Desktop publishing is no longer my type. Why? Let's face it, with the notable exception of the newspaper you're now reading, print is passe. Sure, the right software and a laser printer can turn your PC into a spiffy printing press -- but people nowadays don't want to read; they want to watch.
Savvy computer companies have picked up on this cultural phenomenon. Guess what the next buzzphrase in computerdom is going to be.
That's right -- "desktop video."
The Commodore Amiga (and to a much lesser extent, Apple's Macintosh) is now being used to create computer-generated text and special effects for video. While the quality is a bit crude, it's got to make you wonder if PCs will soon do for video production what they're now doing to print.
So why use your computer to be a desktop Luce, Northcliffe or (gulp) Rupert Murdoch to print papers when you can be a desktop Hitchcock, Spielberg or Sturges and produce movies -- or a Bob Giraldi and do music videos?
Indeed, computer technology will transform people from desktop authors to desktop auteurs . . . how's that for nouvelle?
Electronic Arts, the San Mateo, Calif.-based software company, has just released its "Deluxe Video" program at $99 for the Amiga and claims to have sold 10,000 copies in the first week, according to Marketing Vice President Bing Gordon.
It's not a bad little entrant into the desktop video world, and it certainly takes advantage of the Amiga's powerful color graphics capabilities. (Alas, poor Commodore has sold fewer than 100,000 Amigas.)
Deluxe Video lets you create little animation scenes, move animated objects across backgrounds, rotate objects in 3-D and (nifty, this) create musical scores to go along with the animation by using the Amiga's music synthesis chip.
Don't get me wrong -- we're not talking George Lucas/Steven Spielberg quality special effects here. This is barely up to cheap Saturday morning cartoon quality. Nevertheless, it moves and it looks okay.
As Gordon puts it, "the laser writer is to print quality as the Amiga and Deluxe Video is to broadcast quality." Less enthusiastic observers say Deluxe Video's broadcast quality is more comparable to that of dot matrix.
Gordon expects the program to be used by home videophiles and by big company audiovisual departments preparing in-house training films and the like.
The Amiga/Deluxe Video package can do things like text generation for a fraction of the cost of the popular Chiron character generator.
However, Allan Neumann, president of New York West, a Newport Beach, Calif., modeling agency that uses in-house video extensively, says the Amiga's characters have a tendency to "bleed" onscreen, although "the animation is a useful feature."
Neumann, who has tested the Deluxe Video program, likes the software but says Commodore has yet to provide the hardware necessary to turn the Amiga into a truly effective video production tool.
The Macintosh, though it lacks color graphics, also offers intriguing animation/video opportunities, but Apple, in its less than infinite wisdom, made it a closed box: There's no way to hook it to a video monitor. Presumably, the new Mac that Apple soon will introduce will allow interfacing with the video world.
"Creating characters that move, putting a cartoon character on someone's shoulder or putting a bouncing ball on the screen for a sing-along" soon will be simple applications of desktop video technology, Neumann said.
Don't count on desktop video if you use an IBM PC or a clone, however. IBM PCs are to desktop video as Marcel Marceau is to a digitally recorded compact disc: totally irrelevant.
Speaking of compact discs, desktop video will really come into prominence when Philips and Sony bring out their compact-disc machines that play back digitally recorded video as well as sound. That will mean one can store a library of images -- speeding trains, explosions, faces, scenery -- that can be put on the screen and digitally massaged -- rotated, expanded, altered -- and edited into a video. Expect to start seeing this compact disc interactive player by this time next year.
The point is that a souped-up PC -- one that can handle real-time graphics -- is a movie maker as well as a printshop. The PC should be, and will become, a multimedia device. Soon, desktop video (desktop cinema?) will be as much of a cliche as desktop publishing.
Pass the popcorn.