Been a while since I’ve done one of these. You may remember in the last part of this series of articles, I hinted at a documentary I was doing (It’s posted below, but you can check it out here if you don’t want to wait). This was April, seven whole months ago.
I got busy. That happens with life and I wish it didn’t. On top of that, my computer couldn’t handle the high definition video that I wanted it to. I wish it could have, but it couldn’t.
The documentary in question is about my friend and his barn. For a little background, he lives in a house that was built around the time of the American Civil War, and the property also includes a barn from the same era. Back then, my whole town was farm land (apparently my property 30 seconds away was part of an orchard) but now the original properties have been substantially broken down for housing. From what I’ve seen, his is the only one in town to include the original barn. Anyway, I called him up and asked him if he’d be interested in letting me do some filming to test out my camera. He agreed.
Now, it’s important to note that this filming had no plan. I came over and told him to just start talking. We didn’t hash out too much of a story, there wasn’t any logic to the way the footage was shot, and we concluded filming when there wasn’t enough light to go any further. Having said that, don’t expect the resulting documentary to follow any logical flow. It was more an act of shooting as much as possible, and then seeing if I could somehow work all the footage together in a way that made sense. In this regard, I think it came out well.
Let’s talk about where I messed up. For one, lighting. I brought a measly halogen light when I went to film, but quickly abandoned it. It made absolutely no difference whatsoever in illuminating the room. I probably could have produced better footage had I handled the ISO settings better, so that’s something to take into consideration for next time. Really though, it’s difficult to get a good sense of things when you have only a two inch screen to look at and adjust with. On top of this, I also purchased an inexpensive NEEWER LED lighting rig that sits on top of the camera. Though off-brand and cheap, it’s particularly bright and comes with several gels so it should help out tremendously. A smaller mistake I made was where I had my friend looking when on camera. While I tried to follow the rule of thirds as best as I could, I didn’t know about having the subject look to the far side of the camera. If you have him look at the edge of the screen he’s on, it’s as if 2/3 of the screen is wasted. Unfortunately, it’s something that you cannot unsee after it is pointed out to you. Lastly, I had some problems in audio. While I did monitoring with headphones, it was difficult to gauge the sound quality when I could hear everything from outside the headphones as well as through them. Ultimately, I’ll probably get a pair that do noise cancellation. I’m also interested in getting an inexpensive shotgun microphone for something a little more directional.
For editing, I ended up completely building a new computer from scratch. The process and all the little details can be found here, so give that a glance if you have not already. While I did a rough edit on my laptop, it would frequently crash and I could not get an fine edit because the playback was so choppy. This new rig does the job nicely and cuts through the video like a warm knife. Now, I started editing this in Sony Vegas and that’s what I finished in. For future projects, I am hoping to switch to Adobe Premiere. I’m a bit sick of Vegas at this point, especially after finding a glitch wherein I cannot render using the beefy GPU I got for the build. Anyway, I feel the editing went well. I’m not fantastic at color correcting. I did some minor correcting and light balancing, but some of the footage was hard to do anything with since it was so dark.
Below is the final edited video if you care to check it out. I originally planned to do a few of these mini documentaries, but it took so long to do one and I ultimately ran out of time to follow through with anything else. While I had some problems with this project, I can say that few of these issues would effect how I do Obsoleet or any similar tutorial-based segment. I recently created a segment for The New Tech which will pop up soon with any hope, and I can now turn my attention more towards this type of content once again. Let’s just hope real life tones it down a little.
This article was originally written for and published at The New Tech on July 8th, 2012. It has been posted her for safe keeping.
So maybe you want to be an archivist but don’t know where to start. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have learned a few things going down this path that I can share. Let’s break this up into two main sections: digital media and physical media. No matter what you are archiving, you should first pick out what you’re going to save. You don’t have to put too much consideration into this step. You can be passionate about a subject you wish to preserve, be helping a group of people, or doing it for the hell of it. Archiving is at it’s base both a way to ensure survival and a way to fill a hole left forgotten.
