NewTek Toaster [2]: TV Studio in a Box
Exclusive look inside the one that started it all, now on steroids
By Charlie White

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Toaster [2] reviewBack in 1990, not many people had considered the idea of containing an entire TV studio inside a computer. But two guys in Topeka, Tim Jenison and the late Paul Montgomery, saw the potential in the Amiga platform and decided that it was time to unleash a appliance that could bring broadcast quality editing, character generation, switching, animation and more to mere mortals. Could it be done? Yes, and it sparked a revolution in video production that reverberates to this day. Now, a dozen years later, NewTek unveils Toaster [2], a $2995 PC-based package of software and an accerator card that gives you a video system that's light years ahead of the original Video Toaster, but the concept is exactly the same: It's a studio in a box that can be affordable for almost everyone.

"Toaster [2] can work with any given file format," said NewTek's Tim Jenison, considered by many to be the father of digital video. "It's based on an open system, and already developers are eating up our SDK. It's a whole new ballgame," he said. It's a new ballgame with extra innings, too, because Toaster [2] is packed with tools that only get faster as processor speeds increase. Better yet, anything the system can't do in real time, it renders in the background. This translates into a more user-friendly workflow. It's hundreds of times more powerful than the original Toaster. Said Jenison, "We used to say the Toaster was ‘nine mints in one.' Now we're up to 25 mints." [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Toaster 2 editor and switcher
(Click image for enlargement) Take a look at the editing and switching modules in Toaster [2]
New in Toaster [2] is the concept of skinning, giving you the option of making its interface look the way you want. But the skinning goes beyond just appearance -- its object-oriented underpinnings give you the ability to expand or contract the elements of the interface, letting you use it the way you want. In fact, that's a theme that runs throughout this vast collection of what amounts to be an intricately interwoven and interoperable group of plug-ins -- tell it what you want and it can deliver.

For example, if you want to hook up cameras to it and switch a live TV show, go for it. Add live titles, roll an animation, mix the audio and place wild effects between each element. It's easy to do. And, unlike the first version of Toaster, this one comes with a full-blown nonlinear digital video editing facility built in. With skinning, the default interface has everything appearing just as it does in a TV studio, and working in a similar way to its physical counterparts. There is a patch bay that allows you to drag a source and assign it to a button on the switcher, there's a virtual tape machine, called a DDR in Toaster, that can roll and pause clips for you, and have them ready to mix into your production with the tap of the space bar. And then there's an audio mixing board that looks just like one that would be in a high-end recording studio, complete with phantom power, aux send/return and automated mixing capabilities.

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