Penteo Processor Coming -- your help needed - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 07-31-2010, 01:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey all,

I really don't mean to spam the group, but since much of Penteo's success is indebted to AVSForum (our work in Inglourious Basterds for QT would have never happened without the AVSForum dialogs), this is the perfect place to make this announcement / request for advice.

Penteo has gone from just being me -- writing C code on a 7-year old Dell computer -- to a small company that now includes Tom Kobayashi, formerly of Skywalker, Chris Stone, creator of the Record Plant studios, and Tom Allom, producer of Judas Priest. We've been nominated by Britain's Resolution pro-audio magazine for a new product award, and we won a "Cool Stuff" award at last year's National Association of Broadcasters show. We have the first full-time 5.1 surround internet stream online on a project we've developed with CBS Radio and Telos. We've licensed our code to Orban for "just in time" stereo-to-5.1 television transmitter audio processing. I'm personally astonished as to what I was essentially able to create after I was laid off two years ago as part of NBC/Universal's west coast cutbacks. My friend/bartender/musician Patrick Goodwin and I couldn't find jobs, so we started a company.

We've just gotten our first round of basic funding, which we're exited to say has not come from venture capital, instead it came from a group of former and current rock musicians, who believe in our process.

We've been putting a prototype box of our lab process (which doesn't do some of the forensic restoration we do in the lab, but it does everything else -- it does correct the timing errors found in analog masters) that we made using an off-the-shelf chassis, and have actually sold a few (one went to Universal Studios, one to Basterds mixer Mike Minkler (who was bugging me for a box to listen to for months), and another to Simon Heyworth who used us on the King Crimson project). The fact that we sold any (considering that no custom metal work had even been done) and who they were sold to makes us believe there's a real potential here. We now have boxes under evaluation at Skywalker and Todd-AO, as well as post houses around Los Angeles. We've been asked to do a presentation at Paramount sometime next month. Minkler has now endorsed an ad for us in the Cinema Audio Society newsletter!

We're now doing our first custom metal box that will house our processor. It will be quiet (it has to be for use on mix stages), rack mountable, with removable ears and rubber feet to make it into a desktop unit. The box is a full-fledged computer system, and we're using high-end (Lynx or Digigram or similar) pro audio cards. These cards themselves retail for around $1000 or more; (Some of the chips on those cards sell for more than $100 wholesale!)

Our units -- which currently sell professionally for $8000+ -- could be priced to be more affordable by leaving out some of the pro features like balance and timing correction. Those are only needed to compensate for analog tape transfer and mastering errors that were previously imperceptable. If all you're listening to are post-1985 digital mixes, you don't need them. Or we could make them into "enable-able" options you pay extra for.

Somehow, obviously, we have to make a profit on a box that itself costs quite a bit to manufacture, otherwise we go away.

Though we have no problem with the XLR analog, S/PDIF, or AES/EBU interfaces that we encounter in production, in developing a unit for audiophile use we have to figure out how to work within the 2010 standard audio hardware limitations. Receivers these days don't have "tape monitor" switches that have stereo out and 5.1 in, which effectively is what any outboard processor really needs.

For those who have component preamp/power amps, we can easily fit between the two units. Since the 24-bit noise floor is -144db, there is no problem connecting the Penteo unit directly to the power amp and putting it in bypass for non-Penteo use. In that mode, we would use standard RCA or mini-jacks adapted to RCA to go between. Alternatively, we can use standard XLR connectors for those that can take them. Since we use commercially available sound cards, it's just a matter of swapping out the card.

We are also looking at HDMI cards, and can interface that way too. Do your receivers have HDMI audio/video output and/or loop through?

How would you interface an outboard stereo-to-5.1 panorama slicer into your current setup?

I really appreciate all the support we've always gotten here, and thank you so much in advance for your advice. To the forum admins, thanks so much for the platform and the success you all have helped us to achieve in motion pictures and now surround discs.

