The War For Eyeballs: Communiques From The Front
Roger B. Wyatt
Communique 5

For the past several years one could always count on seeing Kiki Stockhammer, the Laurie Anderson of the trade show circuit, demoing Trinity at the Play Inc booth. The company came together formed by refugees from the Amiga developer community along with a healthy injection of refuseniks from Newtek, makers of the Video Toaster, that monument to the Amiga techno-imagination. The cool gal from Play has been showing the assembled multitudes, Trinity, a video studio in a box. It has a live D1 Production Switcher, 3D DVE (Digital Video Effects), both Non-Linear and Linear Editing, a Character Generator, Paint, Animation, and Compositing, Virtual Sets (that's sets pal, not what you were thinking), Dual Channel D1 Still Stores, Chroma Keyer, and two Time Base Correctors. The virtual sets can have realtime shadows and reflections on surfaces. Trinity has the capability to wrap live video textures on to 3D raytraced objects. When the on camera talent walks past a shiny crystal glass decanter, 3D rendered of course, Trinity would insert the appropriate reflection in real-time. It is a stunning effect.

Your humble scribe has long been interested in Trinity. Low Intensity Digital Cinema would benefit greatly from using this technology. Projects such as Songs of Steel could utilize this technology to embed characters in 3D raytraced environments and have the subtle interactions between character and environment.

For years the people from Play would tell visitors to their booth that the product would ship real soon at a price around $10,000 with another $5,000 a pop for add-ons. That would be the end of it until the next trade show demo. Play was doing the demo tease. This time things might be different. Now Kiki tells us that if if you show up in July with $4,995 dollars in your hand a Trinity system can be yours. This is an amazing price for amazing capability. Very good news, but why now?

Why the price? Why date specific? I think they would tell you that they ship no wine, I mean no tek before its time. Your humble techno-scribe has another view. With the techno-tunsami of HDTV about to hit, there could be no more playing around. Play had to move. This is yet another indication that HDTV is changing the landscape of television. Technologies, even cool technologies, have an opportunity window for acceptance. Digital technology can be characterized as an ongoing evolution punctuated by revolutions. The acceptance window stays open only for so long because there is so much new stuff just around the corner.

An example. In audio technology DAT (digital audio tape) lost its opportunity window because of a mind numbing combination of a copyright dogfight with the recording industry and resulting regulatory delays. The record makers; these guys, pitbulls in suits, didn't want their easy street CD audio marketing feeding trough to be messed up with a technology that made digital copy making as easy as making cassette tapes of LPs or CDs. They brought Congress into the act, the 800 pound regulatory gorilla, and blocked all importing or marketing of DATs until a satisfactory agreement on technical capability and copyright infringement had been worked out. By the time that was done the technology landscape had changed. The entire process was a techno-stumble for DAT and two other audio technologies, DCC and Minidisc plowed right over the hapless DAT taking their place in the opportunity window. Needless to say both DCC and Minidisc were rejected by the user community anyway. But that didn't reopen the way for DAT. No chance, even newer technologies; hard drive based audio editing, like Sound Forge, and other software packages took over the opportunity window.

Play is in the same position as DAT.

HDTV has changed the dynamics and perhaps the size of the window for all television products. Though there is a nine year transition from NTSC to HDTV, the mindset of the digital independent, their target audience, will start preparing for the shift early and start ignoring NTSC solutions. Mpeg 2 compression boards cheaper than a Video Toaster will be emerging within the next 24 months. Moore's Law tells us to expect that. This made it imperative for Play to move now. They must establish a user base for Trinity while there is still some life in the NTSC standard. Once that installed base is in place then there can be an upgrade path to HDTV. When I asked the people from Play to confirm whether they would move to HDTV and Mpeg 2 they answered with a definitive yes. There would be a hardware and software upgrade path for owners of NTSC Trinity systems. This is good news for early adopters of the Trinity technology. Next

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part VI
Thank you for visiting Tech Head Stories. For more information, or if you have comments, contact McLellan Wyatt Digital via email. Copyright 1998 McLellan Wyatt Digital.