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Doing the SKY+ SDI mod. First hand!

Discussion in 'Sky Digital TV Forum' started by charker, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. charker

    charker
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    A few weeks ago I thought I would try and do this mod myself. When I looked on the forums I couldn't really find any info about how hard this might be so I hope this helps anyone thinking of doing this mod themselves.

    I'm no expert at soldering but do like to fiddle with gadgets. I thought I could do this....easy I thought! :rolleyes:

    I ordered the part from the US (pmsvideo), about £90 and 3 days to arrive in the UK. The easy bit. You will get a small wire loom and an SDI board. I also ordered an SDI cable from the Pluggin people who sell modified SKY+ boxes.

    I would suggest that anyone thinking of doing this looks at the instructions on the pms site and also takes the lid off the SKY+ box before they order any parts. Look at the size of the solder points....they are tiny, like soldering to a shirt-pin head. :lesson:

    In preparation I ordered a soldering iron (30 watt, .4mm , .8mm tip) off Ebay (£13 from someone going by the name solderman).

    I opened up the SKY+ box took one look :eek: and put the lid back on. My first reaction was that it was impossible! Hence my recommendation that you look before you order the parts!

    Not to be beaten I bought a hands-free magnifying glass from Maplin at £10.

    I took the lid off and had another attempt. ...and put the lid back on. I still thought it was impossible! :rolleyes:

    I phoned the local TV repair shop, I thought I would pay someone else! He was on holiday and I'm impatient!

    The following night, not to be beaten I had a third attempt and acquired a very bright light to brighten up the soldering area.

    Meanwhile I got a few wise words from my brother, an electronics engineer, who unfortunately lives in the US, otherwise I would have been letting him do it!

    First the solder points are covered in a protective coating which you must burn off before anything will solder to them. Cleaning these up until I could see shiny copper on all contacts took me ages, an hour or two. A couple of points are very close to the mpeg chip and very hard to get at. Just placing the soldering iron on the points and letting it heat up gets you started but it still requires a lot of fiddling with the soldering iron to get the contacts clean.

    Note that burning of this coating turns eveything around it black. It looks awful, like it will never work again. Very worring at the time. I was told that this is normal but should not cause any real damage.

    If anyone knows of a trick for cleaning these up quickly I would love to hear it. I actually swapped a .4mm bit for a .8mm which made it a little easier.

    One lesson I learnt myself. Clean up all the solder points before attempting to solder on any wires.

    Next he told me not to poke anything into the "holes" on these contact points, I should just solder on the top of them or I could damage them.

    Having cleaned up all the solder points I "tinned" all the wires and started to solder them to the circuit board. I also never managed to "tin" the contact points I just placed the wire on the contact point and heated it up. It is very fiddly, getting a good contact is a nightmare on a point so small. The point is only as big as the tiny wires you have to solder to them. The CLOCK one was the worst, no matter how hard I tried I could only clean this up and see 2/3 of the contact point.

    The PMS site tells you what wires go where, except for the power wires which you need to tap into 5V and GND. I read somewhere on another thread that you use the hard disk drive power leads for this.

    At one point the solder "glooped" (my technical term for a uncontrollable and unexpected blob of solder) and I managed to solder 2-3 pins of the mpeg chip together, which had me worried (I could see money disappearing from my bank account). :oops:

    I didn't want to fry the mpeg chip and was saved by some of the solder removal copper braid you get from Maplin (£5). Thank God they open late! You just heat the solder and stick the braid into to it and it soaks up the excess. Make sure you clean the tip of the iron before you do this otherwise it soaks up the solder from the tip and you have to cut off the end of the braid and start again. I suggest buying some of this braid stuff before you start!

    Another point worth noting is that mpeg chip is not soldered into the board. It is soldered onto the board, if you heat the pins you can see them move around. That also got me worried as I tried to clean off solder and solder one of the wires to one of the pins!

    I soldered all the wires as best I could and before I attached the SDI board I though I would plug it all in and make sure it still worked. Nothing.. and I mean nothing (not even a Satellite signal lock in the setup menu). I removed all the wires, double checked I had cleaned everything off the mpeg chip pins and tried again.

    A picture.....thank God. I thought I had fried the lot! :thumbsup:

    Next I soldered on all the wires apart from the power. I plugged in SKY and still had a picture. A good start I thought.

    Next, two of the wires are for power and you have to tap into the red wire used to power the disk drive (5V) and the black wire next to it (GND).

    I turned on SKY again. Still got a picture. So far so good.

    Next I tried connecting the SDI board to this wire loom. I also connected an SDI cable to my iScan HD+ and switched to it. Nothing. Normal picture was fine, SDI had nothing.

