News From The Woods - July, 1993


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published July, 1993

"Attack of the ToasterPeople"

It's 1am, and I am celebrating. As I sit my bottle of bubbly next to my little electronic typewriter it occurs to me that this will probably be the last time I "hack" out this column from my trust but intellectually-barren Panasonic T40. For as of today I am the proud owner of a REAL word processor in PC form. Funny thing is, word processing is one of the most miniscule tasks that can be summoned from my MegaByte Monster.

Y'see … for several years now I've been watching the video revolution unfold and spill over affordable technology within "everyman's" reach. It still takes a wad o' money but a much smaller wad than it took 5 years ago.

Some pretty smart tech-heads near Topeka, Kansas figured out how to fit big-time video special effects into a small and cost-effective box run alongside a personal computer. They decided to market their nifty device as an indespensable video tool that small production houses and independent videographers could hardly live without. They even named it after a common household appliance, hence the Video Toaster.

And what's more, when these Toasters were tested by the broadcast experts, the video signals provided full network television color and resolution. The first Toasters entered the video scene a couple of years ago. They caught on very quickly and took the entire pro industry by surprise. They called it "Attack Of The Toasterpeople." Since that time user groups have popped up everywhere. A magazine called Video Toaster User is doing quite well, and third-party software companies are cashing in on this new wave of videographers. Small TV stations and public access channels are Toaster-run. Corporate and industrial video programs can now look like broadcast-quality stuff with all the usual bells and whistles. It's been pretty amazing.

I wanted one for the studio, but I waited for several reasons. First, at the time I couldn't afford it. Secondly, I am always a bit cautious about buying 1st generation ANYTHING. I decided to wait until all the bugs had been worked out. My wait is over.

The new generation Toaster 4000 with 040 processor has just now been released (as I write this article). It is literally on the cutting edge of video/computer technology. You can still do all the usual toaster stuff: sensational fades and special effect wipes, Chroma FX color processor, ChromaKey, 2D and 3D graphics, broadcast-quality Character Generator with dozens of fonts and typestyles, digital video effects, animation … but it does it so much faster and cleaner. When I got a hands-on demo in Springfield, MO a couple of weeks ago, I was, to put it mildly, totally hooked.

As the Ronco ads used to say, "But wait! There's More!" I figured if I'm going to do this, why stop there? I also purchased the latest camcorder technology as well. It's a Sony (of course!) CCD-VX3, which is a HI-8 3-Chip pro camcorder. For you vidiots out there … let me repeat … 3 chips! 540 lines of resolution! 12X lens! Auto set-up! I'm in video heaven. And if that's not enough, just to top things out I also got a Stedicam, Jr. (made by the same fine folks who invented the Stedicam - a revolutionized free-floating non-stationary camera support system). Remember Rocky running up the steps to victory? That was Stedicam's introduction to Hollywood, and it's never been the same since.

We're still a ¾" - based video production facility, but our acquisition format needed upgrading. This new Sonycam is the only type on the market. There is currently nothing comparable in the S-VHS format. I can't wait to shop-test it on the Stedicam, Jr. with its LCD monitor and Obie-light.

In case you're wondering … no, I did not discover the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (or maybe I did…) With help from one of our local financial institutions we are able to leap to the front of the class. And just when I was about to pay the last loan off! It seems as though I may never know the feeling of debtlessness. Oh well, it's the American Way. Isn't it?

Bidness has been berry good to me this summer. Whiplash Gumbo has been visiting again, as has Cold Ethyl from Dallas, who brought another band, Guilt Trip. I had never recorded two bands simultaneously, so it was unusual to say the least. Songwriter Walt Ramsey has done 12 tracks in the past couple of months. A young, new band called Wasted Hasting has been cutting original tracks as well. Last week marked Midnight Rodeo's second stint here at Cedar Crest Studio. Did that look like a plug? Well, I just realized I hadn't mentioned that in this column yet. Anyway, this week we're Rockin' and Rollin' with Ruff Justice from Dallas. It's a CD/cassette project and we're cutting 11 songs in 6 days. Today, after the first 8-hour day, we have completed 6 rhythm tracks (drums/ bass/ 2 guitars). Tomorrow we'll finish the other 5 rhythm tracks and start overdubbing. We've got a good start on it. We mix on Friday and I'm taking the band out on the lake all day Saturday. Try getting THAT in your big-city recording package!!!

As you are reading this I will have already had the gear for about two or three weeks. Probably nobody in Mountain Home will have seen me for about that long as I will have locked myself in the studio and temporarily thrown my watch away.

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