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==  The Voice from Across the Pond                   By:  Michael Wolf   ==
==        WOC in Cologne                                                 ==
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Phew, I just got back from the WOC in Cologne, I just installed and tested
my new MultiFace III Board, and I am relaxing with a cup to tea now.  Time
to give you an overview of the show.

Well, the Amiga part of the show was only about one half of a hall, most of
the important german companies where there, mostly selling their stuff.
The other 3/4 of the was dominated by PC games, with the Amiga showing up
every now an then.

The Amiga booths were extremely crowded, there was no way to fall on your
face, as there were simply to many people standing around.  CR Roms were
sold like hot cakes, I also spotted a few people sneaking away with CD 32s.

So, let me give you a brief summary of the new and exciting things on the
show:

The OpalVision Roaster chip/board is finally beeing sold, at a price that
is much higher than excpected (around DM 4000, $2500) , but fair
considering what you get for the money.  Now with the Roaster and LightWave
PAL, who needs a Toaster in Europe ?

The Digital Broadcaster 32 was beeing demoed, alongside a Warp Transputer
System.  The DBC32 seems to be fairly stable now, the image quality is
excellent.

While the WARP System looks quite nice, I could not see it working as it
had just crashed before I arrived.  The specs are very impressive and that
beast is fast.  It basically allows you to load off cpu intensive tasks to
Transputer boards using the Warp OS.  You can add as many boards as you
want to your system, increasing performance proportionally.  The base board
does around 50 Mips and installs in a Zorro slot.  The other boards (Warp
Twin 70 Mips, Warp Tripple 105 Mips) are then connected to the base board.
System comparisons to an Amiga 4000/40 are quite impressive, a render that
took around 1 hour on an A4000/40 took around 50 seconds on a 1000 Mips
Warp system.  A rendering engine for Aladdin 4D is available, others
(Real3D, Lightwave) are to follow.  Software especially written for the
Warp boards is supposed to be beeing developed now.

Helfrich demoed the SD64 64 bit graphics board based on the EGS software, a
tablet driver for Genius tablets (which looks promising, Genius tablets are
very cheap), Scala MM 400, VideoCruncher and the Peggy MPEG board.

The SD64 is a ZorroII/ZorroIII autosensing gfx board with a max pixel clock
of 110Mhz.  It is compatible with the Piccolo, the only main difference is
that it is faster, more expensive and allows for a max of 4MB Ram.

The tablet driver has some nice features, allowing you to put
keyboard/mouse events or ARexx/Dos scripts on any part of the tablet.  The
final version will allow you to load your tablet template as an IFF file
and directly define the areas that cause actions to happen.

Scala MM400 has some new features such as direct VLAB/IV24/Framemaschin
support, loads different file formats (TIFF, BMP, FLI/FLC, PhotoCD, GIF,
PCX and Datatypes), has 5 types of antialiasing and allows you to run
audio/video editing tools directly from Scala.

AS&S were of course demoing the Cyberstorm60/50, which will be available as
soon as Motorola ships the 68060 in quantities.Lightwave rendering times
are very impressive, the TextureExamples scene included with Lighwave takes
3:42 (minutes / seconds) to render on an A4000/40 25Mhz, 1:32 on a
Cyberstorm 40 40 Mhz and 0:54 on a Cyberstorm 60 at 50 Mhz.  AS&S also
plans to release an 060 board running at 80Mhz as soon as the cpus become
available.  The Mips ratings are: A4000/40 15.447, Cyberstorm 40 24.896,
Cyberstorm 60 82.190 (!).  The 060 at 80Mhz is supposed to rate at around
130 Mips.

They also showed their new gfx board, the Cybervision64.  It is a pure
ZorroIII board based on a 64bit chip by S3.  The pixelclock lies around 135
Mhz.  The Workbench emulation seemed to be quite stable, it is rumoured to
be by the same people who did the Picasso emulation.  It also features
planar to chunky conversion hardware (a kind of Akiko I guess, just the
ther way around), which ought to speed up the emulation.  It is available
with 2 and 4 MB and a pass through for the Amiga signal.  A VRam version of
the board is also planned (unconfirmed !)..

AS&S also showed their new range of A1200 turbo boards, which basically
offer the same performance at a lower price.

Now to a goody I discovered at the booth of one of the smaller companies.
It is simply called 32-bit Sequence Processor, and does just that at a list
price of DM 499 ($ 312).  It allows you to composite 24 bit animations
using alpha channels.  It offers fades, layering, colour manipulation and
other operators.  It is not unlike ADPro, but especially made for
animations.  The rendering calculations are performed at a breathtaking
pace due to optimized assembler code.  The system is very easy to use and,
for example, allows you to composite images using spline paths.  This is
the kind of programm I would want to write (because I need it ;-).
Excellent stuff here, let's wait and see if the guy finds a distributor in
the US.

Gee, I've been writing for more than an hour now, time for a cigarette.
Excuse me...

<puff> <puff> <puff>

Back again.

Well, again I went to the MacroSystems booth, wondering whether they would
show a better demo of the VLab-Motion this time.  Well, they did.  The
software is advancing and looks really nice now.  The image qualitiy is
still not up to PAR (excuse the pun), but ought to be enough for industrial
use.  The software will not use the M-JPEG chips for JPEG coding/decoding,
but MS promised to include highly optimized coding algorithms with the next
software update which should cut down thew coding time to around 2 seconds
(on a WarpEngine40).  A file system for the VLab-Motion is out of the
question, said the programmer, because you just can't delete frames in the
middle of a sequence.  He will think about a file system that allows to
write files once only though.  The VLab-Motion Software now also fully
supports the Toccata audio board during editing.  MS also demoed XI-Paint,
which features an OS3.x look on a 24 bit screen and offers some nice
features (image layering for example).

This is line 116 !

What else is there to say ?  I wasn't to inclined to stay on the expo much
longer, it was just too crowded and those PC game players were getting on
my nerves.  Fred Fish was there, giving away autographs.  I'd did ask him
to confirm the rumours that he will be producing an audio CD entitled "Fish
Styx" next, featuring him and other famous Amiga persons on vocals and
instruments.  All he said was: "No comment !".  Knowing how show biz is, I
assume he's got something up his sleeve.  He said he quite enjoys Germany.
He must be familiar with Cologne by now, as he seems to be here every
autumn.

Oh, Imagemaster r/t was on sale, for as low as $112 !  And I didn't buy it,
damn.

Acorn was there as well btw, with a massive booth right in the middle of
the Amiga area.  These Acorn Riscs are nice machines, but if they want
Amiga users to join them (in case something happens), they better get some
decent 2D/3D animation software out.  The next Risc OS will, for example,
allow paralell processing.  You can then basically stack Acorn PC units on
top of each other (they have connectors on the top and bottom), and scale
your system to the cpu power you need.  Maybe D.  Pleasance ought to have a
chat with them if he wins the bid.

Anyhow, 'nuff said.  I'm off to bed, I have to go to Bavaria to school for
the next two weeks ( ...  but I'm taking my Amiga with me ;-)

Good night !