Author Archives: pete verrando

About pete verrando

Texas Location Sound Mixer for 25 years. Restorer and repurposer of vintage electronics. Probably a foundling left by aliens.

An unhealthy obsession

with fake Sennheiser MKH416 microphones

UPDATE: 7/18/2017: REFUND RECEIVED!!!  In recent weeks, at least 2 more sellers of fake 416’s have popped up on ebay, all from China. That makes at least 4 ebay sellers to date.  

Fake MKH416 refund received! Thanks,  Lam Tin Hung!

Fake MKH416 refund received! Thanks, Lam Tin Hung!

UPDATE: 7/10/2017 An Ebay return claim was filed based on counterfeit goods, and the fake 416 is on its way back to China. They fronted the return cost of shipping (US$54), and say they will refund the purchase price upon receipt of the mic. They have been very cordial in the transaction. 

Last month I knowingly purchased a fake MKH416 so I could compare it with a real MKH416. It just arrived today, with case, in a padded envelope.

OK, we’ll get right to the good stuff first. If you are here looking for an competently made, uncompressed audio comparison between a real 416 and a fake 416, its just below.

Listen/Download the Real vs Fake MKH416 Comparison Audio File Here

After listening to the file, and maybe reading the below saga, bookmark this page, as I will be documenting my efforts in refunding the $490 spent on this mic from ebay. In the process, I’m developing somewhat of a relationship with the seller, and hope to get an interview.

The file is a 24bit, 48k stereo wav file, with the fake mic on one channel, and the real on the other. See if you can determine which is which. The file is 45MB, about 2:00 minutes. Recorded interior and exterior at different distances, on and off-axis. Use your favorite playback utility that allows you to solo A/B either channel into both ears. Or split the stereo track into two mono files and solo them. Can you identify the real 416? Left or Right?

The two mics were recorded using a Sound Devices Mix-Pre D into Audacity running on a Macbook Air. The mics were plugged straight into the side of the Mix-Pre D, setting them about an inch apart.

Which mic is which? Is the fake Mic 1 on the Left, or Mic 2 on the right? Any mixers out there confident enough to take a chance on being wrong? Leave a comment.

Background

Fake MKH416’s have been in the marketplace for at least 3 years. They were/are sold primarily through ebay. Prices were initially very low, about US$300. When users discovered that the market was tainted by fake 416s, the sellers responded by raising the price of the mics on ebay, to make them seem more like their genuine counterparts. Sennheiser eventually took action and managed to respond with various cloak and dagger stuff on which they don’t wish to expound. They expanded their website to respond to counterfeit inquires, and added holographic labels to the boxes, stuff like that. At least with the 416, their efforts seem to  cut down much of the distribution of fakes.

Real 416 (L) and fake (R). Notice paint underspray inside XLR, and silver vs gold pins.

Real 416 (L) and fake (R). Notice paint underspray inside XLR, and silver vs gold pins.

However, there are sellers on ebay peddling fake 416’s. Who knows if there are hundreds stored in some Shenzhen warehouse?

I have a sideline business that upgrades the older 416 T-power mics to 48 volt phantom at www.416Tupgrade.com. Resultingly,  I’ve been particularly interested in the daily street value of the 416 microphone, as I have ended up with a pile of them from R&D efforts. I’m interested in how the sale of counterfeits  and other marketplace factors effects the mic’s value. So I’ve been following the sellers of fake 416s on ebay for a couple of years. And my fascination with the affair led to me buying my own counterfeit 416, just to get my hands on one, and test it, compare it, and follow the seller’s trail through an ebay purchase. Down the rabbit hole I go!

A quick review of everything we know about spotting a fake Sennheiser MKH416:

They are typically sold on ebay from sellers in China. The box is the old-style blue striped Sennheiser Box. The plastic case often has the blue “Sennheiser” painted poorly. The label on the box may have the “U3″ inverted to “3U”  The foam windscreen is squarely cut and looks cheap. See photos below.

Fake 416 Windscreen

Fake 416 Windscreen with its chopped off head…

DSCN1624

Many have said this case paint job is sloppy. This one looks pretty good.

Rusted staples on the manual, WTF?

Rusted staples on the manual, WTF?

