Video Toaster goes open source

One of my favorite programs that I never really worked with much, the Amiga Video Toaster, has now gone open source (and there was much rejoicing).

When the video toaster came out, it replaced a 100K production system for 6K. It took video editing/production by storm. It was a wonderful replacement for aging, expensive monster mixers and effects boxes. In fact, when it came out it’s closest competition was nearly $50,000. Toaster had the huge advantage of being a totally new system using new ideas and new techniques. It wasn’t as powerful or as capable as a true non-linear editing system or field-accurate paintbox machine… but it didn’t cost nearly as much as one either. The Video Toaster ushered in the age of affordable desktop video in 1991 and was used in products such as Babylon 5, Sliders, and Jurassic Park. The effects, depending on how you used them, could look cool or cheesy. Think of the effects of Home Improvement, when they did the scene changes.

The name Video Toaster was the end result of humorous false rumors spread by NewTek. They leaked that they were working on a “laser toaster” to toast graphics onto white bread for hotels and resturaunts. Then they said that they had expanded their project to include a “JellyJet printer” that could spray mint, rasberry and blueberry jelly onto the bread for color output. The next month they announced that they had expanded it to the Amiga’s 4096 color “Hold and Modify” mode for “HAM on Toast”. This went on until the actual product was announced. At which point it became vaporware for a very long period of time.

The Toaster was broadcast quality by the only standard that mattered – would a broadcaster broadcast it? They did. The video output was comparable to the quality of a 1″ C-format machine, and the CG letters were comparable to Dubner or Chyron systems of the time. What people fed into the Toaster was another matter. VHS in is going to look like VHS coming out.

Apparently, all the source is in M68K assmebly language but I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. If this is the case, you might as well start from scratch (unless of course you own an AMIGA, then it is very useful). The Toaster itself did all of the graphics work, and that the Amiga was really just there to control it. Basically, Toaster was a hardware package with controlling software, not just a software package. You can’t really port it to the PC any moreso than you can port, say, the custom software used in a flatbed scanner to a PC; you might be able to emulate the internal operation, but the hardware itself is missing. Another useless tidbit of info is that Dana Carvey’s brother, Brad Carvey, designed the hardware in the Video Toaster.

God bless the Toaster, and those who couldn’t resist tossing in a few Kiki effects or falling sheep here and there! You can find the Open Video Toaster page here.