|★ HARDWARE ★ PERIPHERIQUES ★ VIDEOMASTER ★|
|Videomaster|Amstrad Action)||Videomaster|CPC Attack!)|
Is Campursoft's Videomaster a cheap colour upgrade? Is it a video titling system? Is it a replacement for the Amstrad MP2? It's all this and more, as ROD Lawton discovers...
Why do some computers plug straight into a TV set while others need a purpose-made monitor? If the Amstrad CPC worked directly with a TV set (and was sold on its own, not with a monitor) it would be a darned sight cheaper, for a start.
And yet it's not all a ploy on Amstrad's part to squeeze more money out of the users. Although many machines will plug straight into TVs, this method does have its disadvantages.
Televisions display images and sound broadcast as radio frequencies. (Some accept SCART and other inputs, but most sets only have this radio frequency - “RF" - input. In other words, the aerial socket!) This system works fine for moving images, but lacks resolution - essential for applications like word processing.
Which is why the CPC. in common with most other serious computers, has an RGB output. This gives a much sharper, cleaner and more stable image. But then you do have to have an RGB monitor, of course.
The Amstrad 'package'
The CPC has always been sold as both a serious and a games machine. Given its serious uses, it makes sense to equip it with RGB output. RF output as well would have been nice, but it would have meant extra expense.
And since Amstrad has always aimed strongly at first-time buyers and computer novices, it made sense to sell the CPC as a complete package - i.e. with a monitor included. It bumped up the price, and made the system a bit inflexible, but it did offer users a ‘complete solution'.
Do we Have the power?
Unfortunately, not everything in the garden's rosy. Amstrad had got rt right so far, but then they did some rather silty things:
The upshot is that CPCs really are complete systems, true. The down-side is that you're well and truly stuck with the monitor that came with your system. Or are you?
Amstrad did relent a bit. After all, there were a lot of mono system owners out there who wanted to play games in colour. So they produced a device called a modulator' (it produced a ‘modulated', or RF, version of the CPC's output as used by TVs). Actually, they produced two modulators; one for the 464 (the MP1) and one for the 6128 (the MP2). These modulators replaced your monitors. They had their own power supplies and generated a signal that your TV could understand.
So what's the problem? Well, there are two, really. Firstly, the MP2 has its limitations (see box). Secondly, Amstrad stopped making them, and you can't get them for love nor money now.
Actually, that's not strictly true. As this piece was being written, mail order company WAVE took delivery of a number of MP2s. They are Spanish models and will only work with machines equipped with a SCART input, though.
Which is why Campursoffs new VideoMaster is such an exciting product. While the MP2 produced an RF output for TVs, the VideoMaster produces a ‘composite video' output. The technical facts aren't important. Beyond the fact that composite video is a much higher quality system that RF signals AND is accomodated by all video recorders.
Of course, with your CPC connected to your video its also - effectively - connected to your TV. So the VideoMaster replaces the MP2 if you have a VCR). It also lets you record your CPC's output onto tape. The MP2 modulator can do that too, but its RF-only output would lead to a critical loss of quality for many applications.
So why should you want to connect your CPC to a video recorder? The more you think about it, the longer the list of reasons becomes...
Everyone who uses a domestic VCR keeps favourite tapes for posterity, don't they? And what better way to add the finishing touches to your favourite tapes than by adding titles and/or credits? With the Videomaster it's easy - design your titles in Advanced Art Studio or any other graphics program, connect your CPC to the video, display the titles and record them on the video tape for as many seconds as you want!
Want to explain a technique to a group of people, or produce a presentation that bit more polished than all the rest? You can do it on the CPC by displaying screens in sequence, of course, but you're not going to see much from more than five
feet away. And what if you're not there to work the machine? Everyone can work a video, though, and the pictures can be displayed on big-screen TVs. Simply record the screens for the appropriate length of time on video tape. You can also add an audio commentary! All you would have to do is record your commentary on a cassette tape, then connect the Videomaster's audio input to a tape player, rather than plugging it into the CPC's audio output.
Want to demonstrate a game to a software house or to your friends? Don't try to show them how it works on the spot, just record it as you play - simple!
Decent animations are pretty tough to do on the CPC. You can't get many screens in memory at once, and if you can't do that you can't cycle through them quickly enough for smooth animation. But with the Videomaster and a fairly well-specified VCR you can record individual screens on just a couple of frames of video tape each for animations that would make an Amiga owner drool. You'd need a reasonably well-speci-fied VCR, but the/re cheap enough these days.
The CPC has stereo sound output. Did you know that? If all you've ever listened to is the internal speaker, probably not. Yet if you have a stereo TV your games will have stereo sound effects and soundtracks. The quality will be much better
A colour upgrade
And in the middle of all this, let's not forget that the Videomaster is an excellent way of upgrading your mono system to colour!
The VideoMaster's picture quality is terrific. Games look excellent, especially those programmed to run in a comparatively small window. It's great for serious applications like word processing too.
There is one thing to watch out for, though. Some modern TVs have a SCART input, so you may be tempted to plug your VideoMaster straight into your TV. However. Campursoft warn us that while VCRs use a standard SCART socket. TVs are a different kettle of fish. Or. in this case, a different kettle of SCART standards. Even if you have a SCART TV, they still recommend routing the VideoMaster's output through a video recorder for best quality.
There's certainly no faulting the Videomaster's quality of construction or manufacture. Items manufactured in small numbers often look amateur and flimsy. The Videomaster is neither. The leads, in particular, are very well put together.
At £35.99, the Videomaster is great value for money. When you can find them, MP2s nowadays cost no more - but they aren't as good. Frankly, if Campursoft had marketed this product in the days when the MP2 was being sold at £100+, Amstrad would have lost an awful lot of sales.
L'alinéa 8 de l'article L122-5 du Code de la propriété intellectuelle explique que « Lorsque l'œuvre a été divulguée, l'auteur ne peut interdire la reproduction d'une œuvre et sa représentation effectuées à des fins de conservation ou destinées à préserver les conditions de sa consultation à des fins de recherche ou détudes privées par des particuliers, dans les locaux de l'établissement et sur des terminaux dédiés par des bibliothèques accessibles au public, par des musées ou par des services d'archives, sous réserve que ceux-ci ne recherchent aucun avantage économique ou commercial ». Pas de problème donc pour nous!
CPCrulez[Content Management System]
L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.