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%% Amiga MultiMedia                           by Douglas J. Nakakihara %%
%%                                                 dnakakihara@bix.com %%
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/********************************************************************
NOTICE: This is the originally submitted text for an article that
appeared in the May 16, 1994 issue (#123) of MICROTIMES magazine. 
(There are some slight edited differences between the published
version and this one.)

This article is freely-distributable as long as it remains unchanged
and this notice and the copyright remain included.

This article may not be re-published in any magazine, newsletter,
or similar media, including those electronically distributed,
without obtaining prior approval from the author.  This provision
does *not* apply to USENET or BBSs.

Specific permission has been granted to Amiga Report.

Copyright(C)1994 Douglas J. Nakakihara.

The author can be reached thru Internet at dnakakihara@bix.com.

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/********************************************************************
Amiga Multimedia 
By Douglas J. Nakakihara 

	While attending a tradeshow put on by the company I work for, I 
noticed that a booth run by one of our subsidiaries lacked much interest 
from the hundreds of attendees. This was in spite of the fact that I 
know their service would be of considerable interest. The problem was 
that they needed to inform attendees of their service without scaring 
them away. 

	A short, but catchy, video presentation would surely do the trick. 
No one would feel like they were being imposed upon by a salesman and 
they wouldn't have to read a brochure. Passersby would merely have to 
stand back and watch TV. I often write about how easy and inexpensive it 
would be to do a great multimedia presentation using the Amiga. It was 
time to for me to put my money where my mouth is. 

	In this article, I'll show you how I went about creating a demo 
presentation, including selection and use of hardware and software, with 
a particular emphasis on Scala Multimedia 300. 

Hardware 

	Choosing the Amiga 1200 as the delivery hardware was a "no-
brainer." The photo-realistic color and animation capabilities of the 
AGA chip set was a necessity. Furthermore, the 1200's built-in RF and 
composite video outputs allow it to be directly connected to any 
standard TV. Portability was also an issue. Though the 1200 cannot be 
labeled a true portable computer because it requires AC power and 
doesn't have a built-in screen, it's compact size and built-in keyboard 
makes it very transportable. 

	A comparable IBM PC-compatible PC would require a fast 486 
processor, an accellerated video card, a sound board, and a video 
converter. (The video converter is needed to change a PC display signal 
to standard NTSC video and a good one costs several hundred dollars.) 
This setup's price tag would have busted the budget with lesser 
performance, not even considering a portable model. An Amiga 1200 with a 
2.5-inch 60MB hard drive and 6MB of RAM has a street price of under 
$1,000.  

Software 

	For "kick-but" presentation performance, there is no other choice 
for presentation software, but Scala Multimedia 300. Scala takes full 
advantage of the Amiga's graphics and audio capabilities, and really 
shines on an AGA machine. Scala carries a price tag of about $400, 
bringing our total package to $1,400. 

	Now remember that this is basically a delivery-only system. 
Although you could develop the presentation using the same 
configuration, you would want to add a paint package, an image 
processor, and maybe a 3D animation package to add some spark to 
presentations. A good paint program will run you about $150 and an image 
processor about the same. 3D animation programs cost from $250 on up. 
Though not a necessity, a scanner or video framegrabber can add even 
more pizzazz to a presentation, by allowing you to quickly incorporate 
pictures. 

My Setup 

	I have an Amiga 4000, 3000 and CDTV networked with Spectronic's 
AmigaLink. My 4000's hard drive is filled with--what else--VideoToaster 
software, so I run Scala on the 4000, but the software is actually 
stored on my 3000's hard drive. Only Scala's fonts are stored on the 
4000. The network allows me to perform CPU intensive tasks like 
modifying graphics and audio on the 3000 at full speed, while testing 
presentations on the 4000. 

	I digitized some photographs for the presentation using 
MacroSystemUS's VLab, though I could have also used my VideoToaster. The 
images were then cropped and scaled using Art Department Pro (ADPro) 
from ASDG. For smooth transitions during presentations, it is important 
to keep the resolutions of all screens the same. The correct resolution 
was easily determined by simply loading one of the Scala backgrounds 
into ADPro and noting its size. 

Scala Stumble 

	I needed to have a screen where a user could input numbers on an 
imaginary adding machine and then do some calculations. The results of 
which would appear on subsequent screens. Unfortunately, user-
interactivity on a single screen is somewhat limited in Scala.  

