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Video Encoding in Simple Terms

Video Encoding in Simple Terms
Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine a field of human activity, in which, in one way or another, digital video has not entered. We watch it on TV, mobile devices, and stationary computers; we record it with digital cameras ourselves, or we encounter it on the roads (unpleasant, but true), in stores, hospitals, schools and universities, and in industrial enterprises of various profiles. As a consequence, words and terms that are directly related to the digital representation of video information are becoming more firmly and widely embedded in our lives. From time to time, questions arise in this area. What are the differences between various devices or programs that we use to encode/ decode digital video data, and what do they do? Which of these devices/ programs are better or worse, and in which aspects? What do all these endless MPEG-2, H.264 / AVC, VP9, H.265 / HEVC, etc. mean? Let’s try to understand.

A very brief historical reference

The first generally accepted video compression standard MPEG-2 was finally adopted in 1996, after which a rapid development of digital satellite television began. The next standard was MPEG-4 part 10 (H.264 / AVC), which provides twice the degree of video data compression. It was adopted in 2003, which led to the development of DVB-T/ C systems, Internet TV and the emergence of a variety of video sharing and video communication services. From 2010 to 2013, the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC) was intensively working to create the next video compression standard, which was called High Efficient Video Coding (HEVC) by the developers; it ensured the following twofold increase in the compression ratio of digital video data. This standard was approved in 2013. That same year, the VP9 standard, developed by Google, was adopted, which was supposed to not yield to HEVC in its degree of video data compression.

Basic stages of video encoding

There are a few simple ideas at the core of algorithms for video data compression. If we take some part of an image (in the MPEG-2 and AVC standards this part is called a macroblock), then there is a big possibility that, near this segment in this frame or in neighboring frames, there will be a segment containing a similar image, which differs little in pixel intensity values. Thus, to transmit information about the image in the current segment, it is enough to only transfer its difference from the previously encoded similar segment. The process of finding similar segments among previously encoded images is called Prediction. A set of difference values that determine the difference between the current segment and the found prediction is called the Residual. Here we can distinguish two main types of prediction. In the first one, the Prediction values represent a set of linear combinations of pixels adjacent to the current image segment on the left and on the top. This type of prediction is called Intra Prediction. In the second one, linear combinations of pixels of similar image segments from previously encoded frames are used as prediction (these frames are called Reference). This type of prediction is called Inter Prediction. To restore the image of the current segment, encoded with Inter prediction, when decoding, it is necessary to have information about not only the Residual, but also the frame number, where a similar segment is located, and the coordinates of this segment.
Residual values obtained during prediction obviously contain, on average, less information than the original image and, therefore, require a fewer quantity of bits for image transmission. To further increase the degree of compression of video data in video coding systems, some spectral transformation is used. Typically, this is Fourier cosine transform. Such transformation allows us to select the fundamental harmonics in two-dimensional Residual signal. Such a selection is made at the next stage of coding — quantization. The sequence of quantized spectral coefficients contains a small number of main, large values. The remaining values are very likely to be zero. As a result, the amount of information contained in quantized spectral coefficients is significantly (dozens of times) lower than in the original image.
In the next stage of coding, the obtained set of quantized spectral coefficients, accompanied by the information necessary for performing prediction when decoding, is subjected to entropy coding. The bottom line here is to align the most common values of the encoded stream with the shortest codeword (containing the smallest number of bits). The best compression ratio (close to theoretically achievable) at this stage is provided by arithmetic coding algorithms, which are mainly used in modern video compression systems.
From the above, the main factors affecting the effectiveness of a particular video compression system become apparent. First of all, these are, of course, the factors that determine the effectiveness of the Intra and Inter Predictions. The second set of factors is related to the orthogonal transformation and quantization, which selects the fundamental harmonics in the Residual signal. The third one is determined by the volume and compactness of the representation of additional information accompanying Residual and necessary for making predictions, that is, calculating Prediction, in the decoder. Finally, the fourth set has the factors that determine the effectiveness of the final stage- entropy coding.
Let’s illustrate some possible options (far from all) of the implementation of the coding stages listed above, on the example of H.264 / AVC and HEVC.

AVC Standard

In the AVC standard, the basic structural unit of the image is a macroblock — a square area of 16x16 pixels (Figure 1). When searching for the best possible prediction, the encoder can select one of several options of partitioning each macroblock. With Intra-prediction, there are three options: perform a prediction for the entire block as a whole, break the macroblock into four square blocks of 8x8 size, or into 16 blocks with a size of 4x4 pixels, and perform a prediction for each such block independently. The number of possible options of macroblock partitioning under Inter-prediction is much richer (Figure 1), which provides adaptation of the size and position of the predicted blocks to the position and shape of the object boundaries moving in the video frame.
Fig 1. Macroblocks in AVC and possible partitioning when using Inter-Prediction.
In AVC, pixel values from the column to the left of the predicted block and the row of pixels immediately above it are used for Intra prediction (Figure 2). For blocks of sizes 4x4 and 8x8, 9 methods of prediction are used. In a prediction called DC, all calculated pixels have a single value equal to the arithmetic average of the “neighbor pixels” highlighted in Fig. 2 with a bold line. In other modes, “angular” prediction is performed. In this case, the values of the “neighbor pixels” are placed inside the predicted block in the directions indicated in Fig. 2.
In the event that the predicted pixel gets between “neighbor pixels”, when moving in a given direction, an interpolated value is used for the prediction. For blocks with a size of 16x16 pixels, 4 methods of prediction are used. One of them is the DC-prediction, which was already reviewed. The other two correspond to the “angular” methods, with the directions of prediction 0 and 1. Finally, the fourth — Plane-prediction: the values of the predicted pixels are determined by the equation of the plane. The angular coefficients of the equation are determined by the values of the “neighboring pixels”.
Fig 2. “Neighboring pixels” and angular modes of Intra-Prediction in AVC
Inter- Prediction in AVC can be implemented in one of two ways. Each of these options determines the type of macroblock (P or B). As a prediction of pixel values in P-blocks (Predictive-blocks), the values of pixels from the area located on the previously coded (reference) image, are used. Reference images are not deleted from the RAM buffer, containing decoded frames (decoded picture buffer, or DPB), as long as they are needed for Inter-prediction. A reference list is created in the DPB from the indexes of these images.
The encoder signals to the decoder about the number of the reference image in the list and about the offset of the area used for prediction, with respect to the position of predicted block (this displacement is called motion vector). The offset can be determined with an accuracy of ¼ pixel. In case of prediction with non-integer offset, interpolation is performed. Different blocks in one image can be predicted by areas located on different reference images.
In the second option of Inter Prediction, prediction of the B-block pixel values (bi-predictive block), two reference images are used; their indexes are placed in two lists (list0 and list1) in the DPB. The two indexes of reference images in the lists and two offsets, that determine positions of reference areas, are transmitted to the decoder. The B-block pixel values are calculated as a linear combination of pixel values from the reference areas. For non-integer offsets, interpolation of reference image is used.
As already mentioned, after predicting the values of the encoded block and calculating the Residual signal, the next coding step is spectral transformation. In AVC, there are several options for orthogonal transformations of the Residual signal. When Intra-prediction of a whole macroblock with a size of 16x16 is implemented, the residual signal is divided into 4x4 pixel blocks; each of them is subjected to an integer analog of discrete two-dimensional 4x4 cosine Fourier transform.
The resulting spectral components, corresponding to zero frequency (DC) in each block, are then subjected to additional orthogonal Walsh-Hadamard transform. With Inter-prediction, the Residual signal is divided into blocks of 4x4 pixels or 8x8 pixels. Each block is then subjected to a 4x4 or 8x8 (respectively) two-dimensional discrete cosine Fourier Transform (DCT, from Discrete Cosine Transform).
In the next step, spectral coefficients are subjected to the quantization procedure. This leads to a decrease in bit capacity of digits representing the spectral sample values, and to a significant increase in the number of samples having zero values. These effects provide compression, i.e. reduce the number and bit capacity of digits representing the encoded image. The reverse side of quantization is the distortion of the encoded image. It is clear that the larger the quantization step, the greater is the compression ratio, but also the distortion is greater.
The final stage of encoding in AVC is entropy coding, implemented by the algorithms of Context Adaptive Binary Arithmetic Coding. This stage provides additional compression of video data without distortion in the encoded image.

Ten years later. HEVC standard: what’s new?

The new H.265/HEVC standard is the development of methods and algorithms for compressing video data embedded in H.264/AVC. Let’s briefly review the main differences.
An analog of a macroblock in HEVC is the Coding Unit (CU). Within each block, areas for calculation of Prediction are selected — Prediction Unit (PU). Each CU also specifies the limits within which the areas for calculating the discrete orthogonal transformation from the residual signal are selected. These areas are called the Transform Unit (TU).
The main distinguishing feature of HEVC here is that the split of a video frame into CU is conducted adaptively, so that it is possible to adjust the CU boundaries to the boundaries of objects on the image (Figure 3). Such adaptability allows to achieve an exceptionally high quality of prediction and, as a consequence, a low level of the residual signal.
An undoubted advantage of such an adaptive approach to frame division into blocks is also an extremely compact description of the partition structure. For the entire video sequence, the maximum and minimum possible CU sizes are set (for example, 64x64 is the maximum possible CU, 8x8 is the minimum). The entire frame is covered with the maximum possible CUs, left to right, top-to-bottom.
It is obvious that, for such coverage, transmission of any information is not required. If partition is required within any CU, then this is indicated by a single flag (Split Flag). If this flag is set to 1, then this CU is divided into 4 CUs (with a maximum CU size of 64x64, after partitioning we get 4 CUs of size 32x32 each).
For each of the CUs received, a Split Flag value of 0 or 1 can, in turn, be transmitted. In the latter case, this CU is again divided into 4 CUs of smaller size. The process continues recursively until the Split Flag of all received CUs is equal to 0 or until the minimum possible CU size is reached. Inserted CUs thus form a quad tree (Coding Tree Units, CTU). As already mentioned, within each CU, areas for calculating prediction- Prediction Units (PU) are selected. With Intra Prediction, the CU area can coincide with the PU (2Nx2N mode) or it can be divided into 4 square PUs of twice smaller size (NxN mode, available only for CU of minimum size). With Inter Prediction, there are eight possible options for partitioning each CU into PUs (Figure 3).
Fig.3 Video frame partitioning into CUs is conducted adaptively
The idea of spatial prediction in HEVC remained the same as in AVC. Linear combinations of neighboring pixel values, adjacent to the block on the left and above, are used as predicted sample values in the PU block. However, the set of methods for spatial prediction in HEVC has become significantly richer. In addition to Planar (analogue to Plane in AVC) and DC methods, each PU can be predicted by one of the 33 ways of “angular” prediction. That is, the number of ways, in which the values are calculated by “neighbor”-pixels, is increased by 4 times.
Fig. 4. Possible partitioning of the Coding Unit into Prediction Units with the spatial (Intra) and temporary (Inter) CU prediction modes
We can point out two main differences of Inter- prediction between HEVC and AVC. Firstly, HEVC uses better interpolation filters (with a longer impulse response) when calculating reference images with non-integer offset. The second difference concerns the way the information about the reference area, required by the decoder for performing the prediction, is presented. In HEVC, a “merge mode” is introduced, where different PUs, with the same offsets of reference areas, are combined. For the entire combined area, information about motion (motion vector) is transmitted in the stream once, which allows a significant reduction in the amount of information transmitted.
In HEVC, the size of the discrete two-dimensional transformation, to which the Residual signal is subjected, is determined by the size of the square area called the Transform Unit (TU). Each CU is the root of the TU quad tree. Thus, the TU of the upper level coincides with the CU. The root TU can be divided into 4 parts of half the size, each of which, in turn, is a TU and can be further divided.
The size of discrete transformation is determined by the TU size of the lower level. In HEVC, transforms for blocks of 4 sizes are defined: 4x4, 8x8, 16x16, and 32x32. These transformations are integer analogs of the discrete two-dimensional Fourier cosine transform of corresponding size. For size 4x4 TU with Intra-prediction, there is also a separate discrete transformation, which is an integer analogue of the discrete sine Fourier transform.
The ideas of the procedure of quantizing spectral coefficients of Residual signal, and also entropy coding in AVC and in HEVC, are practically identical.
Let’s note one more point which was not mentioned before. The quality of decoded images and the degree of video data compression are influenced significantly by post-filtering, which decoded images with Inter-prediction undergo before they are placed in the DPB.
In AVC, there is one kind of such filtering — deblocking filter. Application of this filter reduces the block effect resulting from quantization of spectral coefficients after orthogonal transformation of Residual signal.
In HEVC, a similar deblocking filter is used. Besides, an additional non-linear filtering procedure called the Sample Adaptive Offset (SAO) exists. Based on the analysis of pixel value distribution during encoding, a table of corrective offsets, added to the values of a part of CU pixels during decoding, is determined.
In HEVC, the size of the discrete two-dimensional transformation, to which the Residual signal is subjected, is determined by the size of the square area called the Transform Unit (TU). Each CU is the quad-tree of TU’s. Thus, the TU of the upper level coincides with the CU. The root TU can be divided into 4 parts of half the size, each of which, in turn, is a TU and can be further divided.
The size of discrete transformation is determined by the TU size of the lower level. There are four transform block sizes in HEVC: 4x4, 8x8, 16x16, and 32x32. These transforms are discrete two-dimensional Fourier cosine transform of corresponding size. For 4x4 Intra-predicted blocks, could be used another discrete transform — sine Fourier transform.
The quantization of spectral coefficients of residual signal, and entropy coding in AVC and in HEVC, are almost identical.
Let’s note one more point which was not mentioned before. The quality of decoded images, hence the degree of video data compression, is influenced significantly by post-filtering, which applied on decoded Inter-predicted images before they are placed in the DPB.
In AVC, there is one kind of such filtering — deblocking filter. It masking blocking artifacts effect originating from spectral coefficients quantization after orthogonal transformation of residual signal.
In HEVC, a similar deblocking filter is used. Besides, an additional non-linear filtering procedure called the Sample Adaptive Offset (SAO) exists. Sample level correction is based either on local neighborhood or on the intensity level of sample itself. Table of sample level corrections, added to the values of a part of CU pixels during decoding, is determined.

