If anything in the doggedly prosaic world of computer technology can be described as genuinely exciting, it is the prospect of photographic and movie film quality animation that is just around the corner. And while the UK end of the company seemed to have only the vaguest idea of what its parent in Wilsonville, Oregon […]
If anything in the doggedly prosaic world of computer technology can be described as genuinely exciting, it is the prospect of photographic and movie film quality animation that is just around the corner. And while the UK end of the company seemed to have only the vaguest idea of what its parent in Wilsonville, Oregon had up its sleeve on that front (CI No 1,154), in the US, Tektronix actually launched its Digital Video Interface board for its new XD88 workstations, describing the combination as the first workstation product to provide full-screen, real-time video display capture in a range of studio-quality formats. And Tektronix, which used to be famous only for doggedly prosaic things like oscilloscopes, the charm of which soon palls once you’ve got Lissajou’s Figures up and gyrating, is not just pushing the product for scientific analysis – it’s pushing it at the movie and graphic arts industries too. The Tektronix Digital Video Interface is a single board that sits on the VMEbus of the new Motorola 88000-based XD88 series graphics workstations, applications processors and file servers – and for all you poor little paupers out there (thank you, Dame Edna) who can’t afford the new line, it also supports Tek’s existing 4300 series graphics workstations and applications processors. The board costs $8,000 and is pitched to compete against stand-alone video capture systems costing up to twice as much. Workstation users are accustomed to convenience and high quality images from their displays and printers, says Todd Garcia in a rather more meaningful piece of flackery than is usual from product marketing managers in such announcements: Now, with this Digital Video Interface, users can have convenient and high quality video output – quality previously available only in well-equipped production studios. For the dedicated engineering users, the board enables people working on high-end computer-aided design, technical data analysis and scientific imaging to record interactive design sessions and simulations in real time and produce video hard copy for archiving and presentations. The frame-by-frame rendering, plus on-board NTSC: for those not familiar with television jargon, NTSC stands for Never Twice the Same Color, and is the distressingly inferior – to the West German Phase Amplitude Line system used across Europe apart from France – that means that people may only appear in one of three colours, green, purple or orange; encoding and genlock, meet the quality requirements of entertainment and corporate communication users and eliminate the need for separate, stand-alone devices. Tek suggests that other video capture products limit on-screen graphics to a 640 by 480 window and tie up the user’ display while capturing the image, whereas the Tektronix interface captures full-screen graphics in real time at 30 frames a second (that’s tied to the 60 cycle mains frequency they use in the US: presumably it will come down to 25 frames a second for Europe). On-screen graphics performance is not affected, sasy Tek, and the capturing is transparent to application software. Custom gate arrays convert the 1,280 by 1,024 workstation image to video resolution and reduce loss of detail. The interface also provides an on-board, 10-bit deep video frame buffer that application software can use for time consuming, frame-by-frame rendering of broadcast quality animations. Dynamic Imaging Software from Wavefront Technologies Inc will support the interface for frame-by-frame rendering – it’s an animation and rendering package widely used in the entertainment and technical industries. The Digital Video Interface produces output for direct feed to recorders or studio production equipment in formats including RS170A NTSC/PAL – ah, it does work with the PAL system, which was derived from NTSC after all – composite encoded data, Super VHS, RGB 30Hz interlaced, Sony Betacam and SMPTE RP125 component digital (4:2:2). Looks like users of the French Secam system – that’s the one the Russians also use that creates impossibly brilliant blues and oran
ges. The interface computes 10 bits of accuracy each for luminance and chrominance – that’s the accuracy needed for broadcasting. Round of applause Genlock input is available to synchronise outputs to a house standard, as required when broadcasters use video output with other signal sources. Tektronix’ Interactive Technologies Division developed the interface in conjunction with the company’s TV Products Division, which manufactures television measurement products, and with Tek’s Grass Valley Group subsidiary, which designs high-end switchers and other broadcast equipment. The Digital Video Interface is available for ord.cw 8 er now in the US, with shipments beginning in June, and it sounds as if Tektronix deserves a round of applause for it. For the record, in the US, the XD88 workstations use the 88100 integer and floating point processor with four 88200 cache memory management controllers, each handling 16Kb of cache, and the architecture has been designed to support four more of the 88200 chips for even higher performance. With 8Mb of RAM, 156Mb hard disk and 150Mb streamer tape, it costs $25,000.