News From The Woods - March, 2006

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published March 1, 2006


"Saying Goodbye to the VTFML"


Last month I was reminiscing about the "Magic Box", the ill-fated Amiga and the original NewTek Toaster/Flyer NLE. It's been a bittersweet journey since I first came on board the digital video train in the mid-90's. So many rapid-fire changes have happened in this industry that it is hard to believe we have come so far in just one decade. As much as I love editing today with my PC and, in my case, using Sony's Vegas for my video (and audio) editing, there is much I will miss about the "good old days".

I will miss the simplicity and straightforward editing concepts presented with the first release of the Video Toaster/Flyer combination back in 1995. For several years there the T/F community grew by leaps and bounds, assisted largely by the spirit and cooperation found on the Video Toaster Mailing List. Developers, users, and the manufacturer all subscribed to the list. Ideas and problems were openly discussed in real time. Bug fixes and workarounds flew back and forth as fast as you could check your email. Sometimes there were rants and even some exciting flaming retorts that certainly made things interesting, and even gave the rest of us an occasional chuckle or two. I can count on one hand the number of times a subscriber went too far and was banned from posting on a thread or [gasp] stricken from the list altogether. But in general everyone behaved ourselves because we all realized what a good thing we had going. It was a wonderful time and a wonderful community. No other manufacturer that I have heard of ever obtained this level of cooperation and free exchange of information on a mailing list.

As the demise (and several false starts) of the Amiga came to pass, the list experienced a migration of sorts. Many users chose to get on board NewTek's "new Toaster" which had been ported over to the PC. Still others, like myself, straddled the fence…. Looking for "something better". There were those of us that hoped NewTek would eventually develop their new product in a direction closer to the original version of the Toaster. And they DID eventually adopt a dual interface mode that gave the user a choice of either the standard timeline editing screen or the more familiar storyboard editor adopted by the original Amiga Flyer. Still, it wasn't the same for many of us and as the VT veered off in a direction which resulted in a steeper learning curve some of us jumped ship and bought into some other NLE. In my case I chose Sony's (formerly Sonic Foundry) Vegas NLE, as it was the interface for me. Many un-subscribed from the list at that point as there was no further reason to read up on a platform that they no longer used. However, there were a number of us who stayed on the list for several reasons. For a while there I was getting up to speed using a PC and getting accustomed to using a new operating system and an entirely new way of editing and manipulating video. During that transitional period I was also still using my Toaster/Flyer. I bought a 100-Meg Zip drive in SCSI format and installed in my Flyer tower case and placed another Zip drive on the PC, using USB. This allowed me to use both systems and exchange data, as long as it wasn't over 100 Megs.

Eventually though, as I became more used to Vegas, I reached for the Flyer less and less. However, I continued to stay subscribed to the VTFML. And even though traffic decreased dramatically, I (and others) continued to stay on the list. Why? I think it was because we enjoyed each other's "company" so much during the Amiga's heyday that we were reluctant to sign off. Also, the one's who stayed behind had valuable input to pass on to the newbies on the list. More and more Amigas and Toaster cards and Flyer systems were popping up for pennies on the dollar on eBay and even sold through the list. These "beginners" were going through the same growing pains that the old seasoned pros had endured through the Millennium, and I suppose in the spirit of the way things were we wanted to spare them some of the hardships and heartbreaks. However, as time passed it got to be a little tiring stating the same fixes and solving the same problems. Besides, ALL of the previous threads were posted on the digest and eventually it got down to just telling people to go the list digest and finding the appropriate thread.

These days, the list has digressed to a lot of off-topic posts. In recent months I have found myself just scanning topic headers and deleting the one's I don't care about without even reading them. A lot of the new blood on the list are working in more of a "hobbyist" fashion with their recent Amigas. Most of them have already scanned the list digest to find what they need. There is less and less need for the old pros to monitor the list, and so I figured it was time for me to sign off. Because I have been on line for over a decade now, my email address has been included in so many lists that I get over 250 email messages PER DAY. Fortunately my browser filters out 85% of it, but I still go through the VTFML posts manually. So, last week I notified those remaining on the list of my intentions to un-subscribe. I was astounded by some of the replies! So many people said such kind things about me that my ears have been burning for three days now. Furthermore, my decision seemed to spur a few others who have remained on board to take a similar course. I felt like I was the Head Rat jumping off the sinking ship! I actually feel pretty bad about leaving now, but I suppose that's to be expected. None of us from the original group wanted to give up that special camaraderie we once enjoyed. But time marches on.