And what is the result?

Figures 4–7 show the results of encoding of several high-resolution (HD) video sequences by two encoders. One of the encoders compresses the video data in the H.265/HEVC standard (marked as HM on all the graphs), and the second one is in the H.264/AVC standard.
Fig. 5. Encoding results of the video sequence Aspen (1920x1080 30 frames per second)
Fig. 6. Encoding results of the video sequence BlueSky (1920x1080 25 frames per second)
Fig. 7. Encoding results of the video sequence PeopleOnStreet (1920x1080 30 frames per second)
Fig. 8. Encoding results of the video sequence Traffic (1920x1080 30 frames per second)
Coding was performed at different quantization values of spectral coefficients, hence with different levels of video image distortion. The results are presented in Bitrate (mbps) — PSNR(dB) coordinates. PSNR values characterize the degree of distortion.
On average, it can be stated that the PSNR range below 36 dB corresponds to a high level of distortion, i.e. low quality video images. The range of 36 to 40 dB corresponds to the average quality. With PSNR values above 40 dB, we can call it a high video quality.
We can roughly estimate the compression ratio provided by the encoding systems. In the medium quality area, the bit rate provided by the HEVC encoder is about 1.5 times less than the bit rate of the AVC encoder. Bitrate of an uncompressed video stream is easily determined as the product of the number of pixels in each video frame (1920 x 1080) by the number of bits required to represent each pixel (8 + 2 + 2 = 12), and the number of frames per second (30).
As a result, we get about 750 Mbps. It can be seen from the graphs that, in the area of average quality, the AVC encoder provides a bit rate of about 10–12 Mbit/s. Thus, the degree of video information compression is about 60–75 times. As already mentioned, the HEVC encoder provides compression ratio 1.5 times higher.

About the author

Oleg Ponomarev, 16 years in video encoding and signal digital processing, expert in Statistical Radiophysics, Radio waves propagation. Assistant Professor, PhD at Tomsk State University, Radiophysics department. Head of Elecard Research Lab.
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Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers

Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers

Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers
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Heritage (4)

First Chapter
Previous Chapter
The view of Sanctuary was made even more impressive as An’Ra and his team waited in the V-Lift. Through the window, they can see the ornate streets curving through resplendent pools underneath, dotted by the occasional fountain.
“I hate this.” Vora groaned, dressed in a soldier’s standard battle uniform. “Why are we here, Commander?”
“We were investigating genocide and possible use of bioweapons,” Sonak explained, “Even without the first part, Strain Y is going to scare a lot of people. I think it’s reasonable for the Council to take a personal interest in this. Besides, I think the real issue here is the fact you might actually have to speak to the Council.”
“But...ugh, fine. Yes, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it when An’Ra came along and went, Party’s over, ass to the Council, now.”
“Hey now.” An’Ra feigned offense, “I didn’t say it that way, did I?”
“Kind of close, Commander.” Sonak chuckled.
“But still, I think that this isn’t about keeping the galaxy safe.” Vora sighed. “I think the Council’s keeping an eye open for any opportunity to to convince the galaxy they’re still in charge.”
“Or maybe they genuinely want to make sure that we’re not at risk of dying a horrible death by watching our own bodies melt.” Sonak shrugged. “Strain Y doesn’t care if you’re an officer or infantry.”
“That assumes the Council cares about what’s going on outside of these walls.” Vora glanced over, wariness in her look.
“Either way, we’re going to get our answer. Eyes open.” An’Ra said as the V-Lift doors parted ways, revealing the same ornate architecture within. Trees and grasses stole the eye as they walked through the hallways, various government officials from the myriad races conversing and conducting whatever business they were doing. After walking up some steps, they arrived at the large double-doors that lead to the Council Chambers. Standing on each side were the guards constantly on watch for any potential attack. Both of them Anaran, as expected. On approach, the guards opened up the doors to allow An’Ra and his team in.
When they entered, the room was probably more magnificent than they expected. A grand, curved window dominated the view. An unintrusive look into the beautiful splendor of Sanctuary. Directly in front of An’Ra and his team was a pathway that led to a semi-circular desk, standing in front of the raised platform that the Council sat, who had just now noticed the arrivals and are settling themselves in.
And it was there An’Ra got a good look at the Council. Four of them, half Esti, half Huak. An’Ra secretly never liked the Esti, the way he could see menacing fangs when their flat mouths opened, or those flaps of scale that expands outward into a hood. It just unnerved him, a reason he could never really find out. As soon as he sensed that they were ready, he walked up to the desk, wearing his officer’s dress uniform, comprised of a fine, smooth fabric shirt, adorned with a fluffy sash that went from his right shoulder down to his left side, shoulder pads accented with shining studs and finished with awards placed on his top-left chest, awards hard earned back in the Great War.
“Commander An’Ra.” The Huak councilor on the far right side, Neual, began, thick fingers interlaced together as he rested his hands on the desk. “Thank you for agreeing to this unusual request, we are very appreciative.”
“It’s no trouble, Councilor.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “How can I help?”
“We’ll start at the beginning.” The first Esti councilor, Zhur, stated, holding up a secure datapad to ensure the information is easily accessible. “Strain Y. Your report says that while there is confirmation it was used, it was not used in significant quantities. Can you elaborate on that for us?”
“Previous uses of Strain Y all had one thing in common,” An’Ra began, “The amount deployed saturated the atmosphere of the planets they were used on. This is because, despite its lethality, is not actually that infectious. In order to guarantee the total elimination of a planet’s population, you will need to deploy it in such large numbers that everyone will be infected within minutes of deployment. In this case, for Planet 3, there simply wasn’t enough to reach that threshold.”
“At which you go on to state that thermal weapons were used in a state of panic,” Yhiz, the second Esti councilor, added, “Can you explain your reasoning for us?”
“As established before, Strain Y was used on the planet. My working theory is that, when they discovered that they grossly underestimated the amount needed, they panicked and used thermal weapons to both try and burn out the supplies used and finish the genocide they started.”
“But if thermal weapons were indeed used, how did you confirm Strain Y was deployed?” Zhur spoke up.
“We found pieces of Strain Y’s genetic material on the planet’s surface.” An’Ra glanced over to Zhur’s direction. “And as I arrived back in the system, I received a quantum packet from the expedition, stating that they have confirmed that Strain Y was indeed used. Adding that with the obvious use of thermal weaponry, I concluded that the attackers didn’t use enough of the weapon to guarantee extinction.”
Zhur leaned back in her seat, scarlet eyes fixated on the desk. An’Ra couldn’t tell if she was trying to find a counter argument or just processing the information.
“Have you found any evidence that can tell us if there’s more of the strain out in the galaxy?” Neual asked after giving a sigh through his wide nostrils.
“I’m afraid not, sir. All I can definitively say is that this planet fell victim to a biological Cruel Weapon.”
“I’m more concerned about the native life.” Ghala, the final and second Huak councilor, stated after being silent. “Are you absolutely certain that none of the planet’s indigenous life survived?”
“The scientific team said that there’s a very low chance of that.” An’Ra’s ears flattened. “And after seeing the surface myself, I must agree. I don’t think we should wait for a miracle.”
“Ah...I see.” Ghala leaned back in his chair, obviously disheartened. “Even if the planet is now incapable of supporting life, we still wish to move forward with a more symbolic gesture and statement by declaring Planet 3 of System AQ 115-4A illegal for colonization.”
“But let’s move onto what I believe is the most pressing issue: the identity of the attackers.” Neual leaned forward. “Based on your report, you and the team have found nothing that neither confirms nor clears any potential suspect?”
“That’s correct, Councilor.” An’Ra nodded. “We’ve found nothing, within the system and on the planet itself, that tells us anything about who did it.”
“Are there any surviving infrastructure on the planet?” Ghala asked, straightening his posture. “Even if there isn’t much, maybe the natives’ equipment has something we can use?”
“As established before, the planet was devastated terribly. There are indeed ruins of their civilization, but whether or not we can salvage anything from them is a different story.” An’Ra answered with a sigh.
“So in that case, the Qu’Rathi are still the likely aggressors then.” Zhur stated.
“I’m not convinced.” An’Ra shook his head. “Everything we have so far is just circumstantial, nothing solid.”
“Yes, that proves they did it. But looking at it from a different perspective, nothing that proves they didn’t do it either.” Zhur countered, her eyes squinting some.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to press forward with what I think you’re planning, Councilor.” An’Ra leaned forward on the table, ears flattening back. “If you do, and we uncover evidence that clearly proves their innocence, you will be pushing an innocent race away.”
“But if we uncover evidence that proves their guilt, then the trial will be much more expedient.” Yhiz joined in, his eyes also squinting slightly.
“With respect Council, I still think that’s the worst decision you can make.” An’Ra’s teeth began to bare as he spoke. “We can’t make any decision until we acquire more evidence.”
“Nothing we have proves that Strain Y is permanently removed as a future threat.” Zhur started, “Nothing we have proves that the Federation did not do anything. Right now, we have the threat of a Class 4 Cruel Weapon looming over everyone’s heads. People will start becoming scared, start wondering if their shadows will melt them at any time.”
“I know that Councilors!” An’Ra raised his voice. “Give me time! I’m not saying this is over yet, just let me keep looking!”
“We aren’t stopping your investigation, Commander.” Neual said, holding his hand up slightly. “We’re just informing you that you may not have the time you thought you had.”
“What does that mean?” An’Ra’s ears stuck out at an angle, mixed between stiffening and anger.
The councilors looked at each other for a few moments before Zhur stood up and took in a deep breath. “Commander, based on both the collected evidence so far, and lack of any other evidence, the Council has decided to proceed with charging the Qu’Rathi Federation on counts of Genocide, possession of a Cruel Weapon, and deployment of Cruel Weapons with intent for malicious harm. Out of respect for your efforts, Commander, we will give you eight months to continue your investigation. Beyond that, we will close your investigation to allow the courts time to process and review what has been collected.”
“Are you insane?!” An’Ra shouted. “Do you even realize what would happen if you’re wrong?!”
“We do, Commander.” Zhur nodded. “But the risk is just too high. The safety of the galaxy and justice for the inhabitants of System AQ 115-4A must be our top priority. This debrief is over.”
An’Ra stood in complete and stunned silence, watching the Council casually get up from their seats and dispersing to their own private offices. It wasn’t until that they have fully left the chambers that An’Ra finally found the will to move and regroup with Sonak and Vora, both of whom are also equally stunned.
“Those ekas!” Vora exclaimed. “It’s bad enough to be quick at accusing someone, but how dare they claim this is for those humans!”
“And here I thought all those things the news were saying was just to get people to watch them.” Sonak muttered softly. “Commander, obviously this is bad.”
“I know, Sonak.” An’Ra crossed his arms, ears now pointing straight back and teeth fully bared. “We can’t let them do this.”
“But what can we do?” Sonak exclaimed. “What options do we have?”
“Alliance Enforcement!” Vora declared. “Commander, what if you filed a complaint to the Lord-Enforcer? Tell him what’s going on?”
“That’s a good idea actually.” Sonak nodded. “If we convince the Lord-Enforcer that the Council is being too hasty with our investigation, which shouldn’t be hard, he just might deny the Council’s request for prosecution!”
“I can’t imagine the Lord-Enforcer approving this even without our complaint.” An’Ra replied. “Still, never hurts to be prepared. Come on, let’s get to it.”

