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%% The Voice From Across the Pond By Michael Wolf %%
First of all a big 'hello there' to all readers of Amiga Report. This is
my first article and I hope that you like it.
I plan to review all interesting new releases from Europe, mainly from
Germany. Some products will be available in the U.S. and some won't be.
This time I will give you a summary of three Motion JPEG boards from
Germany, as well as some info on the first '060 board and some personal,
subjective and biased ;^) comments.
All the information in this article is taken from various ads and articles
I read, plus from a couple phone calls that I made. The only boards that
I've seen in action were the VideoCruncher and the DSP PAR. The stats
given may not be 100% correct, but they ought to be close ;-)
Let's start off with the Motion JPEG boards. At the moment there are two
boards available, the VLab Motion by MacroSystem (many of you know the
VLab framegrabber) and the VideoCruncher by Ingenieurbuero Helfrich (makers
of the Piccolo graphics board). A third board, the Snapshot Motion by
Videotechnik Diezemann, is due to be released in November at this year's
WOC in Cologne.
These boards are aimed at the semi-professional / industrial video market,
unlike NewTek's Flyer which is supposed to offer a better image quality (at
Let me make a short excursion to look at the video market in Europe from my
point of view. Broadcast qualtiy is a prime issue if you want your
production to be on TV. No serious video studio would rely on non-linear
systems for production (may be for preview purposes, but not for the 'final
cut'). The industrial market is quite small but growing (Yes, and I want
to grow with it ;-). The Toaster revolution never happened here (no PAL
Toaster, sigh !), and there is no product on the market that offers the
same bang for the buck. The closest thing is the Fast Video Machine for
PC's and Mac's, and it is priced well above $5000. Last year when I
visited the states I was quite suprised of the large Toaster user base, all
of them used professionally.
Well, enough drivel, back to the review...
So, what do I needs these boards for ? Well, conventional video editing is
quite costly. You have to invest thousands of dollars to set up a decent
video studio. Video cutting also stresses the video decks, and the only
person who is glad about that is the guy from the service shop when he
gives you the bill. If you want to add spectacular effects you have to rely
on a video switcher such as the toaster, but amazing effects (such as 3D
twirls of live video) aren't possible then either. If you want to record
you precious 3D animations as well then you will need a single frame capable
video recorder, increasing your investement again.
In come the M-JPEG boards. If you tried to grab your video directly to
your computer, you would have to be able to store around 30MB every second.
Only high end machines (such as the more expensive Silicon Graphics
computers), can handle that much. The solution is to compress every single
image in real time. JPEG is a common compression standard for images, but
it has one drawback, it is lossy. Right now lots of chip sets appear that
allow for JPEG compression in real time (i.e. full frame video in 25 (NTSC
30) frames per second). The more you compress the image, the more
information you loose. You are free on the other hand to decide how much
you want to compress. Note that if you decompress an image, process it and
compress it again you will loose some quality, not unlike the quality loss
when going through copying generations in conventional video.
To achieve S-VHS (or HI8) quality you will have to use a compression ratio
of around 1:15 (i.e. 30 MB/sec ends up as 2 MB/sec). Most boards can range
the compression ratio from 1:2 to 1:100.
The VLab Motion and the VideoCruncher are both based on the LSI JPEG chip
set, as used on the DSP PAR board. The Snapshot Motion will be based on
chips by Thoran. All three boards use standard Amiga hard disk partitions
for storage of the M-JPEG data, the Snapshot Motion will feature an
on-board SCSI host adapter as well. Hard disk speed and storage capacity
are prime requisites for these board to work efficiently, a sustained
read/write performance of 1 - 2 MB/sec and 500 MB of storage are the
recommended minimum. High speed DMA SCSI host adapters such as the
Fastlane Z3 and the DKB 4091 are perfectly suited for this task.
Data throughput is a major issue. The VLab Motion is a Zorro II board, the
VideoCruncher a Zorro II/III board (autosensing) and the Snapshot Motion is
designed as a Zorro III board. I have my doubts to whether the Zorro II
design of the VLab Motion will suffice for high quality M-JPEG streams,
Zorro III is definetely an advantage.