I want to leave you all with some of the comments that were posted after my announcement. I think these edited replies say more about the original feeling of the list members that anything more I can add here:

First- here is my original post:

2/15/2006 5:43 AM
To: VTFML@yahoogroups.com

Well, I suppose it had to come some day. Why not the day after Valentine's Day......?

Since the sad day I took my T/F offline I have known this day would come eventually, but I have been dreading it as this list is the last vestage of a wonderful time mingling amongst some really great friends and truly I will miss all of you. So many old pals have already left the list to move on. I will now join those ranks. I realize there are many newbies who have joined in recent years for one reason or another, but like Paul replied recently, it's been so long since I've worked around my T/F that I have forgotten many of the short cuts, hazards, work arounds, and procedures. About the only time I even turn on my Amiga system is when I need to use the TBC to clean up some video. In the past two or three years I doubt if I have responded with assistance more than half a dozen times, so I don't know what I can do to help out much any more. I have still been monitoring this list, but to be honest, lately it's been a hassle deleting the email as I could never put the "VTFML email" in the Junk folder. It just didn't seem right.

Most of my contributions in the past can still be Googled on my site, and 90% of all my articles are also found online on the site at http://www.cedarcreststudio.com/online.html

I cannot bring myself to sell off all my Amiga related stuff, so I will just keep it all for sentimental reasons I suppose. Besides, the current market is valued at pennies per dollar and it's just not worth piddling around for a couple hundred bucks. Maybe my son Robert will want something to play with when he gets old enough. Maybe I'll create an Amiga Museum someday ("This was called a "mouse"....... this is a "hard drive".......these publications were called "magazines"......."). Maybe Bill Gates will be excommunicated and the PC will fall, only to be replaced by computers named for fruit and the new Amiga's of the future...... Who knows?

In any event, most of you know where I am, and I assume this last communication will be filed with all the other email on the list database if anyone ever wanted to bother reaching me for anything. If I can be of any further help concerning the care and feeding of the Toaster/Flyer then you may contact me via my email address. I'm not going anywhere (literally :)

Another chapter in the book will now be closed..............

I won't even bother thanking the many of you who may still monitor this list, but you know who you are and I still have your email addresses in my book. All the very best to those remaining on this mailing list. I hope your Amigas run for another twenty years!

I am reluctant to hit the SEND button, but know it is time...........

I will unsubscribe at the end of today.

Look to the future & be kind to each other,
Bob Ketchum


And now……. A sampling of the replies:

Hey, Bob, sorry it took so long to respond.

I can empathize with every word you wrote. I've been on the list since, well I guess just about since it started. Not only have I learned a great deal here but I've tried to share what I've learned, too. I guess I've just been hanging out here because you and a few others have.

I've made some good friends here and still correspond with some of them. I've built a business relationship with some and we've worked together on a few projects. It really has been a fruitful experience for me.

But I guess it is time to move on. We've extended our relationship with NewTek and are now running 2 VT4's at work. The chatter on the VTNT list is similar to what we had here several years ago, so it feels like home there, for the most part. I wish you had gone with the VT, but I know you chose what was right for you.

Like you, I've hung on to my Amigas and T/Fs. I intend to hook them up one day, but the move to our new place, coupled with the enormous amount of work that we're doing has put that on the back burner until I can find the time. I suppose I'll keep my T/F help pages up on my website because surprisingly I still get quite a few hits on it.

Good luck to you in all your endeavors and if I can ever be of assistance let me know.

I guess I'll be unsubscribing too, if for no other reason, in support of you.

Regards,
Billy

To the both of you,
I hate to hear that any of you are leaving this group since I only joined a year ago. It was Billy's help page that led me to this list. I never spoke to you Bob, but I am somewhat aware of your contribution. I would have given up on the Amiga (Toaster/Flyer) if it were not for the chatter on this list and the feeling that I am within a few keystrokes of the people how know and still love this stuff. THIS IS NOTHING LIKE TECH SUPPORT... I enjoy this list and have learned so much just watching you guys help others. You have made me believe the platform is still alive regardless of the facts.

I know the membership shrinks each year, but I am always delighted to see someone on this list respond to questions asked by anyone who needs help.

Gook luck to you!

Rick

Well, it's time for me to say good-bye as well.

It's been great, I think the list has been around for over 10 years now.

