift!


Target your own “target market”

There are some great Ad controls around (AdDuplex springs to mind) that can maximise your coverage across all App types across the store.  But what if you have targeted a specific target market with a whole suite of your own Apps?  How can you maximise Ad coverage of these Apps to your target market?  One way is to create a simple Ad control like the one shown here.  NB I place mine immediately below the standard Ad Control so that it only appears when a Microsoft – sourced Ad is unavailable (note that there are more sophisticated ways of doing this but I have found that this simple method serves my purpose)

I created a simple user control with the following XAML layout:


Then I created some 600×300 images that represent the Ads I want to serve and added them to the images folder of my project:



(expect the above designs to change as I play!)


The Code Behind of the UserControl uses the Random function to select a different image every time it is loaded:


My thinking here was to create a quick (and some would say dirty) user control in order to test out the basic concept. 

(Should it prove to show promise I may well spend more time on the control, – perhaps making it cloud based and ad admin configurable.)


NB You can see the above control in action in “Vantage Point” downloadable here:


IMAX 3D “Edge of Tomorrow”

One of the benefits of not working (or“resting” as I like to call it),  is the opportunity to spend some time with the kids while they are on their half term holidays.  Of course they are both working hard at the moment, Emily for her GCSE’s  and Daisy for her end of year exams… but ….

So we were very excited to have been invited by Stuff magazine to attend the premiere of ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ at the BFI IMAX  (For my part, anyone who knows me will appreciate that I am excited by all things stereoscopic/ 3d and this will be the first opportunity I have had to see a film at “the largest 3D IMAX in Europe”!)

I am doubly excited to be going with my eldest daughter, Emily, who is a massive fan of Emily Blunt who is planning to attend  the premiere. with her co-star.

So Is there a down side to this trip? Well, we are getting the 1:30am coach from Gloucester to get in to London at 5am …  (Red Carpet at 7am, Premiere at 9am – all over in time for brunch!)

As the opening scenes of the film take place in Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Bridge I thought we should walk from Victoria, past Buckingham palace, down the Mall, across Trafalgar Square and over the Hungerford bridge – offering us a great view of Waterloo bridge, before heading over to the BFI a short walk past the site of my first ever workplace (in Chicheley Street – ironically now a bar!).  Of course I have pointed out this particular site many times before so have an idea what I can expect – but I guess that is all part of the fun!

The Film

I might as well start by telling you to go and see this film on the largest 3D screen you can find.  It’s just simply an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours!  Better than Godzilla (which I enjoyed) and probably my favourite film of the year so far (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it stayed that way).  Don’t expect surprises (there are some), don’t expect romance (there is some), don’t expect a comedy (but expect to laugh a bit). Do expect action (lots of it), do expect suspense (buckets) and perhaps most of all, expect to be thrilled!

The Experience

I have never attended a film premiere but when I mentioned to the girls that I had tickets to the new Emily Blunt film they nearly wet themselves, and so the date was on!.    We arrived early and were escorted to our spots on the red carpet and shortly after a limousine pulled up in front of us and out stepped Tom Cruise.  I have to say I came away loving Tom (not in the biblical sense you understand).  He spent hours outside with the crowd and while all other stars were gracious with the fans, signing autographs and smiling for the cameras, they couldn’t match his commitment.  A quick breakfast inside and we took our seats, a quick introduction from Tom and the crew and the film kicked off!

What a great experience!  Thank you Stuff magazine and Warner for looking after us!