In the digital world, you’re going to be focused on downloading, storing, and uploading. Let’s start with downloading as you’re going to want to get your hands on some media. I started on a Windows computer, downloading directly with a browser. You can get your hands on some stuff simply with a DownThemAll plugin and a lot of free time. For streaming content I turn to the video downloader plugin for Firefox or Replay Media Catcher. This lets you pull videos from all your sites like Vimeo or Youtube. Sometimes things aren’t as easy as clicking a file to download it. You may have to use download sites, ftp servers, Bittorrent, or something less standard. You never know. Get to know how to use jdownloader, an ftp client like Filezilla, and a Bittorrent client like uTorrent. You might find a whole slew of content on some obscure site and you need to have the tools to dig it out. Moving on to more Unix-like systems, learn all you can about wget, curl, grep, and bash scripting. I’m not going to cover how to use all of these tools, but with a little practice there are few things you can’t get when you use them in tandem. You would be surprised how simple it is to whip up automated processes that do everything you want with just a few sophisticated commands. Also, be on the lookout for more specified tools. For example, I found a fantastic tool for downloading Youtube videos called youtubedl. If there is something out there to be downloaded, there is usually a tool for the job.
When you get the data, you’re going to need to hold it. I was originally downloading everything locally, and still like to keep local copies of data I retrieve. Always keep your data on at least two drives, and preferably buy your drives in pairs so you can easily stick with this rule. You can never have too much storage. I currently have 15TB locally just for storing archived media. When it comes to other storage mediums, I’m not easily swayed. Data tape is expensive to adopt, and cloud storage lacks stability. In earlier days, I had only an 80GB drive, so I would back up to DVD+Rs. A lot of people will tell you that your burned media will go bad after about 6-10 years, but I have yet to have a disc become unreadable. I will say that I’ve had a lot of luck with Verbatim discs. I would coaster many discs by other brands when burning, but have only ever had one Verbatim fail on me. Stick with what your budget is, the price of hard drives are only going down, but if you’re a kid on a budget a spindle of DVDs can help in a pinch. Also, keep an eye on solid state drives. While I have yet to adopt them, they are the new thing in mass storage, though the price is still a bit steep.
So now you want to share your data. You have many options to consider. I’ve been using The Internet Archive most recently to place files which should be saved. Depending on your content, this may not be the best option for you. A few of the techniques I mentioned before to download from can be good options for quick data dispersal. For example, setting up a torrent for your files can be done in minutes, and fast FTP/HTTP servers can be rented for however much money you want to spend. The main points here though are longevity and redundancy. You want your files up for a long time, and you want them to stay online somewhere if one server takes a tumble. While torrents alone are terrible for longevity, they are great at getting data out fast. Combine this with a server, or a data hosting/streaming service and you have some type of redundancy. Always make sure your data is accessible.
So now you might want also want to save physical media. This can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. Saving your physical media is best done by making it digital. The shelf life of digital data is only going up these days while physical media like paper or tape only degrades. While I’m a fan of my physical media, transferring it to a digital format is the best way to share it and keep it alive.
When dealing with publications or photographs, you can generally get good results digitizing them with a decent scanner. I happen to be a fan of Epsons, but anything around $100 these days should be able to give you decent quality scans. As always, read the reviews just to make sure. If you’re feeling a bit more crafty, you can try your hand at creating a book scanning set-up. This can easily copy all of your publications quickly. After you make your scans, you can perform any type of compression you wish, and even take the resulting image files to assemble a PDF.
Video can also be challenging to save. Whether it be VHS, Laserdisc, or even DVDs, things can get messy. When dealing with your older analog media, you can find devices to digitize them. For example, you can get a capture card like a Canopis ADVC, or any number of DVD recorders on the market. There are also a slew of other little gadgets to clean up the video along the digitizing process. After you get the video converted, you can compress the raw capture down with a codec such as h264 to make the file more manageable.
