Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nostalgia - WOW the Amiga Days

For this that don't know the Amiga was THE computer back in the day for I posted in a previous story, it was the launching point for the Video Toaster.  Here are a few examples of what is was able to do back then.

First, a demo reel from the same company that eventually revolutionized the Desktop video revolution..

Demo Reel 1..

Demo Reel 3..

then the Video Toaster 2.0 Demo...

Another Toaster Promo..

The computer Chronicles interview with Newtek about the Video Toaster..

One of my favorite Amiga games - Shadow of the Beast, one of the first games to feature Paralax scrolling give the illusion of depth to the background...

Here is a part 1 of a multipart history of the Amiga...

And a quick European Graphics Movie Demo with unheard of graphics/sound from a home computer..(not the best quality recording)

Check out Youtube for many many more trips down Amiga lane.....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies Live again!!!

For all you former Amiga heads....remember Pinball Dreams...then the sequel Pinball Fantasies?  Remember playing until your hands hurt from clutching the keyboard....remember cranking the awesome soundtrack and enjoying the smooth and quite accurate ball physics?

Well, if you own an iPod Touch, or an iPhone....You get both again...ported over and I would say almost 100% accurate and true to the original....YEAHHHHH....

Here are the reviews for them at

Review for Pinball Dreams....

Review for Pinball Fantasies....

Works well and brings back memories....I hope more old Amiga games come over....two of my old favrites....Roller Ball, and Battle Squadron.....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mobile Video Production

Every now and then a product comes along that makes people in a certain industry sit up and pay attentions.  Back in the 90's it was NewTek with the Video Toaster for the Commodore Amiga Platform.

Back in the day, I was involved with using the Amiga in video production when it was given to the cable TV studio I worked for as a grant project.  We received it along with a genlock (used to sync the computer video to the same timing of an incoming video signal and overlay graphics on top of that video signal) and some basic titling software.  One of the first titling products that we worked with was called Scala, which is now one of the defacto digital signage products available.  A local PBS station installed an Amiga in their studio and they were having issues integrating it.  They received my name from Commodore and called me to come in and look at it.  With my video editing and engineering background, I ended up staying and working with them editing show packages and eventually getting an FCC broadcast license and operate the transmitter.

This station then received an ALPHA unit of a new product called a Video Toaster.  It was a hardware/software combination that gave you 3-4 video inputs and allowed you to do real-time video switching, with 3D effects and add titling. The cost of this total product was FAR below the cost of any comparable video switching unit at the time.  Along with this product came an extra add-on of a 3D rendering program called Lightwave 3D.  I do believe I was the first person to use a Toaster in on-air broadcast use on the East Coast of the US.

NewTek produced the Toaster, as well as introducing a new product line called the Tricaster which was basically a video switcher, web streamer, graphics and video editor in a self contained small form factor (ala Shuttle PC) box, running Windows XP.

This box originally had 3 analog composite/S-Video inputs as well as audio line and Mic inputs as well as Composite/S-Video output with line level audio outputs.  It allows you to mix 3 live video sources, pre-recorded video and graphics using 3D video effects as well as having a downstream keyer for lower thirds and other overlay graphics.  The box also has the ability to use a network connected computer as a video source by running a special program on the client, which then shows up as a "VGA" source. Not only does it scale that VGA input for video, but you can then use the DVI output to display a clean unscaled version of the VGA input to a monitor or projector.  This works great for still slides, but not good for anything with moving video.

The interface is controlled with standard keyboard and mouse, however, NewTek offers a a usb attached control surface with a standard "T" bar as well as input buttons ala a standard video switcher interface.

There have been new models of the TriCaster introduced over the years which included models with more inputs, Component inputs, SDI input and "Mini" model with HDMI or SDI.  There have also been new technologies supported such as NDI that is now used by many vendors as a way to shuttle HD video over a network.

The latest models also support a larger control surface, as well as an external DDR controller (controls the built in "VCR" features) as well as LiveType which is an external CG program to allow a second person to update and create title graphics on the fly.

