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              Digital Media World '96 - A Missed Opportunity
  Gavin Dodds                                   gavin@eagle001.demon.co.uk
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"Another computer show report?" you ask yourselves.  "Surely we have heard
most of this stuff before." However this report is not one of
congratulation, of showing the world that the Amiga is still viable.  This
report tells of a show where the Amiga was not present, was not
represented, and indeed was mentioned in only one company's literature, to
the best of my knowledge.  There was no amiga hardware, no Amiga software
and definitely no Amiga computers on show here.

"So why are you telling us all this?" you ask impatiently.  Because the
Amiga SHOULD have been there!

The show was Digital Media World (formerly Compute Graphics Expo) at
Wembley Conference Centre, London, U.K.  on 19th - 21st November.  I
attended on the 20th.  It was attended by the greats of the computer
graphics industry, Silicon Graphics, Alias|Wavefront, Softimage, Industrial
Light & Magic and Disney.  It was attended by some of the U.K.'s highest
profile games companies, Microprose and Codemasters to name but two.

It was also attended by three companies who's names are linked tightly to
the Amiga.  Hisoft Systems (U.K.  distributor for many Amiga products),
Scala and Newtek.  Surely these stalwarts of the Amiga scene would have
given some recognition to the computer which allowed them to actually
exist?  Well one of them did.

Surely it was Hisoft, distributor of many Amiga products?

Hisoft were, in fact, showing only one main product - Maxxon Cinema 4D.  As
I noticed the stand, I was drawn to this familiar name and logo.  I managed
to get hold of one of the many free booklets that were being handed out to
anybody who strayed within two feet of the stand (the aisle here being only
five or so feet wide) and started to read.  The cover was indeed
impressive, a subtly different version of the Real 3D watch, as shown in
Amiga Format many times, adorned the cover, with the slogan "What Are You
Waiting For?".

The booklet mentions many things, realistic lights, photorealistic picture
quality and cross platform compatibility.  Many platforms are mentioned
Windows 95, Power Macintosh, Windows NT, OS/2, X Windows, SGI Mips, DEC
Aplpha.  Leaving aside the fact that the last two "platforms" are chips and
computers based on them would be running Windows NT, we see that the Amiga
is not mentioned at all.  At lest they have the grace to mention that
Cinema 4D imports and exports IFF pictures.

The main thrust of the booklet is that Cinema 4D has features equal to the
most expensive rendering software, but at a fraction of the price.  The
price in question being UKP499 if bought at the show and UKP699 at other
times.

Call me a cynic, but wasn't Cinema 4D on the Amiga first?  Didn't it have
all these features?  Wasn't it priced at UKP200?!?!

So we quest onward to Scala's stand.  They are showing a landmark product,
a package that has won many prizes.  The product?  Scala MultiMedia MM100!
For the PC.  Also mentioned were Scala InfoChannel and Scala Studios.  How
about MM400?  The people at the Scala stand were handing out a small
pamphlet about MM100, no mention of the Amiga, but again Scala will import
IFF pictures.

Wasn't Scala doing all of these things on the Amiga many years ago?  And
without the need for Scala BackBone or Scala Multimedia Multitasking
Operating System.  No price is mentioned, but they helpfully mention the
dimensions and weight of the box the software comes in!

So it must have been Newtek who mentioned the Amiga?

Newtek's stand was a masterpiece of cyberpunk showmanship.  It was a
wonderful two story affair (the only twin level stand in the show) and had
two large "pods" that visitors could sit in and remotely watch the
demonstrations that were going on in another part of the stand.  The upper
floor also had a viewing area, but seemed to be restricted to the press,
possibly due to the fact that they had a (the?) full size Hammerstein model
from the Judge Dredd film atop the stand.  The stand was actually owned by
a company called Amgfx, who distribute Lightwave in the UK, but the only
products on offer were Lightwave and a Pentium Pro based workstation to run
it on, courtesy of Red Box (who I'd never heard of).

But what was this, Amgfx's nasty photocopied information booklet containing
information about Lightwave, mentioned a strange, little-heard-of computer.
The Amiga!  Did you know that Lightwave was available for the Amiga?  What
a shock I got!  Of course, Lightwave will import and export Iffs as well.

