VIDEO STAR ATARI
Computereyes ... plus other new graphics goodiesby CHARLES JACKSON, Antic Program Editor
One week after Computereyes arrived at Antic, we finally put away our videocamera long enough to start writing a review.
Digitizing images with your Atari has never been simpler-or more fun. Aim your camera, press a key, and Computereyes does the rest. Within a minute or so, the digitized image appears on your video screen, ready to be SAVEd to your disk as a 62-sector picture file.
To use the Computereyes system effectively, you need a standard video camera. Or you can buy Digital Vision's $399.95 version that includes a basic b&w camera.
Although Computereyes accepts any type of video signal, Antic was able to produce much better images with a videocamera than by using "freeze-frame" on a videocassette recorder.
Digital Vision president Dave Pratt told us that many people have successfully used Computereyes with the new 4-head and 8-head VCRs. These models produce cleaner freeze-frame signals than older VCRs we had available for testing as of this writing.
The Computereyes interface is a black plastic box about the size of an Atari power supply. It has two cables that plug into joystick ports 1 and 2, plus a female RCA jack which accepts the incoming video signal cable. It also has two knobs that control the video signal brightness and synchronization rate.
Computereyes software supports five different digitizing "capture" modes. Three of these formats use Graphics Mode 8, the remaining two use ANTIC Mode E (Graphics 7 1/2). Image capture times range from 7 to 52 seconds, depending on the mode.
The 4-Level and 8-Level captures produce "textured" images which reproduce well on dot-matrix printers.
A 16-level GTIA capture mode using Graphics 9 will soon be available for about $15, said Digital Vision's Pratt, "It will be a software enhancement available on a separate disk."
Pratt added that he would have brought out the Atari version of Coinputereyes much sooner if he had realized how fast sales would take off, compared to the earlier Commodore and Apple II editions. "Atari users seem to be heavily into graphics and video," he noted
Computereyes programmer Jim Bergman is working on a new version that will save images in KoalaPad format. Until then, you can use Rapid Graphics Converter from the November 1985 Antic to adapt your Computereyes pictures to Micro Illustrator format (KoalaPad, Atari Touch Tablet or Light Pen, etc.). To fade between Computereyes images in a flashy video slide show, use Fader II (Antic, May 1985).
And to convert your final digitized video image into a Print Shop file for making letterheads and greeting cards, use Graphic Shop (see following review).
Samples of the images made by Antic during our week of obsession with Computereyes are in SIG * Atari, on CompuServe or Delphi. On CompuServe, goto to DL4 and download GIGI.XMO, JULIA.BIN, and NAT.XMO. These images of Antic staff members were recorded with Computereyes, then converted with the Rapid Graphics Converter for manipulation in KoalaPad format.
Image: CHARLES.PIC Download
Image: EVE.PIC Download
Image: GIGI.PIC Download
Image: JULIANNE.PIC Download
Image: LES.PIC Download
Image: MICHAEL.PIC Download
Image: NAT.PIC Download
Image: PATRICK.PIC Download
Micro Illustrator file loader: VIEW.BAS Download
For a sample Computereyes Print Shop graphic in SIG * Atari DL4, see STEVE.XMO. The image was created in Normal Capture mode, then converted into a Print Shop graphic with Graphic Shop.
Computereyes has some minor flaws. First, the program is inconvenient to operate. There's no practical way to preview your image before you digitize it. You must keep plugging and unplugging your camera between the monitor and the interface in order to set up a shot and digitize it.
Computereyes is also comparatively expensive, especially if you don't already own a videocamera. For $399.95, you could easily buy a new l30XE computer and a disk drive. Although Computereyes might be beyond a casual user's budget, it would be a great investment for user groups, businesses and schools.
Digital Vision, Inc.
14 Oak Street, Suite 2
Needham, MA 02192
$129.95, 48K disk
($399.95 with camera)
RAMbrandt, by Bard Ermentrout, is a powerful drawing program that belongs in the paintbox of every serious electronic artist.
The program offers a grand array of tools you can use to create and modify pictures in Graphics Mode 7, Graphics 7 1/2 (ANTIC Mode E) and all three GTIA modes.
RAMbrandt boasts a host of spectacular functions which can't be found in any other drawing program. Its Windowing function can magnify and reduce screen objects, flip them horizontally or vertically, rotate them in five-degree increments, even animate them.
