Mid-January Update

I have been amazed at how many different people have been contacting me lately, from all around the world.  Thank you for your continued interest in PMCv1!  Last week I was on a business trip and got to fiddle around with the custom PCB designs again.  One question that I came up with was whether or not I could include a few other useful features and sell a version of PMCv1 without any software (and without the costly TV connector) on it as a small development board (for hobbyists like myself).  This would allow me to further offset costs of PMCv1 production and scrap the current “existing board” design altogether.

Why Scrap the Existing Design?

There are a couple good reasons, that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  First and foremost, the existing small PCB that I purchased to do my initial development and testing with is lacking a protection diode.  Second, it is lacking the “undo” switch.  Third, it only has one LED.  None of those in themselves are deal-breakers.  But combined, it means I’ve got to do a fair amount of work to the little guy to get it ready to go.. on each and every board bought.  Ugh.

The smallest custom board that I’ve got mostly done includes two LEDs, two switches, a protection diode, and a voltage regulator (for 5V support).  The idea here is that I can have them produced in quantities of 100 at a time, and all I really need to do is program the chip, solder on the TV connector, add some protective shrink-wrap, and ship it out the door.  Those are all much more reasonable steps, and the time savings are significant.  It also greatly reduces the likelihood of simple human errors since the final assembly steps are easier and not as delicate.  And two LEDs are far easier to understand than one.  Especially when one’s red and one’s green!

What’s in a Hobby Board?

That’s a tough question.  I’ve recently been picking the brains of some really talented folks about some features that I would think “pretty cool” to add to the design to make it a hobby board that people might actually want to buy.  They’ve had some really great ideas, too.  Some of them are clearly outside the time-frame that I’d like to see, but some may be possible.  In the end, I’m going to have to make some compromises.  So it’s likely not going to be a full-fledged hobby board.  But maybe some will still want to buy it?

Okay, So What Now?

The rest of the night I’m going to be trying to wrap up the little custom PCB and get it ready to be quoted by my good friends at Advanced Circuits. I have used them for many years across several day-jobs and they have always done a really fantastic job.  Super quality, Super price, Super speed, Super everything.  There are cheaper fab houses out there, but sometimes you get what you pay for when you go with the lowest bidder.  I know what I can expect out of Advanced Circuits, and they’ve done a great job to earn my business.  Maybe by next week I’ll have better information on cost and availability estimates.

A Quick Note About “Rising Blacks” versus “Floating Blacks”

A few emails have come across my inbox asking if “Rising Blacks” and “Floating Blacks” are the same thing.  Unfortunately, they’re NOT the same thing.  PMCv1 is intended to reset the Minimum Luminance Level, or MLL, or “Black Level” of the Panasonic Plasma TV.   Over time, these models exhibit several steps of increased black levels over their lifespan.  This is the “Rising Blacks” problem.  Day one sees the darkest darks in movie shadows possible by your particular model.  At various times through its life those darks become a little lighter color…not so dark. This problem is what PMCv1 sets out so solve.

“Floating Blacks” is an entirely different problem that some Panasonic Plasma sets exhibit.  Floating blacks are where the TV dynamically adjusts its black level based on average picture content.  So, in a really dark scene, the overall “black” level is reduced, to make the image that much more inky black.  In bright outdoor scenes, where such an inky black isn’t necessary, the darkest dark isn’t quite so dark.  The problems can arise when there’s just the right amount of content on the screen where the TV can’t quite make up its mind and the darkest shadows in the picture step back and forth between inky and grey, inky and grey, etc.

PMCv1 is intended to correct the “Rising Blacks,” but at this time cannot do anything for “Floating Blacks.”