Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

February General Meeting

by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh

Good Ole Days
In the old days, back when the world was young and microcomputers were new, user groups met around someone's kitchen table. Someone would bring a computer and the meeting would be spent trying to put it together and making it work, and maybe running a program that someone had written, or (a momentous event!) perhaps even demonstrating the rare commerciallyproduced program. (Most of these were probably written on a computer sitting on someone else's kitchen table.)
For the February 1995 meeting, Washington Apple Pi had a modern-day version of these ancient rites: the First Annual Washington Apple Pi QuickTime Festival. Instead of a kitchen table in someone's home, we had a modern auditorium at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, a big stage, a professional sound system, and two different kinds of video projection equipment. Instead of an Apple II with maybe 16K of RAM, loading a program off a cassette tape, we two Macs, one a Centris 660AV with 40 megabytes of RAM and a billion byte hard drive (not to mention several highcapacity data cartridges).
Yes, there have been changes since the first user group meetings, but February was a delightful reminder of how it used to be with demonstrations by Pi members, and mini-demos by Iomega and a local firm, Praxisoft. About the only significant change from the kitchen-table days was the distinct shortage of Coke, pizza, pretzels and other munchies.

Did It In House
In the headlines, Apple was busy suing Intel and Microsoft for pirating QuickTime. At the Pi, we were demonstrating some home-grown QuickTime clips.
To set the theme, we started with a QuickTime clip of an Apple commercial, captured straight off TV, showing your typical modern housewife, taking care of her family (children running, phones ringing) while juggling a few precious minutes working with video clips on her Quadra 630. In the last scene, you see her dressed in crisp business attire, showing a slick video presentation on another Mac. "Who'd you hire to do this?" she's asked. "I did it in house," she responds, nonchalantly.
I played a few of my own clips, not because they were great works of art, but to demonstrate how you can do something unique without really knowing what you are doing. One clip was composed of still pictures of my daughter, dating back to when she was a few months old. The oldest image was a black and white photo captured on a 512K Macintosh with a ThunderScan, a Rube Goldberg-like device that allowed you to scan images by rolling photo prints through an ImageWriter printer. (No, I'm not making that up.) More recent, colorful images were scanned in a more sensible fashion using slide and flatbed scanners. All the clips were then assembled into a QuickTime movie using some free utilities.
Another clip consisted of roughly 50 color drawings created in the style of the late Patrick Nagel, a graphic artist known for his very Spartan, gently erotic watercolors and pen and ink works. These drawings were collected over a period of roughly 10 years from bulletin boards around the world, edited slightly to make them a consistent size, then assembled into a QuickTime movie using some publicly-distributed utilities.
These utilities are conveniently collected in a Disketeria set, Dimick's Double Dozen (28 programs, actually), for sale at General Meetings or through the Pi office. The Nagel movie is available on the TCS, the Pi's computer bulletin board, in Area 35, file 185.

Sound of Music
Turning from video to sound, several short music pieces were played. Thanks to the QuickTime Musical Instruments extension included with QuickTime 2.0, you can now take a Standard MIDI File (these files are often found on bulletin boards with .smf suffixed to the name) created on any computer, suck it up into Apple's MoviePlayer, and create "MIDI movies." Or you can do what I did, and use ConcertWare Pro (formerly sold by Great Wave, now marketed by Jump! software), along with no musical talent whatsoever, to create your own Standard MIDI Files.
The sound library, licensed by Apple from Roland, is nice, but the key draw is the small size of the files: Gioacchino Antonio Rossini's William Tell Overture takes up just 33K as a QuickTime MIDI movie, but plays for 3 minutes, 26 seconds (available on the TCS in Area 35, file 795). Scott Joplin's The Entertainer (made famous by the Newman and Redford hit movie The Sting) is just 11K, but plays for 2 minutes, 5 seconds. George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue is 71K, but plays for an astonishing 16 minutes, 39 seconds.
Pi member Craig Shoemaker is not as enamored of the QuickTime MIDI capabilities. The instrument library has a limited number of instruments, and many of the sounds, such as French horns, are pathetic (to be generous). He wanted to turn some of his own original compositions into QuickTime clips, and constantly ran into hardware limitations (his 1987 vintage Mac II cannot play as many voices simultaneously as an AV Mac or a Power Mac) or, more often, software limitations. QuickTime 2.0, when converting a Standard MIDI File, frequently ignores entire voices, leaving silent spots in the clip, or converts a series of notes to an approximation of an equivalent-sounding instrument, usually with poor results.
So Craig tried another way: he recorded his own performances on audio, and inserted the audio into a QuickTime clip. The resulting files are huge: one clip played at the meeting lasts 10 minutes, but consumes 12 megabytes of disk space.
On the other hand, it does offer some unique possibilities. Craig created a tribute to Bolo, the multi-user tank game, featuring his own original music illustrated with screen animations taken directly from the game. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "orchestrating a battle."

