Another Month, Another Show
It seems like no sooner do I get home from one show than I'm back on the road for another. This time it was the second AmiExpo, which was held in January in Los Angeles. Despite miserable weather and a couple of competing shows, the turnout was large and the crowds enthusiastic. Though this show was held only a few weeks after the World of Commodore in Toronto, which itself was only a few weeks after Comdex, there was still a lot to see that was new and exciting.
It was interesting, for example, that a number of software houses specializing in Atari ST software are branching into the Amiga market as well. AmiExpo saw the debut of the Amiga versions of Soft Logik's Publishing Partner and Dr. T's music software. Abacus was also at the show with new books and programs for the Amiga, including DataTrieve, TextPro, and AssemPro.
As usual, graphics programs generated much of the excitement. MicroIllusions' Photon Paint, a powerful 4096-color paint program, is almost ready to ship, but already it has some strong competition. NewTek announced that it will soon release Digi-Paint II, which has such new features as full overscan support, superbitmap pictures that are larger than the screen size, rubber sheeting for stretching brushes and wrapping them around objects, improved HAM pictures and text fonts, and dithering for more apparent colors. Unlike the first version, it operates in any mode. It even allows you to digitize pictures from within the program.
As if these weren't enough, Digital Creation's D'Buddy program has been picked up by Electronic Arts. It will be released as Deluxe Photo Lab. With this program, you can create and edit pictures of up to 1,000 × 1,000 pixels in any drawing mode, including HAM and Extra Half-Brite mode. It will even allow you to create multiple screens at the same time, each with a different resolution. I've also heard that Jim Kent of Dancing Flame was working on Zoetrope, which allows you to edit several animation frames simultaneously.
There was plenty of new video hardware on hand. There were two new Genlock interfaces, the long-awaited SuperGen from Digital Creations and Progressive Peripherals' ProGen, both of which allow you to transfer full-screen Amiga graphics cleanly to video or to overlay those graphics over a live video image. Progressive Peripherals was also showing its Frame Grabber, a $500 fast color digitizer that produces remarkable results. NewTek had a prototype Video Toaster, a board that allows you to turn your 2000 into a sophisticated special-effects generator.
Lots of new video software to go with the hardware was also there. InnoVision Technology was showing Video Effects 3D, a 3-D titling and logo animation program. This program not only provides standard 2-D transitions between screens, including fades, wipes, and dissolves, but also offers a new class of effects such as compress, zoom, tumble, turn, and spin—all with true 3-D perspective. Other effects include moving shadow cast and 3-D solid logo extrusion from flat text. NewTek announced that its video production package, Digi-FX, would also include many of the same 3-D effects.
Meanwhile, in the area of 3-D animation, Byte by Byte was showing Animate 3D, the add-on that turns Sculpt 3D into a full-fledged professional 3-D animation studio. Those who have seen the 3-D animations created with this program know that they rival the graphics created with half-million-dollar systems. Meanwhile, at the Aegis booth, Allan Hastings was showing Videoscape 3D 2.0, which adds HAM ray-tracing, transparent objects, and more.
The Brains Of The Machine
Not all the news at the show was related to new products, however. For example, Richard McIntyre, Commodore's VP of Marketing and Sales, stated that we'd probably see not one, but two Workbench revisions this year.
Workbench 1.3 (which is nearly completed) adds enhanced printer support, making it easier for developers of desktop publishing programs to provide fast and accurate output. A Fast File System has been added to speed up hard disk access times. Provisions have been made to interface the 68881 floating-point coprocessor as a peripheral device. This means that the '881 chip on boards will automatically be recognized by the system at start-up time, and it makes it more likely that software manufacturers will support the floating-point chip. Finally, the version 1.3 Workbench program is said to be capable of doing things that previously required CLI.
The version 1.3 Kickstart adds provisions for booting Workbench from a hard disk or network. Amiga owners who have Kickstart in ROM will only need new chips if they want to boot from hard disk.
Some members of the original Amiga team have been brought back for version 1.4. It will support overscan and allow both higher resolution monitors and graphics networking. And they may throw in a few surprises, too.