    I noticed that the CLOCK wire soldering looked a bit iffy so I resoldered that. Still nothing. I heated up each joint in turn hoping to improve the connection. Some wires I stripped, re-tinned and re-soldered, I was getting good by this point. CLOCK was still giving me grief, falling off all the time. I actually swapped hands to get a good connection on this lead, laying the cable the other way gave a better contact surface.

    Eventually after about 8 round trips from the solder table to the TV I got a picture. Phew!

    I poked the SDI connector through the hole left by the serial connector, which I removed.

    The picture was clear but I had a black bar down the left edge. Setting overscan to 4 seemed to sort that out. I do have one oddity in that when you get SKY movies with the "sign language" guy in the bottom right corner I can see "interlace" lines, like half of him is missing. Very strange.

    I am still connecting through VGA to the plasma, an HDMI board is next on the shopping list.

    Was it worth it? Yes I think so. That little bit of extra sharpness makes a picture from a good signal look 3D; it is very clear. The Program Guide is also much sharper. I am looking forward to seeing what a DVI-HDMI connection from my iScan will look like.

    All in all it cost me about £110 and about 4 hours of cold sweats and frustration. I think I was a little lucky too :)

    Would I do it again? Maybe.

    Would I do it for someone else? Never.

    I think bunging the local TV repair shop some money or using one of the suppliers, who do it for you, is probably a safer bet. I think you could easily "fry" the entire thing and that would be expensive.

    But if you feel brave, best of luck....

    Charker
     
  2. Starburst

    Starburst
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    Not something I would try myself (I know my limits) but certainly worthwhile if you are a confident guy and have the processor/input card to accept SDI.
    I'm going to take the easy way out and go down the High Def route and hope for the best.

    Thanks for the anecdote though, makes a damn fine read:)
     
  3. Boy Lex

    Boy Lex
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    I've got an ebay aquired box sitting on my desk with a failed SDI mod responsible for it's demise (fortunately the seller refunded my money when I told him what it looked like!). You want to have a go at fixing it?!
     
  4. Nick_UK

    Nick_UK
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    I remember buying a multi-region & macrovision chip mod for (what was then) my brand-new Toshiba 3109 DVD player. Although I have been using a soldering iron for more than 40 years, wiring 7 wires to a board with just pin-heads for contacts was still very daunting, and I sweat blood doing it.

    If you are not skilled with a soldering iron, or if you have had no experience with surface-mount technology or LSI chips, then I would advise that you pay an expert to do it. I am not volunteering :)
     
  5. charker

    charker
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    Boy Lex

    Is it totally fried or can you get a normal picture OK?

    I would hazard a guess that if the SDI mod has been removed and it still does not provide a picture that the MPEG chip has been fried or the pins shorted. My biggest worry was overheating the pins on this chip and destroying the inside of the chip in some way.

    Cleaning up the pins with a de-solder strip and a magnifying glass could save the box provided the chip itself has not been fried. Does the circuit board look really bad? They could have damaged something fundamental trying to clean up these solder points.

    If the MPEG chip is fried I don't know whether you could buy a new chip. Soldering it to the board would be fiddly, you would need to de-solder and bend up each pin until it came off. You would then need to clean up the solder points. I would guess the new chip would be placed on the board (over the solder points) and soldered at each corner to hold it in place. You would then need to solder each pin. The solder does tend to flow into the right place on pins like these.

    I think the best first port of call is a hands-on local TV repair shop who could take a close look at the board and chip as it stands. It could be as simple as a shorted pin or they may tell you the board is beyond repair

    Charker
     
  6. Flimber

    Flimber
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  7. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Charker

    well done !


    I doubt that will make any difference to your image quality, VGA while being an analogue signal is very good, and certainly wont be a limiting factor.

    exactly, you also see more fine picture details, textures etc.

    The main thing about using an SDI fitting company is the warranty , if we fit a mod to a customer supplied Sky box and it all goes horribly wrong then we would repair/replace the box at our cost. Similarly if we supply a new SDI enabled box then it is fully warrantied. Not trying to put people off (Charker has done that bit!) but as you have read above it isnt a 5 minute job !

    regards
     
  8. charker

    charker
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    David

    On your boxes have you noticed the "interlace" effect on screen graphics and the like? I noticed on the sign language guy and on a couple of other things.

    They just appear to have each alternate line missing (transparent). Very odd.

    Is the black bar down the left also normal? It was black all the way down to the last scan line which was blue. It was like a 1 inch horizontal shift to the right. I was worried it was some kind of timing issue. Overscan=4 on the iScan pushed it off to the left out of the way and the picture is fine.

    I took the view that if I got any picture at all I had probably done it properly, it being digital I thought any mistakes would result in zero picture. Can you do a bad job and get a bad picture or is it all or nothing?

