Saturday, August 21, 2010

Block Party

Here is more proof that BP are attempting to prevent the public from doing their own investigation of what is going on at the former drilling site of Deepwater Horizon. I noticed long ago that the ROV camera footage which appears on television is of much higher quality than that available on the free, live, public web feeds. That the web feeds we get to see are not of broadcast quality I can somewhat understand, because providing streaming high-definition video for free could cost BP money. But only today did I stumble onto something which makes me think they are purposely not only providing low-bitrate video at ridiculously low resolutions, but they are purposely de-rezzing their videos for we the people. BP are turning video of unbelievable quality from the underwater cameras into an unwatchable, blocky, blurry, muddy mess.

I came across 1080p, crystal clear footage from the early part of June, from the Ocean Intervention III ROV. I tried to capture a live comparison video from that same ROV to show you the difference in quality that BP gets to see versus what they let us see, but this is the screen I was presented with when I loaded their live web feeds page:

Because of this confluence of ROVs being offline, I am forced to go to tape, or rather to Youtube. But first let's have you take a look at the 1080p footage I found. I would like to thank persons unknown for compiling this excellent web page, a comprehensive information compilation on the Gulf oil disaster and BP's repair efforts. You can find the four rare full-resolution versions of video from early June at the following links. Make sure to select the 1080p option in the lower right corner of each video and maximize it full screen, or else you're only watching the downgraded, 480p versions:

Note the extraordinary clarity and resolution and the frame rate of these videos. The quality is almost as good as Monday Night Football in HD. You can literally see individual scratches on the paint of the well equipment. You can see far greater detail in the oil plume than any other videos you've seen on Youtube or even on cable or network news. In addition, the on screen display is crisp with well defined characters, unlike a lot of the videos I've used to promote my twin well theory, where some numbers are very difficult to discern.

Now I'll refer you again to Youtube to view a video where someone, on the same day the 1080p versions above, captured video from his television using a video camera. This represents the middle tier of the video BP provides, standard definition but decent looking footage to the TV networks:

Now we'll see if we can find one captured from BP's live public web feeds page. I found a good one, meaning one which looks so awful it's hard to watch. I captured it myself with a screen capture program directly from their web site -- what you see are the exact pixels I saw. The date is different and it is from a different ROV, but this will let you see the difference between the standard-definition video being fed to media and the "de-rezzed" web feeds we are allowed to access:

Note how the background is turned into a series of blocks by the extreme compression algorithm being used. But the lossy compression technique uses psychovisual modeling to discard the information which the codec believes will be least perceptible to the human eye. This is the same model used by the MP3 codec and Apple's AAC for their iPod -- throw away the data least likely to be perceived to save file size, or in this case, streaming bandwidth.

But this doesn't fully explain why we see such a marked difference between the visual quality of the actual scene the camera is viewing and the relatively good quality of the on-screen display. If the complete video were being fed to content distribution servers for dynamic recompression on the fly, as determined by live demand, the video should maintain such an appearance -- in other words its quality should express the traits of that system of distribution.

To my eyes, which are red-green colorblind and thus not the best judge, admittedly, it looks to me as if the background, i.e. the scene before the ROV, has been purposely lowered in resolution before the overlay of the ROV's positional data, bearing, depth, date and time, and the compass tick marks was placed on top of it. The entire video as captured pixel-by-pixel by myself looks like garbage, but the OSD data looks to suffer much less visual impairment by fault of the compression.

Why would BP do this? I believe they want to keep independent investigators from using their own ROV footage against them, as I've tried previously to do. I think they may be trying to keep the actual scenes depicted in the publicly available net streams as absolutely unintelligible as they possibly can, while needing to maintain the on-screen display data just barely readable so that no one calls shenanigans on them. BP were ordered by the government to make publicly available the feeds from their ROVs.

So I have simple question. If the Department of Energy is receiving 1080p video from BP's submersibles, why are we allowed no avenue to access feeds of that quality? At this point I'd pay a subscription fee for that access. Second, why is the news media given video of a middling resolution? There are only three national networks in America, or four if you count Fox, plus three cable news outlets. Surely BP could afford to make available seven 1080p streams from all of its ROVs. Finally, why do the feeds which are available to everyone on BP's web site appear to have one tenth or so of the usable resolution of that which come straight from their subs' cameras and up to their motherships through fiberoptic cable?

What are they hiding and why? At this point, BP's transparency is proportional to the trust I can place in it. They are so eager to hide information about what is really going on in the Gulf of Mexico, acting in such an opaque manner that I cannot help but mistrust all their press releases and management promises. I want to be able to see what BP are seeing on their high definition monitors. I'd pay them for the privilege. Why wouldn't they let me, you or the media see what they and the government are seeing?

It's enough already with blocky video and the attempted cover-up. If BP have nothing to hide then make better video available to the public. But they do, so they won't. More and more people are discovering the lies being disseminated about the Gulf oil disaster. The party's over for BP.

I captured video just now from the newest ROV mothership to be brought on site, the Boa Sub C. It runs the same Oceaneering Millenium ROVs as the other ships which I caught transmitting 1080p video to the Department of Energy. This is what the current public video feed from its ROV #2 looks like, to you and I the sheople:

That's correct -- it's not an HTML coding error on my part. That is the resolution you are allowed to see online. Don't get out your rulers, the dimensions are exactly 180 pixels wide, 180 pixels high. A nice, evenly-sized block. A feed so "de-rezzed" and distorted in aspect ratio that you cannot possibly read all the on-screen data. This video is being shown as I write from the same class of ROV that captured the spectacular 1080p footage I linked to at the beginning of this post.

Why are we only allowed to view a lossy-compressed, 180x180 pixel video window, when BP and the government enjoy watching 1900x1080 flat screens of the true state of the stricken well equipment and leaks in the sea floor? I'll leave that as a rhetorical question.

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