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ScuzzBlog: Diaries February 2020

Entry 22nd February 2020: Post 01: DraCo - MacroSystem Marvels.

DraCo - MacroSystem Marvels.

Haven't done this for a while but thought I would simply quote a
post we recently ran on my Amiga group regarding the VLab card and
the Draco tower and cube. The guy replying here has both the
tower and the cube and has been a long long time user of the Amiga.

Hello Scuzz,

I have a couple VLab-Motion cards.  Rev 1.2 being the latest version
I have.  Looking for a rev 1.3.  My A4000 VLM system is still in
disarray.  I need to find some time to reassemble it and test the
new OS 3.1.4 release.

I don't have the earlier framegrabber-only VLab card.  Unless there's
one in a box somewhere that I've forgotten about.

I also have two DraCos.  A tower and a cube.  Both of these have the
DraCo motion cards.  Some early DraCo towers shipped with VLMs.  

While 16bit VLM is not as good as the 32bit DraCo motion, and VLM
can't run MovieShop5, a VLM used in a DraCo will get achieve higher
quality video due to the DraCo's ZORRO-II bus being faster than the
regular Amiga ZORRO-II bus.  The ZORRO-II bus limited MovieShop to
about 75% on the compression/quality setting.  


Hello Scuzz, [ In reply to my posting details of my card ]

That's the VLab framegrabber.
If you find VHI studio, you can set up a webcam with the VLab framegrabber.

DraCo Cube measures about 13"x13"x17".  The DraCo Tower is similar
to my A3000T, it's about 25" tall.DraCo runs just about anything
that is AmigaOS friendly and RTG friendly. If the software absolutely
requires the custom chipset, you are out of luck. I'm running Amiga
OS3.9. They shipped with Amiga OS3.1..  

The DraCo release price was around $15K.  Expensive for the average
user but competitive I guess.  If you wanted to build a Toaster/Flyer
setup with an 060 accelerator, SCSI-II, 24-bit graphics card, and
TBCs, plus the Amiga to house everything in, price would add up
quick.  I'm not sure what Applied Magic's Digital Broadcaster cost.
DraCo supports composite, s-video, component and firewire.  The
last two were expansion add-ons.  Video quality of DraCo is stunning.  
For Toaster/Flyer, you only had composite, although you could get
a 3rd party s-video board.  

MacroSystem was already making a variety of Amiga hardware expansions
and it wasn't a stretch to build their own clone.   First generation
Casablanca systems were simplified and cost reduced versions of
DraCo squeezed into a pizza box case.  Targeting more the prosumer
market that the higher end.

Both MacroSystem and NewTek successfully migrated off the Amiga
platform in different directions.  

I have the pieces to assemble a Toaster/Flyer set-up, eventually,
but that will be further down the road.


This exert comes from Media100's annual report circa 1995, identifying
the three markets for electronic editing at that time.   

#1 Broadcast, television and film producers, professional video post-
production facilities and cable television stations that created
finalized video programs for others or for broadcast.  Typically
spend $50,000.

#2 Corporate and Institutional Users include businesses, hospitals,
advertising agencies, law firms, government agencies, colleges,
universities, and independent post-production facilities spent
between $15,000-$50,000.

#3 Mass Market Users are early stage users who desire to use video
for informal presentations, for consumer-type video needs or for
in-house communication within corporations or institutions.  They
are using a non-integrated system and are attracted by the low
purchase price of $15,000 or less.

DraCo's pricing of $15,000 placed it at the high end of 3 and the
low end of 2.  MacroSystem's follow-up Casablanca shifted focus
toward market group 3.

Media100 is a Mac-based NLE, dubbed as the Avid Eater by Wired at
the time.  Avid systems were over $50K, Media100 fell in around $25K.

It started out in the pre-PPC Mac days with NUBUS cards then migrated
to PPC & PCI.  It used the same SONY DV add-on card as DraCo.  As
computers got more powerful, Media100 transitioned away from relying
on custom hardware into a software based NLE.  BorisFX no longer
updates Media100 and has released it to the public for free.  It's
32bit only and won't work beyond Mojave.  It has some issues in
Mojave, so High Sierra or earlier is a better environment for it.

It's amazing what MacroSystem achieved with the Amiga OS and 680x0
hardware while other systems really struggled to do quality video
with faster Mac & PC systems.  Many desktop based NLEs of the era
were relegated to offline use, working in lower-resolutions,
displaying half fields and contending with video/audio sync problems.


DraCo - MacroSystem Marvels.

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Last updated 22nd February 2020

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