Audio can be viewed in a similar fashion to video. You can easily pipe a tape or record player into a receiver and feed the output to a nicer sound card. Here, audio can be captured using a program like Audacity and saved as a lossless file or compressed with something like Vorbis or MP3.
With something to drive you, a little know-how, and a lot of time, you can easily start archiving the media in your world. Though it may be daunting at first, you can easily build as you go. Start small, and end up saving big.
I haven’t made a new episode in a while. I apologize for that. Let’s talk about what has happened in the interim.
Episode eight came out in February, and I released a short test video a month after with my new camera. In the month of April, I started working on a short documentary, but here is where the snags started. What it really comes down to is my computer being unable to handle editing high definition video. I edited together the footage from the first shoot after a few days, but trying to do anything more than splice clips is next to impossible. I can’t color correct without crashing, precision editing cannot be done with choppy video, and I barely have enough resources to run my editing software yet alone any other applications.
Let’s step aside from this for a minute.
In early May, I started the SaveRev3 project. I actually hinted at this in Obsoleet as an un-named project. Anyways, with the the help of others I have archived all of Revision3′s “Archived Shows” including ones they removed from their site. A nice accomplishment if you ask me. On top of this, I started a new website for the project called Anarchivism. Anarchivism is an ad-hoc/umbrella/do-ocracy destination for archiving projects which has already expanded past the Revision3 efforts to cover other video shows, audio shows, hacker conference media, and demoscene discs. With any luck, it will only get larger.
Aside from this, I have been writing more. A lot more. I have been keeping SaveRev3 status updates, general reviews, editorials, etc. and it has given a new spark to my old habits. Aside from writing for my own site, I have also been contributing articles to The New Tech, a wonderful video podcast and community-oriented site.
This leads in to what’s next. I had originally thought about releasing short one-segment videos to pass the time before I build a brand new computer with all the bells and whistles (Which I’m starting early August). Instead of doing these one-off segments for Obsoleet, I got the idea to contribute them to other shows. I am planning on creating segments for both The New Tech and BSOD in the near future before starting season 2 of Obsoleet. This way, I can still make video while getting my computer together, and have some of the editing responsibilities split with others.
I also plan on branching back out into audio. The New Tech is planning a weekly radio radio show that I hope to be involved with in some capacity. I am also planning an episode of Hacker Public Radio, which has been on the to-do list since before it was even called Hacker Public Radio (TWAT represent!). In addition to all of this, I’ve been considering revamping Techtat so that it has its own podcast in addition to the articles.
So where are we exactly with Obsoleet? Season 2 will pick up after I build an editing rig. Plain and simple. In the mean time, I’ll produce content for other shows, so you can still get your fix. As a little bonus, I’ve recently registered obsoleet.com (which I’ve been waiting to be free since starting the show) and have migrated the site over there (Update your bookmarks). It still needs some work, but it’s getting there bit by bit.
As always, let me know what you think. If you have any additional ideas, suggestions, or gripes, you know how to find me.
So before I get into talking about my next film, I’d like to do a brief writeup on some of the audio gear I’m now using. Right after I filmed my ‘Monday’ video, I was already making my plans for the next one I’d do. As soon as I moved past the conceptual ideas, there was the question of what additional hardware I might need, and it came down to a few things I wanted to pick up to handle sound better. There are quite a few people out there that embrace the built-in microphone for the T3i, but let’s just be realistic and state the obvious: it is a built-in microphone on a camera designed primarily to take stills. So you already have a camera not designed to do video, though it is capable of doing it nicely, and then you have the microphone it comes with and let’s face it, when was the last time you bragged about the microphone on your digital camera. At first I tried to be a optimistic and shot a little video indoors with me talking a few feet away from the camera. Even at a few feet, the speech was low and the background noise was high. If you consider the comment I made in the last post about filming in the wind, filming anyone talking outdoors with this setup was simply out of the question.