All boards obviously allow real time grabbing of video. While both the
VLab Motion and the Snapshot Motion grab at full 768x576 pixels (PAL) the
VideoCruncher only processes videos at 468x352 pixels (why is a mystery to
me, it is based on the same chip set as the VLab Motion).
All boards capture a YUV 4:2:2 signal ( one colour sample for every
luminance sample), the Snapshot Motion can grab anything from 4:4:4 to
4:1:1, the VideoCruncher can grab 4:1:1 as well.
All three boards allow 16 bit audio to be recorded. The VLab Motion
requires the Toccata audio board, VideoCruncher relies on the Sunrise
AD-516 and the Snapshot Motion will have an audio option on board.
All audio boards can sample from 5.5 to 48Khz. The Toccata also supports
hardware based audio compression (from 16 to 8 bit with a small loss in
quality). The AD-516 can play back up to 8 tracks, the Snapshot Motion will
be able to play back 4 and the Toccata plays back 2 tracks of audio.
MacroSystem includes MovieShop. It supports all basic functions such as
grabbing, cutting and pasting, but no time line editing. MovieShop has an
ARexx port. ADPro savers and loaders are included. You cannt sync video
and audio using timecode, MacroSystem plans to release MovieShop Pro soon,
which, amongst other things, includes a special fx generator.
The VideoCruncher also features no more than a simple editing program,
cut&paste and im-/export functions are common to all boards. Here again
you can optionally get Diva Pro, a full editing program that is more
intuitive to use.
The Snapshot Motion will included editing software by ProDAD, creators of
ClariSSA, Adorage and the new Monument Video Titler. It will work as a one
monitor solution. Editing is accomplished using a PIP representation of
the video. Again, their editing software can be upgraded to a more
advanced version (see below).
All boards have some special features on board.
The VLab Motion includes a Genlock / Bluebox. It syncs with an external
video source and allows you to mix the M-JPEG file and the external video
using chroma / luminance keying. It also includes a scaler chip to scale
the video when playing back.
The VideoCruncher is equiped with 2 MB dualported VideoRAM, which allows
you to use it as a frame buffer as well. It does double buffering and
supports an 8 bit overlay. VideoCruncher PIP in conjunction with a Piccolo
board allows you to play back videos in a window on a Piccolo screen. The
VideoCruncher also allows you to use the JPEG chips as coprocessors to
de-/encode JPEG images.
The VideoCruncher works well inc conjunction with the PeggyPlus board by
the same company. The software included with the PeggyPlus allows you to
directly convert a M-JPEG video stream to MPEG.
The Snapshot Motion also features a scaler chip, that can be used while
playing back video. You can even control the scaler during playback, i.e.
allowing you to use it as a magnifying glass, stretch your video or add
those trendy cinemascope bars. The scaler chip interpolates the pixels, so
you will always get a smooth image. It is heavily used by the editing
Also on board is a Genlock / Bluebox, allowing you to layer live video,
M-JPEG video and Amiga images. Plus the audio board ( 2 track recording, 4
track playback) and the SCSI host adapter.
Do you really want to know ? Well, all boards serve their purpose.
The VLab Motion, while suffering from the slow Zorro II , is certainly the
best board for video at this price range. I imagine it competing quite
well against the DSP PAR for example. This board is the only option for
doing video work on an A2000. You ought to have your SCSI host adaptor on
an accelerator board though, as not to slow down the Zorro II bus too much.
If you plan to create MPEG streams then the VideoCruncher is a must. The
direct port to the Peggy Plus board, and the easy M-JPEG -> MPEG conversion
process make these boards an ideal combination. I can't recommend it for
producing video work, mainly because of the poor resolution. You could use
it for proofing your video cut or animation.
The Snapshot Motion is my clear favourite. Then again, it is only
vapourware so far. It has all the features you would want for that price
on board, and the used M-JPEG chip set is supposed to be superior to the
LSI solution. Let's wait and see what happens until November.
Let me add two short notes, on concerning M-JPEG boards, the other
concerning new Amiga boards in general.
I read a review in a recent issue of a german computer magazine, concerning
PC M-JPEG boards in the same price range as the three mentioned here.
