News From The Woods.14


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published November 1, 1997

"Why The NewTek Toaster/Flyer?"

I thought I'd write an article about the current state of the "NewTek story" as seen from the everyday Video Toaster/Flyer user. Not the software developer. Not the magazine editor. Not the up and coming videographer about town. Not the tech-head web surfer. Not the high-powered Hollywood animator. Not even the Amiga worshiper. Just the guy who schlocks around every day making a living in the real world with his Toaster/Flyer. You know. The OTHER 75% of Toaster/Flyer users.

I'm not particularly a computer geek. I don't know the jargon. I can't recite hard drive rev rates or new updates on diagnostics and software revisions. I'm not a "bug fixer". I haven't even learned Arexx. Other than some training at the Harris Corporation on newspaper typesetting computers way back in the 70's, I consider myself computer illiterate. My very first venture into PC's was just in 1993 when I bought into the "video revolution" with NewTek's Video Toaster 4000 system. I have expanded right along with NewTek even as the Amiga computer was beginning it's long, slow death rattle in a marketplace dominated by IBM and Apple.

Why did I originally invest into a computer system that the press was reluctant to praise? Simply because there was NO other comparable video production engine on the market at anywhere near the price, although price alone was not the issue. Rather, it was the lure of the marriage of switcher, CG titler, paint program and 3D modeler all in one integrated package at a price every aspiring videographer could afford. Even a "wannabe" TV producer located in the hills of Arkansas. At the time, LightWave was just a nice "add-on" for me as (1) I didn't think I would have enough application for such an exotic feature, and (2) I falsely assumed that the learning curve would be too steep for my feeble linear-thinking mind.

Within 5 minutes of getting hands-on at a local Amiga dealer who was eager to turn me loose with this new toy I was completely sold. I KNEW this would do the job for me, so I went to my local banker and convinced him to loan me enough to get started. "Getting started" was purchasing a brand new Amiga 4000 Video Toaster with a single DPS TBC-III card and a 500M drive. When I bought it I didn't really know what all that meant but my computer "guru" advised me based on my needs at the time. I also bought Final Copy II , DPaint IV, ADPro, TRexx, and DOpus on his recommendation. When it all arrived he drove 125 miles one-way to my studio and completely set it up, installed all the hardware and software, and timed and phased the Toaster to the TBC. I had enough ram for a 150-frame LowRes animation. I would do the anims and bump them to 3/4", then hard edit the 5-second anims together using a Sony 3/4" VO-5850 editing system. Ah, the good old days.....

When the Flyer was finally introduced after much fanfare I jumped right in, went back to the bank and reinvested into the "next generation". I added a Warp Engine accelerator which drove my then 3-year old Amiga to the blazing clock speed of 75Mz. Through the years I have kept up with all software revisions. I now have two 4.5 Gig A/V Flyer drives and a 9 Gig A/V Flyer drive, and a 1 Gig Audio Flyer drive. I have ImageFX , AlphaPaint, Wavemaker, and Forge. I also have MorphPlus but have never had the time in the past two years to even crack the users manual. Besides, it looks so complicated that I keep telling myself "I'll check it out when I have some down time". Ha!

How do I use the T/F system in my daily routine? For starters, I do a lot of legal video deposition work. It's basic meat and potatoes switcher work with a dash of CG. Sometimes I get lucky and I'm called upon to do LightWave anims of accident recreations or scene of the event. I shoot and produce wedding video's. Sometimes just with one camera and sometimes I use as many as 5 cameras. I use the Flyer extensively and never worry about SMPTE lockup since I can easily sync up different camera angles just by listening to the overlapped audio and making slight adjustments until I don't hear any audio delay. I usually record the ceremony on audio cassette then just sync in the video clips "on the fly" and mix in my remote camera audio taken from my wireless mic. I also produce training and safety videos which calls for more CG work, and usually a flying logo or two, which I usually use Wavemaker for. My largest client is a leading medical health care manufacturing company with offices and plants all over the world. I get backdrops from Club Toaster CD's, fonts and 3D objects from the LightROM CD Series, and add nice transitional touches with RenderFX or FlyFX. All my CG work is speeded up with Ozware's FAST FRAMES. I also rely on Co-Pilot A/V and ProWave to increase my potential and reduce my keystrokes. All this software has been developed and released even though the handwriting has been on the wall for Amiga for some time now. That's because the developers know that this is still the only system to do what it does day after day right on the money.

The recent announcement of NewTek's withdrawal of future Amiga support is the latest of a long line of salvo's delivered over a slow and painful three-year period. I survived the dreaded 4.04b Flyer software update. It almost cost me my biggest client as 4.04b screwed up the sequencer so badly that a two-week posting job turned into over two months. Of course I ate the down time. I don't charge a client when I am not productive. That's always been the first rule around here. My clients were a lot more tolerant of the situation than I was because I KNEW what it was SUPPOSED to do but couldn't get the software to cooperate. It helped that their production technology also revolved around computers and software R&D. It wasn't so bad after I could get NewTek to actually fess up to what was wrong so I would know which effects to avoid until the bugs had been totally worked out. Toaster 4.1 took care of most of that in short order.

Since the VTML mysteriously went off-line at the exact moment of NewTek's Amiga announcement at NewTek EXPO, there has been a lot of speculation as to the "black ops" nature of the situation. I began to get flooded with email with the latest buzz or someone publicly speculating as to the future of the Toaster/Flyer system itself. I have read of all the concern everyone seems to have abut future developments of the Flyer for the Amiga platform. I won't add fuel to the fire here and I am not informed enough to have any worthwhile speculation either way, but I do know this:

Since DAY 1 my T/F system has performed AS ADVERTISED, right out of the box. Once it was set up properly, I never "tweaked" it and it has worked flawlessly (with noted exceptions). The 3rd party software integrates perfectly with my system and the install programs are very user friendly. What's more, the entire signal flow is extremely simple to understand and operate. I don't understand all this whining and moaning about "What are we gonna' do??" I don't know what more I could want out of the Flyer that I'm not getting from all this extra software. I produce TV commercials and they look like everybody else's broadcast TV commercials produced by a television station or post production house. My CG's look as good as the network's. My flying logo's and anims look as good as most of what I see on television and better than most corporate/industrial video production I have seen.

Yes, I feel a little hurt and abandoned. Yes, I wish I could have OpenGL, WaveFilter, and some of that other neat software, but I can't and that's it. Otherwise, Big Deal. I don't really need high-end rendering speed. I'm not doing "The Titanic" scenes or the latest TV SpaceCom anims. Not a lot of call for that here in the Ozarks. But I am doing video demo's for boat manufacturers; real estate and insurance companies; medical procedure video's for doctors, clinics, and hospitals; tour guide and promotional and sales videos; industrial safety videos; fishing videos; instructional and educational videos; high school video yearbooks; fund raising videos; and even use the Toaster for creating websites. I also operate a recording studio and I even use the Flyer audio drive to save master mixes to, then create Flyer projects and dub back to DAT for audio CD duplication.

I find a new client every day. Or rather, they find me. I'm the guy here in the Ozarks with the Toaster/Flyer that produces quality video productions and charges affordable rates.

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