It came down to what combination of audio components would I want to assist my camera. If you do any sort of searching around for information about digital audio recorders, you will quickly stumble upon the company Zoom who manufacture a slew of recording products for both amateurs and professionals alike. For the DSLR filmmaker, the Zoom H1 and H4n are the popular products: the Zoom H1 being an entry level recorder with two on-board microphones, mic in and line out jacks, and the H4n boasting four channel recording and a sturdy rubberized chassis. For $300, I didn’t want to spring for the H4n, so I decided to take a gamble and try the H1 for less than a third of the price of its bigger brother. Yes, there are other digital recorders out there (Sony actually offers a similar looking recorder for about $20 less than the H1) but the reviews I looked up more than sold me on the H1, as well as hearing it do its thing.
If you do any sort of video searches for the H1 to see it in action, you may be pleasantly surprised. The recorder itself looks a bit like a toy, but the audio you can get out of it can be downright amazing at times. I quickly found videos using the H1 at a live music event and was stunned by the clarity of the recorded music. I also found another video of the H1 being compared to the internal T3i microphone and a Rode VideoMic. I have to say that to my ears, both the Rode microphone and the H1 microphones blew the T3i out of the water and the H1 very slightly outperformed the Rode mic as well. Even when they did a test of the Rode microphone plugged into the H1, I still preferred the sound of the H1 directly.
So as I said, I ordered the H1. I also got a shoe mount, since it made more sense to mount the recorder on top of my camera than to hold the recorder near it, or use a second tripod. The H1 can be screwed on to a standard tripod mount, but with a shoe mount costing under $2 I could slide one end into the slot on my camera meant for an external flash and screw the recorder onto the other. I also got a windscreen from Rode called the “Dead Kitten” which lives up to its name in appearance. Windscreens were highly recommended for the H1 which just leaves its microphones exposed with no cover. Some people say to go foam, while others will point you to the fur-styled ones. I wanted to get fur, and the two main names seem to be Rode and a smaller company called Redhead. I ended up going with Rode simply because I could get a better deal on it through Amazon. Lastly, I also ordered a 16GB microSDHC card so I could record for a long time and not have to worry about swapping cards.
Mounting the Zoom H1
When everything arrived, most things went together without a hitch. The H1 recorder has extensive settings for audio quality, and switches in the back for lo-cut, format, and automatic leveling. I switched the format to WAV and turned off automatic leveling as I have read that you will get inconsistencies: the recorder will start recording loudly and cut the sound down a few seconds in which can be nightmarish for recording music. I also pushed the quality as high as it could go, and saw that I had about 7 hours with my microSD card. Plenty of space there. The windscreen fit the recorder like a glove, but I really wonder about the blocking power in strong winds. I also noticed that it really picks up handling noise, so if you are simply hitting buttons while recording you will pick up a lot of unwanted noise. Since I am mounting this on top of my camera, there is no problem there, even with moving shots I cannot notice any movement noise. I also read wrapping the unit in some rubber bands helps, especially around the battery and card doors, and that did actually help eliminate vibrational noise to a degree. It looks a bit strange, but it works.
I’d also like to mention that while you can use the line-out on the recorder to the input on the camera, I decided for the sake of quality to record separately and synchronize the streams in post. While this may be a little more time consuming as I have to line up tracks, it should produce an overall better sound. I tried the T3i sound side by side with sound from the Zoom H1, and I have to say that I can confirm on the the fact that the H1 is much better. Even with the lo-cut filter on the H1 off, there is so much less background noise I can’t even do it justice in writing.
Last week, I took my first footage with my Canon Rebel T3i camera (You can watch it here if you want before I mention it later). I had been wanting a DSLR camera for around 5-6 years and took the step a few months ago to order one. I did my research beforehand, though. For a few weeks I was looking up reviews on professional sites and web forums, asking friends, and comparing specs. Overwhelmingly, I was turned to the Canon line of cameras. That isn’t to say that I jumped right on the bandwagon. I did weighing between the Canon lines and Nikon lines before I made any decisions, and made sure I got plenty of sleep as to cut down on 3am impulse buys. Both companies produce fantastic products, but I was just pulled more towards the world of Canon, and I’m happy where I ended up. After my internal deliberation over brand, it came down to what camera from the Canon line I wanted. I would have loved to go out and spend $2500 on a 5D MKII with the full frame sensor and slew of lenses, or even $1600 on a mid-range 7D, but I didn’t have the resources to spend more than $1000, so I turned to the nicely priced 600D with an 18-55mm IS lens.