RAMbrandt's animation function lets you create and animate short scenes, then view them in a small window. Used with GR. 7, RAMbrandt's Animation can even be used to enhance Moviemaker (Reston) background files.
RAMbrandt has more than six dozen commands. These include user-defined brushes and texture fills, airbrushing, "rubber band" ellipse, circle and box modes, transparent overlays, cut-and-paste windows which can be scaled in size, an "Exclusive-OR" brush, a color-oriented "search-and-replace" brush, mixture of text and graphics, and many, many more.
RAMbrandt can also SAVE and LOAD Micro-Painter and Micro Illustrator (KoalaPad, etc.) files.
RAMbrandt is written in Forth, which means that disk access and pattern fills are considerably slower than similar functions found in machine-language drawing programs.
Also the program has some trouble LOADing Koala pictures, completing certain user-defined pattern fills, and handling user-defined functions from the touchpad mode.
One of RAMbrandt's nicest features is the UNDO command. This lifesaver erases the last graphic command you entered. If you put a pattern fill in the wrong place, if a line isn't straight, or if you accidentally erased a piece of your screen, UNDO corrects the damage.
RAMbrandt is a command-driven program which does not have the colorful, happy menu icons prevalent in simpler drawing programs. It is not a toy. It is made for the serious computer artist who wants more powerul graphics software. Although casual artists may find the program "too hard" to use, serious microscreen artists will find RAMbrandt a powerful and invaluable graphics tool.
$19.95, 48K disk
BASIC TO MICRO ILLUSTRATOR
Bonus Disk Images
Antic Disk subscribers have an unusual bonus this month! We put several
of our favorite Computereyes images on this month's disk in Micro Illustrator
In case you don't own Micro Illustrator software (It's provided with most touch tablets and light pens), we've also included VIEWBAS, a short BASIC program that decompresses and displays pictures created with Micro Illustrator.
VIEW BAS runs on all 8-bit Atari computers. it is printed in the current issue's type-in listing section as well as being on the monthly disk. If you type VIEW.BAS, check it with TYPO II and SAVE a copy before you RUN it.
HOW IT WORKS
To load a Micro Illustrator picture, RUN the program, then enter the picture's filename. VIEW.BAS does the rest.
The USR call in line 210 changes a GRAPHICS 8 + 16 (ANTIC Mode F) display list into an ANTIC Mode E display list. The USR call in line 230 decompresses and displays the picture file. This USR call uses a machine language routine stored in MAIN$, and a routine stored in Page 6. The latter routine is POKEd into memory in lines 100-130.-CJ
Listing 1 VIEW.BAS Download
Yes, I co-wrote this program with Darryl May. But just so you don't think this review is biased, I'll be careful not to tell you whether or not I think Graphic Shop is any good. I'll just describe what it does.
Graphic Shop can take any picture created with Micro-Painter or Micro Illustrator (KoalaPad, Atari Touch Tablet or Light Pen, etc.) and turn all of it-or any section of it-into a graphic that can be SAVEd to a Print Shop disk.
You can also use the program to format Print Shop data disks and to view directories of DOS 2 or Print Shop data disks.
Graphic Shop was designed to be as easy to use as Print Shop. Both use the same type of menus, and both can be used without reading many pages of instructions.
From the Main Menu, you can load KoalaPad or Micro-Painter pictures, view disk directories, or create specially-formatted Print Shop data disks.
Once a picture is loaded, you can convert your picture in one of two ways:
1. You can use your joystick to position a small, blinking frame over a portion of your picture and convert only that portion.
2. You can compress the entire screen into a Print Shop graphic.
Because Print Shop does not support high-resolution graphics, some of the finer details of your microscreen may be lost when you use the second option. This option takes longer than the first because it is squeezing more than 7,000 bytes into less than 600 bytes.
Graphic Shop translates your four-color microscreens into two-color Print Shop graphics by using black fills and white fills for two of your microscreen's color registers, and pattern fills for the two remaining color registers.
Next, a four-window Preview Screen lets you decide which parts of your picture will receive pattern fills, and which parts will be solid. Choose the image you like best, and Graphic Shop will save it to your Print Shop data disk.
If you don't like any of the conversions, you can return to your picture and try again.
Graphic Shop also has a "smart" disk directory routine. The program determines whether a Print Shop disk or a DOS 2 disk is in drive 1, and then displays the appropriate directory.
$19.95, 48K disk