Labors of Love
Stuart Bonwit showed a couple of his clips, and detailed how he created them using QuickFlix, Adobe Premiere, and Swivel 3D. Stuart, who came into the Mac world after years as an Atari user, chose an ambitious first project: the animation of a piece by Claude Debussy.
"Animation" in this case means classic cel-by-cel animation, only using modern tools. Stuart created a large collection of 3D objects and then assembled them into a 3D figure of an overdressed 19th century military officer. He then painstakingly matched 1100 frames of animation to the music of Debussy's tone poem, General Lavine. Except for the music, everything was Stuart's work: he started with a blank screen, and created everything. An early version of General Lavine is on the TCS, Area 35, file 807.
His next project is even more ambitious: an animation of Peter Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. He demonstrated the ballerina created for the clip, composed entirely of three dimensional objects, and she is a charmer.
Almost as interesting as the clips was the method of presentation. Video was "printed" directly from Pi member Tom Witte's Centris 660AV to a video projection unit mounted in the ceiling of the auditorium, then blasted up onto a movie screen on the stage. Tom forgot to bring a keyboard cable, and substituted (as I recall) a Super-8 video cable. This worked, much to my amazement, but Stuart frequently lost track of the mouse; when you're used to working with a 1.5 foot square screen, things seem a bit odd on a 300-foot square screen.

Desktop Video to Tape
Most users are interested in getting animation and video pumped into a Mac, but Pi member Dennis Dimick (ddimick@aol.com) is interested in using the Mac as a video editing tool, and then sending the results to videotape. This presents several technical challenges, and Dennis heartily recommends a new book published by Hayden, QuickTime: The Official Guide for Macintosh Users, as a good starting point to appreciating both the difficulties and the solutions. The book includes a CD-ROM disc with several commercial applications, shareware utilities, and some great clips.
Dennis showed one such clip, a lengthy inside joke involving Coke and DogCows by Apple's QuickTime development team. While it lacked much of a plot (or point), it did have one astonishing feature: it was recorded as a fullscreen, 30 frame per second clip using QuickTime 2.0. Getting industry standard video rates from QuickTime demonstrates amazing progress (especially compared to some of the tiny, slow clips shown at the start of the meeting).
Another clip, Hellcasters, was a classic rock video with loud music, complex graphics and bright colors. It was also another great technology demonstration: the entire clip was recorded to tape directly from CD-ROM, then the tape was played at the meeting.
The First Washington Apple Pi QuickTime Festival ended with two of Dennis' clips. One, En Route, is composed entirely of still photos of people arriving, departing, or just preparing to travel. Nicely synched to a New Age score, it vividly captures the odd mixture of emotions experienced during travel; a impressive effort.
The second piece, Boat Ride, was essentially a home video of a boat ride on the Chesapeake featuring his infant child. It was easily the best-done home movie most of us had ever seen, and a quantum leap in quality above Apple's Coke and Dogcow effort. (Apple, take note.)
For those who missed it, you can "talk" to Stuart and Dennis on the QuickTime forum on the TCS.