Shipping manifest from "Bill"

Shipping manifest from “Bill” over in Hong Kong

These titled photos are being sent to eBay along with the return authorization

These titled photos are being sent to eBay along with the return authorization

I've been alerting eBay about these auctions for months. This time, I'm the buyer!

As an observer, I’ve been alerting eBay about these auctions for months. This time, I’m the buyer!

Spelling errors in the manual

Spelling errors in the manual

More spelling errors

More spelling errors

Fake box label. The early fakes had the U3 inverted. They've since fixed that.

Fake box label

Fake 416's come in this colored box. -Pretty dog eared. The inventory's probably been moved around quite a bit

Fake 416’s come in this colored box. -Pretty dog eared. The inventory’s probably been moved around quite a bit

Here’s some internal construction photos of a fake 416 (top) and a real 416(below)

Fake top, real bottom.  The interior probably came off their production line for vape pens.

Fake top, real bottom. The inside assembly look straight from a mass production line for electric vape cigarettes.

Teardown, Fake top, real bottom. Fake is an electret condenser design.

Teardown, Fake top, real bottom. Fake is an electret condenser design.

The fakes have none of the RF suppression properties of the real thing. They will noise-up around plug-on transmitters and walkie-talkies.  The output is about 3db lower than the genuine. (compensated for in the above sound file.) The painted lettering on the mic’s side is uneven and the letters are taller than the originals. The “Made in Germany” insignia is roughly stamped,  unlike the authentic mic.

Oh, and they sound very similar, if not almost just like the real thing. Did I mention that its very difficult to to tell the two apart by ear? Well, it is.  Anyone purchasing one of these fakes who didn’t know any better (like a student, amateur docmentartian or a wedding photographer) would be very happy with it.

The fake sounds miles better than the noisy 416 wannabe Aputure DIety. Those guys could learn a thing or two from our counterfeit friends. Much simpler design, too. See Rastop’s cool teardown video of a fake below. (He’s Gotham Sound’s repair technician). We immediately see that the build quality of the circuit board is pretty nasty.  The FET and 1 gigohm resistor indicate a passive electret capsule is mounted above the circuit board.

I see no need to replicate Rastop’s efforts. I’ll soon be making my ebay refund request, and I want to keep the sellers from making a damage claim. And if ebay’s policies follow through, or the seller responds negatively,  I may be able to keep the mic anyway, like a war trophy.

Some details on the counterfeiters:

The ebay auctions will always describe the 416 as “99% new”, or even “90% new”, as they feel this exempts them from having to respond to counterfeit claims.

The current (June 2017) ebay seller’s ID is vpower.hk8 or emma2012g.

They also have an alternate ID of w3vpower.hk 

The seller seems to be a Chinese company that makes parts/batteries for electric bicycles. 

They sell bicycle parts, kitchen utensils, hello kitty ice cube trays, camera filters and fake Sennhieser mics on their ebay seller pages.
 
The company’s web address is http://www.vpower.hk
 
They provide phone, email, and physical address info on their site. Email: contact_us@vpower.hk
Phone: +852 98199088
Address:
1st Floor, 12 Unit, A Building
Yupi Industry
Dongcheng Street,
Yongkang City
Zhe Jiang,China
The individual who handles the paypal account calls himself Tin Hung Lam and gives an email address of in31amp@outlook.com
The fake microphones are currently shipped from (probably a showroom)
HOCO Technology Limited
Room A 10/F Tower A Billion Centre
1 Wang Kwong Road
Kowloon Bay , Kowloon Hong Kong
Tel 00852-36102558
Email borofonebilll@hotmail.com
HOCO Technology is a firm in Shenzhen who makes a wide variety of products and mobile phone parts. More info about them at their homepage and at this supplier aggregator site. 
authored by Pete Verrando

Repairing a Broken Lectrosonics SMA Elbow Whip Antenna

leamj23The Lectrosonics Elbow, or jointed whip antenna, has been the subject of some concern since their introduction with the SRa and subsequent rise in popularity. The pin in the antenna’s connector has a tendency to become detached internally from the elbow, breaking the connection between receiver and antenna.

Damn it! Another one!

