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Newtek VT[5] Screenshots

At the time of this writing, I do not have fully functioning copies of VT[2], [3] or [4], so I will write about VT5 in comparison to VTNT (which was ~6 years old and four revisions out of date when this came out) and the Tricaster (which was being sold concurrently, but may not have been out when VT5 was released.)

However, I have looked at the manual for VT[2], and I've run VT[4] (though my copy is malfunctioning) and my impression is that there's not much difference between the versions. I think the featureset was largely solidified by [2], so this is probably an overview of the whole series.

Things change a lot when they switch to the Tricaster, so check out that page once it exists for a comparison.

Unlike VTNT, the entirety of the VT5 package now exists behind a single icon - the others are software I installed. Liquid, Speed Razor and Ulead DVD Workshop (bundled with VT5) are third party apps for which VT5 is supposed to have Toaster integration, though it's very poorly documented and I can't figure out which versions actually function or what they could do if so.

Also unlike VTNT, VT5 includes a variety of wallpapers. Because VT5 is still simply "a program you can run," wallpaper is essential to branding the PC as a "Newtek system." The later Tricasters, for comparison, launch the control center immediately on startup instead of Explorer. In this shot I am launching the VT5 control center manually.

The VT5 control center runs in fullscreen and always-on-top, though you can minimize it if needed. It is a modular interface where each possible function is a "module" that can be summoned in whatever quantity you need and arranged however you need.

The menu at top exposes all the available modules. I've pinned it for these screenshots, but normally it auto-hides.

There is a whole host of skins available for the entire UI. I am using the default one. I may upload alternate skins later.

Here is one example of a VT5 layout - below are two completely different examples. Modules are just windows that you can put wherever you want to build the system you need. You can use multiple monitors, so if you want to put a huge program output on a second display, you can do that. If you want a whole desktop of DDRs (video players) you can do that. Or if you want literally nothing except a switcher and a program output, you can do that too.

If you close a module, it evaporates completely. If you need it offscreen but want it to continue functioning, you need to click the module name on the "taskbar" at the top of the screen to hide it.

Also, some images in this page will not show you everything, because many modules have different sizes (cycled through by the buttons next to the close button.)

Let's touch on some of the specific modules in the first picture. We'll go left to right, then move down and repeat:

Let's discuss the switcher features in greater depth.

Buses on a vision mixer are where you select which signals - either cameras, VTRs, and other external sources, or internally-generated sources like DDRs or title cards - will be used as inputs to your production. The Main bus (in the simplest possible setup) selects what will appear on your program output, while Preview selects what will appear after a transition. All vision mixers have these two basic buses, though they carry different names (Program/Preview, Main/Secondary, Foreground/Background, A/B.)

VT has a third bus called Effects which is used as input to certain features like Liveset. Many mixers have additional buses (sometimes a lot of them) but the universal defining feature is that every button has the same meaning on every bus: Input 1, above, is connected to "c1a", or "composite input, switcher row A, jack 1," and that's what it means on all three buses.

These inputs can be reassigned. Right clicking on one presents a list of all possible sources, internal or external. This list expands as you add modules. Sometimes, a module is capable of putting itself on the program output without being assigned as an input here, resulting in a program bus with nothing selected. As far as I know this is a break from all physical vision mixers.

The switcher also offers transitions. The simplest one is the "Take" button, which simply swaps the Main and Preview bus inputs. This is what most production mixer operators use 99% of the time: They simply select an interesting angle on the Preview bus to see it up close on their monitor, and when they're ready to switch to it, they press Take (on some mixers, Cut) to swap to it immediately. The input that WAS live ends up on the Preview monitor and can be Taken again immediately if desired.

However, "transition" usually refers to animations. The VT5, like the original Toaster, is capable of transitions of unlimited complexity, including everything from keying, to image distortion, to 3D transformations. I do not know how these effects ("DVEs" or Digital Video Effects) are authored at this time.

VT[5] comes with too many effects to list here. Some include: Page curls (seen above) which peel back the current image, complete with accurate distortions, to reveal the next one. 3D transforms where the current image is mapped onto a cube which flies away. A rotating circle of light which wipes one image into the next. A sponge which "wipes away" one image to reveal the next. Many others that would look at home on Home Improvement.

Footnote: It has been stated that the Video Toaster was actually used for the transitions on Home Improvement. This is false; a production staff member informed me that they used a completely different system.

Any of these transitions can be triggered by using the Auto button, or you can operate them manually with the virtual T-bar using the mouse, or you can use the external control surface (RS-8, LC-11, etc.) In general, pretty much everything on the Switcher is accessible from those surfaces.

Finally there is the DSK feature. I admit to not fully understanding this yet - my one hardware-based switcher with DSKs supports full transformation and positioning of them, and I'm not sure why one would want a DSK if it couldn't do that, yet this one seems to do little more than let you overlay one more input on the entire screen, with few options. I feel like I am missing something.