When I was looking at cameras to buy, I was also looking at the video capabilities. The 600D had great reviews for it’s video features, and I was excited at the idea of being able to both replace my point-and-shoot camera and my mini DV camcorder in one go. So of course, I thought of how this camera could impact my filming process with Obsoleet and how I could take things to a whole new level. Shortly after my purchase, I tried out the camera and was hooked. I was really stunned by the image quality I was getting from my stills, and really hoped that I could squeeze everything out of the video features as well. But first, I bought some gear. I ordered a UV filter, two more batteries, two 16gb SDHC cards, a lend hood, a microfiber cleaning cloth, and a carrying case. As the packages poured in, my setup began to fill out and it was exciting seeing everything come together. I’m not normally one to go out and buy the little extras, but I felt that if I was going to do this I should at least take the time to do it correctly.
The Canon EOS 600D / Rebel T3i
Before I took my camera out to shoot some video, I first decided to install a third-party firmware called Magic Lantern. If you want to get technical, it’s a piece of software that runs on top of Canon’s stock camera firmware, and the package supports many DSLR’s in the Canon line. It was originally developed for those wanting to use their Canon cameras for film production, but has evolved to give an all-around enhanced and fine-tunable experience for you and your camera. I’d like to state that the group who creates and maintains Magic Lantern does not recommend it for someone just starting out with their camera, and it does pay to get to know what you’re doing before you go and add a whole new series of complications to what you’re doing. So if you’re thinking of dropping ML onto an SD card and trying it out, get a bit of a feel for all of the settings your camera has before you go and get your feet wet. You can go out an buy all the expensive accessories and install the fancy firmware but if you don’t know what you’re doing fundamentally, you’re as well off as you would be with a camera phone.
So I went out, spent four hours taking small clips of footage, and eventually assembled them into something tangible. It’s not the most fantastic video, but it is something, and something is better than nothing at all. The video is called ‘Monday’ because, well, I made it on Monday. It features some places that are all in walking distance of my house, and the day was nice enough that I felt like going out and doing a little something with my time. If anything, this video is just a proof of concept. I wanted to get my first feel of recording something nice in high definition, and seeing what it looked like when compared with my grainy digital video camcorder. I’m a fan of the environment I was filming in, and I think I ultimately ended up with some beautiful shots.
It was a learning experience though, and you can see my mistakes in the video. For example, the first few shots were over-exposed (though I get some strange enjoyment from the ghostly look they carry), and my handling of the camera was shaky at times. Other downfalls are hidden from you. The wind was horrendous, and if I actually included the original audio tracks from shooting, you would want to rip out your speakers and smash them on the floor. Editing was challenging to say anything. Trying to preview the edited footage caused the video to stutter lag. I can’t tell you how often I had the editing software crash either. As a side note, I was also unhappy with my use of text but that’s a whole separate issue. I don’t think anyone gets anywhere without being their own worst critic, and ultimately I want to create something I’d enjoy watching.
Even here, there are already clear things I can do differently next time, most of which I either realized or discovered through my adventure: know what I’m doing with respect to exposure, ISO, and shutter speed, use a tripod or steady-cam, use a windscreen, etc. I also didn’t do much with the video after taking it. I made some rough edits, a few basic transitions, but nothing too solid. I also did not do anything with color correction, which I am hoping to pursue with my next video. In all, there is work to be done. I never expected any of these skills to come overnight, and they won’t, but I feel like I’m off to a good start and am on the path I want to take. The more I shoot, the more I can play with, and the more I’ll ultimately learn which is just what I’m looking to do.
So here ends entry one of many centered around my trials with DSLR video. The video I took here, Monday, is going to be the first of a series I’ll end up taking as I refine my abilities and hopefully don’t run out of ideas.