I will just say on thing: they do max. 384x288 @25fps.
Now concerning the Amiga. We all know that CBM is virtually dead, and
nobody knows what's going to happen to the Amiga. The hardware
manufacturers are hesitant to develop Zorro III boards, because the base of
machines is very small and this might not change in the near future.
Videotechnik Diezemann is optimistic, they want to put the Snapshot Motion
on the market. Rumour has it that other companies (Helfrich and their 64
bit gfx board) will wait and see before the continue putting money into
This makes MacroSystem's decision for a Zorro II board (larger user base)
board VLab Motion VideoCruncher Snapshot Motion
manufacturer MS MacroSystem Ingenieurbuero Videotechnik,
Computer GMBH Helfrich D. Diezemann
adress Friedrich-Ebert Am Wollelager 8 Eichenweg 7a
-Strasse 85 37281 Wanfried
58454 Witten 27749 Delmenhorst
Fon: ++49-2302-80391 ++49-4221-120077 ++49-5655-1773
Fax: -884 -79 -74
max. Res. (PAL) 768x576 @25fps 468x352 @25fps 768x576 @25fps
YUV samples 4:2:2 4:2:2, 4:1:1 4:4:4 - 4:1:1
inputs Y/C, FBAS 2 Y/C, 2 FBAS Y/C, FBAS
outputs Y/C, FBAS Y/C, FBAS Y/C, FBAS
video standards PAL/NTSC PAL/NTSC PAL/NTSC
genlock Yes - Yes
bluebox/keying Yes - Yes
(i.e. brightness) Yes Yes Yes
hardware scaler chip Yes ?? Yes, interpolating
sampling rates ** 5,5 kHz - 48 kHz, 16 bit **
on board No, Toccata No, AD-516 Yes
play back tracks 2 8 ('030) 4
storage standard SCSI standard SCSI standard SCSI,
SCSI on board
Zorro Type II II/III III
chip set by LSI LSI Thoran
on board RAM 640 Kb buffer max. 2MB VRAM ???
availability Now Now November (?)
Component Piccolo PIP Component
(RGB & YUV) (1) PeggyPlus MPEG (RGB & YUV) (1)
2/3D special FX
Timecode control (1)
(1) these extensions are planned.
base price 1250.- 1440.- 1562.- (3)
Toccata audio AD-516 audio
transcoder (MPEG player board)
RGB: 375.- 450.-
YUV: 625.- Peggy Plus
(2) in US $, based on $ 1.00 = 1.60 DM
(3) expected price, may vary.
(4) VideoCruncher PIP, requires Piccolo board)
Here are some short infos on various new developements:
AS&S (makers of the Blizzard accelerators and the Fastlane Z3) are shipping
the first '060 board for the Amiga. The Cyberstorm is a modular board
designed for the A4000 (support for the A3000 and A4000T is planned). It is
available as an '040 (40 Mhz, ~35 MIPS) or '060 (50 Mhz, ~90 MIPS) board.
RAM can be expanded on board to a maximum of 128 MB using standard 32bit
Two expansion boards are in developement. One will feature a fast second
level cache for the processor board. The I/O board expands the system with
a Fast-SCSI II interface (same as the Fastlane), ethernet and a high speed
Cyberstorm '060/50 $1812
Cyberstorm '040/40 $1250
Cyberstorm '040/0 $ 687 (no CPU, for A4000/040 owners)
second level cache board n/a
I/O board n/a
ProDAD (ClariSSA, Adorage) announce the Monument Titler, a video titler
based on the SSA anim format that wors with real time effects. Features
include timeline editing, continous scrolling, improved anti-aliasing,
texures and attributes for the included outline fonts.
ProDAD is also working on a video editing program, Video Media concept.
It is modular and can be expanden with other products such as ClariSSA or
SCALA. It features timeline editing, supports various video protocols
and controls components such as audio mixers.
I assume that a scaled down version will be shipped with the Snapshot
Monument Titler $156
Video Media concept $625 (internal), $812 (external),
Whew, I'm done for the day.
Feel free to ask any questions.
Read 'ya next time and have a good one.