December 1990 MAGazine Volume 6 Number 12

Happy Holidays from the Memphis Amiga Group

The December general meeting of the Memphis Amiga Group will be held Saturday, Dec. 8 from 1 P.M. until approximately 3 P.M. in the New Auditorium on the campus of State Technical Institute at Memphis (see map on page 2). Please remember that December 31, 1990 is your last chance to renew a lapsed membership at the low price of only $15.

Editorial and Stuff

By CHARLES WILLIAMS

"Ooomph! Help me up on my soap box will you Todd? Todd? Where?? Oh well, nevermind, I'll do it myself."

The holidays are upon us and I'm no more prepared than usual. Still, there is much MAG business to do in the coming months.

In the past we have had a Christmas Party or two. Last year there wasn't enough interest for one. Let Todd know (by the December meeting) if you want to have one this year so that last minute plans can be made.

Also, all club officers for 1991 are elected at the January meeting. We will take volunteers,.. er nominations, for all positions at the December meeting. Don't just sit there, get in on the fun. Actually the club has recently made it quite attractive to be an officer with certain new perks, such as free membership for your term and access to the club libraries.

If you are interested, be at the December meeting. That's all I have. You can get back to Wheel of Fortune now.

MAGazine

MAGazine is published monthly by the Memphis Amiga Group (MAG), a non- profit organization offering assistance to fellow Amiga owners and those interested in the Amiga. Membership in MAG is available for an annual fee of $20 per family.

Please submit all news, reviews, ads, articles, complaints, suggestions, and loose change to:

MAGazine c/o Charles Williams
13 Lake Drive
Wilson, AR 72395

MAG Meetings

The Memphis Amiga Group (MAG) holds general meetings the second Saturday of each month in the New Auditorium on the campus of State Technical Institute at Memphis (see map at left).

The club librarian, Bill Bowers, prepares a Disk-of-the-Month for each general meeting. For details on the current disk call Bill at (901) 360-0003.

The only currently active Special Interest Group (SIG) is the Video SIG. Information on their meetings and activities can be obtained from club Vice President Brian Akey at (901) 278-6354.

Hardware Rentals

FutureSound audio digitizer kit - $1 per day
DigiView video digitizer kit - $2 per day
(Hardware rentals are for Members Only)
A variety of Amiga specific videotapes are also
available from the club's hardware library.

Disk Sales

MAG library and Fred FISH disks are $2 each.
($5 each for non-members)
Quality blank disks with labels are 75¢ each.
($1 each for non-members)
For all this and more contact club Librarian Bill
Bowers at (901) 360-0003, or see Bill at the next
MAG general meeting.

Memphis Amiga Group Officers for 1990

President
Todd Rooks
(901) 373-0198

Vice President
Brian Akey
(901) 278-3654

Secretary & Treasurer
Raymond Ginn
(901) 353-4504

Librarian
Bill Bowers
(901) 360-0003

MAGazine Editor
Charles Williams
(501) 655-8777

MAGazine Advertisement Prices

Full Page Ad $25
Half Page Ad $15
1/4 Page Ad $10

MAG members may place
classified ADS in the
newsletter at no charge.

MAG Classified ADS

*FOR SALE*

Wings - a WWI flying game from Cinemaware - only $20.

Helvetica ASCII font cartridge for HP Deskjet - $20. Call Charles Williams at (501) 655-8777, or see me at the December meeting.

HP+ compatible laser printer, and City Desk 2.0. Both for $575.

Action Replay cartridge, as advertised in AmigaWorld and other Amiga magazines. Only $45. For details call Ken Winfield at (901) 382-3339.

Your classified AD here for FREE to members! See Charles Williams, Editor.

The Latest Fish

Disks 381-390 Available Now!

DISK 381

SKsh A ksh-like shell for the Amiga. Very well documented.

DISK 382

CrossDOS A "tryware" version of a mountable MS-DOS file system for the Amiga. This is a software product that allows you to read and write MS-DOS/PC-DOS and Atari ST formatted disks (Version 2.0 or higher) directly from Amiga-DOS. This tryware version is "readonly". Msh An Amiga file system handler that handles MS-DOS formatted diskettes. Version "1.30" (Release 1 patch 3). You can use files on such disks in almost exactly the same way as you use files on native AmigaDOS disks. This is a fully functional, read/write version.

