Author Topic: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store  (Read 4117 times)

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Offline dexters_lab

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Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« on: December 31, 2017, 10:59:19 pm »
Just wanted to make a short post about my latest Quantel adventure as i thought some of you might find it interesting because it's certainly vintage!

The Ramcorder is a device that connects to a quantel paintbox (video painting system) that allows short video clips to be made.

It's connected to the paintbox by bt.601 digital video interfaces, either SDI or Parallel giving video in and out. The paintbox commands the Ramcorder to replay or record either single frames or real-time video through a RS232 control interface between the two.

The ramcorder was introduced in 1989 as a companion to the also new V-Series Quantel Paintbox and would have been used to generate TV graphics for large TV networks by rendering frames of video in non-realtime and writing them to the ramcorder where effects can be composited. The ramcorder can store 323 PAL or NTSC video frames (720*576 PAL / 720*488 NTSC) uncompressed in a YUV16 format.

Price i think would have been around £70,000 (after RAM prices settled in the early 1990s) so a Ramcorder + Paintbox system would have been around £140,000 when new.

Inside the chassis are six large PCBs; a CPU board, video i/o board and four ram store boards.

The CPU board contains a 6809 CPU, dual UART, diagnostics port, ROM and RAM.

The video i/o board contains logic to read/modify data within the store boards, there are also two add-on boards that generate the bt601 video data in parallel form using programmable logic (FPGA/CPLD) and also convert that to serial (SDI) video using ST Micro STV1601 & STV1602 serialiser/de-serialiser pairs.

The four store boards each contain 512 1megabit DRAMs making a total of 2048 in the system for 256MB total RAM. Ignoring the vias there are in excess of 10,000 through holes in the pcb.

There is also a short video on it on my youtube channel, looking inside and in use.

« Last Edit: January 01, 2018, 10:26:34 pm by dexters_lab »
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Offline timb

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2018, 01:29:12 pm »
I can’t be the only one to be more than a little turned on by that RAM board... Right? Unbelievably cool.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic; e.g., Cheez Whiz, Hot Dogs and RF.
 
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Online Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2018, 04:22:22 pm »
It's unbelievable to see so many ZIP chips on one board. In the early '90s I would have fainted at the sight; my Amiga 3000 had sockets for 32 of them and I thought I was hot stuff!

I remember the DRAM prices back then, I had to add memory a chunk at a time and figure out which ones would work. Something about fast page mode and whatever else back then not being compatible. EDO? Static column? Meh, who knows.

The chips look like the regular array you can see in the window of EPROMS...

 

Online coppice

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2018, 04:37:07 pm »
In the mid 80s we bought a 192MB DRAM buffer box, filled with 256k DRAM chips - 6144 chips. It cost over 100k pounds.
 

Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2018, 05:01:23 am »
It is a bit of a bonkers device and so rare, it's amazing i managed to get one and have it working

Hopefully when i get a hang of the animation functions of my paintbox i can create some retro style intros for my channel with it

As for ram, EDO if i recall was about the same as FPM but could output data in blocks, or something like that so gave a performance increase on sequential reads. I am sure someone will remember!
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Offline helius

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2018, 05:21:43 am »
EDO is almost exactly the same as Fast Page Mode, but the output buffers stay active during the subsequent column access cycles (which gives the host more time to latch them and thus permits a faster access rate). See https://www.ece.cmu.edu/~ece548/localcpy/dramop.pdf
 
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Online Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2018, 02:30:22 pm »
Was there a closeup of the logic chips on the RAM PCBs? How do you drive so many inputs?
 

Offline pieman103021

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2018, 03:03:57 pm »
Thanks a ton for sharing this! These types of finds are so cool to see.
Exclamation Point!
 
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Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2018, 09:18:15 pm »
Was there a closeup of the logic chips on the RAM PCBs? How do you drive so many inputs?

Hmm good point, when i get back from my holidays in a couple of days i will grab some close up pics of that area
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Online james_s

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2018, 05:36:45 pm »
It's crazy that a board that large and dense would even work with the propagation delays, stray inductance and capacitance. Must have been fun trying to track down a bad RAM on one of those.
 

Online glarsson

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2018, 07:41:18 pm »
It's crazy that a board that large and dense would even work with the propagation delays, stray inductance and capacitance. Must have been fun trying to track down a bad RAM on one of those.
I worked at a company designing and building advanced image processing systems between 1983 and 1987. Our systems had memory boards of this size. The difference was that we used the common DIP version of DRAM and that we filled a couple of 19" racks with memory boards.

I designed and built two test systems for these boards. One system doing burn in testing of a rack at a time and one system testing one board at a time. The smaller system was used to debug and repair faulty boards. The system could generate various patterns of accesses and then other test equipment such as a oscilloscope could be used to find the problems.

