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%% Amiga MultiMedia by Douglas J. Nakakihara %%
%% firstname.lastname@example.org %%
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 email@example.com.
MICROTIMES is published by BAM Media, Inc.
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MICROTIMES is available free at various distribution points
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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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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
************************** 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
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
Commodore Business Machines
1200 Wilson Drive
West Chester, PA 19380
Scala MM300, $399
2323 Horse Pen Rd., Ste 202
Herndon, VA 22071
Art Department Pro, $299
925 Stewart Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53713
8499 Greenville Ave., #209
Dallas, TX 75231
Eagle Tree Software
P.O. Box 164
Hopewell, VA 23860
12103 S. Brookhurst St., Ste E-125
Garden Grove, CA 92642-3065
Video Toaster 4000, $2,395
1201 South West Executive Drive
Topeka, Kansas 66615
24282 Lynwood Dr, Ste 101
Novi, MI 48374