The problem can go unnoticed, because Lectro’s diversity reception receivers have two antennas, and the opposite antenna  keeps the receiver working well most of the time. Eventually, the broken pin falls out, which can take a long time from the initial break. This visual indication is often the user’s only sign that the antenna is broken.  Of course, if the antenna is used on a  transmitter, and the results would be immediately apparent. However, the elbow antenna couldn’t have been intended to work on a transmitter worn by an actor. Why? The elbow exposes the antenna conductor, which can come in contact with the talent’s skin and sweat, severely de-tuning the antenna and possibly reducing range dramatically.  Not to mention, in stabbing into the talent’s backside, or stuffed in a pocket the elbow joint could be subject to subject to enough tourque to break the pin.

Lectrosonics has addressed this issue with testing of their jointed antennas, intentionally applying stress to the structure, and exploring means of strengthening the build. Their last announcement stated that 20 pounds of torque was required to break the connection. Therefore, the only reason they should break is due to abusive treatment. I suggest the break develops over time, as a result of reasonable, regular field use.

Apparently, Lectrosonics and/or their dealers have selectively been providing free-of-charge replacement antennas to those who bring in their broken units. My inquiry to the Lectro home office regarding the 8 or 10 broken units in my possession was met with “warranty limitation” issues. They explained that my antennas were over a year old, and therefore were no longer under warranty. I would have to buy new antennas at about $40 a piece.

After buying replacement whips (and abandoning the elbow antennas entirely), and also being somewhat of a DIY-er, I went about building my own whip antennas, using SMA connectors and steel antenna cable. Success came soon enough, but in toying with my handful of broken Lectrosonics Elbow Antennas, I wondered,  can a repair be possible?

Possibly… Here’s what happened next.

You’ll need to be good a soldering. Also have a small, table top vice. You’ll also need a Dremel tool with a miniscule drill bit (the kind for drilling circuit boards).  A Dremel sanding/cutting disc. A big pair of Vice-Grips. A small allen wrench. Good wire cutters. A means of measuring a few mm accurately. Some thick, solid tinned wire, like from a 1 watt resistor.

Use Thick WIre like from a 1 watt resistor. Don't use thin wire, like from a 1/4 watt resistor

Use Thick WIre like from a 1 watt resistor. Don’t use thin wire, like from a 1/4 watt resistor

Have good eyesight or wear some headworn magnifiers.  You’ll need supply of pins from virgin SMA connectors from the various sources that sell these things. The Chinese ones are pretty cheap, Try www.aliexpress.com. For this project,  all you’ll need are the center pins that are included with the SMAs. For experimentation, I ordered 50 of them, in many different cable-size configurations. Most of the pins are the same from one kind of SMA to another. Use the pins that look like the ones in the photos, below. P1020672

P10206491. Plug in your soldering iron, dummy. P1020651

2.Remove the screw from the broken Lectrosonics antenna and remove the whip. There will be one or two washers in there, and a bunch of dirt and crap to clean. save all of it for reassembly later. P1020652

3. Clamp the SMA screw-on nut in the vice grips like so. Do not over tension, or you’ll squash the damn thing. P1020653

4. Insert an allen wrench (or something)  through the holes for the screw. This gives you some purchase on the center assembly to pull it out of the connector body. P1020654

5. With the vice-grip in one hand and the allen wrench in the other, pull the two pieces apart, like you are un-corking a bottle of wine. Pull!  P1020655

P1020663

My solder is not black, it just looks that way in this pic.

6. Insert the antenna top-piece in the vice, broken-pin-area facing up. ( I call this the spud). Use your Dremel tool with a circuit-board drill bit to create a hole in the top of the spud where the old pin broke off.P1020657 Make it as deep as you can, say 1/8 inch. Steady hands!                                Make sure the hole stays in the center of the spud.  Tin the hole with some solder. Use a little too much solder, its ok. You’ll file off the excess later (below).

7. Remove the top piece from the vice, set aside, and Insert your thick wire (like from the 1 watt resistor) in the vice. Slide the new SMA pin over the wire. Solder the pin to the wire. Make a damn good connection. P1020660

8. Measure at least 10.40 mm from the top of the pin and cut the thick wire at that point. This length may vary, depending on how deep a hole you drilled in the spud previously. Regardless, the tip of the new pin should end up 10.30 mm away from where the old pin broke off the spud. Thats .403 inches.  Cut and trim the thick wire so the pin-tip arrives at this length. File down the cut point to smooth and round, OK?