Jur’El leaned back in the puffy seat he was assigned to. The restaurant he entered had a calm and relaxed atmosphere. The lighting was dimmed, which complimented the dark but cozy ambiance of the room. The walls and floor each had a dark-themed color scheme, the seats were of a different scheme but not too different to oppose the goal set by the designer. And although the building was packed with customers, their conversations did not threaten to turn anyone deaf. It was a quiet and relaxed experience, something he needed desperately.
Even now, as hard as he tried to focus on how delicious his food was, how balanced the flavor and texture of it was, he was still forced to relive what happened on Planet 3. He could hear the sudden screams of his colony group. The scientists who were first awoken that wanted to find out why their Life world was so different to the data they were given. To the families and menial workers who were just talking amongst themselves and organizing the supplies when those machines stormed the ship. And what still terrifies him, still sends his heart racing, was when that one machine entered the control room, blood drenching its chassis. Bits and pieces of Qu’Rathi innards on its cold mechanical manipulators. How it just stared at him, lifelessly, with a rifle aiming right at his chest. And those drills. Those ghenning drills.
He was forced out of his torment by the rough poking of his shoulder. When he looked, it was another Qu’Rathi. “Captain Jur’El, right?”
“Uh..yes, who are you?” He nodded in confusion.
“Jhen.” She introduced herself, quickly taking a seat opposite from him. “I need to talk to you.”
“About what?”
“The expedition to that system deep in the Dead Zone.” She glared at him, mandibles tense. “The same system who’s Life world had a native population, the very same world being investigated as a genocide site, where your expedition went to settle.”
“Jhen, please, we had no idea what was going on.” Jur’El leaned back, hands raised in a defensive posture. “All we were told was that this was the most pristine and beautiful Life world ever discovered in a system rich with stellar bodies.”
“I don’t care about that. What I care is how you seem to be the only one who came back.” Jhen started raising herself from her seat. “I’m pretty sure that anyone who attempts to colonize a freshly cleansed world is forcibly removed from that planet and returned to their respective people. So where is everyone?”
Jur’El’s eyes went wide. He knew exactly where this was going. “I...I can’t tell you.”
“Don’t you dare.” Jhen snarled, now leaning over the table. “I’ve heard enough of that from the company, I’m not here to be force-fed more of it!”
“ me,” Jur’El spoke softly, shakily leaving his seat, “You don’t want to know.”
“Don’t you ghenning walk away from me!” Jhen shouted, grabbing Jur’El’s shoulder firmly, the other patrons now locking eyes to the two. “Two of my sons were on that mission! What happened to them?!”
Jur’El clutched his head with a hand firmly, feeling tears exploding out of his eyes. His mind rushing back to those scenes. The sounds, the smell, the fear. Everything crashed into him all at once. And they’re not just memories now. They’re all coming back to him as if he was transported in time and placed back to the exact moment it started. Back to the moment where he was screaming for his wife and son to hide, to find a corner of the ship that was hard to see and to stay there until the shooting stopped. How he felt his heart give out when he heard them beg for their life when they were found, cut short by the merciless cracks of their alien weapons. How every possible feeling melted away when the clanking of the machine’s walking approached him, when he realized there was no nowhere in the control room to hide, not with how thorough those things were being. The frantic, mindless begging he got into when he saw the blood covered machine hold that weapon to him.
“You’re safe!” A voice rang out. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for him to come back. That scene melting away back into the restaurant. All those smells and sights to be gone. When he was certain that it was over, he looked around. There was Jhen, face beaten and currently being restrained by a blue-furred Anaran. And in front of him was another, gray-furred one. “You hear me? You’re safe now!”
“I...wh-what happened?”
“We saw what was going on. The Qu’Rathi over there? She was just screaming down your throat, all while you were just on the floor. Ken’A there nearly caved her face in by the time we got some distance between you two.”
“Th...thank you.” Jur’El muttered, shakily getting himself back on his feet with the help of the gray Anaran. Jur’El was just about to walk away when the Anaran firmly, but not threateningly, gripped his shoulder.
“I know the signs, friend.” He began softly. “Your soul is badly wounded and is bleeding heavily. Just like a doctor if you’re shot or cut, you need to find someone to talk to, get your soul back together.”
“As long as I don’t run into another person like her, I’ll be fine.” Jur’El countered, trying to walk away still.
“No, you won’t.” The Anaran still held his grip. “I need you to trust me. With how bad your soul is right now, doing anything other than talking to someone will just make it worse. And when your soul dies, well...believe me, it’s not a good experience, for anybody.”
Jur’El stared into the gray Anaran’s orange eyes for a moment before he let out a sigh. “You’re not going to give up, are you?”
“I’ve seen what happens too many times. Good Battle-Brothers, completely different people. Either they’re just shadows of themselves, or doomed to forever relive their horrors. If I have the chance to prevent it happening again, I’m giving it my all.”
Jur’El looked aside for a few moments, internally fighting himself as to whether he should comply or keep resisting. He finally reached his decision when he became certain that the Anaran would most likely hunt him down as a life mission if he didn’t seek therapy. “Fine, I’ll do it. Got anyone in mind?”
“A dear friend of mine. He’ll get you back on track, promise.” The Anaran patted Jur’El’s shoulder a few times before proceeding to lead him, motioning for Ken’A to let go of Jhen and follow.

Michael, accompanied by his newly founded Praetorian Guard, continued his leisurely stroll down the surprisingly spacious corridor. The hallway itself was typical. All-metal construction with evenly spaced rows of blue-white lights.
The Praetorian Guard themselves are comprised of those Servants who display both extreme scores in combat efficiency and effectiveness in defensive situations. Armed with the absolute best in magnetic-ballistics, the most impenetrable of armor designs and the highest optimized combat-frames, even a squad of these guards can hold off a virtual army, provided they aren’t subjected to bombardment or heavy ordinance.
Just as Michael was about to enter the main command center of the station he was touring, Central contacted him on a private channel.
“Master? Your new administration is ready.” He declared proudly.
“Alright, let’s begin the introductions.” Michael replied, signaling the guardsmen that he’s about to enter a meeting. Although unneeded, the Guard promptly took up a defensive formation around him. He assumes this is mostly to keep unwelcome guests from interrupting him.
The scenery of the tranquil design of the corridor melted away into the virtual world built by neon-blue blocks, the same visual that he witnessed when he first received the interface. After a few moments, several other Servants materialized and stood attention in a semi-circle in front of him.
“My Lord.” The first Servant bowed, its voice deep, if gruff. “I’m Supreme Commander Schwarzkopf, in charge of managing our armed forces and overseeing the grand strategy of the Imperium.”
“I am Secretary Elizabeth.” The second spoke with a calming, soothing feminine voice. “I’m responsible for ensuring our economy runs perfectly. In short, I make sure every project gets the hammers and resources it needs.”
“I’m Foreign Minister Edward, at your service m’Lord.” The third, with a distinct British accent and of a composed, controlled voice. “While regretfully I’m useless at this stage, the moment we initiate contact with xeno species, I’ll handle diplomatic affairs and achieving our goals through negotiations when possible.”
“No offense, but I thought every Servant wants to see aliens dead?” Michael spoke up with slight confusion.
“Oh, of course. The very idea of ripping out the entrails of a xeno and suffocating them with it brings such joy it’s therapeutic.” Benjamin replied. Michael was unsure if he was joking or not. “I was appointed because I displayed the most effective ability at hiding such feelings.”
“Ah...good to know.” Michael nodded dryly, not exactly assured. “Back to where we were?”
“Yes, Lord. I’m Director Mansfield.” The fourth spoke with an eloquent-sounding voice. “I’m in charge of Imperial Intelligence, running operations abroad and managing counter-intelligence on the homefront. I give you my word that we will know everything about the aliens and they will know nothing about us.”
“And that leaves me, Master.” Central began. “As a result of this delegation, I now possess more processing cycles towards research and development. That means that I’ll be in charge of ensuring Imperial dominance in technology. I will also act as your adjutant, filtering out information that does not need your attention.”
“Well...shit, this sounds like an actual government I’m in charge of.” Michael gave out a nervous chuckle. “All the more reason to get down to business though. Let’s start with the first matter. Schwarzkopf, how’s our military coming along?”
“It’s growing rapidly, your majesty.” He answered with distinct pride. “Already we have several hundred frigates, fifty light cruisers and twenty heavy cruisers, with the first wave of battleships due to exit the drydocks within a few days. Additionally, we have established four different army groups with fifty divisions each.”
“I thought we’d take a lot longer.” Michael stated with no hidden amazement.
“There’s great benefit in our workforce able to operate at a hundred percent every hour of the day.” Elizabeth commented, her emotion-flags also indicating pride. “And speaking of which, our population of Servants grows geometrically. That benefits both our economy and the military. Our economy by providing more workers in skilled and unskilled labor, and the military by providing more crew members and soldiers.”
“So in short, it won’t be long before we become a virtual powerhouse.” Michael said, arms crossed.
“Especially if we continue expanding.” Elizabeth nodded. “On that note, we have already claimed several dozen more systems.”
“With Rigel and Betelgeuse selected as naval bases.” Schwarzkopf chimed in.
“So we’re expanding in all the ways, got it.” Michael nodded. “Now the second matter. Terraforming Mars.”
“At present, there are two issues that must be resolved.” Central answered. “The first problem is the planet’s lack of a magnetosphere. Without that, any and all organic life would perish under lethal bombardment of the Sun’s solar wind, in addition to any sustainable atmosphere being lost to space. The second problem is Mars’ inability to retain heat, the cause for it’s known low planetary temperature.”
“And knowing you, you already have possible answers?” Mansfield shrugged.
“Correct. The heat issue is rather trivial to solve. Mars already has an abundant amount of carbon-dioxide within the atmosphere, a well known greenhouse gas. Combined with even more of the gas locked planet side, once temperatures begin to rise, we will set off a snowball effect. However, that is all for naught if the atmosphere is allowed to escape into space by solar wind.”
“So basically the key here is the magnetosphere.” Michael added. “Build that and everything becomes simple.”
“Exactly.” Central affirmed. “Already there are two main methods. One is to build superconducting rings around the planet and drive them with direct current. With enough power, we can generate magnetic fields strong enough to form a virtual magnetosphere.”
“And what’s the second?” Elizabeth said.
“The second is to construct a station at the L1 Lagrange Point that will generate a dipole magnetic field, diverting the solar wind around the planet instead of into it. Although it was simulated using slower, binary processing, the results indicate that Mars would gain half the atmospheric pressure of Earth’s within a few years.”
“So then, the main focus is building that magnetic shield.” Michael spoke firmly. “Elizabeth? Let’s get the ball rolling. Coordinate with Central as needed.”
“At once, my Lord.” Elizabeth bowed.

