Amiga TV Out

John Foust jfoust at
Tue Nov 27 08:43:57 CST 2007

At 11:46 PM 11/26/2007, Rod Smallwood wrote:
>    I'm sure that I heard that some Commodore systems could do TV out
>and were in fact used to produce CGI stuff for 'Babylon Five"
>Does anybody know which ones and could they do PAL or just NTSC?

Special effects makers strove for higher quality as the job demanded.
Part of the appeal of the Amiga for special effects was the price
of the 32-bit hardware and software.  SGI hardware and software 
was an order of magnitude more expensive.  NewTek's Lightwave was used
by the Babylon 5 special effects group.  I know they also used
an early 3D Studio on a PC for some of the modeling.  (And they 
used some of my software to convert between 3D file formats; as I recall,
the spun shape of the original station was made that way.)

Yes, the Amiga had the horsepower to play back animations of 
useful color depths in real-time.  Depending on the image and 
the requirements, some special effects might even look OK with 
the straight TV-out.  For example, the typical synthetic 
"computer display" in a cheesy sci-fi show.  When you're filming 
an actor in front of an animation playing on a monitor, low-res is OK.

More often for serious output, as in Babylon 5's case, they laid 
their bitmaps to an 8mm Exabyte tape as data files, then imported 
into an Abekas framebuffer that could play them back in real time.
High quality, no generational loss every time you made an edit or copy.

Straight TV-out wasn't a high-quality method of exporting video, 
though.  In the early days, some people used single-frame video 
recorders to lay down a sequence of animation.  This worked
reasonably well, within NTSC generational limits.  Later, some
NewTek Video Toaster-based animators used its higher-quality
framebuffer as the output to single-frame recordings.

- John

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