9. Put your drilled spud back in the vice. Insert the pin/wire combo into the hole in the spud. Again, make sure the distance from the tip of the pin to where the pin broke off is 10.30mm.P1020662

10. Holding the pin up straight in the spud, solder the wire to the spud. Solder gets weaker and shitty-er the longer it stays hot, so quickly solder up a damn good connection between the pin, wire, and spud. The thick wire will add some flexibility, length and integrity to the connection. Test the strength of the solder job, but don’t bend the shit out of it in testing!  The wire will be thick enough to allow you to push top assembly back into the SMA housing, without smashing or bending the wire in the process. P1020664

11. file or grind the excess solder around the joints. Don’t over grind, just make it level with the thickness of the spud. P1020665

P1020668

Dangerously close to drug paraphenalia and jewelry making.

12. Insert your pin assembly into the SMA base and use the Vice -Grip to push it all the way in. There should be a fair amount of resistance from the white plastic surround, which is good. As Batman said to Robin, “Push it all the way in, and don’t let it fall out.”P1020669

P102067113. Make sure the new pin doesn’t protrude from the face of the SMA nut . A little is ok. If the pin protrudes too much, It will run out of receptacle on the receiver. If it came out too long anyway, you can still grind it down level with the SMA nut. If you have to grind it shorter, round it out a little, too, ok? So the pin can “find” its way into the hole. Nuff said.

14 Do a continuity test between the pin and the elbow. Should be a half-ohm or less. No continuity? You fucked up! The solder connections were bad and broke when you pushed the assembly in.

15. Take a big swig of an alcoholic beverage of your choice. (Like I am doing right now). Repeat the process on your other broken Lectrosonics SMA elbow antennas, or just buy new ones. Or ask for a trade-in at LSC, like I heard some have done. I’m not that popular. But I am tenacious.

How long will your repair job last? I don’t know.  Probably as long as the new Lectro units did, maybe longer. Ask about the warranty before you proceed. For fun, educational purposes only.

I would test periodically for continuity between the pin and the elbow.

Coming soon: how I made my own SMA whip antennas

-by Pete Verrando

SMU Audio Professor “Terrible Ted”

     Back when I was an undergrad at Southern Methodist University (1979-1982), there existed a ruthless, seething, grey-skinned, chain-smoking, Korean-War-veteran audio professor named Ted Gardner. Ted was about 60 years old at the time, and typically stood a head shorter than anyone in the room.
     Ted’s classes were not only meant to teach audio (by the driest, most uninteresting means possible), but also designed to weed-out students who were not serious about filmmaking and broadcasting. Ted would unhesitatingly fail those who turned in late work or could not pass written exams. Some students re-took his Basic Audio class 2 or 3 times before earning a passing grade.  He lectured while sitting behind his desk, reading verbatim from the text , while smoking Carlton 100’s, (Easily the most vile brand of the day, but also the lowest in tar and nicotine). Ted would also bum smokes from us students, insisting on paying us a nickel per cig. His eyes would wince, and his face scrunched up as he sucked the juice out of every puff, the sputter and crackle heard through the room.
     He was also my college advisor, with regular meetings on Wednesdays.
“How ya doin’, Ted?”
“My doctor told me either I quit smoking, or I die.”
“Oh yeah? How’s your kids?.”
Mind-blowing it was to imagine being one of Ted Gardner’s children.
    In his tiny, cluttered office, under the desk- he kept hidden the school’s pair of Neumann KM84’s microphones and their lunch-box power supplies, to be loaned out only to the Advanced Audio students for their final projects. 
Entry-level students made-do with the head-beaten Electro-voice RE-15’s. Regardless, you could make some very impressive recordings with those mics and an Ampex AG500 reel-to-reel.AG500
     Much of my student pocket-money was earned in the midnight hours at the Steak and Egg Kitchen, across from Virginia Hall at SMU. I tutored jocks and co-eds to pass Ted’s final exams, $10 per wee-morning-hour. The Egg’s jukebox was filled mostly with the country hits of the day, except selection 1A, which strangely had no title card. One night we gambled a quarter to hear what 1A was hiding.  Like so much spilled eggs and flour on the napkin dispensers, out flowed David Bowie’s “Changes.” Oh, wow.steakandegg
     Ted set my career course for-life,  by assigning me an internship at Sumet-Bernet Studios in Dallas, then the epi-center of the world’s jingle production business.  I worked under John Mayfield,  who now runs the premier mastering facility in Nashville, Mayfield Mastering.
Before he died, Ted had contributed his tar-soaked voice to a track from the band Course of Empire, some of whom were SMU students. 
    The band’s tracks are pretty impressive, especially coming from musicians who were educated at Southern Methodist University, somewhat of a trust-fund bubble-campus.
Band-member Mike Graff reminisces about his memories of Uncle Ted and the Course of Empire recordings here. His description brought back a flood of memories.
The track containing Ted’s narration can be heard below:

