diskMAGazine (Apr 1991) : Toaster&TBCs

There's a lot of confusion about the Video Toaster and what kind of video
input it can accept.  I've done a lot a research into this and wanted to put
out what I've discovered for everyone's benefit.

In order to make this clear, we need to have some agreement on the
definitions of some of the terms we'll be using.  Forgive the boring
technical details - they're necessary in order for you to know what you may
or may not need.  The good news is that knowing this information may save
you THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.  These definitions follow this article and may
help you understand the terms you'll be reading.

I am not a trained television engineer.  However, I often work with them, as
well as with other video production operators, and have spent a great deal
of time with TBC manufacturers and the Video Toaster.  So, this comes from
actual experience and not theory.

First, DON'T BUY THE FIRST PIECE OF EQUIPMENT YOU SEE THAT SEEMS LIKE IT 
       WILL WORK WITH THE TOASTER.

Amiga World's article on the Video Toaster wrongly suggested several
consumer VCRs with TBC's in them, without giving the reader the full story
on what else they would need to make them work correctly.  Frankly, I was
insulted, as I have been by other stupid things I have seen and heard.  

NewTek and AmigaWorld (and anyone else who discusses the Toaster -
including myself) should be responsible for educating the buying public
sufficiently so that they do not go out and buy the wrong TBCs and VCRs
for use with the Toaster.  Just any old one doesn't cut it.

Why?  Because it will not be NewTek's fault that the consumer got the wrong
piece of gear.  It will be the dealer they bought it from.  And has the
dealer been given all the information he needs?  What do you think the
answer to that question is.

I find the fact that they are avoiding the topics of time base correction
and synchronization in their promotional campaign a poor excuse for selling
product.  To say to a group of consumers "The Toaster needs synchronous
input," and then spend the next hour discussing its benefits and uses is
akin to ofering someone a wonderful low-cost car - but the engine is gonna
cost extra.

The Bottom Line: Unless you work at a studio, or have access to one, you're
gonna need several thousand dollars ON TOP OF the cost of your Toaster to
make it fly, because you'll need to buy one or more TBCs and possibly a
sync generator.  EVERY source that feeds that Toaster must have clean sync.
Four inputs means up to four TBCs.  Additionally, since the four need to be
"in sync", you'll likely need a sync generator connecting the four together.

Be careful here, too.  Depending on the type of VCRs you have, you will need
one of two levels of TBC.  You'll need one WITH or WITHOUT "full frame
sync". The difference is about $1000.00.

1) If your VCRs have a "Sync" or "Sync Out" or "Advance Sync" connection on
   them, then you probably do not need Full Frame Sync.  Still, it's best to
   check it before you buy, or make certain there's a return option.

2) If your VCRs do NOT have a connection with such a label, then you'll more
   than likely need Full Frame Sync, because your machines do not provide
   advance sync information that the TBC would normally utilize in order to
   correct the signal.

Most consumer VCRs, including several "Industrial" or "Pro Line" machines
from Panasonic, do not provide sync out.  The better stuff does.  The fact
is, if you spent less on your VCRs, you'll need to spend more on your TBCs.

Time Base Correctors from numerous manufacturers will do the job.  Prime
Image, Shomi, I.Den, Hotronic, and others fit the bill.  Expect to pay about
$2000 for the base model, $3000 for Full Frame Sync, and possibly up to $500
more for S-VHS capability.  The Toaster is not S-VHS right now, but if you
use SVHS, every ittle bit counts, and you;ll be ready for the S-Toaster when
it comes out too.

To mix two sources, remember, you'll need two TBCs.  Three sources means
three TBCs, and so on. Since most folks just want to mix two sources, two
should be sufficient.

Probably the best deal for the budget-minded is the Shomi TBC, which is
two TBCs in one chassis.  Yes, two independent TBCs.  You'll find it around
$2500.00 or so.  It has Full Frame Sync, Freeze Frame and Field, and can
even switch and dissolve between its two inputs.  A whole bunch of
connections at the back make it quite versatile.  It does NOT have black
level or video gain controls, which are typical controls found on other
makes.  It will work with the Toaster (I have seen it correct a very
bad Korean knock-off VCR's signal going into the Toaster).

If you're interested in it and cannot find it, call James at HT Electronics
in Sunnyvale, California. Store telephone number is 408 737-0900.