Color Compass
Praxisoft, an Ashburn, Virginia company, did a real quick demonstration of their Color Compass graphics utility. This is a clever product that many will find essential, if hard to describe: Color Compass is a utility for creating colors and creating color palettes for other Macintosh applications. (A demo version is on the TCS in Area 30, file 320).
Why, you might ask, do you need to create colors on a Mac? Can't it do this on its own? Well, not really. To take an example, let's say you have a drawing, done in Canvas, or PowerPoint, or Photoshop, or almost any other Mac application, and you want to combine elements of that image with another done in another application. And then you want the combined image to look good with just a 256 color palette, so it can be viewed correctly on inexpensive color Macs or on MS-DOS machines. Color Compass can automatically generate color palettes of the images, and allow you to create a common palette for use in the final work.
You can also use Color Compass to convert colors from one standard to another. It allows you to dissect the color palette used by an image, and display each color using RGB (Red, Green, Blue), CYMK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, blacK), or Pantone values. Colors can then be blended, complimentary colors can be generated (automatically), and tints and shades of a color created. Color Compass can even automatically select the closest six Pantone colors of any selected color, eliminating the need for swatch books.
Stephen Mace, Vice President of Sales, assured me that Color Compass would run on virtually any color Mac, but he ran into trouble with the Pi's Mac IIci. Aaron Alpher, the company President, was running the IIci, and quickly discovered that, yes, Color Compass worked fine, but the machine's 8 megabytes of RAM really wasn't sufficient to simultaneously launch Color Compass, Photoshop, and a bunch of other programs. They had planned to illustrate the program's capabilities by rapidly switching between programs, and were obviously used to using more generously equipped machines. Everything still worked, but their chagrin was entertaining.
Color Compass retails for $129, but Praxisoft has a user group special offer of just $79. Contact them by E-mail at praxiscorp@aol.com, via fax at (703) 729-6875, or call them at (800) 55-PRAXIS or (in VA) (703) 729-3391.

Adding Zip
Jan Ruderman closed the meeting by talking briefly about Iomega's new Zip drive. The drive has a number of distinguishing characteristics: it is small, portable, cheap (street price of around $200), cheap (100 megabyte removable cartridges are $15-20 each), reasonably fast (28 ms access time) and purple. During most of the meeting Jan was in the hallway outside the auditorium, showing the drive hooked up to a PowerBook. It must have been a hit: the hordes walked away with all his promotional brochures.
Such an inexpensive storage device has some real possibilities, and not just as infinitely-expandable storage (need more room? buy more cartridges) and archival storage. Does someone at a remote location need lots of data, in a hurry? FedEx them a cartridge. They don't have a drive? FedEx them a Zip drive, too; it really is small. Need to show something to a client, and don't want to cart around a lot of equipment? A Zip drive and a PowerBook doesn't take up much space at all.
When Jan packed up to leave, this portability was obvious. In one arm he was straining to hold a video monitor he'd attached to the PowerBook. In the other arm, no strain at all, he held a case holding the PowerBook, Zip drive, and a bunch of other stuff. Can you imagine what this technology will do for presentations?
Jan will be back later this year showing a "revolutionary," in his words, high-capacity storage system. (Shall we run a pool? Will it be purple, to?) Until then you can contact him about Iomega's existing products at iomegadc@aol.com.

1995 Meeting Dates
Mar. 25, 1995: Global Village will demonstrate their telecommunications hardware and software, ranging from inexpensive personal modems to enterprise fax servers and Internet nodes.
In keeping with the theme, Washington Apple Pi will have a quick overview of the TCS, the Pi's computer bulletin board, and a preview of the planned Internet version of the TCS.
Apr. 22, 1995: Now Software will present Now Up-To-Date, Now Contacts, and Now Utilities.
Main Event will show their AppleScript editor.
May 27, 1995: vendor to be named later (the baseball strike is getting old). At this writing, we also don't know where we will meet, as our normal meeting site is booked during May.

Drawing winners
There were no drawing winners; we never got around to a drawing. We were busy.

Apple Macintosh IIci computer: courtesy Falcon Microsystems (RIP)
Apple Centris 660AV: courtesy Tom Witte
PowerPoint 3.0 (RIP): courtesy Microsoft Corporation
Proxima Ovation LCD projector: courtesy Proxima Corporation
Bernoulli 150 drive: courtesy Iomega Corp.
Lounging TCS Penguin: drawing by Nancy Seferian
Silver Spring Metro Penguins: photo by Dennis Dimick
Setup and worrying: Bill Wydro, Beth Medlin, Tom Witte
Question & Answer Help: Tom Witte

Send meeting comments to: lcharters@tcs.wap.org.

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