The "Fools on the Hill" Television Project.




What is the "Fools on the Hill" TV project?

The "Fools onthe Hill" (FotH)TV project aims to provide a method of generating video signals for obsolete television standards. The name is a reference to the first BBC television engineers at Alexander Palace, who were often referred to as "the fools on the hill". The majority of the work on this method of picture generation has been done by Kat Manton.

Doctor Who in 404 lines, on a Sony 9-90UB, from a KnoppMYTH system.

How does it work?

The basis of the FotH TV project is a personal computer (PC) running the MYTHTV package. MYTHTV is a piece of software that runs un der the LINUX operating system, and is intended for use as a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) - i.e. it is intended to record off -air television, or other video input to the PC onto the computers hard disk. It is also cpable of replaying and recording DVD and VCD, as well as web surfing and music playback.

The FotH project utilises the high level of control that LINUX has over the computer hardware, in order to DIRECTLY generate video at the required standard, this can result in very high qaulity video source for your old TV sets!

There is a small amount of hardware required in addition to the PC. The system also needs a video and synch combiner (to provide a composite video signal from the PC's VGA port), and a modulator that is suitable for the TV that you intend to display the picture on.

What standards can the system produce?

So far, the system has been demonstrated with the following line standards: 819, 625, 525, 405, 240. It may be posssible to use lower line standards, but we haven't tried it yet. It should also be straightforward to produce a picture to the 441 line standard. It is theoretically possible to produce frame sequential colour images (CBS system), but again, no-one has done it yet.

A 240 line image displayed on a Tektronix 535A oscilloscope.

What PC hardware does the system need?

For a successful system, the PC needs a processor with a speed in excess of 1GHz, around 256MB of RAM, a minimum of 80GB hard disk, a CD or DVD drive (DVD gives you playback of the media, CD will only allow loading of the software and playing VCD), and a LAN card. For reception and recording of TV pictures, a TV tuner card (analogue or digital) is needed. At the moment, the nVidia GeForce 4 and FX5200 cards have been used succesfully.

Where do I get the Software?

The easy way to install the software is to download the KnoppMYTH package from this site. KnoppMYTH is MYTHTV built on the Knoppix LINUX distribuition. The package can be burnt to a CD and will then install on the target machine, at this point you will have a working PVR machine, to use the box for additional standards, a few minor edits are required to some system configuration files.

What do I need to do to get pictures on my TV set?

There are a few things:

Enable multi-region operation of the DVD playback.

Load the latest nVidia driver.

Edit the X-modeline file to generate the relevant video.

Build an RGB and synch combiner (these range from very simple to quite complex).

Buy or a build a suitable modulator (This takes the combined video and turns it into a signal suitable for plugging into the aerial socket of your TV set).

Where Can I find more information?

The following links give more information about the system:

The PC as a Standards Converter

PC requirements for a standards converter.

First Pictures from the system

Announcing FotH LINUX

A discussion of Foth / Standards Converters

819 line screenshots using FotH

Modelines for 405 and 819 lines

240 line picture from FotH, including Modeline.

Simple RGB combiner

More complex RGB combiner (with discussion of circuitry)

Thanks to everyone on the Vintage Radio forum who has contributed to these threads.

Help, I've never used LINUX!

Neither had I when Istarted work on this! I can recommend the following book as a good starting point:

"LINUX in easy steps" by Mike McGrath, published by Computer Step, ISBN 1-84078-305-2

Remote log-in Client.

MYTH TV allows you to log in remotely to the server box - for this, I use the TeraTerm SSH client. This allows remote control of the MYTH box, and is very useful when experimenting with modelines.


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Copyright J.Beacon & M.Wroe-Parker 2006