Gonzo blogging from the Annie Leibovitz of the software development world.

Day: February 8, 2004

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.

Can’t please any of the people any of the time

Man, some of you guys are pretty damn harsh and pretty damn cowardly. You sit behind the veil of secrecy with fake emails and nowhere websites spouting off how much I get off on playing with peoples emotions, getting hopes up and knocking them down. Too bad nobody really knows me (and I prefer to keep it that way with the number of whack jobs out there) because that’s just not me. Using the same logic you attack me with, I really have to wonder what you may (or may not) say about Don Hopkins. Don writes a great program that’s used by everyone and his brother to create new objects. Don goes stealth for over 3 years with Tmog and then shows up with a new version (not out yet, but it’s going through the EA grind) yet nobody is sending him hate letters or leaving comments on his website about it. Maybe that’s the style I should do. Lay quiet until it’s ready then *poof*, hope people come banging down my door.

I freely admit I don’t keep things up to date as much as I want to. That’s what happens with what I consider mature software. You get it, install it and use it and it works. The author spends what time he can adding new features and whatnot and releasing it. Having said that, I also admit that I haven’t spent the time I wanted in the last month or so getting the updates out there I wanted, but they’re coming. If that’s affecting someones schedule and they feel I’m stringing them along, grow up and stop coming here. Yes, there are updates to get the silly stuff working smoothly with the latest (and upcoming) expansion packs. Yes, blueprint was not the success or easy-to-use program I had hoped it to be. I’ve submitted that I failed on that front more times than I want to remember, but while I’m not proud of it I’m certainly not hiding behind it and making promises I don’t fufil.

Hey, I’m not going to snow anyone about how much time I put into writing The Sims tools. If you want regular updates, this isn’t the place. Check out The Sims Workshop as those guys are the true champions, who are putting their blood, sweat and tears into things on a daily basis. As well as all the other sites going strong over these years. I’ve already paid my dues and have the battle scars to show for it. A website that I pay for out of my own pocket with no funds coming from anyone for software that I don’t charge, a book that I’m not allowed to release to try to recoup any cost because of a machevellian legal entity of a mega-corporation, and a hobby (yes, hobby not business) that I try to find time to dedicate some hours to and keep things up to date.

Sometimes you guys make me want to pack up and stop wasting my time in this space. Well screw you. I’m here to stay, right or wrong, and it’s my right to have my soap box (unless you want to pay the bills around here, in which case I’ll dance to anyones tune if the price is right). For those of you that continue to amuse yourself (and trust me, you don’t amuse or intimidate me) by berating me, as I’ve said before, stop wasting peoples time with your comments and stop coming here.