Digital cameras got off to a pretty rocky start in the ’90s. In addition to its stratospheric cost, the quality of the sensors left a lot to be desired, and the same happened with its storage capacity. However, in 1995, a company called Play decided to tackle that challenge from another angle: With an adapter that could capture frames video into the computer through the parallel port. The Snappy Video Snapshot basically turned every camcorder, television, and VCR into a digital cameraat a very reasonable price.
For Amiga computer users, NewTek’s Video Toaster needs no introduction, but if you’ve never had a chance to use that classic Commodore system, suffice it to say that Video Toaster forever changed the way to create multimedia content. One of the masterminds behind the Video Toaster was Paul Montgomerypart of the “Bad Boys of Video” at NewTek together with Typeson Teamoriginal designer of the Video Toaster.
In 1994, Montgomery stepped down from his vice president position at NewTek. Apparently, Jenison wasn’t recognizing Commodore’s impending collapse fast enough, and both Montgomery and many of NewTek’s programmers and marketing team founded Playa company that would be fully focused on developing video solutions for Microsoft Windows. Your first product? The Snappy Video Snapshot.
Snappy Video Snapshot: A frame revolution in the ’90s
The video you posted VWestlife (you may remember him from his experiments with JPG images on a 286) presents an excellent opportunity to review the strengths and limitations of Snappy Video Snapshot. As its name suggests, the device is a «frame grabber», a frame grabber from any RCA-compliant source. The potential was gigantic: A traditional camcorder could function as a digital camerabut Snappy also captured frames of a TV signal, a video game console, or a VCR.
One of the main advantages of Snappy Video Snapshot It was its interface: By being connected to the computer’s parallel port, any user could install it. The only major technical requirement (in addition to installing the corresponding software) it was the replacement for a 9 volt battery inside. Unfortunately, Snappy Video Snapshot was never supported passthrough for the parallel port in any of its versions (only software changed, hardware stayed the same)and if someone wanted to print, they had to remove it each time, install a switchor directly add an LPT2 port.
The VWestlife demo uses a 1994 Sharp camcorder, and the original Snappy Video Snapshot software for Windows 3.1. The maximum resolution supported was 1500 x 1125 pixels in 16.7 million colors, something chilling at that time. Understandably, the adapter has more difficulties when it comes to capturing images from a playing VHS tape, and it also does not have multi-standard support. Still, VWestlife managed to get video del Snappy Video Snapshot, procesando 60 frames saved in BMP format, that is, about two seconds.
The demo ends with a more recent version of the software running on Windows XP, which in addition to adding additional formats, also includes video recording… at 2 frames per second via parallel port. the history of Snappy Video Snapshot y Play ends on a tragic note, because Paul Montgomery passed away in June 1999 after suffering a heart attack. The company couldn’t get on without it, and the rest of the Snappy devices were auctioned off at huge discounts. If you want one, you can probably find a good deal on eBay.