DISK 383

LHArc An archive program like Arc and Zoo. LibraryKiller A small utility that allows you to remove libraries that aren't used any more. MandelMountains A program that renders three-dimensional images of blowups of the Mandelbrot set. Pcopy An intuition based disk copier for AmigaDOS disks featuring high speed diskcopy with write verify, data recovery from damaged tracks, full multitasking compatibility, and a user friendly interface.

DISK 384

Contact Demo version of a "pop-up" program for managing personal contacts. Allows you to keep a name and address list along with phone numbers and comments. Can print mailing labels with a couple of mouse clicks (supports PostScript printers). Elements Very nice interactive display of the Periodic Table of Elements. Includes general row and column information, plus a test mode where the program asks specific questions about the selected element or row/column. NorthC A freely redistributable programming package containing all the programs required for developing in C. The environment is supplied compressed and unpacks to two disks.

DISK 385

MortCalc Yet another loan calculator, but this one was written with accuracy in mind. XLispStat A statistical program based on David Betz' XLisp. It does some of the most advanced dynamic statistical graphics. Requires a numerical coprocessor (M68881/M68882) and an M68020/M68030 processor.

DISK 386

Statpack Demo version of a statistics and data manipulation program. XLispStat A statistical program based on David Betz' XLisp. This disk contains the sources. The executables, manual, and lisp files can be found on disk 385.

DISK 387

BlitterSand An interesting cellular automata program that gets its roots from a "sandpile". ExtFuncProc External Function Process. Allows execution of any library function from simple tasks even if these functions require a process environment. For experienced programmers only because there isn't any documentation written yet but only an example. GMC A console handler with command line editing and function key support. H2I Translates C include files into assembler include files. MandAnim A Mandelbrot Animation program that allows you to easily generate a series of lo-res/16- color pictures. MandelBlitz Very fast Mandelbrot plotter with lots of handy functions such as color cycling, zoom, special palette control, file requesters and more. Menu A fast access menu system configurable via a script file that allows the user run selected program. NTSC-PAL Two programs that give A500/A2000 owners with the new ECS 1Mb Agnus installed the ability to boot into either a NTSC or PAL environment. Wreq Replace "pop-up" requestors with line-oriented requesters (similar to those found in an MS-DOS environment) that can be easily handled from the keyboard.

DISK 388

Calc A shell style, command-line calculator. Calc does not have a fancy keypad display as many other calculator programs do. Instead, it is capable of taking its input from a file, the keyboard, or a command line and outputting its results to a file or the screen. DClock A "Dumb Clock" utility that displays the date and time in the Workbench screen title bar. DIEd A full-screen ANSI editor including an animation utility. Free Display how much free space (bytes or blocks) you have on any or all of your mounted disk volumes. Runs from CLI only. KeyMapEd Allows you to change the KeyMaps used with SetMap. SnoopDos A utility for monitoring AmigaDOS calls. In particular, it allows you to see what libraries, devices, fonts, environment variables or startup files a program is looking for.

DISK 389

Kick Another screen hack, specifically for A500/A2000 owners. Plot A 3-D function plotting program. PolySys An extended version of the 0L-system (string rewriting) described in The Science of Fractal Images. Retab Useful command-line "tab-to-space" and "space-to-tab" expansion utility. ZPlot Graphs formulas based on 4-D complex number planes.

DISK 390

Flip Allows you to quickly and easily switch between various screens. Can close screens, pull them up, and activate windows. Has the unique feature of sorting screens in a way that all title bars are visible at one time. ReadmeMaster A nifty little database for finding those programs that you know exist somewhere (???) in the AmigaLibDisk library. Currently supports disks 1-360 SetClock A utility to set or read the hardware clock on a Spirit Technology memory expansion board. SM Small utility to center the display.

NewTek's Video Toaster

A First Hand Look

Article by Thomas Krehbiel
Graphics by Dan Sternklar

I have had the privilege of being able to actually work with the much-fabled Video Toaster for a few days, so I decided that I would try to write down all of my thoughts and impressions of the thing. I must warn you that I am not particularly knowledgeable about video in general, so this may not be as technical as you would like it to be. Also note, all of the times given are for an unaccelerated Amiga 2000.