John Wheeler

PS: It's also fairly easy for us to prototype an automobile processor, which we'll be doing in the next few months.
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post #2 of 7 Old 08-01-2010, 12:00 AM
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Any way to make it a software solution for the HTPC crowd? Now that ATI and Nvidia are bitstreaming via HDMI all the current high end audio formats it would seem logical to integrate this into higher end computers vs. a separate box which is pretty much a computer with audio card/s. Penteo for the car would be great too, there's still quite a few car manufacturers that seem open to surround in the car such as the Hyundai Genesis among others. A question? you said "We have the first full-time 5.1 surround internet stream online" where's this at? I've heard other surround internet streaming stations which are great, although they're limited with bandwidth, so would like to listen to the Penteo Stream! Still have your original Demo with some Beatles, CSNY, etc and it's great!
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post #3 of 7 Old 08-01-2010, 12:21 AM
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From the perspective of the creators, I would imagine that piracy makes a software solution rather unattractive for this type of specialty product.
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post #4 of 7 Old 08-02-2010, 10:12 PM
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Hi John, I thought you were going to go HDMI in and out. I use a HTPC with HDMI out, and my processor is HDMI in, so that would be great for me.
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post #5 of 7 Old 08-04-2010, 11:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSmith83 View Post

From the perspective of the creators, I would imagine that piracy makes a software solution rather unattractive for this type of specialty product.

Not just that, but repeatedly even our pro users really like the ability to use the process in real-time as an outboard box.

We do use it internally as software at the restoration and remastering (we call it UpMastering) level.

john
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post #6 of 7 Old 08-04-2010, 11:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deepsky4565 View Post

Hi John, I thought you were going to go HDMI in and out. I use a HTPC with HDMI out, and my processor is HDMI in, so that would be great for me.

We are.

But we are repeatedly at a quandry as to how we can be best used at a consumer level. Every six months or so the question comes back up -- what about a consumer product???

In 1975, this would have been nothing -- RCA connectors in and out and you would use it as you see fit. Duh.

But now, we're faced with integrated gear that doesn't allow for insertion of outboard processes. A consumer's one unit (the "receiver") deals with the stereo stream or media, and internally does all processing to convert it to 5.1 using one of its brand-name matrix decoders.

How we insert ourselves between a user's source (could be even as simple as S/PDIF in and HDMI out for a CD player) and their routing and amplifier is a mystery, and wildly different between digital single-unit users and old school separate preamp/power amp, sometimes even connected in analog using XLR connectors, just as we do with our pro analog model.

How does one design a unit that can insert itself between the stereo source (CD Player, Turntable?, FM Tuner?, iPod/iPhone?) and the 5.1 amplifier in your setup?

You see our challenge.
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post #7 of 7 Old 08-04-2010, 11:58 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Scott View Post

A question? you said "We have the first full-time 5.1 surround internet stream online" where's this at? I've heard other surround internet streaming stations which are great, although they're limited with bandwidth, so would like to listen to the Penteo Stream!

The test stream is for CBS Radio/WZLX in Boston playing Classic Rock. We have a unit (that first had to go through the CBS Radio technical inspection in Los Angeles to make sure that it passes the subsonic commercial tracking information, it does...), installed there in Boston. The URL is private, as we are waiting for all the parties involved (it's like six different corporations) to formalize it, if in fact they do. It's been online for about 7 months with full distribution (bouncing off a reflector network as a 192kb mp3Surround audio stream) and we showed it in the Telos (www.telos-systems.com) booth at the National Association of Broadcasters show.

(We found ourselves listening to the 1-877-KARS for KIDS jingle playing in 5.1 there -- YIKES! along with all their other programming and commercials. The music made people's mouths fall open at the show floor, as we were playing it on Genelec's at the NAB. The WZLX in-house processing is 100% 24-bit digital state of the art.)

I'd love to hear it in a car myself.

The HTPC platform isn't really standardized. If you know of a single HTPC manufacturer (I know many are home built) who has a unified, repeatable product, that we can tie ourselves into, we'd consider it seriously I'm sure.

We're not that concerned about the software security question as we took that into consideration before any distribution of anything: the software is all encrypted using state of the art stuff.

As with many of these technologies, we are marketing it as a real-time unit to start, so that everyone can familiarize themselves with the concept of splitting up a stereo panorama -- a concept that takes some people a bit to understand.

Thanks again for all your input.

-john
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