Basically, same reasons as Bob, I don't really feel I can contribute anything to it anymore, it's been too long since I've booted my T/F.

And like Bob, my T/F will stay here, it's not going anywhere.

The Amiga was definately ahead of its time, and always will be.

You all can find me on the VTNT list if you need me.

Good-bye and good luck to all! :)

EWK

Hi all.

I strongly suspect (and certainly hope) that there are T/F users out there that monitor this list even though they are not active participants. Although it has been some time since I have waded in with a question or advice, I faithfully keep track of what's going on here and have for many years. I think now is the time for rest to make their presence known or this list may be history.

To Bob - good luck to you! I have enjoyed our correspondence in the past.

To Billy - we will certainly miss you here.

To the rest - speak now, please.

Dennis (the other DW)
T/F user for 18 years

Bob,
We've never met, nor have I corresponded much with any of the other "regulars" on this list. But I've been a "lurker" here for a long, long time, so in that way, I feel as if I've known many of you. Your sign-off touched a nerve, one which has been touched a few times in the past, but still resonates each time "another one bites the dust".

The Amiga and Flyer were more than just machines to me, in the same way that producing video is more than a job. It's in my blood, and if I'm 95 years old and sitting on the porch of the old folks home in my rocking chair, there's no doubt that some of the stories I'll be telling over and over again will include episodes involving the legendary Video Toaster Flyer!

You all have been very helpful over the years. I found this list well after I became a Flyer User. Actually, had I found it earlier, I suspect I might have avoided much of the grief which will sadly always be an integral part of my memories of that portion of my career. I am an original "Version 0.9" owner and that, if anything, was my only mistake.

I still own two Video Toasters, one in an Amiga 2000 and one in a 4000. The Toaster was so groundbreakingly -- breathtakingly -- awesome and affordable when it came out that I attribute at least some of the success I experienced in business to it, weaning myself from the $300 an hour Post production facilities and opening my own shop. The Toaster was SO good and so reliable that when the Flyer was announced I bought it on pre-order, on blind faith. Mine never lived up to my high expectations based on my experience with the Toaster, and although I used it for many years, it was a constant stream of unexplained (well, they were explained much, much later) glitches and headaches, never knowing if the project was going to play out correctly as the deadline loomed. Had I been on this list a couple of years earlier, I suspect that some of you real wizards might have easily recognized some of the land mines we spent a long, long time unsuccessfully dodging. (Remember audio stuttering, video stuttering, and -- the one thing that almost put me out of business -- the "gee it sure took a long time for them to figure out (or admit) that there was a limit to the number of files you could put in the root directory of the Flyer drives!") But, oh, those drives! People used to literally come over just to see a machine which had two unfathomably large NINE GIGABYTE drives ($9,000 for the pair!)

I too haven't fired up the old girl in eons. It's still sitting in the rack, with the sides removed and a $20 K-Mart fan taped to the side, ready to keep it from melting down. I had a client about two years ago who needed to update an old program. Brought it in successfully from the 8mm tape in the Exabyte drive (remember those leisurely 5 hour backup sessions?) Other than that, I think the last program I edited around 1998 is still on the drives. I loved the Amiga, and although I fought viciously with the Flyer every day, it was a love/hate relationship. I definitely "became one with the machine" and could run it in my sleep. But when Final Cut Pro came out, I knew it was all over. I've been working happily (and 99.999% glitch free) on the Mac since version 1 of Final Cut. I felt so beaten up by my Flyer experience I wouldn't even have considered risking further indignities with the "new:" Flyer had they offered me one for free.

I too, can hardly remember the innumerable tricks, cheats and workarounds that used to get me though the day with the Flyer, but there were many. And in a way it was satisfying to find them or have someone clue you in on one and then be able to make the machine dance better than you previously thought it could. When I got serial machine control over my Betacam deck, and the ability to re-digitize footage from an EDL, wow, that was just like being back in the big leagues that I had left when I got my first Amiga. ('Course the time code was kinda funny now that I think of it...) And being able to render off video clips and mix down an infinite number of audio tracks (well, some of that never really worked quite right either, all those teensy little chroma and luma shifts that never did quite get resolved.) Ah, what a curmudgeon I'm being. It was magic and it was all right there in a little box. And it was all mine!