Requirements

According to the Toaster manual, the Video Toaster requires an Amiga 2000 with at least 5 Megs of RAM (more is preferable) and 1 Meg of Chip RAM (a fat angus). A hard drive is required with probably a significant amount of storage (it takes 700K to store one frame buffer frame, and just installing the software requires 7 Meg). At least two video monitors are required also (your Amiga 1084 plus another composite-input monitor is fine). Optional equipment include one or more video sources. You have to be careful when choosing your sources, though. One camera will work fine, but if you want to use more than one camera, they must be "genlockable" cameras, meaning (I think) that they should be able to be synchronized together. Also, if you are planning to use a VCR as a source, then it MUST be a time-base corrected VCR, since the Toaster requires a stable video source at all times. So be warned that the Toaster is NOT the last thing you will ever need to work in video. Amiga accelerator cards are also optional, and will be taken advantage of if present. The programs that especially benefit from it are the Lightwave 3D renderer and Modeler 3D object modeler. *I* think that ToasterPaint would be helped a lot by a 68030 too, since it can be a little sluggish at times. The manual says the optimum accelerator configuration is a 68030/68882 running at 25MHz-50MHz with 4Megs RAM, although I think any configuration will work. Another optional piece of equipment is a single-frame VCR and controller. You will need this if you want to record animations created with the Lightwave 3D renderer.

The Hardware

The Video Toaster comes with a HUGE three-ring binder notebook full of documentation. It states several times in the manual that it is preliminary documentation (Gamma .95), and it's pretty obvious since there are no pictures ("refer to figure 1.10" -- there IS no figure 1.10!). This is pretty annoying since all of the icons on the Toaster screens are pictorial representations of something and sometimes you can't really tell which icon the book is talking about without a picture of it. Other than that, the book is pretty clear and covers most points pretty well. But I can tell you that once you get a Toaster, you won't read the book for a while -- the Toaster software is so easy to use that you can probably figure most of it out just playing with it. The plug-in card is HUGE. It consists of two PC boards sandwiched together such that all the components are on the inside of it. A pretty nice piece of work. It is NOT easy to install, however. The instructions (this is one area of the book that could use more explanation) say you must remove the A2000 power supply before installing the card (no easy task in itself). Even with the power supply removed, the card does NOT fit in easily -- you have to kind of wedge it into place under the floppy drives to the front of the case and pray you don't snap the card in half in the process. Not fun. Anyway, once in place it is a VERY snug fit, there is not much room leftover for anything. There are 6 BNC connectors on the back of the card; the top 4 are video inputs and the bottom 2 are video outputs (not labelled of course).

The Software

Once you have the software installed, you must then install the software on your hard drive (you DO have a hard drive, don't you?). It comes on EIGHT floppy disks, and comes with a hard drive installer program, so it is not difficult. When it is installed, it creates a single drawer called, "Toaster", in which is a single icon called "Switcher". Double-clicking this icon launches the Toaster software. There is a way to make the Toaster "auto-boot"; not have investigated this option I can't say whether it's just a line in your startup-sequence or an actual hardware auto-boot (I'm inclined to think the former).

The Switcher

When you first run the Toaster software, there is a period of about 60 seconds or so when all the monitors go crazy. I presume it is doing self-tests or something to that effect (it looks like it's going to blow up though!). When this is finished, it comes into the main Toaster screen, called the Switcher. At this point, I should probably explain the different output signals. There are three outputs called Program, Preview and Interface. The Program output is what is the actual output of the Toaster that you would want to record, or display, or whatever. The Preview output shows basically what is ABOUT to happen to the Program output. The Interface output (which is the Amiga RGB output) shows the actual program interface (gadgets, screen, etc.). You can configure the Toaster for a two- or three-monitor setup, depending on your tastes. The three monitor setup is exactly as described above. The two monitor setup actually overlays the Interface signal onto the Preview signal so you see two signals on one monitor. I generally prefer the two monitor setup, since we only had two monitors (makes sense, huh?). The Switcher is where you basically control what gets put on the Program output and in what manner. This is also where the TVE (Toaster Video Effects) is controlled. The video effects are pretty impressive, to say the least. They range from simple wipes and fades (beautiful fades!) to screens flying and spinning all over the place. The effects can be performed automatically at Slow, Medium and Fast speeds or manually by clicking on a T-Bar and dragging the mouse up and down. This is also where the two frame buffers are controlled. You can freeze images, load them, and save them. Freezing an image is as easy as clicking on a Freeze Gadget. The loading and saving process is a little more complicated, but is not tough. Beware that each frame saved on your hard drive takes up a little over 700K of disk space. The other parts of the Toaster system are launched from here as well by simply pressing some gadgets.