I’m pretty sure I hinted that I like to digitalize old formats. I’m that guy you see digging through bins of VHS tapes at yard sales, looking to find that one piece of gold that I haven’t seen and probably won’t find any other way.
You might not know just how into this stuff I am. I didn’t really know I was, but after years of accumulating relevant equipment, it starts to add up. I used to have everything sitting around in various piles. I’d keep some stuff up by the television in my bedroom to do simple transfers, and some of the bigger stuff downstairs where I couldn’t trip over it.
I recently decided to consolidate more, and bring most things to a dedicated area where I could do transfers.
I present the wall.
To briefly go over what we see here: The top row has some video enhancers, an audio enhancer, power station, and a DVD recorder. Next row down has some more professional video enhancers, a detailer, some boxes for stabilization and a full frame time base corrector / freeze. The next row has two Commodore 1702 monitors. 4th row has an SVHS deck and a laserdisc player on the left, and two editing VCRs with a Betamax deck on the right. The next row has 5 laserdisc players and a VHS duplicator. The last row has all my CEDs.
This doesn’t represent all of my gear (I got much more of this stuff on the other side of the room), but there is a pretty nice portion here for both storage and transferring. I can quickly wire up any format and start converting in a matter of minutes.
It has become something as a monolith to antiquated technology. I’m quite happy with it.
My IPTV show idea has taken shape, and it is called Obsoleet. A bit earlier this month, I filmed a segment and did some graphics for it. That was last weekend and the week before. I didn’t do anymore filming because of a cold I had, but that is only a small speed bump in this whole process. I have the gear for another segment set out and am currently planning more segments. I am also in the planning stages for an intro sequence, though I’m not too sure what will come of that.
Updates for the show will be available on a separate site, http://obsoleet.noobelodeon.org/ so more information can be found there. Searching the site will let you find an rss feed and a twitter account, so you can stay in touch through a few ways.
I’ve been toying with the idea of making my own internet show. It would be about obsolete technology. What specifically? I’m not too sure. At first I considered just how to use some obscure hardware in the style of a showcase tutorial. However, I think it would be interesting to work new life into old tech. For example, I could talk about using a LaserDisc player, but it might also be interesting to figure out how to rip some titles that never made it to DVD. Maybe learning about rotary phones could be fun, but converting a handset into a standard microphone could also be something of interest.
I’ve had the idea of starting a show for a few years and I feel that I am close to being able to produce a prototype. I’ve attempted segments for other shows, as well as management for new ones with little success. Most of my projects get tied up as ideas and never solidify. This project, however, has some motivation behind it as well as the availability of tools and talent. Though I have two t‘s I lack time, and therefore may be limited in my conquest. I do hope to have something to show in the next few months.
Some people know me as the IPTV guy. That is to say that I have a lot of independent media that has been distributed over the internet, which makes me something of a video packrat. I used to simply collect it. I kept RSS feeds, and downloaded episodes when they came out. I attended IRC release parties, befriended the hosts, and became part of the communities that revolved around these shows. Nowadays, things are not as active as they used to be. Shows have come and gone, and many have simply perished into the dark side of the internet.
These days, I share my collection of shows over the internet: the same way I received them. I continue to seek out lost shows and fill out holes in my archive in an attempt for completion. Many people may wonder why I even bother. The answer to that question may be more complicated than one would think.
It all must have started in the mid 90′s. I was maybe eight years old. I used to love watching cartoons, but my favorites always played when I was off at school. This is when I discovered the magic of VCRs. I never knew that you could use a VCR to record shows before, but it made things a lot easier after I found out. I learned how to tape shows while I was watching them, and advanced to master timed recording. I filled hour after hour of tape after tape, and re-watched episodes until I had to go to sleep. In affect, this marks my first archiving practice. I wanted to watch whatever I wanted when I wanted it, and found a way to do so.