     To this day, I carry a little Ted Gardner to every sound job. And I never forget about those Fletcher-Munson Curves.   They gave the illusion of credibility to the misnomer Audio Engineer.
fletcher_munson
by Pete Verrando

Sennheiser T-power upgrade to 48 volt phantom is here.

www.416Tupgrade.com

The Sennheiser T-Power upgrade to 48 volt phantom website is now on-line. There is now a further means to eliminate T-power barrel adaptors and T-power battery supplies from your kit. Like the Schoeps CMC4 upgrade, our service allows the Sennheiser 416T “family” of RF condenser microphones to operate directly from 48 volt phantom power.

After requesting and receiving an order form from 416Tupgrade.com, include it with your microphone and ship to the address on the form. Turn-around time is typically 5 days. Please visit the site for further details on having your 416T shotgun upgraded to 48V phantom power. Thanks to all the intrepid sound mixers who fearlessly let me take their Sennys “under the knife, ” as we hashed out a robust and reliable conversion process for upgrading T-power shotguns to phantom power.

Happy New Year!  -Pete Verrando

Sennheiser 416T upgrade to 48 volt phantom power

some of our prototype microphones for the 416T 48v phantom upgrade.

Zoom F8 backup bag rig

I’m pairing up the Zoom F8 recorder with my size-modified Lectrosonics Venue Field receiver. See txsound’s Venue mod for details on how I trimmed about 1″ of thickness off that box for potential bag use.

The actual bag is a Canon 1EG camera gadget bag, about $64. (Don’t hate on me, K-Tek)

I created a little “front box” for easy access to transmitters and other stuff.  Before it gets used for anything serious, I want to run it through its paces as a backup to my Fusion rig. There’s always a lot to learn about the peculiarities of a new recorder.\

F8 bag rig and Deva Fusion rig

 

txsound zoom f8 venue bag

Sennheiser 416T upgrades offered Septemberish 2015

 

416Tupgradepic1

We’ve had many Schoeps CMC4 owners use our 48 volt phantom upgrade service to free themselves from cumbersome T-Power barrels and power supplies. This led to inquiries as to the possibility of upgrading the venerable Sennheiser 416T shotgun to 48V phantom power. After a more than a few willing 416T owners subjected their mics to our electronic musings, we’ve worked out a solid process for converting 416, 415, 815 and 816 T powered Sennheisers to 48 volt phantom. There’s business/website/details to be worked out, and we are looking to get things up and running by September’s end.  As seen in the photo above, the 416T will be branded with a thick aluminum, weather resistant PH48 label to remind users of the  48V phantom upgrade. The cost of the 416T upgrade is still being examined.   As with the Schoeps upgrade, the 416T will perform exactly as it did prior to the upgrade. Sennheiser’s proven RF design- providing immunity from RF or humidity- will remain intact.

Obviously, there will be additional circuitry added to the 416T interior that is not a part of a factory-issued 416.

Just one of the many versions of the 416's interior circuitry

Just one of the many versions of the 416’s interior circuitry

 

An important consideration is servicing after the upgrade.  Service issues that arise on upgraded mics must be handled through us. If the issue does not rest with the phantom upgrade, further service may be required by Sennheiser, which we are prepared to facilitate.