Unlike the Council chambers, the office of the Lord-Enforcer was much less opulent and more pragmatic. After going through the receptionist area, An’Ra and his team were escorted into the main office itself. However, just like the chambers, a large window dominated the view on entry, granting another view of a city district on Sanctuary.
And sitting in the more rectangular desk was the Lord-Enforcer himself, Dura. Blue eyed, with a fur of dull-orange it reminds of a sunset. As soon as An’Ra and his team walked into the office, the Enforcer sat up, tail wagging.
“Commander An’Ra, in my office!” He exclaimed, arms out to his sides. “Forgive me sir, but I never thought I’d see the day!”
“A pleasure to meet you, sir.” An’Ra replied warmly, greeting the Enforcer with their fists clasped together and pulling themselves inward, shoulder to shoulder.
“Please, no need to be formal with me.” Dura chuckled. “Sit down, what brings you here?”
After taking their respective seats, An’Ra looked at Dura grimly. “I’m here to file a delay on a request for prosecution against the Federation.”
Dura’s ears angled themselves in a mixture of stiffening and lowering. “I just got the paperwork from the Council. And I can tell you that won’t be needed. I’ve already submitted my rejection.”
“With respect, sir.” Sonak spoke up. “I get the feeling that the Council might fight that.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to present my back to them just because they ask.” Dura gave off a grin. “I might be some paper-tosser now, but that just means the battlefield is different. Don’t worry Commander, as long as I’m here, you’ll get the chance to finish this investigation properly.”
“Thank you, Enforcer.” An’Ra smiled as he got up from his seat. “With any luck, you won’t have to fight long.”
“Oh, take your time!” Dura replied with an inflection of humor. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve had in years. Was just about to smash my head on this desk any day now actually.”
“Wait, really?” Vora asked, ears stiffened.
“It’s just a joke, Vora.” Sonak assured dryly.
“Oh...” Her ears flattened as the team exited the office.
When they arrived in the main plaza where the Enforcer’s office is located, they congregated in a small collection of benches nearby an ornate fountain that commemorated the Anaran defense of Felaal IV, largely considered the turning point of the Great War, which further enhanced the beauty of the surrounding scenery of floating walkways above crystal-clear waters.
“Well, that’s a relief, hopefully.” An’Ra began, letting out a decompressing sigh.
“I meant what I said earlier, An’Ra.” Sonak said. “If the Council are determined to charge the Federation, which I’m sure they made abundantly clear, they’re not going to let the Enforcer drop mines in their path just like that.”
“Which just means we can’t lose our focus.” Vora replied sternly. “So, what are our options? We can’t exactly go back to Planet 3, there’s really no leads there.”
“What about that Detective we met when we arrived?” Sonak suggested. “He was handling that whistle blower. Maybe that’s something worth looking into?”
“There’s also the Nav-Net.” Vora said. “All we got right now is that the Feds were at that location, but what if we look at the rest of the network? Try and trace their path?”
“The network doesn’t extend into the Dead Zone.” Sonak countered.
“No, not like that. We look at the network across Alliance space. We start with the logs that end at the Dead Zone, and we try to backtrack their route.”
“We’ll need to obtain legal authorization for that, Vora.” An’Ra stated.
“Actually, if I could add something.” Sonak said with his arms crossed. “If the Federation didn’t actually do it, then that questions the credibility of those codes. I think there’s a question that hasn’t been asked yet. And that is, are those codes faked?”
“That’s...a good point actually.” Vora acceded. “If we get the legal permission to examine the NavNet logs, then if the Federation didn’t do it, the logs across the network won’t support it. Think about it. You need a big fleet to do what just happened, and that fleet has to come from somewhere.”
“And that would mean if this was a frame job, they need a way to account for that.” An’Ra continued, confidence flaring. “It’s one thing to trick a single Nav-Buoy, but I really doubt anyone is capable enough of affecting the network itself.”
“We still need the Enforcer’s help to get access to the network.” Sonak reminded.
“Let’s go get it then.” An’Ra stated firmly. With that, the team left their meeting spot and began returning to the Enforcer’s office.
With confidence in their step, the walk back to the office was much shorter compared to before. However, things took a turn when An’Ra and the team noticed a large gathering of officers around the office entrance. They didn’t have to time to wonder when a group exited the office, dragging a combative Dura out with them.
“Commander, this isn’t good.” Sonak growled under his breath.
An’Ra simply stepped forward and grabbed one of the arresting officers. “What in Arenar’s Sword is going on here?”
“Dura’s under arrest on suspicion of corruption.” The officer replied flatly. “Lil’Al has been appointed as acting Lord-Enforcer.”
“The Council’s behind this, Commander!” Dura shouted, his feet literally dragging along the floor as four officers were taking him away. “Don’t believe a word they say about me!”
An’Ra and his team just stood there in stunned silence, watching and hearing the Anaran official being dragged virtually kicking and screaming. By the time they returned to their senses, hushed conversations was populating both the room and outside.
“We’re not going to get in the network, are we?” Sonak asked, still recovering.
“We still have to try, come on.” An’Ra said, already moving. When the team returned to the office, standing next to the desk was a slender Esti. No doubt Lil’al. She was looking out the window when she turned around upon hearing the encroaching footsteps.
“Yes, may I help you?” She began.
“Acting Lord-Enforcer Lil’Al?” An’Ra began, trying the diplomatic route first. “I’m Commander An’Ra, investigating the genocide by use of Strain Y. We’d like to request legal authorization to examine the logs of the Nav-Net.”
“For what purpose?” She replied, taking her seat.
“We believe that it may hold evidence that either confirms or disproves the Federation’s alleged involvement in the attack.”
Lil’Al leaned back in her seat, staring at them. “The Nav-Net is the lifeblood of, well, everything. Commerce, tourism, law enforcement. It holds great information about who has gone where, and in what ship, Commander. You realize that, don’t you?”
“I do, and what you’ve said precisely states how important that is, how important the potential evidence is.”
Lil’Al stayed motionless for a few moments, her long, lithe fingers twiddling about that indicates her thought. “Very well, I’ll start the paperwork to get you authorization, just be mindful of what you’re about to analyze.”
“Thank you.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “In addition, I’m not sure if it’s been passed along, but Dura has rejected the Council’s request for prosecuting the Federation. Can I assume you’ll uphold that?”
“I’m afraid not, Commander.” Lil’Al replied flatly. “The galaxy has suffered a great loss through the genocide of a race who’ve suffered the universe’s cruel sense of humor by being placed both far away from us and deep within an almost uninhabitable region. I have overturned Dura’s rash decision and accepted the Council’s request.”
“Then I’d like to file a delay on that decision, immediately.” An’Ra replied, ears flattened back.
“On what grounds?”
“Lack of decisive evidence, to start.”
“Same could be said on your side, Commander.” Lil’Al let out a sigh. “Yes, all the evidence collected thus far is not...ideal. However, the most significant points at this time are that a young race who was just about to leave their homeworld was exterminated through the most horrible of all options. We cannot ignore that.”
“But we also can’t rush to conclusions. We need to continue investigating and only go after someone if we have at least one crucial piece of information.” An’Ra countered, arms crossed and his teeth starting to bare.
“And I agree, that’s how it should be done.” Lil’Al replied. “But if we do, we risk dragging out an investigation to such a length we may end up forgetting this tragedy. We cannot allow such an insult to Planet 3’s memory. I’m sorry, but I must reject your petition for judiciary delay.”
Next Chapter
AN: Every single time I paste this in, Reddit is just determined to put it in some code block. Anyways, As of now, I've finally completely locked in the plot for this story, just one major question that could've changed a lot was on my mind for a while. Enjoy!
submitted by SynthoStellar to HFY [link] [comments]

Comprehensive Guide for getting into Home Recording

I'm going to borrow from a few sources and do my best to make this cohesive, but this question comes up a lot. I thought we had a comprehensive guide, but it doesn't appear so. In the absence of this, I feel that a lot of you could use a simple place to go for some basics on recording. There are a couple of great resources online already on some drumming forums, but I don't think they will be around forever.
Some background on myself - I have been drumming a long time. During that time, home recording has gone from using a cassette deck to having a full blown studio at your finger tips. The technology in the last 15 years has gotten so good it really is incredible. When I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to go to school for audio engineering in a world-class studio. During this time I had access to the studio and was able to assist with engineering on several projects. This was awesome, and I came out with a working knowledge of SIGNAL CHAIN, how audio works in the digital realm, how microphones work, studio design, etc. Can I answer your questions? Yes.

First up: Signal Chain! This is the basic building block of recording. Ever seen a "I have this plugged in but am getting no sound!" thread? Yeah, signal chain.

