DTP troubles. (new desktop publishing software and equipment) (Column)
by Robert Bixby
Neatest thing of the month: ComputerEyes/LPT Parallel Port Color Video Frame Grabber
I was a man with a problem. I was designing a book cover for a book of poems in Cajun French. The author had an illustrator-friend supply me with a graphic, which I scanned at 300 dpi and imported into CorelDRAW!. Everything was going great until I started to put the title on the cover. Can you believe that out of the hundreds of fonts available to me, I didn't have anything close enough to GeoWorks' Shattuck Avenue (which was used for the main heads and the title page of the book) to use on the cover?
I checked each font methodically from Arial to Zapf Chancery. Then I realized I had an ace in the hole. Using GeoWrite, I laser-printed the title and author's name as large as I could in Shattuck Avenue; then I scanned the text at 300 dpi and imported the text as art into CorelDRAW!. It was simple once I thought of it, but it took a few minutes of sweating to come up with it. I also considered converting Shattuck Avenue to a TrueType font using AllType from Atech. Can you think of other solutions? If so, drop me a line.
Under the heading of cool stuff: Who says your Windows world has to be all work? Doodle-mation serves the same purpose as a flowering crape myrtle--it just sits there and looks beautiful. This program, from Screen Magic (820 Florida Street, San Francisco, California 94110; 415-648-8056), lets you draw shapes on your computer screen and then animate them, causing them to rotate, grow and shrink, follow specific paths on the screen, and cycle colors. You can use the program to draw one-of-a-kind wallpaper and screen blankers or just groove on the shapes and colors. Wish list for the next version: text and multiple shapes. You can have multiple objects on the screen, but they all have to be the same shape--all stars, all squares, all circles, and so forth--though you can distort the shapes almost endlessly.
The neatest thing of the month: For the minuscule price of $399.95 (relatively minuscule, anyway), you can add still-image capture to any PC with a parallel port. Digital Vision, one of my favorite companies, has come up with a wallet-sized external image-capture card called Computer-Eyes/LPT Parallel Port Color Video Frame Grabber. It plugs into your video camera and your computer's parallel port for 24-bit still-image capture.
It supports VGA, Super VGA, high color, and true color displays. The image onscreen is continuously updated from the camera. When you see something you want to capture, press the Enter key, and the frame is grabbed in 1/30 second (though it takes somewhat longer to prepare the image for display onscreen). There is also a way to capture an image in 1/60 second. Once you've captured your image, you can save it to disk as a TIF, PCX, TGA, GIF, or BMP file. (You can use BMP files as Windows wallpaper.)
Want to capture images out in the real world? Just load the software on your laptop, plug in the card, grab your video camera, and you're on your way. The software is a little clunky, but you'll get the hang of it in a few minutes. Although the DOS software was the only kind available as this was being prepared, Digital Vision will soon release a Windows version. Strangely, though it would seem a natural, there is no battery pack for the ComputerEyes/LPT Parallel Port Color Video Frame Grabber. It has to run from a wall outlet. But Digital Vision will give you pointers on designing your own battery pack.
Speaking of video cameras, have you noticed how inexpensive they are? You can buy a VHS camcorder for as little as $500. A camcorder is a wonderful computer peripheral. You can use it, along with an adapter board, to capture live images or images from videotape. Another author I work with had a water-color he wanted to use on his book cover. Lacking a grayscale scanner, I decided to see how the camera would do with still images, and I'm happy to say that it worked great as long as there was enough indirect light in the room.
Have a DTP tip you'd like to share? Let me know about it by calling (900) 884-8681, extension 7010203 (sponsored by Pure Entertainment, P.O. Box 186, Hollywood, California 90078). The call costs 95 cents per minute, you must be 18 or older, and you must use a touch-tone phone. Or write to "Art Works" in care of this magazine. And if you don't have a tip, call to let me know what you're up to, what software you're using, and how I can be of help.