Expensive systems...
 

Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2018, 07:54:58 pm »
It's crazy that a board that large and dense would even work with the propagation delays, stray inductance and capacitance. Must have been fun trying to track down a bad RAM on one of those.

i haven't had a chance to poke around and find the diagnostics menu that's built in, but i am pretty sure it has the ability to test and then indicate the physical location of faulty drams
« Last Edit: January 11, 2018, 07:49:47 pm by dexters_lab »
"A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." - Douglas Adams
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Online Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2018, 12:53:09 pm »
I'd hate to be the guy stuck with removing one ZIP in the middle of the pack!
 

Online james_s

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2018, 12:59:30 pm »
I suppose it depends on what else is on the board and how well thought out the test routine is, but in my experience repairing 70s-80s arcade boards it's common for the self test to indicate a bad RAM or ROM when the problem is actually in some other circuitry that interfaces with the RAM or ROM.
 

Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2018, 07:54:01 pm »
Was there a closeup of the logic chips on the RAM PCBs? How do you drive so many inputs?

nearly forgot to do this!

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Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2018, 08:04:13 pm »
I'd hate to be the guy stuck with removing one ZIP in the middle of the pack!

yea, makes your eyes hurt trying to look at the solder side up close!!

interestingly, i have in total seven of the ram store boards, four in the machine and three spares. They all seem to be the same PCB revision but there are different bodge wires on a few, some stringing entire columns of the DRAMs... so i wonder if this was to correct different manufacturing defects in the PCB, bad connections etc?

it must have been a nightmare if they found a PCB defect after all those DRAMs were soldered in  :-//
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Online Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2018, 12:58:22 pm »
A long time ago I had a PC video card with some weird ZIP video RAM chips on it. I had to jam it into my Amiga 3000 and I bent a ZIP chip slightly because the A3000 is very small and tight inside.
I didn't like the look of the chip so I wanted to straighten it, and the body snapped off the leads.
Oops.

So I'd think that it would be tricky reaching in the middle of the pack without accidentally knocking other chips out.

Plus desoldering on such a dense board would need good heat transfer.
 

Online james_s

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2018, 05:08:38 am »
Given the cost of one of those boards, I suspect the techs that were allowed to work on them were the best available and knew all the tricks. I certainly would be nervous working on something that expensive.
 

Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2018, 05:20:31 am »
I didn't like the look of the chip so I wanted to straighten it, and the body snapped off the leads.

i feel your pain

my OCD goes mental when i look at this one, i really must resist straightening them!
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Online Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2018, 11:58:18 am »
I guess this is its father.



I love this stuff.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #20 on: January 15, 2018, 12:20:46 pm »
I love this stuff.
If you like that, you'll enjoy the Scanimate.
This use a CRT to display an image, with an analogue computer modifying the scan waveforms. The CRT was then recorded with a camera :   

 
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Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #21 on: January 15, 2018, 08:37:41 pm »
I guess this is its father.
I love this stuff.

kind of yes, that is a demo of the quantel mirage (the DVM-8000) which dates from 1982 in it's earliest form, it took live video and digitized it into a 1024x1024 bitmap where each pixel would have a 3d co-ordinate. That would then allow you to move those points anywhere. From what i understand about it the 3D co-ords were pre-rendered on some kind of VAX system and then passed to the DVM in 'real time' for it to then manipulate the incoming video

so the ramcorder and mirage do different things really, the mirage is really for live studio effects

interestingly the controller he's using in that video is from a DPE-5000 (a video effects unit from 1978), so i think there is some funky 'mock up for TV' going on there!

a DVM-8000 would be my quantel holy grail  :-DD

this video shows off the DVM a bit better
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 08:39:31 pm by dexters_lab »
"A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." - Douglas Adams
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Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #22 on: January 15, 2018, 08:44:28 pm »


scanimate is awesome, that Dave guy who keeps it running does a remarkable job making graphics on it and keeping it running.
"A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." - Douglas Adams
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http://dexterslab2013.blogspot.co.uk/
 

Online Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2018, 10:23:03 am »

this video shows off the DVM a bit better


OMG I. LOVE. THIS. STUFF!

It combines my favorite things, Jean Michel Jarre's Equinoxe V (which version? It sounds different from the album), and bright, simple, fun cheesy '80s graphics!

 

Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Quantel Ramcorder - Digital Video RAM Store
« Reply #24 on: January 16, 2018, 06:16:57 pm »
mike oldfield bought a Mirage incidentally, he used it extensively on the Wind Chimes album from 1988, it's clearly a bit more advanced than that 1982 showreel, probably in improvements in the controller software i guess  :-//

"A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." - Douglas Adams
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