A "Signal Chain" is the path your audio follows, from sound source, to the recording device, and back out of your monitors (speakers to you normies).
A typical complete signal chain might go something like this:
1] instrument/sound source 2] Microphone/TransducePickup 3] Cable 4] Mic Preamp/DI Box 5] Analog-to-Digital Converter 6] Digital transmission medium[digital data get recoded for usb or FW transfer] 7] Digital recording Device 8] DSP and Digital summing/playback engine 9] Digital-to-Analog Converter 10] Analog output stage[line outputs and output gain/volume control] 11] Monitors/Playback device[headphones/other transducers]
Important Terms, Definitions, and explanations (this will be where the "core" information is):
1] AD Conversion: the process by which the electrical signal is "converted" to a stream of digital code[binary, 1 and 0]. This is accomplished, basically, by taking digital pictures of the audio...and this is known as the "sampling rate/frequency" The number of "pictures" determines the frequency. So the CD standard of 44.1k is 44,100 "pictures" per second of digital code that represents the electrical "wave" of audio. It should be noted that in order to reproduce a frequency accuratly, the sampling rate must be TWICE that of the desired frequency (See: Nyquist-Shannon Theorem). So, a 44.1 digital audio device can, in fact, only record frequencies as high as 22.05khz, and in the real world, the actual upper frequency limit is lower, because the AD device employs a LOW-PASS filter to protect the circuitry from distortion and digital errors called "ALIASING." Confused yet? Don't worry, there's more... We haven't even talked about Bit depth! There are 2 settings for recording digitally: Sample Rate and Bit Depth. Sample rate, as stated above, determines the frequencies captured, however bit depth is used to get a better picture of the sample. Higher bit depth = more accurate sound wave representation. More on this here. Generally speaking, I record at 92KHz/24 bit depth. This makes huge files, but gets really accurate audio. Why does it make huge files? Well, if you are sampling 92,000 times per second, you are taking each sample and applying 24 bits to that, multiply it out and you get 92,000*24 = 2,208,000 bits per second or roughly 0.26MB per second for ONE TRACK. If that track is 5 minutes long, that is a file that is 78.96MB in size. Now lets say you used 8 inputs on an interface, that is, in total, 631.7MB of data. Wow, that escalates quick, right? There is something else to note as well here: Your CPU has to calculate this. So the amount of calculations it needs to perform for this same scenario is ~17.7 million calculations PER SECOND. This is why CPU speed and RAM is super important when recording digitally.
2] DA conversion: the process by which the digital code (the computer representation of a sound wave) is transformed back into electrcal energy in the proper shape. In a oversimplified explanation, the code is measured and the output of the convertor reflects the value of the code by changing voltage. Think of a sound wave on a grid: Frequency would represent the X axis (the horizontal axis)... but there is a vertical axis too. This is called AMPLITUDE or how much energy the wave is generating. People refer to this as how 'loud' a sound is, but that's not entirely correct. You can have a high amplitude wave that is played at a quiet volume. It's important to distinguish the two. How loud a sound is can be controlled by the volume on a speaker or transducer. But that has no impact on how much amplitude the sound wave has in the digital space or "in the wire" on its way to the transducer. So don't get hung up on how "loud" a waveform is, it is how much amplitude it has when talking about it "in the box" or before it gets to the speakeheadphone/whatever.
3] Cables: An often overlooked expense and tool, cables can in fact, make or break your recording. The multitudes of types of cable are determined by the connector, the gauge(thickness), shielding, type of conductor, etc... Just some bullet points on cables:
- Always get the highest quality cabling you can afford. Low quality cables often employ shielding that doesnt efectively protect against AC hums(60 cycle hum), RF interference (causing your cable to act as a gigantic AM/CB radio antenna), or grounding noise introduced by other components in your system. - The way cables are coiled and treated can determine their lifespan and effectiveness. A kinked cable can mean a broken shield, again, causing noise problems. - The standard in the USA for wiring an XLR(standard microphone) cable is: PIN 1= Cold/-, PIN 2= Hot/+, PIN 3=Ground/shield. Pin 3 carries phantom power, so it is important that the shield of your cables be intact and in good condition if you want to use your mic cables without any problems. - Cables for LINE LEVEL and HI-Z(instrument level) gear are not the same! - Line Level Gear, weather professional or consumer, should generally be used with balanced cables (on a 1/4" connector, it will have 3 sections and is commonly known as TRS -or- TipRingSleeve). A balanced 1/4" is essentially the same as a microphone cable, and in fact, most Professional gear with balanced line inputs and outputs will have XLR connectors instead of 1/4" connectors. - Hi-Z cable for instruments (guitars, basses, keyboards, or anything with a pickup) is UNBALANCED, and should be so. The introduction of a balanced cable can cause electricity to be sent backwards into a guitar and shock the guitar player. You may want this to happen, but your gear doesn't. There is some danger here as well, especially on stage, where the voltage CAN BE LETHAL. When running a guitabass/keyboard "Direct" into your interface, soundcard, or recording device, you should ALWAYS use a "DIRECT BOX", which uses a transformer to isolate and balance the the signal or you can use any input on the interface designated as a "Instrument" or "Hi-Z" input. It also changes some electrical properties, resulting in a LINE LEVEL output (it amplifies it from instrument level to line level).
4] Digital Data Transmissions: This includes S/PDIF, AES/EBU, ADAT, MADI. I'm gonna give a brief overview of this stuff, since its unlikely that alot of you will ever really have to think about it: - SDPIF= Sony Phillips Digital Interface Format. using RCA or TOSLINK connectors, this is a digital protocol that carries 3 streams of information. Digital audio Left, Digital Audio Right, and CLOCK. SPDIF generally supports 48khz/20bit information, though some modern devices can support up to 24bits, and up to 88.2khz. SPDIF is the consumer format of AES/EBU - AES/EBU= Audio Engineering Society/European Breadcasters Union Digital protocol uses a special type of cable often terminated with XLR connectors to transmit 2 channels of Digital Audio. AES/EBU is found mostly on expensive professional digital gear. - ADAT= the Alesis Digital Audio Tape was introduced in 1991, and was the first casette based system capable of recording 8 channels of digital audio onto a single cartridge(a SUPER-VHS tape, same one used by high quality VCR's). Enough of the history, its not so important because we are talking about ADAT-LIGHTPIPE Protocol, which is a digital transmission protocol that uses fiberoptic cable and devices to send up to 8 channels of digital audio simultaneously and in sync. ADAT-Lightpipe supports up to 48khz sample rates. This is how people expand the number of inputs by chaining interfaces. - MADI is something you will almost never encounter. It is a protocol that allows up to 64 channels of digital audio to be transmitted over a single cable that is terminated by BNC connectors. Im just telling you it exists so in case you ever encounter a digital snake that doesnt use Gigabit Ethernet, you will know whats going on.
digital transmission specs: SPDIF -> clock->2Ch->RCA cable(consumer) ADAT-Lightpipe->clock->8Ch->Toslink(semi-pro) SPDIF-OPTICAL->clock->2Ch->Toslink(consumer) AES/EBU->clock->2Ch->XLR(Pro) TDIF->clock->8Ch->DSub(Semi-Pro) ______________ MADI->no clock->64Ch->BNC{rare except in large scale pofessional apps} SDIF-II->no clock->24Ch->DSub{rare!} AES/EBU-13->no clock->24Ch->DSub
5] MICROPHONES: There are many types of microphones, and several names for each type. The type of microphone doesn't equate to the polar pattern of the microphone. There are a few common polar patterns in microphones, but there are also several more that are less common. These are the main types- Omni-Directional, Figure 8 (bi-directional), Cardioid, Super Cardioid, Hyper Cardioid, Shotgun. Some light reading.... Now for the types of microphones: - Dynamic Microphones utilize polarized magnets to convert acoustical energy into electrical energy. there are 2 types of dynamic microphones: 1) Moving Coil microphones are the most common type of microphone made. They are also durable, and capable of handling VERY HIGH SPL (sound pressure levels). 2) Ribbon microphones are rare except in professional recording studios. Ribbon microphones are also incredibly fragile. NEVER EVER USE PHANTOM POWER WITH A RIBBON MICROPHONE, IT WILL DIE (unless it specifically requires it, but I've only ever seen this on one Ribbon microphone ever). Sometimes it might even smoke or shoot out a few sparks; applying phantom power to a Ribbon Microphone will literally cause the ribbon, which is normally made from Aluminum, to MELT. Also, windblasts and plosives can rip the ribbon, so these microphones are not suitible for things like horns, woodwinds, vocals, kick drums, or anything that "pushes air." There have been some advances in Ribbon microphones and they are getting to be more common, but they are still super fragile and you have to READ THE MANUAL CAREFULLY to avoid a $1k+ mistake. - CondenseCapacitor Microphones use an electrostatic charge to convert acoustical energy into electrical energy. The movement of the diaphragm(often metal coated mylar) toward a ceramic "backplate" causes a fluctuation in the charge, which is then amplified inside the microphone and output as an electrical signal. Condenser microphones usually use phantom power to charge the capacitors' and backplate in order to maintain the electrostatic charge. There are several types of condenser microphones: 1) Tube Condenser Microphones: historically, this type of microphone has been used in studios since the 1940s, and has been refined and redesigned hundreds, if not thousands of times. Some of the "best sounding" and most desired microphones EVER MADE are Tube Condenser microphones from the 50's and 60's. These vintage microphones, in good condition, with the original TUBES can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tube mics are known for sounding "full", "warm", and having a particular character, depending on the exact microphone. No 2 tubes mics, even of the same model, will sound the same. Similar, but not the same. Tube mics have their own power supplies, which are not interchangeable to different models. Each tube mic is a different design, and therefore, has different power requirements. 2) FET Condenser microphones: FET stands for "Field Effect Transistor" and the technology allowed condenser microphones to be miniturized. Take for example, the SHURE beta98s/d, which is a minicondenser microphone. FET technology is generally more transparant than tube technology, but can sometimes sound "harsh" or "sterile". 3) Electret Condenser Microphones are a condenser microphone that has a permanent charge, and therefore, does not require phantom power; however, the charge is not truly permanent, and these mics often use AA or 9V batteries, either inside the mic, or on a beltpack. These are less common.
Other important things to know about microphones:
- Pads, Rolloffs, etc: Some mics have switches or rotating collars that notate certain things. Most commonly, high pass filters/lowcut filters, or attenuation pads. 1) A HP/LC Filter does exactly what you might think: Removes low frequency content from the signal at a set frequency and slope. Some microphones allow you to switch the rolloff frequency. Common rolloff frequencies are 75hz, 80hz, 100hz, 120hz, 125hz, and 250hz. 2) A pad in this example is a switch that lowers the output of the microphone directly after the capsule to prevent overloading the input of a microphone preamplifier. You might be asking: How is that possible? Some microphones put out a VERY HIGH SIGNAL LEVEL, sometimes about line level(-10/+4dbu), mic level is generally accepted to start at -75dbu and continues increasing until it becomes line level in voltage. It should be noted that linel level signals are normally of a different impedance than mic level signals, which is determined by the gear. An example for this would be: I mic the top of a snare drum with a large diaphragm condenser mic (solid state mic, not tube) that is capable of handling very high SPLs (sound pressure levels). When the snare drum is played, the input of the mic preamp clips (distorts), even with the gain turned all the way down. To combat this, I would use a pad with enough attenuation to lower the signal into the proper range of input (-60db to -40 db). In general, it is accepted to use a pad with only as much attentuation as you need, plus a small margin of error for extra “headroom”. What this means is that if you use a 20db pad where you only need a 10db pad, you will then have to add an additional 10db of gain to achieve a desireable signal level. This can cause problems, as not all pads sound good, or even transparent, and can color and affect your signal in sometimes unwanted ways that are best left unamplified. - Other mic tips/info: 1) when recording vocals, you should always use a popfilter. A pop filter mounted on a gooseneck is generally more effective than a windscreen made of foam that slips over the microphone. The foam type often kill the highfrequency response, alter the polar pattern, and can introduce non-linear polarity problems(part of the frequency spectrum will be out of phase.) If you don't have a pop filter or don't want to spend on one, buy or obtain a hoop of some kind, buy some cheap panty-hose and stretch it over the hoop to build your own pop filter. 2) Terms Related to mics: - Plosives: “B”, “D”, “F”, “G”, “J”, “P”, “T” hard consonants and other vocal sounds that cause windblasts. These are responsible for a low frequency pop that can severly distort the diaphragm of the microphone, or cause a strange inconsistency of tonality by causing a short term proximity effect.
- Proximity effect: An exponential increase in low frequency response causes by having a microphone excessivly close to a sound. This can be cause by either the force of the air moving actually causes the microphone’s diaphragm to move and sometimes distort, usually on vocalists or buy the buildup of low frequency soundwaves due to off-axis cancellation ports. You cannot get proximity effect on an omnidirectional microphone. With some practice, you can use proximity effect to your advantage, or as an effect. For example, if you are recording someone whispering and it sounds thin or weak and irritating due to the intenese high mid and high frequency content, get the person very close to a cardioid microphone with two popfilters, back to back approx 1/2”-1” away from the mic and set your gain carefully, and you can achieve a very intimite recording of whispering. In a different scenario, you can place a mic inside of a kick drum between 1”-3” away from the inner shell, angled up and at the point of impact, and towards the floor tom. This usually captures a huge low end, and the sympathetic vibration of the floor tom on the kick drum hits, but retains a clarity of attack without being distorted by the SPL of the drum and without capturing unplesant low-mid resonation of the kick drum head and shell that is common directly in the middle of the shell.
6) Wave Envelope: The envelope is the graphical representation of a sound wave commonly found in a DAW. There are 4 parts to this: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release: 1) Attack is how quickly the sound reaches its peak amplitude; 2) Decay is the time it takes to reach the sustain level; 3) Sustain how long a sound remains at a certain level (think of striking a tom, the initial smack is attack, then it decays to the resonance of the tom, how long it resonates is the sustain); 4) Release is the amount of time before the sustain stops. This is particularly important as these are also the settings on a common piece of gear called a Compressor! Understanding the envelope of a sound is key to learning how to maniuplate it.
7) Phase Cancellation: This is one of the most important concepts in home recording, especially when looking at drums. I'm putting it in this section because it matters so much. Phase Cancellation is what occurs when the same frequencies occur at different times. To put it simply, frequency amplitudes are additive - meaning if you have 2 sound waves of the same frequency, one amplitude is +4 and the other is +2, the way we percieve sound is that the frequency is +6. But a sound wave has a positive and negative amplitude as it travels (like a wave in the ocean with a peak and a swell). If the frequency then has two sources and it is 180 degrees out of phase, that means one wave is at +4 while the other is at -4. This sums to 0, or cancels out the wave. Effectively, you would hear silence. This is why micing techniques are so important, but we'll get into that later. I wanted this term at the top, and will likely mention it again.

