VIDEO TITLE SHOP
Reviewed By CHARLES CHERRY
For a couple of years I've believed that desktop video is the most exciting new field for computers. When you combine a computer, a VCR and your own imagination, the results can be breathtaking.
While the leaders in this field have been the bigger, faster, more expensive machines, the 8-bit Atari is no slouch when it comes to video graphics. All we've lacked so far is the software, but this year it has begun to arrive. In the April 1988 issue I reviewed Virtuoso, a video animation and music package. It's a powerful, exciting tool, but it doesn't handle text very well. Now we have Datasoft's Video Title Shop ($29.95). It handles text magnificently.
Video Title Shop is a tool for creating title screens, credit crawls, annotations, subtitles and any other text messages for your home video tapes. While the Atari computer cannot overlay these messages on top of your videocamera pictures, it can intersperse them throughout your show That's what Video Title Shop is for-in fact, it does much, much more. It creates spectacular, text-based animations and special effects.
HOW IT WORKS
The program is superbly organized and makes complex effects easy to create. Basically, you define separate blocks of text onscreen. Text can be automatically left-justified or right-justified, or centered within the block. You have choices of text size and font. Two fonts in several sizes are included.
Each text block, called an object, has its own font, size and color, as well as its own special effect. It can pop onto the screen all at once, or one letter at a time, or it can wash on smoothly. It can move around the screen, or on and off the screen. It can fade in or out, do a fizzle (pixel dissolve), wipe on or off from four directions, change colors, fonts and text.
While placing several objects on the screen at the same time, each with a mind of its own, can get complicated, Video Title Shop keeps it under control. The flow of the sequence is organized into separate screens called pages. This makes it easy to keep track of who does what when and where.
In practice, most pages duplicate the pages next to them, only the changed objects are different. This produces a smooth, continuous flow and the viewer sees no indication of the program structure. Yet it's this structure that makes Video Title Shop a joy to use. Powerful editing tools make it a breeze to move around in the most complex sequences-inserting, deleting and duplicating pages, or cutting and pasting objects.
Of course there is comprehensive control over the speed at which things happen. Whenever an effect occurs, you can set speed and delays for it. Each page can be clocked for the length of time it remains onscreen. There's even a manual advance feature that pauses the show until a key is pressed. A single keypress can run one page, the entire sequence once, or the entire sequence continuously.
And if you think all this is enough, I should tell you one more thing. Everything I mentioned so far can happen in front of background pictures-and the pictures can change.
PICTURE THE BACKGROUND
Video Title Shop comes with Graphics Companion I- two disks containing 30 background pictures. Five of these graphics are ornate borders and the rest are seasonal and recreational pictures. They're all designed with large open areas where you can place your text. There are pictures for Christmas, New Year, Valentine Day, Easter, graduation, weddings, Fourth of July, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, as well as skiing, sailing and travel.
The pictures are in the standard Micro-Painter format, so you can substitute your own art if you want. Also, Graphics Companion I pictures can be loaded into your favorite paint program and touched up. If you don't have a favorite paint program, included free with the Video Title Shop package is Micro-Painter Plus.
Micro-Painter was the original full strength graphics program for the Atari and it is still very functional. In 1983, I paid more for Micro-Painter than Video Title Shop costs today-and I thought I got a good deal. Now, I think Video Title Shop is an outstanding deal. The instruction manual has a very good tutorial and excellent explanations of how to connect your computer to your VCR and record your creations. But there's no section explaining how each feature works and why It takes some experimenting to discover how the effects inter-relate. Nevertheless, the manual, combined with the excellent program design, makes the program very approachable and no one should have trouble with it.
This program supports only one disk drive. In fact if you have two drives turned on, the fonts get scrambled onscreen! Since the fonts and background pictures load from disk as needed (and delay the sequence while they load), it's an ideal situation for a RAMdisk-but forget it.
The other thing this package needs is a font editor. I hope that future editions of the Graphics Companion will contain more fonts, but it's nice to be able to design your own. And if you're doing character set animations, it's essential.
Finally, it would be nice to have a public domain player (like Virtuoso does) so you could share your creations with others. I think the applications are much wider than just putting your animations on video tape. Of course, it's a natural for disk-based greeting cards, outlandish letters and illustrated correspondence. It might be the thing to make electronic publishing viable viable via disk-based magazines or newsletters. Naturally it will be used all over the country to produce public messages that never get near a video tape. My Atari users group, ABACUS, displayed a fancy electronic marquee at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco, courtesy of Video Title Shop. When the Atari crowd puts this software to work, they will create wonders.
$29.95, 64K disk. Datasoft. Distributed by Electronic Arts, 1820 Gateway
Drive, San Mateo, CA 94404. (800) 245-4525
Irata Verlag's Video-Meister is new software for Computereyss-Digital Vision's $129.95 video digitizer box that captures pictures from sources such as a video camera or VCR. Once the picture is in your computer, it's just like any other graphic and can be saved to disk, loaded into paint programs, or printed with a printer dump program.
Computereyes comes with software to capture pictures in Graphics 8 or Graphics 9. Video-Meister duplicates the Computereyes functions and adds programs to manipulate Graphics 9 images as well as to print pictures in both Graphics 8 and 9. VideoMeister is about 10% faster than Computereyes software, but Computereyes produces slightly better pictures. (Actually, the differences are so small you wouldn't notice unless they were side by side.)
The Graphics 9 image processing package, PlC-MIX, can combine pictures, alter colors, and do a nice (and very fast) anti-aliasing procedure. The antialiasing "softens" the image, making it appear rounder, smoother, and often more lifelike.
The simple printer dump offers positive or negative printing and a few different sizes. It works with Epson-compatible printers and is one of the few programs that can print Graphics 9 pictures.
The menus and prompts are all in German and the printed instructions don't always have the translations right. But a little experimenting sorts things out quickly. I booted a disk sector editor and changed the Video-Meister menus to English equivalents. It helped a lot.
This is a very convenient package if you need to digitize a picture and print it immediately. The price is so reasonable that every Computereyes user should own It. Also, you who work with Graphics 9 pictures could use PICMIX whether you have Computereyes or not.-CHARLES CHERRY
$10, 48K disk. Irata Verlag USA, 1227B Potter Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80909. (303) 596-0135.