ChromaFX

This is the second neatest part of the Toaster, as far as I'm concerned (Lightwave is the neatest!). I'm not a video guru, so I'm not sure what exactly is going on here, but it is pretty impressive. This section allows you to alter the colors (chroma?) of live video images in real time, which yields effects from simple contrast and brightness controls to super-weird alien effects. One of the most interesting and unique effects is the "Chrome" effect. Point the camera at someone, turn on the Chrome effect and the subject becomes liquid flowing chrome. VERY impressive. Other effects are Zebra stripes, Rainbow colors, Tints, Snow in certain parts of the image, and MANY others. This part you have to see to get the full effect.

ToasterPaint

This is the 24-bit paint program of the Toaster software. Anybody who has used NewTek's DigiPaint3 will notice a striking similarity to that program (i.e. they are virtually identical). ToasterPaint does not work directly on the 24-bit images; instead, it renders a HAM representation of it (which takes TOO long) which you can paint on. When you want to see it in 24-bit, you hit a gadget and it is loaded into the frame buffer (which takes about 20 seconds... an accelerator would probably help).

ToasterPaint has the ability to load and save standard Amiga IFF files, from 2 bitplanes to HAM I believe. Haven't tried saving to an IFF file, but loading from an IFF file does work well.

ToasterPaint is the weakest link in the Video Toaster system, in my opinion. I am slightly biased in that I'm not really crazy about DigiPaint3 to begin with, though. It just seems to take quite a while to do things with the program (for example, loading a frame from disk that you grabbed from the Switcher can take a few minutes). Some of the time I'm sure is taken up by doing the beautiful HAM conversions so you don't get any HAM flash on the picture you're working on. My thoughts are: Who cares about HAM flash when it's going to a 24-bit frame buffer?? The program also crashed when I tried to load an Amiga ColorFont.

ToasterCG

The Toaster's character generator is just a mouse click away from the main Switcher screen. I've never seen a "real" character generator that the big boys use, but this thing seems like what they should be. It allows for static page creation, vertical scrolling credits, or horizontal crawls. All of this is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Some of the example pages you would swear that you have seen on TV somewhere before.

Static (non-moving) pages are created simply by choosing the Static Page mode, then cursoring around to where you want the text and then typing it. You can optionally choose a font for each line, a color for each line, and justification for each line. You can also control the spacing and kerning of lines and characters by using shift- and alt- cursor keys. A number of backgrounds can be selected, from solid to graduated. When you are satisfied with the layout, you hit a function key to render it into a framebuffer (which takes about 15-20 seconds).

Vertically and horizontally scrolling text can be created in the same way, very much in a WYSI-WYG format. Type in the text you want, then press F10 key and watch it happen. Nice. Speed and positioning can be selected of course. A limitation of the Toaster is that you cannot use any of the included 16.8 million color fonts with scrolling text (but then how often do you see that anyway?).

There are a bunch of fonts included with the Toaster, ranging from simple one color fonts to 16.8 million color "ChromaFonts". The manual also mentions a program to convert Amiga fonts to Toaster fonts, although I was not able to fnd it... perhaps it will be included in a later version.

One thing I found annoying about the character generator is its total lack of mouse support. It uses the function keys for all command selection. This wouldn't be too bad except selecting color values with the arrow keys is a little troublesome. No grabbing sliders and moving them here. It reminds me of working on an IBM...

Lightwave 3D

This is Allen Hastings wonderful 3D rendering program. I have worked with several 3D programs (Sculpt 3D & 4D, Turbo Silver, VideoScape 2.0, and some others) and this program absolutely BLOWS THEM AWAY. This program is a joy to work with. Those familiar with VideoScape will notice many similiarities to that program. Conceptually they are very similar. Lightwave is very much improved and has TONS of features that VideoScape does not have, though. Just a few features: Bump mapping, texture mapping, shadows, reflective and transparent surfaces, fractal noise surfaces, and lots more. The features are just too numerous to go into.