Here are two radically different setups. Let's list the differences in the first picture:

The second screenshot is a heavily reduced one (in fact, I could have collapsed the preview display to make it even more compact) which presents nothing more than an 8 input switcher and a program display. You could probably run this comfortably on a then-state-of-the-art 640x480 touchscreen for a truly compact switching system.

When coupled with the SX-8 breakout box (and possibly without it; I am not sure) VT[5] can mix 8 channels of audio. I do not know all the details of this feature, but the Automate section on the right offers 18 presets for all the controls, which can be faded; when you hit Go, the audio will actually gradually transition from one preset to the next.

The Live Stream feature here is indeed for internet streaming. I believe it uses Flash or Windows Media Encoder, and is limited to 30p at 480x360. It has been suggested that it is possible to gimmick this behind the scenes for greater bitrate but I do not know if the resolution can be boosted to full SD.

The VGA module allows access to iVGA, the predecessor (AFAIK) to Newtek's NDI protocol. iVGA lets you screencast from a PC (or other things, I think) over a network and use the transmitted video as input to your video production; it simply appears as a button on the switcher bus.

Deck Control allows you to connect to an external VTR so you can pull tape or DV content into your production. I don't know much about it.

As with most mixers, there is a Proc Amp on each input which allows you to adjust brightness, saturation, hue, etc.

The SX-8/SX-84 panel can be viewed in-app. The yellow numbers indicate which inputs are assigned where; the red stripe above input one indicates that it's hot on the Main bus. This interface seems to support drag and drop features but I do not know what they're used for.

In this setup, a DDR of a greenscreen shot is being used on the Main bus, but the Livematte feature is enabled. This is a chroma keyer which knocks out the selected color (green, here) and replaces it with whatever's on the Effects bus - here, an analog camera input. I am not sure if the Effects bus is used for anything else.

Note that the LiveMatte tab here is not showing the correct input. It always corresponds to whatever's on the Preview bus, which is inconvenient. I'm not sure why they did it this way.

Unrelatedly, internally generated noise is also being displayed on the preview bus. I don't know why VT5 has this, but it's available at all times, it doesn't require a module.

LiveSet is a Newtek product that still exists, in which you can create a 3D environment, choose a set of fixed camera angles, composite a performer into it, and then treat those angles as virtual cameras.

Here, I'm using an included LiveSet and example clip. The desk and background, in the composited image, are separate layers; the DDR input is being inserted between them. If I didn't have LiveMatte turned on, you would simply see a rectangular video hanging behind the desk.

Notice that the performer is reflected on the desk. I do not know how LiveSet works - no GPU is required, and the virtual camera can't be moved freely, only to four predetermined angles, so I strongly suspect this is a set of rasterized 2D images in which certain areas have been identified as reflective, and LiveSet simply copies, inverts, and alpha blends the pixels.

The CG Editor is a vector art package which allows you to design title cards and graphics. I would love to show you how it works, but for some reason mine only runs for about a minute before soft-hanging the entire VT suite. I can tell you that it has very nice bezier tools, supports infinite layers, offers shadows and gradients, and its output can be used directly as an input on the switcher bus, allowing you to see what your title will look like as-output even as you're designing it.

I have not looked into this feature deeply, but it seems that the "Title Templates" feature uses a title card (probably created in the CG Designer) as a base, then dynamically adds text from an external file, so you can generate (as seen here) up-to-date program listings without needing to manually reenter the contents. I may be wrong about how this works.

CG Player takes a card designed in CG Designer and performs simple animations to move it on and off of the screen. I don't fully understand what it's for, since normal transitions can do the same thing.

As with all previous versions of VT going back to the Amiga, a heavily modified version of the ancient Amiga app TVPaint is included under the name Aura. I am not a visual artist so I can't demo this properly, but I can assure you that it's a very featureful raster graphics app with an even split between Painter-style features and Photoshop-style features. It also has a complete animation system for rotoscoping, and I believe you can import frames from the Toaster card.

This is the last version of VT to include Aura. Newtek removed it from the Tricaster.

Like all other VT components, it can be used as a live output to the switcher bus. Not only does this allow you to see what your art will look like when output while you're creating it, you could also use it as a telestrator feature: use SpeedEdit to pull a frame out of a football broadcast, drop it in Aura, make a new layer, then draw on top of it.

As with all previous Toaster packages, Lightwave 3D is included. Unfortunately mine is broken somehow and needs to be reinstalled; the file menu doesn't work right, rendering won't output to the Toaster, and projects can't load fully. However, it works much like all past versions of LW.

This is the last version of the Toaster lineage to include Lightwave. Newtek removed it from the Tricaster series.

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