	I solved the problem by writing the calculation program using Helm 
from Eagle Tree Software, whose forte is creating just such 
applications. By calling an ARexx script from Scala, I was able to 
seamlessly integrate the Helm application into the Scala presentation. 
Innovatronics' CanDo could have also been used instead of Helm. However, 
since CanDo displays an annoying startup screen unless you pay a license 
fee for a special player program, Helm' freely-distributable player was 
better suited for the task. 

Flying Logos 

	From the very beginning I knew I needed some "eye candy" (i.e., a 
3D animation). I wanted something spectacular, but I didn't want to 
spend a whole lot of time on it. Since the company's service involved 
the citrus industry, I settled for the company's name revolving around 
an orange. 

	Using the VideoToaster's Lightwave 3D animation package, I made a 
90 frame animation. Setting up the animation was a snap. Lightwave had a 
pre-made ARexx script to set up the letters in a circle. The orange was 
just a ball with the orange (fruit) texture. I used a nice steel-gray 
background generated with JEK's ProFills. 

	At first I converted the Lightwave 24-bit image frames to HAM8 
with ADPro and ProControl (also from ASDG), but the anim file ended up a 
couple megabytes in size. Although, Scala has an option to spool 
animations from disk, super-smooth animations must be run from RAM. It 
was also questionable if the 1200 could play it back at 30 fps--the 
resolution was 704 x 480. So I reduced the number of colors further to 
256. The animation still weighed in at 1.5MB. 

	Then I realized that the company name appeared twice on the 
revolving ring and made one revolution. As such, I was able to use just 
the first 45 frames and repeat it with no visual difference. The 
animation was now under 1MB, yeah! 

Scala 

	Each Scala screen is called a "page," which are displayed in a 
vertical list. You can graphically arrange them anyway you wish using 
the mouse. Pages are generally executed from top to bottom, but there 
are provisions to jump around in subroutine-like fashion. A typical page 
consists of a background image, with some text placed on it. However, 
they can also indicate the start or end of a music module, an animation, 
an ARexx script, etc. Scala supports Tracker-type music modules, so 
using my networked CDTV, I pulled a nice song with a jazzy beat and 
catchy melody, from a music module CD. 

	A page can be "wiped" onto the screen using any one of a number of 
built-in effects. You can also set how long a page is visible or if it 
should be user-controlled. Scala also has a feature where it will record 
the timing of pages while you go through it once manually--a very handy 
feature if you want to synchronize events with music. 

Custom Backgrounds 

	Although Scala includes many pre-made backgrounds, I wanted to use 
a custom-tailored one for the informational text portion of the 
presentation. I started with a beautiful close up of some fresh citrus 
fruit and then created a grayscale 16-color embossed version using 
ADPro. This was accomplished by first changing the color image to black-
and-white, and then making it into a negative. This image was embossed, 
with the result saved as a 16-color hi-res IFF file. 

	Since Scala uses a special palette color order, I loaded one of 
the pre-made backgrounds into my paint program and modified the palette 
for a grayscale picture. The embossed picture was loaded and remapped to 
the modified palette. The final image was saved in the Scala backgrounds 
drawer. During the presentation, the full-color version fades into the 
embossed version--an interesting effect--which serves as a background 
for the subsequent informational text. 

Adding Text 

	Adding text to a page is as easy as selecting the font and typing 
on the page. Every line of text is it's own object and every aspect of 
the text can be modified including alignment, color, outline, shadow, 
and 3D-look. Text can be moved by just dragging it on the screen with 
the mouse. 

	For optimum speed, I only used bitmapped fonts and not 
Compugraphic outline fonts. If you have to, you can convert Compugraphic 
fonts to bitmapped using the AmigaDOS Fountain program. However, Scala 
already comes will a ton of nice large bitmapped fonts. 

	You can also import graphic brushes. However, if you make custom 
ones, make sure the brushes use the same palette (or a subset) as the 
background, otherwise results may be unpredictable. Scala ships with 
many pre-made two-color symbol brushes. 

Text Wipes 

	Wipes can also be applied individually to text and other objects 
on a page, with separate on and off wipes supported. An effect can be 
applied to a group of objects by chaining them together. The speed and 
timing of the effects are configurable as well. 

Palette Optimize 

	One 256-color picture I used didn't have the right palette to 
acceptably display the mouse pointer. So I used the "optimize palette" 
feature. I then noticed that before this image would appear there was a 
long pause, which I determined must be when Scala was remapping to the 
optimized palette. To eliminate this, I just saved the background from 
Scala, so the modified palette would become the default palette. 
(Incidentally, you also have the option of saving the entire page 
including Scala objects.) 