Like the Schoeps upgrade, each 416T will be tested prior to, and after upgrading, with before/after test recordings, serial numbers and condition photos kept on file.

If you are reading this, you already know about hassle of using T-Power barrels in location sound work.  They are cumbersome and ill-fitting on the cart or in the bag. Those additional XLRs between mixer, jumpers, boompole and mic invite connection trouble and grounding issues. Accidentally connecting other mics to T-Power inputs invites disaster.  Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 6.08.29 AM

 

Consider retiring your T-power barrel adaptors and power supplies.  We are looking at offering a tag-along service to convert those old T-power adaptors into  attenuators…. perhaps very useful when interfacing with the Arri Amira, which has non-standard line level inputs. ( Gawd- not more barrels!)

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 8.39.51 PM

If you don’t own a 416, now may be the time to scan ebay or your favorite vendors used equipment listings, as 416T’s can be found for very good prices.

By Pete Verrando

Debtors: David Ross of Mpressive Films, and Delano Bryant “Gibraltar Pacific” ?

A scourge of hellish vanity film production-destruction descended on our fair city a couple of years ago.  Enter and sign-in, please: Mark David Ross, dba Mpressive Films.rosspic1

I was, admittedly, suckered in. After 26 years of production mixing, I thought I’d learned to spot the occasional con-artist. I’ve also learned to be wary of last minute, day-before production calls. But somehow, as I was in the midst of a separate, 70-day job that kept pushing its start date, I failed to spot these beggars among thieves:  A con-artist, represented by a bench-warmer producer, supposedly referred to me by a friend, for a last-minute, day-before call, who BEGGED me to take the job, calling me back even after I first turned it down.  The producer was Franklin Delano Bryant.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.27.23 PM

Nice selfie, Del. Pretty bad-ass dye job on the goatee.

Bryant seems to be perpetually pitching low-budget projects, or shooting wedding video, or real estate video listings on a Canon 5D. Virtually everybody I’ve asked in the DFW film production crew base has never heard of him, or his internet placeholder Gibraltar Pacific Productions.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 6.24.55 PM

Well, as most normal folks tend to chalk these things up to bad Karma or whatever, I pursued the pair in court, if nothing else, just to see what would happen next. As a sole-provider of a family of 4, I admittedly get a little hot-under-the-collar when I’m not paid for a completed gig.

True story: about 20 years ago, a producer was about a year late in paying our crew. On an impulse, I took a mechanics lien of sorts, using his camera as collateral. This produced terrific results. I was immediately escorted by his accountant to the nearest ATM. At the time, little did I (or he) know,  that I was committing a felony.  Ah, the impertinence of youth!

Tough to collect on lawyer commercials in the late ’90’s. I could write a book

I easily obtained a judgment  on both Del and Ross in small claims court, to the tune of about $2500, (including court and process server costs, and a 5% per- year increase). Of course, a judgment doesn’t mean you should expect to be paid.  But, there are various remedies to be pursued: writs of execution and garnishment, liberal use of collection agencies, credit reporting on the debtor, and generally being a pain-in-the-ass to the poor fellows, which I like to do between gigs, or whenever I feel like it. Like now, for instance.judgment pic

Ross was particularly hard to find, as he does his fly-by-night act pretty well. The last judgment I found on him, for over $10000, shows that he uses at least four home addresses.Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.54.42 PM

 He has over 30 dba’s in Dallas county, and even uses his 23 year-old son (facebook link) as a signee on some of them. Since he did this with Mpressive Films, I had to sue his son, as much as I would have liked to leave the poor boy out of the picture.

Delano Bryant was very easy to find, as this man, in his 50’s, still lived at home with his Mom & Dad. I served a writ of execution on him at the house, (which really pissed off his 84 year old Dad- they share the same name. It turned out that Del has no real assets in his own name.  Despite the house having 3 or 4 vehicles and a Harley and a pimped-out pickup truck, they were all owned in title by his parents or his siblings. He told the Constable that he was unemployed, and had no personal assets of any kind. But his family is willing to tote-the-note on his shiny truck and motorcycle. Hard times, Del? Not great marriage material.

