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Multimedia; MediaPoint

Amiga Notes
Published May 1994

As promised, Paul Austin concludes his look at the big guns in Amiga multimedia.

As ever, space is short, so we'll dive straight in with a rundown of MediaPoint's multimedia repertoire, plus the all‑important conclusion as to which is the best investment, ScalaMM300 or MediaPoint.

Like its counterpart, MediaPoint comes on a multitude of disks — six in total. It ships with a 217‑page manual, requires at least 1Mb of chip RAM and 2Mb of fast RAM, Kickstart 2 and a hard drive; but, like the opposition, a minimum of 2Mb of chip RAM and 4Mb of fast RAM, Kickstart 3, and an 68020/30/40 is recommended.

Although both packages do basically the same thing, they are different in approach. Admittedly, each one employs two separate interfaces — the script editor and the page editor — but in the case of MediaPoint, the two are almost entirely different programs.

The script editor is fairly straightforward; just drag an icon from the bank over to the script and let go. A dialogue box will pop up asking for the necessary info for that particular event. The page editor, however, has a very different approach. Here, you create boxes, DTP‑style, into which you can type text or add a picture, either together or separately. Because everything is based around this box format, it's possible to have a bevelled box with a picture in it, plus text on top. Better still, once complete the whole thing becomes one object, which can be moved as such. Once one of these boxes is made active, it's even possible to grab the output of other packages running on your system, and have these automatically scaled and imported into the production. Dpaint creations can be added in this way in a matter of seconds, with no loading required — impressive stuff...

Whilst I'm on the subject of loading, non‑standard file formats are supposedly accessible via Datatypes. However, on the test version this option didn't work — although, in MediaPoint's defence, an update disk will be available by the time you read this article, which should solve the problem.

One of the major limitations of the MediaPoint approach is that you're forced to add pages to the script after they've been generated. As a result, there's a lot more loading and saving involved in developing a script. In addition, your hard drive soon gets full of pages and assorted MediaPoint elements. Worse still, this separatist approach leaves you with no way of fully previewing your page, except by coming out of the page editor. This is fine if you only have one or two pages, but with bigger productions it can become a real pain. Another potential problem is that the program has many keyboard short‑cuts that aren't obvious and have no parallel menu item or button. I personally find hotkey commands invaluable on software. But if such commands are simply hidden away from the occasional user, much of the potential of the product is overlooked.

Branching Out

MediaPoint comes with quite a few funky features; Serial and Parallel branching are two of the highlights. Serial branching provides the ability to add sequential sub‑routines to your script that might be activated by the user. Parallel branching, however, can be far more subtle. Basically, a parallel branch is just like putting another page into your script, except that it triggers a complete sequence of events: it might be an animation with synchronised sound effects, or an entire slide show, but back in the main script it appears as a single command.

In a serial branch, the order of the events is important, because they are executed one after the other down the line. With the parallel option the order isn't important — but the timing certainly is. A classic example of a parallel branch in action would be the addition of a sound track to an animation. For example, you could load the animation and then add a series of samples, which could be triggered asynchronously at the specified SMPTE moment during playback.

Another MediaPoint plus is its text handling. You can change any letter to any colour, and even mix different coloured typefaces in the same line. You can also specify font style, spacing, and underlining individually. Furthermore, unlike ScalaMM300, MediaPoint is able to schedule events over a long period of time. You can specify when you want an event to happen: every day at a certain time, or perhaps every other day at 12 pm, except on Sundays, and so on. You can specify the time from your Amiga or via an external source such as a MIDI time‑clock, SMPTE or EBU source, allowing frame‑accurate video overlays via one of the MediaPoint‑controllable video recorders or Laserdisc players. It's also possible to specify global hotkeys, one of the most useful being the ability to define when and how playback can be terminated. It's even possible to disable the Esc key.

The Referee's Decision

Starting with support material, MediaPoint suffers from only a small number of included backdrops, but scores well with its maps, coloured clip art and single colour pictograms. On Scala, support is much more comprehensive, with 79 assorted backdrops plus a collection of 17 fonts in a variety of sizes, as opposed to MediaPoint's nine.

When it comes to expandability, MediaPoint hits back with a menu that allows the user to add his or her favourite applications to the system. If you wish to run an external program, you simply choose its name from the menu.

Another winner for MediaPoint is its ability to grab screens from other applications, thus avoiding the need for yet more loading and saving. MediaPoint also has the ability to add new transitions as they're developed, unlike Scala's, which are hard‑wired into the system.

Both programs make extensive use of add‑on modules in the shape of EXs for Scala and XAPPs for MediaPoint. Both have an impressive collection, with Scala coming out tops for genlock support, whilst MediaPoint supports a wider range of Laserdisc players and VCRs. Scala also has an EX called 'Link', which allows certain other applications like Bars & Pipes Professional to control a Scala presentation. And of course Bars & Pipes Professional 2 already enjoys great affinity with the SunRize AD516 direct‑to‑disk recording system, which again bodes well for Scala in a MIDI/studio environment.

On the wipes and fades front, MediaPoint weighs in with 83 basic page effects, all with at least three or four variations. However, it only offers 42 text effects with variations. Scala, on the other hand, offers an impressive 103 page effects, plus 86 text effects — many of which are new to MM300. Both packages handle standard wipes effectively, with MediaPoint possibly just having the edge over Scala in terms of smoothness. In the more exotic wipes they're evenly matched. MediaPoint loses out with its 'save things first' approach, which obviously rules out any chance of using Scala‑style random text effects.

Scala's colour fading works better than MediaPoint's too. On Scala, the transition appears to be a natural progression of colours, whereas with MediaPoint the colour changes seem harsher.

My Dad's King Of The Whole World So Nerr

As you've probably gathered, this 'my Dad's bigger than your Dad' line of thought could go on for hours, with both packages slugging it out to the final bell. As a result, I'll stop the fight and call it a slip points decision in favour of Scala. However, to be fair, it's a biased decision, inspired more by Scala's existing affinity with Bars & Pipes Professional rather than anything else. Another key element in Scala's favour is its ease of use; although MediaPoint isn't exactly difficult, Scala does offer more appeal to those who still suffer a certain amount of technophobia. Nevertheless, I strongly suggest you get a demo of both systems before you invest, especially if you're involved in videography. MediaPoint does have a more natural affinity with SMPTE and video in general, courtesy of extra XAPP support for a wider range of VCRs.

Getting Started

As far as tuition is concerned, MediaPoint is pretty good, with various examples showing how to create scripts using Serial and Parallel branching; how to add buttons and keyboard short‑cuts; and, of course, how to record the timing for the various pages. Having said that, there are a few obvious errors in the manual concerning the tutorials. Fortunately, the authors have had the good sense to add the finished scripts as additional reference material.


As with its opponent, wipes, fades and dissolves play a big part in the MediaPoint program, and some of them are much better quality than their Scala equivalents. Nevertheless, there are others that are pretty poor, even at the fastest speed.

You can apply roughly half the total transitions to objects in a page. Each effect can be varied slightly, so for a straightforward wipe in, there can be three or four subtle alternatives. The size of the blocks that make up some of the effects can be altered by a variation slider, so you can create quite a different look simply by making the wipe either chunky or fine. There are a couple of additional transitions specifically for interactive scripts, which take the form of animated arrows which point or flash repeatedly at a specific area, thereby prompting the user to make a selection.