Plus I had a Sunrize Studio 16 card installed, and THAT was something else! Imagine multitrack audio chasing SMPTE time code on an Amiga! We were in heaven: true CD-quality sound from those creaky old low-fi BVU 800s! 'Course that thing tended to crash a lot too, but in looking back, we always pushed the systems very, very hard. I initially had a difficult time believing that a little shop like mine could be stressing these things out past the point their designers envisioned, but somebody at NewTek once told me that they never figured that anyone would ever put hundreds and hundreds of files in the Flyer root directory (or hundreds and hundreds of croutons in a project!) And Anthony Wood at Sunrize (where are you now?) told me he never thought the card would be pushed quite as hard as it was, but he was always very helpful in keeping that Studio 16 running full bore!

Anyway, I'm kinda rambling here, but I know that I'm NOT going to get rid of my Flyer. I'll probably never use it professionally again, and maybe never even turn it on again, but I'm sentimentally attached to this unique thing made of metal and plastic that sometimes seemed to have a soul. And I'm NOT going to unsubscribe from this list. I enjoy reading about these things still being used. And maybe some day a new user might even ask a question which my aging, deteriorating brain cells might actually remember the answer to. Especially if you real gurus continue to "retire".

So to Bob (and to everyone else who has been so helpful -- Arexx Aaron are you still around? -- and so knowledgeable and so generous with sharing that knowledge over the years) a huge "Thank You!" It was a heck of a ride and not one I expect I'll ever be able to duplicate the thrill of, no matter what kind of amazingly wonderful new video stuff comes my way in the future.

Best Regards,
--Dave

Bob - I guess that Valentine has got an arrow through it now!

I'll add my voice to those others who remain here (both seen and obscene), and thank you for all the good-natured, sincere, and professional advice you provided over the years. It's overly obvious from your posts that you not only know a lot about the V/T Flyer, but you're a swell person to boot! A great combination!

...and thanks, too, for the link to all your articles! Even when departing the stage you continue to contribute.

Regards from the Marina,
(The other curious) George

Oh no! Bob didn't mean to start a rush for the door! There's dancing girls coming!
Aaron

Thanks Bob, your one of a kind.

Bob's audio tips I have used:

Low Audio.... clone audio in project

Audio FX..... clone audio, move second clip :02 at beginning either way

And as some might not know, the T/F is an 8 track audio player. That mean what it means, put 8 audio clips after a video clips, VIOLA!

Just set to Digest for a while Bob. I will always read your posts.

And little Bob might like the T/F on his 10th Birthday!

Take Care Bob. You are the T/F Audio GURU, besides Aussie!

BestWishes
KiloVideo

NO! I did not mean for my departure to start a "bail out trend"! We're not Lemmings! I am convinced that this list will still be invaluable to those just beginning to fool with their "new toys", and there are probably enough Amigas out there to circulate through eBay for quite some time.

In the meantime, I'll ask those remaining on this list to remember me and my site and spread the word for any newbies needing more input. Most of you have my email addy in your personal database so you know where to find me. Please write anytime if you have questions relating (especially) to audio for the Video Toaster/Flyer. And remember I have a huge collection of 3rd party products (and manuals) and a cache of magazines spanning three different publications dedicated to the Amiga Toaster Flyer. I will still be here for all of you who need anything I can provide, and will do it cheerfully and ASAP.

And finally, I want to say here how humbled I am for all the wonderful comments many of you have made about my past endeavors here on the list yesterday. Plus, I have received many private emails and I even got a call from a user in Florida yesterday who felt the need to tell me how much my articles and emails to the list have helped him through many difficult times with his system. So many "thanks" were heaped upon me that I am truly speechless at the response. I must say it really made my day in a way I was not expecting. It is always nice to know you are appreciated.

And so now, with this last official contribution to the list, I bid you all adieu.

KEEP FLYIN' !!

And remember my axiom: Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome!

Bob (the last word in parenthesis, with apologies to Paul Lara) Ketchum
OK AARON, BRING ON THE DANCING GIRLS!

Bob, my friend,

It certainly is a mile-post moment in this list with your parting. I have always enjoyed your wit, your encouragement, and most especially your positive attitude.

You're a man with talents.

Please let me know how the film project turns out and consider entering in South by Southwest when it's done, so I can come see it. ;)

Paul

Bob,

I do not know you and I have not communicated with you at all as I am a new member unlike most of you here (I guess I'm one of the few people that Dave mentioned that still use the Flyer) but I must say thanks because even in the short time I have posted here I have received a lot of help and information. I guess you can call this your retirement and I hope you enjoy life in whatever direction it chooses to send you.

Wow Dave, That's quite the read !