Leave a message and time to call you back, and I'll do so.  Sure, I'm
plugging it, but it works.  If you're a professional, with a professional
budget, you're probably used to additional features and may not want such a
TBC.  For the consumer and low level industrialist, it's a terrific deal.

******(NOTE: There has been some problems with obtaining the product and with
servicing of the product by Shomi, according to a source I talked to. They
are going to meet with Shomi and try to correct the problems).**************

Definitions:

"Live" Video - A live source is one that is shooting an event at that very
               moment.  Turn on your camera and connect its output to the TV
               and you'll have "live" video.

"PreRecorded" Video - If it isn't live, it's on tape.  Therefore, it is "pre-
                      recorded" and must be played back to be seen.  All
                      recorded video is subject to time base error.

"Time Base Error" - Your VCR or camcorder utilizes both electronic and
                    mechanical means in order to record video.  Although
                    the signal is electronic (and theoretically stable), it
                    is being laid onto a moving tape via mechanical motion,
                    which introduces an irregularity in the signal's sync
                    called "time base error" that gets recorded onto the
                    videotape.  This is often referred to as "bad sync".

"Time Base Corrector" - This is a device that can correct the irregularly
                    spaced time base signals, creating a video signal with
                    "clean sync".

"In Sync" - This is different from "clean" or "bad" sync.  You can have any
            number of video signals with "clean sync," but you will not be
            able to edit them together (with special effects) unless they
            are "in sync" with one another.  Often, time base correctors
            will have a genlock connection that allows them to be "synced"
            to a video editing system, so that the signals they pass will be
            both "clean sync" and "in sync".


Things I just Remembered.....

Output.  Don't worry about output from the Toaster.  All you need to do is
connect the output to your recording VCR.  Time Base is only an issue for
devices going INTO the Toaster. Output is OK as is.  In fact, if you own a
Toaster but no Time Base Corrector, you can send output right to a VCR
right now.

If you are using LightWave 3D and want to record animations... well, now
you're doing what the Big Boys of Broadcast do.  And the only way to do that
now is to generate one image, then record it onto one single frame of video.
The VCRs and Controlling Devices that can do these things each cost
thousands of dollars.  Seriously.  Try to find someone who has access to
these devices, or find a studio that will rent you "recording" time, or sink
the big bucks.  Or: try using DCTV for realtime playback with a somewhat
more limited palette (so I understand).  If it works, I'll buy one.  I'm not
THAT crazy.

I hope this has answered some things for those of you who wanted this data.
It's been fun.  Really.  I don't hate NewTek or AmigaWorld... I just feel
they've been shirking a larger responsibility to the people who "only want
to make them rich" --er, "buy their product."  Just remember to get some
background before you buy, rent, or whatever.

                        James

*******Note: I found this file on a BBS in New Jersey and talked to James as
I also have done a lot of research for the toaster. I agree with what he has
to say in here and received permission from him to add this addendum to the
file. The comments in **** are mine. I own the Video Toaster and I am using
the Panasonic WJ-AVE5 digital mixer from Panasonic. I got it for about
$1500. It is very simular to Panasonic's WJ-MX12, only is 1/2 price of the
WJ-MX12. It is missing a couple of the MX12 features, but has a few more
that the MX12 does not have. Anyway, the Panasonic WJ-AVE5 works VERY well
with Newtek's toaster. I am feeding consumer-grade Sony VCRs into the WJ-AVE5 and
then feeding that output to the toaster. There are no sync output jacks on
the WJ-AVE5 unit to sync it to a second TBC. There IS a character generator
jack which DOES have sync out though. I have not tried it yet, but it may be
possible to use the character generator sync output to sync a second TBC.

James asked me to also say that due out this month is a plug-in card for the
2000 made by DPS (Digital Processing Systems) which should be about
$900-1000 which will provide TBC and sync output). Several other companies
are working on plug-in cards for the 2000, which will provide TBC for the
toaster.

My personal opinion of the Toaster is that IF you do your homework and shop
carefully, it does NOT have to cost and arm and a leg to produce
professional-type video. The information contained in this file should be of
great help to many people who are thinking of purchasing a Video Toaster and
associated TBCs needed to use the toaster. I am very happy with my toaster.
Barb Hamilton 03/02/91****************************************************