The program is SIMPLE to use. Without reading a page in the manual, I was rendering some pretty spectacular frames. Many objects are supplied with Lightwave, from spheres to an F15 and a spaceship, all of which are very well done. An added bonus is that Lightwave will read VideoScape (tested and works) and Sculpt (not tested) objects directly.

The best part is the layout screen. From here you position the camera, lights, and objects within the scene in a WYSIWYG format. The upper right corner contains a wire-frame preview of the scene (the perspective is selectable). You can then hold the left mouse button down and rotate, move, or zoom around the scene in real time! WONDERFUL stuff. When you get things the way you want them, you exit the layout screen and hit the Render gadget.

You can render in one of three resolutions (I don't remember these numbers exactly): 350x250, 720x480, or 1280x800. Obviously, the higher the resolution, the better the picture quality but the slower the rendering time. But since Lightwave uses a phong shading technique instead of actual ray-tracing, you can render a pretty complex picture in the highest resolution in about 20 minutes on an un-accelerated Amiga. Divide that by 11 for an A2630 or by 22 for a GVP 28MHz 68030 and you've got some pretty fast rendering times. And if you have any doubts that phong shading is not as good as ray- tracing, throw them out the window because it is. The only thing missing is shadows, and there is an option for that as well (which I assume it must ray- trace to get them).

In order to record any animations created with Lightwave, you must have a single-frame VCR and a single-frame controller. Lightwave supports three types of controllers but I can't remember them right now. Since I don't have access to one of these things, I was not able to experiment much with the animation parts of Lightwave. Rendering still pictures is not a problem, however. It also supports saving the images to IFF or 24-bit RGB files.

Modeler 3D

This portion is called from within Lightwave, and is used to actually create objects for rendering. It bears a striking resemblance to the Aegis program Modeler 3D, with some new features. Since Lightwave came with so many objects already created, I haven't used this program too much (in fact I only looked at it once). I assume that it works as expected, though.

CONCLUSION

The Video Toaster retails for $1595.00. For the things this thing does, I feel it is dirt cheap. I've heard that a production switcher runs for about $3000+ and only does a fraction of what the Toaster does. It seems to me that anyone who is at all serious about doing video work should have one of these things (or two). Sure it has some limitations, but I think the benefits of it far outweigh these. Lightwave by itself is probably worth the price of the Video Toaster! It has been a LONG wait for the Video Toaster, but now that it is here I think the time they put in was well worth it.

Commodore Announces Initial CDTV Applications Library

WEST CHESTER, Penn., October 30, 1990, -- Commodore International today announced a library of more than 35 planned multimedia titles which will play on Commodore's CDTV interactive Compact Disc system at product introduction in early 1991. The library, which includes titles in numerous educational, instructional and entertainment categories, will bring new levels of interactivity and enjoyment into the home environment.

The titles play on the CDTV player which is similar in appearance to a VCR or CD player and is suitable for the home living room or den. The CDTV player is also compatible with the more than 30 CD+G (Compact Disc Plus Graphics) music discs available, as well all standard audio Compact Discs.

The CDTV library provided consumers with a comprehensive selection of topics, including reference, education, children's, women's, sports and leisure, self-improvement, adventure and simulations. The titles range from interactive versions of the "King James Bible" and the "World Vista Atlas", to entertainment titles such as "Battle Chess," "Sim City," and "Sword of Excalibur."

"The challenge facing the consumer electronics industry is providing content, not just advanced technology," said Nolan Bushnell, general manager of Commodore's Interactive Products Division. "CDTV enables consumers to experience sound, images and text in ways that are not possible in the separate worlds of audio, video and computing."

CDTV represents a major advance in technology and capability over any commercially available entertainment format, combining audio, video, graphics and computer interactivity into a single, Compact Disc-based system. The storage capacity of the Compact Disc is enormous -- the equivalent of more than 250,000 pages of typewritten text. For example, the complete "American Heritage Encyclopedic Dictionary", fully illustrated, will fit on a single disc.