I must also agree with most of your points. I fell in love with my Flyer as soon as I received it. In 1995 I saw a video of what it could do an knew right then that that was just what I needed. I still use my Toaster 4000 Flyer system weekly as it has always just been a hobby of mine I never intended it to be a business and I think that's truly what the Flyer is all about is having fun :) I've probably done about 60 weddings with it and several other promotional and other misc videos in the 9 years I have owned it. I still have a Sony U-Matic SP record deck (that I don't use anymore) as I just burn it straight to DVD now. But I think that not only Newtek but also the Amiga was and is a system way beyond its time. I love the user interface of the Toaster and now that I have all the latest updates including the Millenium package. I am a happy camper.

Tony

Bye, bob! All the best! The little DVD resolution test was fun, so drop me an email if I can help with anything. if I head over toward the great state of Arkansas I shall provide you with advance warning in case you wish to plan ahead to be somewhere else :)

D (ain't used a Flyer in over 5 years myself) W

Hi Bob,

I just got around to reading your posting on the digest. When I normally notice long post by different people, I tend to skip through them to find the meat of their posting, but in your case, I read ever word and kept nodding in agreement.

My own Flyer sits plugged in but turned off. I bought the VT[4] last year and although I like some of the features, I still miss many of the things the Flyer could do. As you said, Newtek should have tried to incorporate the same goals into the VT[4] that they did in the Flyer.

Editing software and hardware are tools. I have always used the best tool for the best job it was meant to do. Like you, while I was running the Flyer, I also had a PC on the other side of the room that ran HollywoodFX so that I could do some special effects in seconds that would take hours rendering on the Flyer. You used a Zip drive and I discovered the JAZZ drive.

Best,
Fred

Answering to the roll-call....

Well, my main editing apps have been Velocity and Final Cut for quite a few years now, but as one of the very early users of the Toaster/Flyer, I simply can't bear to shut it down...I totally credit it and the Amiga with launching me and giving me a leg up in the video production business. I still monitor this list and I still use the Flyer from time to time. Some times I WISH it would die... but it just keeps going and going and some things are still easier on it, plus the switcher is handy. When I finally do shut it down or it dies, I will add it to my "historical technology display" next to my childhood tv "rotor" (device to direct the tv aerial on top of the house to the best angle) and my first still camera which I wore out ("Yashica 35mm").

I'll also include my first 9 gig scsi Seagate for the flyer, which cost over $4,000, a gigantic full size drive that must use as much electricity as a refrigerator, and is also still running...they weren't kidding when they rated it at over a half million hours running time....

Once a Flyer pilot, always a Flyer pilot.....
John

To those leaving.

I, too have a Toaster/Flyer, but I haven't used it since I got a Mac and Final Cut Pro. I actually have three or four Toaster systems, and I will probably fire one up to use as a feed to a video wall soon. I have always enjoyed reading the numerous posts here and will still monitor the list.

Thinking back…..I even had the pleasure of meeting Dan Wolf in person! Here in Columbus, Ohio, there were a few Amiga conventions back in the old days, with CompuQuick (Randi) and A few other Amiga dealers. By the way, Randi still has Amigas at his store

I remember taking a class from Aussie! Going back even further, I met Tim Jennison et al at a San Francisco meeting. Even heard a speech from Lee Stranahan. Those were the days!

I still have the 4.5 gig and 9 gig drives. I think I paid $2000 a piece for the 9 gig ones. So I will soldier on with Final Cut Pro 5, but fondly remember doing battle with the Flyer!

Good luck,
Dave


To Tim Jennison, Lee Stranahand and the other visionaries who developed the original code for NewTek......... To my favorite "NewTekkers"....Paul & Chuck - and all those that worked for NewTek Tech Support and have helped SO many users throughout the years..... To Aussie, Bill, Kermit, and the countless other 3rd party developers and code writers who "supercharged" the Flyer....... And lastly (but not leastly) to all the wonderful guys and gals who have ever been on the VTFML mailing list and can recall the "glory days" - I shall never forget the warm and fuzzy feeling of being in instant contact with so many talented and creative people, ALL giving 100%.......

I SALUTE YOU!

There simply is no way of knowing just how many lives you have changed by enabling us "little people" out here to realize our dreams, vastly increase our incomes, exponentially expand our knowledge, and change the very way we have directed the course of our careers and lives. For THAT...... I will never forget the "Golden Years" of the Amiga Toaster and Flyer.


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