Apple: Macintosh a better platform for 3D animation than Amiga

This is quite a find by Cabel Sasser. Apparently, Apple is still hosting an article dedicated to arguing the Macintosh is a better platform for computer-generated video content than the Amiga (part 1 and part 2). It does so by explaining how easy it supposedly was to create Pencil Test, a short 3D animated video made on the Macintosh II.

Some have seen non-Apple solutions that include a single, Amiga-based package with automated, three-dimensional, frame-by-frame generation of NTSC video sequences. The package also handles the problems of hiding window boarders/title bars, genlocking, and so on.

Most have seen the “Pencil Test” video and feel that the quality of this video is acceptable, but they were told from one of the other vendors that Apple invested incredible resources into creating “Pencil Test” and that the process used for “Pencil Test” was very time-consuming and inefficient.

What was the exact process for the creation of “Pencil Test”? How many people worked for how long to produce the video?

The publish date at the bottom of the currently published version of the two-part article is 2012, but this is clearly just the result of some automated migration process from an old database to a new one. The actual publishing date of the article is probably around from when Pencil Test was published – so somewhere between 1988 and 1990.

The Amiga had carved out a decent niche for itself as a 3D animation and special effects platform in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Famously, the science fiction TV series Babylon 5 used Amiga Video Toasters for its special effects in its first few seasons, making it one of the first TV series to move to digital special effects over the use of models. Apple clearly wanted in on this market, and the support article is part of that effort.

And the article is bizarre. In it, Apple argues the merits of the open, modular system, the Macintosh, and condemns the integrated, hardware-and-software-designed-together approach of the Amiga.

There are advantages and disadvantages both to the totally integrated systems and the open modular systems. Totally integrated system’s advantages include having hardware and software tied directly together and having one place to get support. Disadvantages include being locked into the one company’s point of view about how to do things, working only with their tools, and, often, being locked into that company’s software. An integrated solution on non-Macintosh systems is most likely pieced together from a variety of third-party products.

I can’t value the merits all the technical claims being made about the capabilities of the Macintosh and its software at the time compared to that of the Amiga, since that’s way beyond my area of expertise. Still, this article is a deeply fascinating relic from a bygone era, and I can’t believe Apple is still hosting it.


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