Videomaster|Amstrad Action)Videomaster|CPC Attack!)
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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.

What's in the box?
  1. The basic Videomaster unit is a black box into which all the various leads are plugged. It gets its power via a short lead which is permanently attached and plugs into your monitor's 12-volt output. (An alternative - and far less clumsy! -power supply is available). This black box is the bit which does all the clever stuff. Also permanently attached is a short lead connecting the CPC's monitor output to the Videomaster unit.


  2. The lead which connects the Videomaster to your TV or VCR is a complicated-looking affair with a SCART plug at one end (unless you specify an alternative connection) and two separate connectors at the other. These separate connectors plug into your CPC's monitor output (the DIN plug) and its audio output (3.5mm jack). The rest of the connections are achieved with the festoon of wires that normally connect the CPC with the monitor, but which now are re-routed.


  3. Given that the wiring is a little bit comolicated. it's just as well that the instructions are very clear. Diagrams are included too.


  4. A power supply for the CPC is NOT included as standard. The CPC monitor makes a rather bulky power supply, and that'll be its only function when the Videomaster is connected up! However. Campursoft are selling an independent power supply for £9.99. 464 owners must get this as the 464 monitor will not drive the VideoMaster.

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:

  1. They built the power supply into the monitor. Why? Well if you wanted to be cynical, you could observe that this meant you had to use an Amstrad monitor with your CPC, come what may
  2. They wouldn't let you buy a monitor on its own. So if you bought a mono system and then decided later that you wanted to upgrade to colour... well, you couldn't, basically.
  3. When they introduced the 6128. some time after the 464, they realised the power supply would have to be that much beefier to work the disk drive. Which meant that the colour monitors for the 464 and 6128 are not interchangeable. What a nightmare!

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.

The Amstrad MP2 versus the Videomaster

The Amstrad MP2 has until now been the only choice for CPC owners wanting to use their machines with TVs. This device isn't without its drawbacks, though.

  1. Poorer quality?

      Any more bad news? Possibly. Campursoft claim that the Videomaster produces better quality images than the Amstrad modulator.

  2. No sound

    For a start, the MP2 (that's the modulator for the 6128 - the A64 s equivalent was the MP1) doesn't handle sound. So although you get the picture on your TV, the sound still comes from your CPC's horrible little internal speaker.

  3. No suppliers (except WAVE)

    Not only that, Amstrad stopped making modulators some time ago, and it's getting very hard indeed to And them. Occasionally mail order companies like WAVE get hold of some, but you can't rely on it

  4. SCART versions only?

    And while the few MP2 modulators that can still be tracked down tend to be continental models with SCART-only outputs, Campursoft can supply the VideoMaster with either SCART, BNU or phono connections. Indeed, they can also supply the 6-pin DIN jacks used by a few manufacturers.

  • Against that the MP2 has a built-in power supply for your CPC. If you use a Videomaster you either have to use your monitor as a power supply (very clumsy and often inconvenient] or buy Campursoft's alternative power supply (at only £9.99. your best bet).

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.

Video alternative

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...

Video titling

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.

Stereo sound!

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!

Looking good?

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.


★ YEAR: 1992
★ AUTHOR(S): ???
★ PRICE: £34.99


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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.