Anyway the story is not nearly over, as I have several more surprises for this pair of malcontents. My real work as a sound mixer keeps me a little too busy to turn the screws on these two on a regular basis. But, a judgment lasts 10 years in Texas, and is renewable. Maybe I’ll take it up as my hobby when I retire.

We eventually found Ross living with his son and a momfriend (as opposed to a girlfriend) in a hovel, nestled in a sketchy south Dallas neighborhood. It’s actually not his Official Address;  for that, he uses his real Mom’s house. Notice a pattern?

This was kind of funny, since he is fond of telling folks he lives in affluent Highland Park, Texas.  Like he does here on the Stage 32 website:Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.48.38 PM

 

Anyway, as Ross is now easily found, It’s hard not to pay the guy a visit now and then. David calls the police pretty quickly when confronted. He also tends to spin some tall tales when backed into a corner. So after my visit a couple of months ago, and David’s inevitable 911 call, I couldn’t help but create a little mash-up video of my visit and the 911 call.  So here it is. Enjoy, and look for the next episode, coming whenever I feel like it! Of course, they could just pay the bill, and I’ll hit the delete key. But I think David and Del must be gluttons for punishment.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 4.04.19 PM

1975 Pachinko Machine goes Digital

In the 1970’s America, Pachinko Machines were all the rage as millions were imported from Japan. These were the used, dated machines from Japanese Pachinko parlors. The U.S. was an eager consumer of these old machines, placed under Christmas trees and in game rooms, family rooms and “dens.”  Does anybody still have a den?

Pachinko machines of this vintage require no electricity to operate, unless you want a lightbulb to flash during the payout; it takes a 9 volt battery.  All the mechanical features are powered by the gravitational weight of the pachinko balls. The machines are incredibly durable; Parlor operators in Japan routinely hosed down the machines with water and scrubbed the playing fields with straw brushes.

Modern Pachinko machines are flush with LCD screens, LEDs, loud digital soundtracks and powered ball launchers. They typically promote some movie or product. But who wants one of those garish billboards in their home? And when the power is off, they sulk like Space Odyssey’s monolith.

We found this machine for $20 at a flea market. There’s so many of these still sitting in Americas’ attics, that they don’t fetch more than $75, even in working condition. Some of the original machines from the ’20’s and 30’s will command a high price, however. And by today’s standards, the entertainment value is questionable, however quaint the operation.

We got the basic machine working quickly enough, but it soon became apparent that this device is ripe for some “electrification.”  There’s definitely may “trigger” points that can be used to execute effects- lighting, sound, and motors.  Here’s a rough video demonstration:

HOW WE DID IT:

Electrical triggers harnessed to the sound and light sources:

1. The ball “cannon”- every time its fired, or how far it is drawn back makes an electrical contact

2. The levers that move when a payout occurs trigger a microswitch

3. The rejected balls falling into their reservoir fall against a trip switch

There’s more, but multiply the above 3 by four or 5 sounds and light actions, and you have 15 or more “changes” that can occur during play.  Relays were used to command multiple triggers and keep high voltages off the trigger contacts.

Drilling through the back of the playing field allowed us to insert the LEDs from a string of Christmas lights, that are controlled by the included sequencer. The sequence changes with every payout, or gradually steps through the 8 patterns when nothing else is happening. Note: drilling the playfield creates sawdust and plastic shavings that get in the ball pathways. These all have to be carefully cleaned. The light string had 50 LEDs. Half shine through the playing field, and the other half illuminate from behind the machine.  There is also a separate, small set of lights behind the glass panel door.

Various contact triggers were installed at the ball cannon lever, the ball return reservoir, and the payout assembly. A four-track digital audio recorder/player board from electronics123.com was employed, and rigged to the triggers. A second, simpler audio recorder/player, fed by a microphone, was installed for the payout sound, to allow the user to customize the message when the payout occurs. This could be a quaint holiday message, or in my case, me screaming “Bonzai!”

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 10.31.40 AM

“Upgraded” 1970’s Pachinko machine under construction

Various power supplies were required to power the audio boards, lights and motor for the spinning feature. The spinner doesn’t really do anything, it was just easy to implement, and added some appeal. The face of each spinner was given a colorful new look courtesy of my inkjet printer and some photo paper.  Lots of wire, soldering, hot glue, etc.