This storage capacity enables developers to engineer products which combine unparalleled levels of interactivity with vivid graphics and CD sound. "CDTV is more than a new product, it represents a dramatic shift in the way we receive and use information, are educated, and entertained," said Bushnell.

According to Bushnell, the key is interactivity and immediate access. For example, the recipes in the CDTV version of the popular "Silver Palate" cookbook series (to be retailed as "New Basics Electronic Cookbook") by Xiphias, provides the cook with step-by-step instructions, alternate seasonings, realistic "mouth-watering" images of the meal in progress, and the ability to recalculate portion sizes instantly. If the cook is planning a dinner party for 10 and then decides to invite two more guests, the program will adjust the ingredient amounts and cooking times accordingly. In addition, the program will "suggest" menus based on whatever combination of ingredients happen to be in the house at mealtime, as well as direct the cook to low-sodium or low-cholesterol recipes if desired.

Tiger Media's "Airwave Adventure -- The Case of the Cautious Condor," is the first original entertainment title developed specifically for multimedia compact disc. It's an adult murder/mystery set in the 1930's, where the "player" has 20 minutes and 1500 possible paths to search rooms and interview characters in order to solve who had the means, motive and opportunity to "do the deed."

Discis has developed a variety of children's stories, including "Cinderella" and "The Tale of Peter Rabbit", featuring the author's original illustrations and text, with added music and sound effects. The user has the option of hearing real human speech present the text orally with the words highlighted in phrase groups common to normal speech and speaking patterns. In addition, the user can point the remote control and click on a specific word and have it pronounced for them, click again for a definition, and again to have the word said in an alternate language (e.g., Spanish) if desired.

According to Bushnell, these first 35 titles represent just the beginning of the development of the CDTV library. The company and other developers plan to introduce additional titles on a regular basis, including "Murder Anyone?", "North Polar Expedition" and "family Medical Advisor", among others. Several of the world's premier application developers such as LucasFilm, Accolade, Cinemaware, Sierra On-Line, Virgin Mastertronic and Spectrum Holobyte have products in development for CDTV.

The CDTV player will sell for less than $1,000, and is scheduled for launch in early 1991. It will initially be sold through selected audio, video and computer retailers, and department stores in select markets. Prices for CDTV discs will range from $30 to $100 manufacturer's suggested retail price.

Commodore International, through its worldwide operations, is one of the world's leading producers of computer-based consumer and business products. Corporate headquarters are located at 1200 Wilson Drive, West Chester, Pennsylvania, 19380: (215) 431-9100

TITLE DEVELOPER
HOME REFERENCE
Gardenfax - Houseplants Intersearch
King James Bible Animated Pixels
World Vista Atlas Applied Optical Media
The American Heritage Encyclopedia Dictionary Xiphias
Family Medical Advisor Digita
Time Table of Science & Innovation Xiphias
Time Table of Business & Politics Xiphias
Illustrated Works of Shakespeare Animated Pixels
Japan World TopClass Tech
CHILDREN'S CLASSICS
Cindrella Discis
Tale of Peter Rabbit Discis
Scary Poems for Rotten Kids Discis
CHILDREN'S STORIES
A Long Hard Day at the Ranch Discis
Moving Gives Me a Stomach Ache Discis
The Paper bag Princess Discis
CHILDREN'S FUN
Animated Coloring Book Gold Disk
All Dogs Go to Heaven (Electric Crayon) Merit Software
Snoopy The Edge
EDUCATION
North Polar Expedition Virgin Mastertronic
Fun school (3 discs for different ages) Mandarin
COOKING
New Basics Electronic Cookbook (Silver Palate cookbook series) Xiphias
THINKING GAMES
Battle Chess Interplay
Airwave Adventure -- The Case of the Cautious Condor Tiger Media
Defender of the Crown Cinemaware
Classic Board Games Merit Software
Many Roads to Murder Vent
Murder Anyone? Vent
ADVENTURE AND ARCADE GAMES
Excalibur Virgin Mastertronic
Space Quest III Sierra-on-Line
Pacmania Domark
Future Wars Interplay
Xenon II Spectrum Holobyte
SIMULATION GAMES
Sim City Spectrum Holobyte
Falcon Spectrum Holobyte