Next we can look at the different types of options to actually record your sound!

1) Handheld/All in one/Field Recorders: I don't know if portable cassette tape recorders are still around, but that's an example of one. These are (or used to) be very popular with journalists because they were pretty decent at capturing speech. They do not fare too well with music though. Not too long ago, we saw the emergence of the digital field recorder. These are really nifty little devices. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors, and can be very affordable. They run on batteries, and have built-in microphones, and record digitally onto SD cards or harddiscs. The more simple ones have a pair of built-in condenser microphones, which may or may not be adjustable, and record onto an SD-card. They start around $99 (or less if you don't mind buying refurbished). You turn it on, record, connect the device itself or the SD card to your computer, transfer the file(s) and there is your recording! An entry-level example is the Tascam DR-05. It costs $99. It has two built in omni-directional mics, comes with a 2GB microSD card and runs on two AA batteries. It can record in different formats, the highest being 24-bit 96KHz Broadcast WAV, which is higher than DVD quality! You can also choose to record as an MP3 (32-320kbps) if you need to save space on the SD card or if you're simply going to record a speech/conference or upload it on the web later on. It's got a headphone jack and even small built-in speakers. It can be mounted onto a tripod. And it's about the size of a cell phone. The next step up (although there are of course many options that are price and feature-wise inbetween this one and the last) is a beefier device like the Zoom H4n. It's got all the same features as the Tascam DR-05 and more! It has two adjustable built-in cardioid condenser mics in an XY configuration (you can adjust the angle from a 90-120 degree spread). On the bottom of the device, there are two XLR inputs with preamps. With those, you can expand your recording possibilities with two external microphones. The preamps can send phantom power, so you can even use very nice studio mics. All 4 channels will be recorded independantly, so you can pop them onto your computer later and mix them with software. This device can also act as a USB interface, so instead of just using it as a field recorder, you can connect it directly to your computer or to a DSLR camera for HD filming. My new recommendation for this category is actually the Yamaha EAD10. It really is the best all-in-one solution for anyone that wants to record their kit audio with a great sound. It sports a kick drum trigger (mounts to the rim of the kick) with an x-y pattern set of microphones to pick up the rest of the kit sound. It also has on-board effects, lots of software integration options and smart features through its app. It really is a great solution for anyone who wants to record without reading this guide.
The TL;DR of this guide is - if it seems like too much, buy the Yamaha EAD10 as a simple but effective recording solution for your kit.

2) USB Microphones: There are actually mics that you an plug in directly to your computer via USB. The mics themselves are their own audio interfaces. These mics come in many shapes and sizes, and offer affordable solutions for basic home recording. You can record using a DAW or even something simple like the stock windows sound recorder program that's in the acessories folder of my Windows operating system. The Blue Snowflake is very affordable at $59. It can stand alone or you can attach it to your laptop or your flat screen monitor. It can record up to 44.1kHz, 16-bit WAV audio, which is CD quality. It's a condenser mic with a directional cardioid pickup pattern and has a full frequency response - from 35Hz-20kHz. It probably won't blow you away, but it's a big departure from your average built-in laptop, webcam, headset or desktop microphone. The Audio Technica AT2020 USB is a USB version of their popular AT2020 condenser microphone. At $100 it costs a little more than the regular version. The AT2020 is one of the finest mics in its price range. It's got a very clear sound and it can handle loud volumes. Other companies like Shure and Samson also offer USB versions of some of their studio mics. The AT2020 USB also records up to CD-quality audio and comes with a little desktop tripod. The MXL USB.009 mic is an all-out USB microphone. It features a 1 inch large-diaphragm condenser capsule and can record up to 24-bit 96kHz WAV audio. You can plug your headphones right into the mic (remember, it is its own audio interface) so you can monitor your recordings with no latency, as opposed to doing so with your computer. Switches on the mic control the gain and can blend the mic channel with playback audio. Cost: $399. If you already have a mic, or you don't want to be stuck with just a USB mic, you can purcase a USB converter for your existing microphone. Here is a great review of four of them.
3) Audio Recording Interfaces: You've done some reading up on this stuff... now you are lost. Welcome to the wide, wide world of Audio Interfaces. These come in all different shapes and sizes, features, sampling rates, bit depths, inputs, outputs, you name it. Welcome to the ocean, let's try to help you find land.
- An audio interface, as far as your computer is concerned, is an external sound card. It has audio inputs, such as a microphone preamp and outputs which connect to other audio devices or to headphones or speakers. The modern day recording "rig" is based around a computer, and to get the sound onto your computer, an interface is necessary. All computers have a sound card of some sort, but these have very low quality A/D Converters (analog to digital) and were not designed with any kind of sophisticated audio recording in mind, so for us they are useless and a dedicated audio interface must come into play.
- There are hundreds of interfaces out there. Most commonly they connect to a computer via USB or Firewire. There are also PCI and PCI Express-based interfaces for desktop computers. The most simple interfaces can record one channel via USB, while others can record up to 30 via firewire! All of the connection types into the computer have their advantages and drawbacks. The chances are, you are looking at USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt. As far as speeds, most interfaces are in the same realm as far as speed is concerned but thunderbolt is a faster data transfer rate. There are some differences in terms of CPU load. Conflict handling (when packages collide) is handled differently. USB sends conflict resolution to the CPU, Firewire handles it internally, Thunderbolt, from what I could find, sends it to the CPU as well. For most applications, none of them are going to be superior from a home-recording standpoint. When you get up to 16/24 channels in/out simultaneously, it's going to matter a lot more.
- There are a number of things to consider when choosing an audio interface. First off your budget, number of channels you'd like to be able to record simultaneously, your monitoring system, your computer and operating system and your applications. Regarding budget, you have to get real. $500 is not going to get you a rig with the ability to multi-track a drum set covered in mics. Not even close! You might get an interface with 8 channels for that much, but you have to factor in the cost of everything, including mics, cables, stands, monitors/headphones, software, etc... Considerations: Stereo Recording or Multi-Track Recording? Stereo Recording is recording two tracks: A left and right channel, which reflects most audio playback systems. This doesn't necessarily mean you are simply recording with two mics, it means that what your rig is recording onto your computer is a single stereo track. You could be recording a 5-piece band with 16 mics/channels, but if you're recording in stereo, all you're getting is a summation of those 16 tracks. This means that in your recording software, you won't be able to manipulate any of those channels independantly after you recorded them. If the rack tom mic wasn't turned up loud enough, or you want to mute the guitars, you can't do that, because all you have is a stereo track of everything. It's up to you to get your levels and balance and tone right before you hit record. If you are only using two mics or lines, then you will have individual control over each mic/line after recording. Commonly, you can find 2 input interfaces and use a sub-mixer taking the left/right outputs and pluging those into each channel of the interface. Some mixers will output a stereo pair into a computer as an interface, such as the Allen&Heath ZED16. If you want full control over every single input, you need to multi-track. Each mic or line that you are recording with will get it's own track in your DAW software, which you can edit and process after the fact. This gives you a lot of control over a recording, and opens up many mixing options, and also many more issues. Interfaces that facilitate multitracking include Presonus FireStudio, Focusrite Scarlett interfaces, etc. There are some mixers that are also interfaces, such as the Presonus StudioLive 16, but these are very expensive. There are core-card interfaces as well, these will plug in directly to your motherboard via PCI or PCI-Express slots. Protools HD is a core-card interface and requires more hardware than just the card to work. I would recommend steering clear of these until you have a firm grasp of signal chain and digital audio, as there are more affordable solutions that will yield similar results in a home-environment.