All the power supplies were tied into a mechanical electric timer assembly, that powers up the whole affair and also shuts it off after about an hour.

Who can take this thing for more than a few minutes, anyway? For Sale……

By Pete Verrando

www.txsound.comwww.cmc4upgrade.com

 

 

To the guy who envies my job in TV

Well, I speak for myself, but production can be the most utterly tedious process imaginable. Extreme hours, within a 12 hour day(minimum), one may actually “work” less than half the time, the rest of the time spent waiting to work. Other days are techno-slams. So, one’s engagement often switches away from the actual craft, and more to the social dynamics of a traveling band of heroes and misfits. Of course, these days, crews spend less time being social and more time tapping smartphones. It is often a fireman’s job, going from boring, rudimentary tasks, to suddenly faced with baffling problems involving things like sweaty people, jewelry, paper bags, radio propagation, flaming egos, dirt, animal shit or microelectronics, all while the “grownups” breathe down your neck as you solve them.  Set-life can be very much like junior high school- rampant insecurity, arrogance, hierarchal selection, misplaced wealth or privilege, ego, mind games,  and an all-time major dedication to Looking Good, Being Right, and Staying In Control.  Entertainment industry divorce rate is among the highest of any profession. Many voluntarily leave the film business. Stay too long, and the film business leaves you. What did Hunter S Thompson say about the TV business?

 

The above being said, as a mixer without anywhere near the credentials of these Hollywood sound giants that lurk here, I do love the job.  I embrace the insanity, every day is like visiting a circus/asylum, and I get to go home to my fams at the end of most days.

-Pete Verrando

rathbone

Battery Technology Engineer warns against re-celling Li-ion

In my quest for some NP-1 re-celling services, My internet machine stumbled upon rathboneenergy.com. My inquiry yielded this reply:

“Hello Pete. Thank you for your email.

1st. Do NOT EVER refill, recell or rebuild ANY Lithium Ion battery. Unlike the amateurs in franchise battery companies or with fake images of their facility, I am/was a professional value added battery assembler for 23 years. Besides the extreme danger to the technician and end user in recelling Lithium Ion batteries, these idiots do not know to consider component fatigue among many other issues. With the NP1 there is also the damage to the contacts which have a tension built into them.”

Despite this company’s webpages being a confusing deluge of information, irrelevant links, politics and other ramblings, there seemed to be some evidence of engineering expertise in the field of battery technology for TV production. Rathbone’s had a booth at NAB in past years. I recall seeing his battery products on shoots over the years.

After spending 30 minutes looking for an email address on the website, I finally found one hidden in a downloadable pdf resume, after which I emailed my inquiry about re-celling NP-1 lithium-ion battery packs.

Rathbone's booth at NAB 2006

Rathbone’s booth at NAB 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well… It turns out the company has gone (or been forced) out of business. The website remains as a placemarker, tribute, and resume.   But my eyes had glazed over to the point that I missed that crucial bit of information.

Nevertheless, Mr Ron Rathbone personally returned my inquiry with a 300 word broadcast battery manifesto of sorts; a tale of destruction by way of his customers,  armed robbers, politicians, and, to a lesser extent, the climate in Michigan.

Anyway, Mr. Rathbone offers the above very ominous warning, plus:

“…..in 2008, because of lithium ion, I was forced to do as the broadcast battery suppliers and go overseas to have them manufactured. To custom weld lithium ion is TOO dangerous. You must have automated assembly line to weld these cells into packs and China is the only place. So, No Matter what brand you purchase they are really manufactured in China despite what you may be told.”

from the website….Rathbone’s “no frills facility, staff at
work.”

Ritterbattery.com has been successfully re-celling our NP1 Li-ions of late. I have to wonder what Mr. Ritter thinks of Rathbone’s warning…. I’ll forward it to him and see what he says.

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 10.19.03 PMAre IDX batteries made in China? The batteries themselves say “Made In Japan.”  I imagine Varizoom’s batteries probably are made in China. You can pop those suckers open with a nail file. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 10.21.58 PMRathbone is a pretty deep, interesting cat, a survivor of severe hospital malpractice and 4X bypass surgery ,among other life challenges. He tells of his life-after-death experience on his blog site energyplus.com.

-Pete Verrando