    Flimber: I might give that a miss although it looks to have less fiddly soldering than the SDI mod. But perhaps I should "never say never".

    thanks

    Charker
     
  9. Boy Lex

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    Good advice!

    I think the biggest problem is that a resistor close to the mpeg chip has been fried off! I've got no idea what its value is. If I could figure that out then I think I could be bothered to try and clean the rest up to salvage it. Thing is as I'm unsure where it has been, etc, I'm not sure if I can be bothered to spend time trying to fix it if its also got a faulty power supply/tuner/hard disk/card reader!

    You can have a look at:
    http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=181204
     
  10. charker

    charker
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    It's hard to tell from the photo. The chip looks reasonably OK. That "black" looking area on the left (fried resistor or whatever) is odd in that it is not part of the SDI mod at all.

    Can you see if the solder points (in your first photo) have been tampered with? The area around the 3 at the top in my box is now blackened and yours looks unscathed.

    When I was messing about I ran a hot soldering iron along the pins of the chip (in an attempt to get solder that bridged between two pins to break and flow back onto a pin) and it melted the solder on each pin which cooled to a working joint. I think doing a similar job on yours would clean up the dodgy looking soldering on the chip.

    That darker area concerns me though. If there are masses of solder around that area you could try and soak some of it up. I've always thought capacitors and resistors were pretty hardy things when it came to soldering so you could be lucky and just need to clean things up a bit.

    During my exploits that resistor (or whatever) at the top right got a "gloop" of solder on it and I managed to clean it up OK.

    Cliff
     
  11. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Cliff

    the issues that you are referring to all sound like Iscan issues, we have some Iscan customers running Sky SDI fine, have you been in touch with your IScan support? It sounds like a problem with video/film detection, you shouldnt see any combing at all...

    regards
     
  12. Boy Lex

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    Thanks for that Cliff. I think I can see where the chip legs have become unbridged from the board, so I'll have a go at cleaning it up next week. Maybe i'll just try a few different resistor values and see what happens! I suspect it will end up in a skip at some point though!

    I suppose SDI will improve Plasma because of the way they are made. I've put off any plans to buy one because they have a tendancy to make everything look pixelly.
     
  13. charker

    charker
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    Boy Lex

    I have a Panasonic V7 50" plasma and when viewed from about 3m or so the picture can be amazing. Most people who have seen it say so and also say that plasmas never look that good in the shops.

    I am very fussy and liek you I waited and waited but a few months back I took the plunge. You can notice "pixels" now and again but for the most part I'm very happy with the picture on this plasma. I went back to my old Sony 29" the other days and it looks awful by comparison.

    Charker
     
  14. Boy Lex

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    Fair enough. I guess half the problem is that everytime you see a plasma on the high street (and in half of peoples homes for that matter). They are using a composite connection that has been split to about 25 different displays. It's a wonder they sell any!
     
  15. charker

    charker
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    “It may be the case in a country which uses a 50 Hz video standard that the best results will occur by turning film mode off. For those countries, film-based material is done with 2:2 pulldown. The deinterlacer used in the iScan, the Silicon Image SiI504, can have difficulties with 2:2 pulldown.

    The main problems are:

    1) It can stay in 2:2 pulldown lock when it should not. A good example of this is when the main image is 2:2 pulldown, but there is scrolling text overlaid on the image that is not 2:2 pulldown. This will cause the text to comb. Even worse, if the 504 drops in and out of lock on the image, the text will alternate between combing and not combing, causing the perceived motion to stutter severely. Turning film mode to 'off' fixes this.

    2) It can drop in and out of lock on poor quality sources or when there is little motion in the image. Turning film mode off fixes this, but degrades the image overall.

    For regions where the video standard is 50 Hz, it may be advisable to turn film mode to off for certain sources. This includes many types of broadcast or satellite television, particularly when there are mixed source types (such as my overlaid scrolling text example) above. For good quality film-based sources such as DVD movies, film mode should generally be set to auto.”
     
  16. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Charker

    Good points..I personally use Crystalio with Sky SDI and the detection accuracy is configurable via menu setting 'Film Bias' in 8 steps (released a few months ago as a firmware upgrade)

    It really now is set-and-forget, you see Crystalio very rapidly changing its mode during advert breaks, also programs with scrolling captions etc. Bottom line? you hardly ever see combing, the detection is very quick and very accurate to the extent that unless you watched the status LED on the Crystalio front panel then you would be completely unaware of the mode changes.
     
  17. JudgeyK

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    Hi Guy's,

    I too got my SDI mod done this weekend, but I heard on a grapevine that someone has managed to give the board a dedicated 5v supply instead of grabbing the power from the board somewhere which has improved the quality of the picture again...

    Is this rubbish ?, do you have a picture of where exactly the 5v power should be taken from ?

    Cheers
     

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