As a responsible member of the AMiga community, I asked an Amgfx member of
staff when the Amiga version of Lightwave 5.0 would be coming out.  He
explained that it's release had been pushed back so as not to steal the
thunder from the Power Mac version's launch!  Lightwave 5.0 Amiga will,
according to the cheerfully helpful man, be available in December.  Wether
this is a U.K.  only launch date or a world wide one, I forgot to ask.

So much for the "Amiga" companies, what about the rest of the show?

Well SGI were "officially" launching the O2, of interest to Amiga owners
due to it's similarity in specs and purpose to phase5's ABox.  Now I had
seen a room full of these machines six or so days before SGI admitted they
existed, so I was not taken aback by the Walker-esqe design.  The number of
these little machines scattered around the hall was quite staggering for a
machine that had only "existed" for a month and a half!  Not only had the
SGI stand been liberally coated with them, but many of the other companies
round the hall had the odd one or two adorning their stands, along with
software to make use of them.  SGI were comparing the O2 to a Power Mac of
roughly the same price (the Mac was about 1000 more expensive).  Of course
the O2 came off best, winning in all the (probably carefully selected)
categories that SGI chose to compare the two computers in.  Memory speed is
2.1GB/sec for the O2, comparing well to the ABox's advertised 1.6GB/sec. 
However the version that was compared to the Mac was costing 10,000, this
was with many extras, like more memory (64MB) and a large hard drive (2GB),
but still would cost much more than phase5's offering.

The rest of the show consisted of software (mostly for the SGI platform)
concerned with 3D graphics, image manipulation and some VR applications.
The "Wired World" exhibit was devoted to PC/Mac development software for
Internet and Web publishing.  Apple had a stand, bravely pushing the Power
Mac, but so close after the Apple Expo, they weren't getting many visitors.

And now to the whole reason for writing this report.  This show was giving
companies involved in computer graphics a chance to show off, not to the
public, but to the industry.  Effects houses, animation studios, post
production houses and multimedia developers were circulating, evaluating
products and planning their next round of spending.  Considering that the
main thrust of the show was towards 3D graphics, the Amiga should have been
present, showing what can be done with a small, low speed, low cost
machine.  There should have been demonstrations of Cinema 4D, Scala MM400,
Lightwave and more on the Amiga.  There should have been demonstrations of
Image FX, Photogenics and ImageStudio.  For God's sake, Newtek should have
been showing the Flyer and the Toaster, not just Lightwave!

If Lightwave requires a 486 w/FPU or a Pentium to run on NT or 95 (and we
all know that means a fast Pentium and stuff the 486!) and only an '030 on
the Amiga, shouldn't that be shouted about, instead of occupying a small
section of a photocopied sheet on machine specs?  If the upgrade to 5.0 for
Lightwave on the PC or NT costs 350 and it only costs $199 on the Amiga,
isn't this something people should know about?

The Amiga IS the low-end computer graphics machine (PCs are mid-range, SGIs
are top-end) there is nothing that can match the productivity to price
ratio of an A4000/060 with a decent range of add-ons (hard drive, memory,
CD-ROM, etc).  Notice I said "productivity" not "speed", I know the Amiga
isn't the world's fastest computer, but it is the most productive for the
price.

Newtek, Scala and Maxxon wouldn't have been at this show if it wasn't for
the Amiga.  There should have been more than one of them even mentioning
it.

At least this year was an improvement on last year's show.  Only Lightwave
was there then, with the same small mention of being available for the
Amiga platform.

Next year, if I can attend, I hope to see more Amiga related stands.  The
Maxxon crew had just been to Computer 96 in Germany, where phase5 were
showing the Power Up boards.  Surely phase5 could have attended Digital
Media World?  VISCorp could have attended and shown off the prototypes of
their web browsing platforms.  Almathera could have shown off Photogenics
(image processing software was thin on the ground this year).

All in all, I see Digital Media World as a missed opportunity for VISCorp,
phse5, Almathera, etc to show the computer graphics industry that there is
another choice for their hardware needs, a choice that has all the software
that they need to produce their wares for a fraction of the cost.

I'll get off my soapbox now <grin> and leave you with this last thought -
if the Amiga can't be sold to money-conscious professionals, who work in
the field it was originally designed to dominate, where can it be sold?

The organisers of Digital Media World '96 can be reached at:-

Digital Media International
10 Barley Mow Passage
Chiswick
London W4 4PH
UK

Tel: ++44 (0)181 995 3632
Fax: ++44 (0)181 995 3633

email: digmedia@atlas.co.uk