Years later, I got into torrenting, which I still enjoy today. I’ve never been to keen on mainstream content. Those Hollywood blockbusters don’t do too much for me. The wonderful think about Bittorrent communities is that they are very diverse. I can find so many things that I would otherwise have missed. Have a favorite television show from the 80′s that was never released to DVD, or a movie that only could have been seen when you owned a Betamax player? Odds are I can find what you are looking for. I like to think of torrent communities as groups of friends you lend DVDs out to and talk about weird films with. When you put this group of friends online, it expands to include hundreds more like-minded individuals.
So why go through it all?
Part of it revolves around me having a certain mentality. If I don’t archive it, who will? The stuff that was out there years ago is becoming harder to find. This seems to be true for everything, but especially IPTV. As far as I can tell, I am one of two or three people that have been saving this stuff and trying to share it all back to the world. I think of websites like Jason Scott’s textfiles.com and think of how different things might be if he never decided to share a world of text files. What would have happened to our history of Bulletin Board Systems? Maybe a few Angelfire fan pages and a news group? Certainly not enough to make a statement.
Another part of it is simply the community aspect. Sharing the content makes for meeting people makes for conversation and more sharing. For example, with the IPTV Archive, I chat with a number of people who have an IPTV craze. We get to talking and searching for lost videos and have fun in the process. It opens whole new doors. Somebody may have ideas that throw you in new directions and change things for the better. Video packratism works far better in groups. Pooling resources, time, and effort helps maintain efficiency.
Through it all, video packratism has worked well for me. I locate, I leech, I share, all along with others. It might have taken a long time. I’ve been accumulating content for years, and am still nowhere near done. That is the thrill of it. Locating the un-locatable and watching the unwatched. It is a long process with a short reward. A month searching for thirty minutes of content? Good thing there are hundreds of files out there that are just waiting to be found, otherwise I might get bored.
So in my summer time, oh so long ago, I picked up with my N64 shenanigans again for the first time in years. Probably about seven years to be more specific. While the software is a lot more advanced then it was back then, we had another innovation called Windows XP which doesn’t really like the software, and a step back, Windows 2K really doesn’t like it. So I had a bit of success on Windows XP with some loopholes, and actually less success then I was supposed to have one one of my surviving Windows 98 boxes. Everything comes down to how the kernel locks down the parallel port of the computer. Windows 98 loves to give away the access, Windows 2K likes to hold onto the access, and Windows XP likes to hold onto it, but let you borrow it if you want to.
So the way it works, through the parallel port of my printer, I hook up a cord that goes to my gameshark, which sits between the N64 console and the game (With the software I have, Goldeneye was used). If you have ever used any console based cheat device, like a Game Genie, you know the kind of in-between cartridge I am talking about.
The Back of the GameShark, showing the SharkPort
So, after I connect everything and set it up, I went to the software side. The first thing I needed was DLPortIO which unlocks the parallel port for the purpose of writing data to devices on connected to the port. It comes with its own basic writing functions, but I only needed it to open access to the port, which it happily did. I then retrieved GE Face Mapper from http://rarewitchproject.com/ which is an excellent website that pushes the limits on games made by the company Rareware years after they come out. I also kept a copy of N64 Utils v3 on hand just in case my Gameshark decided to freak out and delete its own software. It was also useful for retrieving screen caps.
It might not look too nice, but this is one of the outcomes of a texture replacement
So I unlocked my ports, and booted up facemapper and started my N64. I turned on the code generator function of the Gameshark to use some of the in-game features, and loaded up Goldeneye, selecting the first level, “Dam”. Once there, I did a ram dump using the GE Face Mapper, which showed me which bitmaps of enemies’ were loaded in the level, and allowed me to replace them with my own bitmaps, overwriting their places in the RAM. After doing that, I was able to dump the screen capture (as you saw above) back onto my computer.
There is plenty more canned software to do texture recreations, but also do things like compeltely redesign levels to load and play on the console. However, my hardware limitations halted these ideas quickly. So unless I can get some stable incarnation of Windows 98 on a nice box, don’t think about it any time soon.