DAW - Digital Audio Workstation

I've talked a lot about theory, hardware, signal chain, etc... but we need a way to interpret this data. First off what does a DAW do? Some refer to them as DAE's (Digital Audio Editors). You could call it a virtual mixing board , however that isn't entirely correct. DAWs allow you to record, control, mix and manipulate independant audio signals. You can change their volume, add effects, splice and dice tracks, combine recorded audio with MIDI-generated audio, record MIDI tracks and much much more. In the old days, when studios were based around large consoles, the actual audio needed to be recorded onto some kind of medium - analog tape. The audio signals passed through the boards, and were printed onto the tape, and the tape decks were used to play back the audio, and any cutting, overdubbing etc. had to be done physically on the tape. With a DAW, your audio is converted into 1's and 0's through the converters on your interface when you record, and so computers and their harddiscs have largely taken the place of reel-to-reel machines and analog tape.
Here is a list of commonly used DAWs in alphabetical order: ACID Pro Apple Logic Cakewalk SONAR Digital Performer FL (Fruity Loops) Studio (only versions 8 and higher can actually record Audio I believe) GarageBand PreSonus Studio One Pro Tools REAPER Propellerhead Reason (version 6 has combined Reason and Record into one software, so it now is a full audio DAW. Earlier versions of Reason are MIDI based and don't record audio) Propellerhead Record (see above) Steinberg Cubase Steinberg Nuendo
There are of course many more, but these are the main contenders. [Note that not all DAWs actually have audio recording capabilities (All the ones I listed do, because this thread is about audio recording), because many of them are designed for applications like MIDI composing, looping, etc. Some are relatively new, others have been around for a while, and have undergone many updates and transformations. Most have different versions, that cater to different types of recording communities, such as home recording/consumer or professional.
That's a whole lot of choices. You have to do a lot of research to understand what each one offers, what limitations they may have etc... Logic, Garageband and Digital Performer for instance are Mac-only. ACID Pro, FL Studio and SONAR will only run on Windows machines. Garageband is free and is even pre-installed on every Mac computer. Most other DAWs cost something.
Reaper is a standout. A non-commercial license only costs $60. Other DAWs often come bundled with interfaces, such as ProTools MP with M-Audio interfaces, Steinberg Cubase LE with Lexicon Interfaces, Studio One with Presonus Interfaces etc. Reaper is a full function, professional, affordable DAW with a tremendous community behind it. It's my recommendation for everyone, and comes with a free trial. It is universally compatible and not hardware-bound.
You of course don't have to purchase a bundle. Your research might yield that a particular interface will suit your needs well, but the software that the same company offers or even bundles isn't that hot. As a consumer you have a plethora of software and hardware manufacturers competing for your business and there is no shortage of choice. One thing to think about though is compatability and customer support. With some exceptions, technically you can run most DAWs with most interfaces. But again, don't just assume this, do your research! Also, some DAWs will run smoother on certain interfaces, and might experience problems on others. It's not a bad thing to assume that if you purchase the software and hardware from the same company, they're at least somewhat optimized for eachother. In fact, ProTools, until recently would only run on Digidesign (now AVID) and M-Audio interfaces. While many folks didn't like being limited to their hardware choices to run ProTools, a lot of users didn't mind, because I think that at least in part it made ProTools run smoother for everyone, and if you did have a problem, you only had to call up one company. There are many documented cases where consumers with software and hardware from different companies get the runaround:
Software Company X: "It's a hardware issue, call Hardware Company Z". Hardware Company Z: "It's a software issue, call Software Company X".
Another thing to research is the different versions of softwares. Many of them have different versions at different pricepoints, such as entry-level or student versions all the way up to versions catering to the pros. Cheaper versions come with limitations, whether it be a maximum number of audio tracks you can run simultaneously, plug-ins available or supported Plug-In formats and lack of other features that the upper versions have. Some Pro versions might require you to run certain kinds of hardware. I don't have time nor the will to do research on individual DAW's, so if any of you want to make a comparison of different versions of a specific DAW, be my guest! In the end, like I keep stressing - we each have to do our own research.
A big thing about the DAW that it is important to note is this: Your signal chain is your DAW. It is the digital representation of that chain and it is important to understand it in order to properly use that DAW. It is how you route the signal from one spot to another, how you move it through a sidechain compressor or bus the drums into the main fader. It is a digital representation of a large-format recording console, and if you don't understand how the signal gets from the sound source to your monitor (speaker), you're going to have a bad time.

Playback - Monitors are not just for looking at!

I've mentioned monitors several times and wanted to touch on these quickly: Monitors are whatever you are using to listen to the sound. These can be headphones, powered speakers, unpowered speakers, etc. The key thing here is that they are accurate. You want a good depth of field, you want as wide a frequency response as you can get, and you want NEARFIELD monitors. Unless you are working with a space that can put the monitor 8' away from you, 6" is really the biggest speaker size you need. At that point, nearfield monitors will reproduce the audio frequency range faithfully for you. There are many options here, closed back headphones, open back headphones, studio monitors powered, and unpowered (require a separate poweramp to drive the monitor). For headphones, I recommend AKG K271, K872, Sennheiser HD280 Pro, etc. There are many options, but if mixing on headphones I recommend spending some good money on a set. For Powered Monitors, there's really only one choice I recommend: Kali Audio LP-6 monitors. They are, dollar for dollar, the best monitors you can buy for a home studio, period. These things contend with Genelecs and cost a quarter of the price. Yes, they still cost a bit, but if you're going to invest, invest wisely. I don't recommend unpowered monitors, as if you skimp on the poweramp they lose all the advantages you gain with monitors. Just get the powered monitors if you are opting for not headphones.

Drum Mic'ing Guide, I'm not going to re-create the wheel.

That's all for now, this has taken some time to put together (a couple hourse now). I can answer other questions as they pop up. I used a few sources for the information, most notably some well-put together sections on the Pearl Drummers Forum in the recording section. I know a couple of the users are no longer active there, but if you see this and think "Hey, he ripped me off!", you're right, and thanks for allowing me to rip you off!

A couple other tips that I've come across for home recording:
You need to manage your gain/levels when recording. Digital is NOT analog! What does this mean? You should be PEAKING (the loudest the signal gets) around -12dB to -15dB on your meters. Any hotter than that and you are overdriving your digital signal processors.
What sound level should my master bus be at for Youtube?
Bass Traps 101
Sound Proofing 101
submitted by M3lllvar to drums [link] [comments]

[Megathread] XMG FUSION 15 (with Intel)

On September 6 at IFA, press released their first reports about our collaboration project with Intel: XMG FUSION 15.
Community Links:

Press Links:

Video Links:

The following key facts have already been revealed:
Prices and availability will be announced on September 17. → Countdown to
Teaser Trailer on YouTube: XMG FUSION 15 Laptop | A Design Collaboration with Intel
We look forward to your questions and your feedback!


This FAQ represents Q&A's over the last few days here. Fellow redditor u/iterateandgit was so kind to help me putting this document together. Big shout out to him please! The FAQ will be further extended over the coming days and weeks. Please keep the questions coming!

Sales, Shipping, Warranty

Q: Are you going to sell this on Amazon in the EU?
A: We are working on getting the product up and running on Amazon. But our own BTO shop at will always be our primary sales channel and will be the only one where you can customize and configure memory, storage, OS, extend your warranty and pick other options.

Q: Do you offer student discounts or other sales compaigns like black friday?
A: In general, we don't offer student discounts. Sales campaigns are planned just in time, depending on stock level and cannot be announced early. If you want to keep up to date about sales campaigns, please subscribe to our newsletter.

Q: Do you ship to the UK? Can I pay in GBP?
A: We ship to the UK - the pricing will be in EUR, so your bank will do the conversion. Warranty services will be available from UK, shipping to Germany. Currently, in the single markets, these resturn shipments are free for the end-user. In the worst case there might be additional customs fees for shipping.

Q: What warranty options do you offer?
A: All our laptops come with 2 year warranty. Warranty repairs in the first 6 months are promised to be done within 48 hours (+shipping). Both the "instant repair" service and the warranty itself can be extended to up to 3 years.

Q: Do you sell outside of Europe?
A: We are able to ship anywhere, but warranty for customers outside the region would always involve additional customs cost and paperwork for sending the laptop back to Germany in the rare event of an RMA. There is currently no agreement to let other Local OEMs (like Eluktronics in the US) carry the warranty for XMG customers and vice-versa. Some parts are customized (in our case the LCD lid and the keyboard) and it won't be easy to agree on how to share handling fees etc. - so I wouldn't expect a global warranty anytime soon.

Hardware, Specs, Thermals

Q: What is the difference between XMG FUSION 15 and other laptops based on Intel's reference design?
A: The hardware of the barebone will be identical. Other Local OEMs might use different parts for RAM and SSDs. Our branding and service/warranty options might be different. We apply our own set of performance profiles in the Control Center. This will rebalance the differentiation between Silent, Balanced and Enthusiast modes.

Q: What is the TGP of the NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q?
A: Officially, it is 80W in Balanced profile and 90W in Enthusiast profile. You can toggle between these modes in real-time with a dedicated mode switch button. Inofficially, the TGP can go up to 115W in Enthusiast profile thanks to the Overboost mechanic, working in the background. However, those 115W may only be sustained until the system has reached thermal saturation, i.e. when the GPU is approaching the GPU Temperature Target of 75°C.

Q: Can I upgrade the storage and memory after I buy?
A: On storage: The laptop has two m.2 PCI-Express SSD slots. This will give you currently up to 4 TB of SSD storage. There is no 2.5" HDD slot available. Instead, the battery is enlarged to 93.48Wh. You can see pictures of the interior layouts here, here and here.
On memory: the laptop has two SO-DIMM DDR4 memory sockets. You can chose during BTO configuration, if you want to occupy both of them when you order the product. We recommend running the laptop in Dual Channel for high-performance usage.

Q: How easy is to upgrade and repair this laptop?
A: Here are the key facts:
We would give this a solid 8 out of 10 which is pretty high for such a thin&light design. The 2 remaining points are substracted for BGA CPU and GPU, which is unfortunately unavoidable in such a thin design.

Q: Does it support Windows Hello?
A: A Fingerprint-Reader is not available, but the HD webcam comes with Infrared and supports Windows Hello.

Q: Can I get a smaller, lighter charger for this laptop?
A: XMG FUSION 15 requires a 230W power adaptor to provide full performance. If you max out CPU and GPU with furmark and prime, the 230W adapter will be fully utilized.
There are currently two compatible 230W adapters. They have different dimensions but similar weight. Please refer to this comparison table:
XMG FUSION 15 Power Supply Comparsion Table (Google Drive)
Includes shop links. Will be updated with precise weight numbers in the next few days. I also included 120W, 150W and 180W in this table. They all share the same plug (5.5/2.5,, diameter, 12.5mm length). But 120W and 150W are only rated for 19V but the laptop expect 19.5V. Usually this will be compensated by tolerance but we haven't tested how a system would behave under long-term usage with such an adaptor.
In theory, 120W to 180W are enough for charing the laptop and for browsing/web/media. Even a full CPU stress test could easily be handled. But as soon as you use CPU and GPU together, you'll run into the bottleneck and your performance will be reduced.
Comparison pictures:
These 5 pictures show only the relevant 230W chargers.
Again, the weight is about the same.

Q: Is it possible to boot and run the laptop while the lid is kept closed?
A: Closing the lid under load is not recommended because it will limit the airflow and have a bad effect on keyboard and screen. The laptop likes to take air in from the keycaps. With lid closed, the performance might be limited due to reaching temp targets earlier.

Q: Can I get the laptop without the XMG logo? I will be using it in public presentations and I would not like any brand names visible.
A: We cannot ship without XMG logo, but you can use a dbrand skins to cover our logo. We have not yet decided if we want to invest into integrating XMG FUSION 15 into the dbrand shop. But you can already buy 100% compatible skins by using the page of the Eluktronics MAG-15 at dbrand. The chassis dimensions are exactly the same. Please be aware: you have to manually select the option "No Logo Cutout" if you want to buy these skins for your XMG FUSION 15. According to dbrand, there will be most likely no import fees when ordering from the EU as long as the order is below 100€. Check this thread for details.