The A1200 

	Since I chose to use an unaccelerated 1200, there are limits to 
the type of text and page wipes that can be used. I shied away from 
effects that moved a lot of graphics around. Most of the wipes worked 
fine, but a few would be slightly jerky. (Incidentally, an accelerator 
would have only added about $200 to the purchase price.) 

	The completed project, including background and audio files, was 
copied to an A1200 by connecting it to the network (I disconnected the 
CDTV). The Scala project script is an editable ASCII file, so with a 
standard text editor, it was easy to replace certain path names with 
ones that would work on the A1200. 

The Results 

	Everyone who saw the presentation, including the President of the 
company, was very impressed and couldn't believe the Amiga 1200 achieved 
the results it did. So far, no Amigas have been purchased, but the seed 
has definitely been planted. 

CD32 

	Scala has reportedly developed a system that uses a CD32 with MPEG 
module, networked to an Amiga 4000 using their serial ports. The CD32 
becomes a player device for Scala MM running on the Amiga 4000. This 
innovation will minimize the cost to develop CD32 titles using MPEG, 
since it allows use of CD32's inexpensive MPEG hardware. Of course this 
only helps for decode/playback development. 

Scala for the PC 

	Scala, Inc. is currently working on a version of Scala for the PC. 
Don't expect Amiga performance on a PC, however. PCs lack a standardized 
graphics blitter chip, so the available wipes will be limited on the PC 
version. This is in spite of the fact that a VESA Local bus PC is 
required! 

	Although you will be able to launch Scala from Microsoft Windows, 
Windows will be "frozen" and put aside, while the Scala software takes 
over the machine. This feat will obviously take a tremendous amount of 
RAM. Also, the PC's lack of a true multitasking OS prevents pre-loading 
graphics in the background, which will have a detrimental impact on page 
transitions. However, the PC version will not have a dongle like the 
Amiga version does. (Who said life was fair?) My guess is that it will 
still fair very well against existing PC packages in any event. 

	Next month we'll take a look at Scala Inc.'s InfoChannel. This 
product takes Scala to the next level by offering remote site 
capabilities. 

************************** SIDEBAR ************************************** 
Commodore Financial Woes 

	For the second quarter ended December 31, 1993, Commodore reported 
a net loss of $8 million. The Wall Street Journal, quoting a Commodore 
press release, reported "In the absence of additional resources and a 
restructuring, the company may become subject to reorganization or other 
liquidation proceedings." 

	I honestly believe the Amiga technology is too good to just 
disappear. Debt restructuring may be a possibility; however, Commodore 
would still need a large cash infusion for marketing and promotion. A 
more likely senario would be another company acquiring Commodore (or 
just the Amiga technology) and continuing to produce Amigas. 

	All of the developers and dealers I spoke with were still 
optomistic about the Amiga's future. Supplies of A4000 are plentiful; 
however, Amiga monitors and A1200s continue to be in short supply. Not 
surprisingly, I have also learned that the U.S. launch of CD32 has been 
postponed. 
************************************************************************

A1200, $599 
CD32, $399 
Commodore Business Machines 
1200 Wilson Drive 
West Chester, PA 19380 
(215)431-9100 

Scala MM300, $399 
2323 Horse Pen Rd., Ste 202 
Herndon, VA 22071 
(703)713-0900 

Art Department Pro, $299 
ProControl, $90 
ASDG, Inc. 
925 Stewart Street 
Madison, Wisconsin 53713 
(608)273-6585 

CanDo, $199.95 
INOVAtronics, Inc. 
8499 Greenville Ave., #209 
Dallas, TX 75231 
(214) 340-4991 

Helm, $129 
Eagle Tree Software 
P.O. Box 164 
Hopewell, VA 23860 
(804)452-0623 

ProFills, $49.95 
JEK Graphics 
12103 S. Brookhurst St., Ste E-125 
Garden Grove, CA 92642-3065 
(714)530-7603 

Video Toaster 4000, $2,395 
NewTek, Incorporated 
1201 South West Executive Drive 
Topeka, Kansas 66615 
(800)847-6111 

VLab 
$499.95 
VLab External 
$549.95 
MacroSystemUS 
24282 Lynwood Dr, Ste 101 
Novi, MI 48374 
(313)347-6266