One other neat feature of this box is that it supports the "Virtual Set" feature, which allows you to sit in front of a green screen and look like you are sitting in the middle of professional studio, including shadows, reflections and multiple cam angles.

So all in all, this box is literally a TV studio in a box..with video editing features and streaming (h.264, Flash and Windows Media) this box is bang for the buck.  Check out NewTek's latest offerings here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wirecast - True Software Video Production and Streaming

Every now and then you come across a piece of software that is really incredible.  I was originally blown away when I first used a Video Toaster on an Amiga 2000 (OK, I know, that was hardware and software....but c'mon, it literally was the start of the desktop video revolution we all take for granted now) .  I also played around with the then free add-on tool called Lightwave.

Since my roots have always been in video production, I always am fascinated in how far software has come.  Enter Wirecast a little gem that is truly an incredible piece of software for those on the spot video production needs without having a huge video rig.  They also produce an appliance now as well as still selling the software standalone.

Wirecast allows you to connect multiple cameras via Firewire, USB, IP, and NDI mix in pictures and movies, apply lower third graphic overlays, manipulate sound and use some PIP effects and move seamlessly from one to another.  You can apply video effects and green screen.

The product is available for Windows and OSX and not only allows you to record locally as you live switch between all your composed "shots" but also STREAM the event live in Windows Media format (Windows Only), Flash, h.264 and Quicktime.  You can do push or pull streaming and also stream to relay servers or outside services like Eastbay Media.

I have used Wirecast on many occasions as a front end to video conferences and quickly apply lower thirds etc etc.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Converting DV video for Tricaster on OSX

You can use use Mpeg Streamclip to convert DV video files for use on NewTek Tricaster.  Newtek is very annoying in that they do NOT recognize Quicktime format files so you have to convert to AVI format.  Quicktime movies and AVI movies are just containers.  The important part is the format of the audio and video inside those containers.

Using Mpeg Streamclip you can install the included "Save as AVI" Quicktime component and make sure the video is in DV format and the Audio is in MP3 format.  You can then put the resulting AVI file on a thumb drive or external hard drive, quit the Tricaster interface and copy the file to the media clips folder.  Once you re-launch the Tricaster interface you can then load up the video in the "VCR" (or I will assume a DDR in the Video Toaster product) for playback.

Converting from Tricaster naitive format is pretty much impossible.  You need to obtain the video CODEC from the NewTek website and install it on your Windows workstation.  You can then open the file in Windows Media Player to view it...but you will have to find utilities to then convert it to a format you can play elsewhere.  NewTek does NOT make a Quicktime component to support their format, which in my opinion is a mistake on their part.  The prevents you from sourcing a video file on a Tricaster or Video Toaster and using it in Final Cut Pro on OSX.  Very short sighted on NewTeks behalf if you ask me.  I believe you now can use MPEG2 as a format, but in my opinion...too little...too late.

Audio/Video conversion tools for OSX

Some wonderful OSX tools to manipulate and convert audio/video.

Audacity - Open Source audio editor
Gimp - Open Source graphic editor
ffmpeg - Open Source audio/video conversion software
iFFMPEG - GUI front end to OSX version of ffmpeg (Video Conversion)
iMediaHUD - Free utility to see the specs of AV files
Mpeg Streamclip - Converter (supports many formats)
VLC - Media player that can also transcode and convert in many formats
Handbrake - Rip DVD's to MP4, directly into iPod/iPhone formats as well as others.

All the above utilities are free.  You can download them and use them to perform many tasks.  Mpeg Streamclip also includes a "Save as AVI" quicktime component.  I use all these utilities on a regular basis when I need to convert video into different formats for our video needs.

Hey there!

Welcome to my blog.  I will attempt to blog on snippets of code and other utilities that I use day in and day out to do my job.  I don't claim to be an expert but I do believe that you should share information that has helped you so that others may find it if they need help.  Everything contained in here are snippets of code that I have seen or found on the internet, as well as from the fantastic individuals on the MacEnterprise forum.  If you are supporting OSX in any larger scale network, you should check out this fine resource at