Q: Will you offer thermal paste upgrades like Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut or Liquid Metal?
A: Our ODMs are using silicon-based, high-performance thermal compund from international manufacturers like Shin-Etsu (Japan) and M.G. (USA). Intel is using MG-860 in this reference design.
These products are used in the industrial sector, so they have no publicly known brand name. Nevertheless, their high thermal conductivity and guaranteed durability provide optimal and long-lasting cooling of your high-performance laptop. The thermal compounds are applied and sealed automatically by the vendor of the thermal components. They are applied in a highly controlled, standardized manner and provide the best balance of thermal performance, production tolerance and product lifetime.
We are considering offering an upgrade to Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut due to popular demand. Will keep you posted on that.

Q: Could you please provide an estimate for how much regular usage (~10 browser tabs + some IDE) battery backup would this have? Will there be any way to trade-off battery backup with performance?
A: Battery life vs. peak performance can be traded off by using the "Silent" performance profile. You can switch between profiles using a dedicated button on the machine. Your scenario (10 tabs + some IDE) sounds like mostly reading and writing. I would estimate to get at least 7 hours of solid battery life in such a scenario, maybe more. We have achieved 8 hours in 1080p Youtube streaming on WiFi with 50% screen brightness. Adblock and NoScript helps to keep your idle browser tabs in check.

I/O Ports, Peripherals

Q: Why are there not more USB-A 3.1 Gen2 or even USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports?
A: USB-A 3.1 Gen1 is basically the same as USB 3.0. There aren't a lot of USB-A devices that support more than USB 3.0 speed. Faster devices typically use USB-C connectors and can be used on Thunderbolt 3, which is down-compatible to USB-C 3.1 Gen2. One of the USB-A ports actually supports Gen2 speed.
For the following remarks, please keep in mind that I am not an Intel rep, so everything is based on our own experience.
The mainboard design and the I/O port decisions have been made by Intel. Feedback and requests from LOEM customers have been taken into consideration. We would assume that USB 3.2. Gen2x2 (20 Gbit/s) was not considered to be important enough to safe space for 3rd party IC (integrated circuits) on the motherboard. Right now, all the USB ports and Thunderbolts are supplied by Intel's own IC, so they have full control over the hardware, firmware and driver stack and over power saving and performance control. The more IC you add, the higher your Idle power consumption will be, plus adding potential compatibility or speed issues as it often happens with 1st generation 3rd party USB implementations. I very well remember from my own experience the support stories during the first years of USB 3.0, before it was supported in the Intel chipset. On the one hand, Intel is aiming high in terms of performance and convenience, on the other hand: support and reliability still seem to be Intel's goal #1. Thus they seem to play it safe where they deem it to be reasonable.
Intel is gearing up for USB 4.0 and next-gen Thunderbolt. USB 3.2 2x2 is probably treated as little more than a roadmap accident. Peripheral vendors might see it the same way.

Q: Do you support charging over USB-C/Thunderbolt? Does it support docking stations?
A: The Thunderbolt 3 port in Intel's reference design does not support charging. As you probably know, the 100W limit would not be enough to power the whole system and it would make the mainboard more complex to combine two different ways of charging. Intel consciously opted against it and will probably do so again on future high-end gaming/studio models.
The USB-C/Thunderbolt port supports Dual-Link DisplayPort signals, directly connected to the NVIDIA Graphics. This makes proper docking station usage very convenient. The user still needs to connect the external power adaptor. Both ports (Thunderbolt and DC-in) are in the back of the laptop, making the whole setup appear very neat on the desk.

Q: How many PCIe lanes does the Thunderbolt 3 provide? Are they connected to CPU or Chipset?
A: XMG FUSION 15 supports Thunderbolt 3 with 4 lanes of PCIe 3.0. The lanes come from the chipset because all of the CPU lanes (x16) are fully occupied by the dedicated NVIDIA graphics. We are not aware of any side-effects of running Thunderbolt from the chipset. It is common practice for high-end laptops with high-end graphics. The Thunderbolt solution is of course fully validated and certified by Intel's Thunderbolt labs.

Q: Does it have a standby USB to power USB devices without turning on the laptop?
A: Yes, the USB-A port on the left side supports this feature.

LCD Screen

Q: Which LCD panel is being used? Are there plans for 1440p or 4K panels in the laptop? How about PWM flickering?
A: The panel is BOE NV156FHM-N4G. It is currently not known if the panel will change in later batches. This depends on logistics and stock. At any rate, the panel key specs will remain the same. There are currently no plans to offer resolutions above FHD in the current generation of this laptop.
There are very wide ranges on reports of Backlight Brightness PWM control on this panel in different laptops. Ranging from 200Hz to 1000Hz to no PWM at all - all on the same panel model number. Intel informs us that there are many factors (e.g. freq., display driver, BIOS settings implementation, type of dimmers & compatibility with the driver etc.) that impacts the quality of panel dimming performance. To Intel's knowledge, no kind of flickering has been reported during the validation process. Furthermore, first hands-on data from Notebookcheck indicates that no PWM occurs on this panel. With a DSLR test (multiple burst shots at 1/4000s exposure time) I can confirm that there is not a single frame of brightness dipping or black screen, not even at minimum LCD brightness. Hence, we can confirm: BOE NV156FHM-N4G in XMG FUSION 15 (with Intel) does not use PWM for backlight control.

Q: Some BTO shops, for an additional fee, manually pick out display panels with the least back-light bleed. Do you offer that? Even better, do you do that without the extra fee?
A: Intel has validated this design to avoid backlight bleed as much as possible. Currently no plans to do further binning. All dozens of MP samples we have seen so far have been exceptionally good.

Q: I'm coming from a 13" MacBook with Retina display. How am I going to fare with this 15.6" FHD screen in content creation?
A: If you got used to editing high-res visual content (photography, artwork) on your 13inch retina, things will change. On the one hand, your canvas will be larger and more convenient and ergonomic to work with. On the other hand, you will find yourself zooming in more often in order to make out fine-detail. Assuming that you have sharp 20:20 vision.
As it is, the screen resolution and specs are not planned to change within the lifetime of this product. The first realistic time-window for a refresh would be whenever Intel is releasing the next "H" series CPU generation. But even then, an upgrade on resolution will not be guaranteed.
Laptop Resolution Pixel per inch dot pitch
13.3" MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013) 2560x1600 226.98 PPI 0.1119mm
15.6" XMG FUSION 15 (late 2019) 1920x1080 141.21 PPI 0.1799mm
To compare: 141.21 is ~62% from 226.98. This represents the the metric difference in pixel density and peak sharpness between these two models.
If you know the diagonal size and resolution of your screen, you can make this comparison yourself with the DPI/PPI calculator.

Keyboard, Backlight, Switches, Layout

Q: What can you tell us about the mechanical keyboard of XMG FUSION 15?
A: The keyboard has already been reviewed in our XMG NEO series as being more crisp than typical membrane keyboards. Most reviewers attested it a very good score, both for gaming and for writing long texts.
The keyboard backlight can be configured per-key. Default mode is all white.
Keyboard Switch Specs:
Having no frame around the keycaps actually helps the thermals. The fans can pull in additional air from the top. This improves airflow and helps to keep the keyboard temperature at low levels during gaming. It also prevents long-term RMA issues on the keyboard. This specific keyboard switch is already in its 3rd generation and very mature by now.

Q: Is it possible to dampen the mechanical keyboard with o-rings?
A: The switch design does not lend itself to further dampening. The switch mechanic is too complex and has more moving parts than cherry. The 2mm travel distance also plays a role in not allowing more dampening.
For reference, please use this video (Youtube). We compared XMG NEO with another membrane-type keyboard. XMG NEO and FUSION share the same keyboard mechanics with the silent tactile switch and the same sound profile.

Q: Do you have LED keyboard backlight on the secondary key function, like Fn key icons?
A: Please have a look at this picture.
Btw, my working sample has blank keycaps. I took the 3 printed keycaps (F8, F9, F10) from a different sample just to demonstrate the Fn lighting for this picture.
In my assesment, the Fn function symbols are clearly visible from the backlight in a dark room. A user should have no difficulty to recognize the icon and reach its function.

Q: Which keyboard layouts do you offer in the EU?
A: The following layouts are available, in alphabetic order: Belgium, Czech, Danish, Dvorak German, Dvorak US, Estonia, French, German, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Polish for Typists, Portuguese, Russia Latin, Slovakish, Spanish, Swedish / Finnish, Swiss, Turkish, UK, US International (ISO)All these layouts are based on the ISO matrix. See differences between ANSI vs. ISO here.

Operating System

Q: Do you support Linux and dual-boot on XMG FUSION 15?
A: We are in discussion to sell XMG FUSION 15 over Tuxedo with official Linux support. It might take 1 or 2 months to get this running.

Q: Which LAN, Audio and WiFi card vendors will be used? Asking for a friend.
A: From our HWiNFO64 report. (Google Drive link)
LAN: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 [PCI\VEN_10EC&DEV_8168&SUBSYS_20868086&REV_15]Audio: Intel(R) Smart Sound Technology (Intel(R) SST) Audio Controller [PCI\VEN_8086&DEV_A348&SUBSYS_20868086&REV_10]WiFi: Intel(R) Wi-Fi 6 AX200 [PCI\VEN_8086&DEV_2723&SUBSYS_00848086&REV_1A], can be replaced.
For more information, please check the linked report file.

Other questions

Q: What would you say are the advantages and differences with other laptops due to the fact the laptop was designed in collaboration with Intel?
A: Disclaimer: I am \not* an Intel rep. The following remarks are based on my personal experience and opinion.*
  1. Very strict quality control on all levels. I can't quote numbers due to NDA, but Intel NUC has extremely low RMA rates, compared to average PC mainboards and systems. Intel is driven by strict internal regulation that strifes for perfection - this applies to the whole chassis, assembly and firmware, not only the mainboard. There are also certain regulations in place, for example in terms of electro-magnetic regulation and skin temperatures. The rating label is littered with regulatory seals from every region of the world, making this laptop especially safe to use.
  2. Access to high-quality material: we have not seen any Gaming Laptops based on Magnesium alloy yet, especially not in the ODM/LOEM ecosystem. The battery cells are also much more dense than what we usually see. Intel has the buying power and the vision to not settle for mediocre parts.
  3. Down-to-earth design: Intel has made this reference design for the ODM/LOEM eco-system. The design does not try to follow any specific corporate identity, thus it does not have any unneccessary "bling bling" like all the others have. Even the Razer Blade with it's sleek shape is quite obnoxious (iny my oppinion) with it's big backlit green snake logo. With XMG FUSION however, we can continue our typical style of "Undercover Gaming".
  4. Security: you can expect stellar support in terms of BIOS and Firmware (TPM, Management Engine) updates whenever any security issues are found. This might also apply to global brands, but ODM/LOEM systems have not always been so quick to react. This is due to the huge fragmentation/customizations in ODM/LOEM systems. Intel however does now allow any fragmentation: every LOEM partner is getting the same firmware. There are many hooks for configurations in this firmware, but the source code / binaries are always the same. This makes support much easier down the line.
  1. I can't name many, of course. But I would say the strict validation also makes the partnership less flexible from a product management perspective. There is no plan currently to phase-in any 4K or 300Hz screen (FHD/144Hz ought to be enough for everyone this year) or any Core i9 in this system. Other ODMs might be more open for costly modifications based on low quantities. Intel however has streamlined their production and logistics in a way that gives us (the LOEM) very short lead times and competitive pricing, but will not allow any short-notice upgrades or customizations.

Q: Will there be a 17 inch version?
A: We can neither confirm nor deny plans for a 17 inch version at this point.

[to be continued]
submitted by XMG_gg to XMG_gg [link] [comments]

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