The Mac has always been considered a relatively good multimedia machine, although it couldn't quite stand up to the Atari ST's built-in MIDI and the Amiga's excellent video interface. The music software and capabilities of the Mac are now quite good and the video interfacing is getting better all the time. One caveat to this article. We don't use our Mac for video work and thus are not experts or even novices on the subject so take everything with a grain of salt.
Nolan Bushnell of Atari fame attracted a crowd last summer with his MicroTV at the Boston Macworld Expo. MicroTV displayed a small, grainy, grey-scale TV picture in a window on a Mac II. Since then Aapps (Bushnell's company) has introduced DigiVideo ($595) and DigiVideo Color ($995), both of which allow you to view live video and copy video frames to the Clipboard for use in other applications. Apparently, the image quality provided by the DigiVideo boards in 8-bit mode is not as crisp as people are used to from regular televisions, and the picture slows down significantly under 24-bit mode.
Aapps now has competition from several other companies. RasterOps recently introduced its ColorBoard 364, which is identical to its ColorBoard 264 graphics card with the addition of video capabilities. The ColorBoard 364 uses the standard Apple 13" monitor and displays 24-bit color, so it has excellent image quality, although it too can be a bit slow at times. In addition to bringing in live video (although a separate tuner is necessary currently, unlike with Aapps's products), the ColorBoard 364 can interface easily with VCRs, laserdiscs, and S-VHS camcorders and through HyperCard XCMDs can control these external peripherals as well. The price is a bit higher than the DigiVideo boards in keeping with the added quality, but at $1995, the ColorBoard 364 is still reasonable.
Radius's entry in the market is a bit pricier than the RasterOps board and will not work with the Apple 13" color monitor without an additional video card, the $1095 DirectColor GX. Otherwise, the RadiusTV system only works with Radius's $4295 19" Color Display. When you add that to the price of the RadiusTV system at $2795, you get a hefty price in comparison to the RasterOps ColorBoard 364. RadiusTV digitizes video in 16-bit color, so it will presumably be between the DigiVideo boards and the ColorBoard 364. RadiusTV does sport several advantages for the price, though. It digitizes sound and can access information in TV side bands, such as closed captions. In contrast, the DigiVideo boards have an on-board speaker, and it's unclear how the ColorBoard 364 handles sound.
The final two recent entries in the video market are Mass Microsystems's ColorSpace Plus/SE which gives the Plus and SE some of these capabilities for $1995 (no other information, sorry) and VENT Inc.'s $499 Hyper Switcher and $199 Screen Play Software. VENT Inc. is another Bushnell company and its products work with Aapps's. Hyper Switcher can control four video-in channels and two video-out channels . Screen Play Software grabs frames, manipulates them, and outputs them to produce a finished videotape.
Aapps Inc. -- 408/735-8550
RasterOps Corp. -- 408/562-4200
Radius Inc. -- 408/434-1010
Mass Microsystems -- 800/522-7979 -- 408/522-1200
VENT Inc. -- 415/961-3671
Adam Engst -- TidBITS editor
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