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Quantel Paintbox

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Quantel Paintbox
Paintbox 7001 (bottom) and Paintbox V logo from 1990 (top)
Also known asQuantel Digital Paint Box
Type2D graphics workstation
Release date1981; 43 years ago (1981)
Introductory price$250,000 (1981)
Discontinued1993; 31 years ago (1993)
CPUMotorola 68000
PredecessorIBC Paintbox prototype
SuccessorQuantel Editbox
RelatedQuantel Mirage

The Quantel Paintbox [1] was a dedicated computer graphics workstation for composition of broadcast television video and graphics. Produced by the British production equipment manufacturer Quantel (which, via a series of mergers, is now part of Grass Valley), its design emphasized the studio workflow efficiency required for live news production.

At a price of $250,000 (equivalent to $837,848 in 2023[2]) per unit, they were used primarily by large TV networks such as NBC,[3] while in the UK, Peter Claridge's company CAL Videographics was the first commercial company to purchase one.

Following its initial launch in 1981, the Paintbox revolutionised the production of television graphics.


The interface of running Quantel Paintbox software on a V-series Paintbox

Artist Martin Holbrook worked with Quantel's development team to develop the artist-oriented functionality and user interface, which remained virtually unchanged throughout the life of the product; their Patented pressure-sensitive pen and tablet elevated it from a computer into a real artist's tool.[4]

The real time, broadcast quality, 24 bit Quantel "Paint Box" as it was then known, was launched at NAB in Las Vegas in May 1981. The PAL DPB-7001 and the NTSC DPB-7000 , were literally just digital paint machines, with stencils/layers introduced 9 months later and font and text functions implemented by Pepper Howard in 1983. The hardware was readily-available off-the-shelf components, supported by Programmable Array Logic ICs which were custom-programmed by Quantel. Combining the latest hardware, custom software which had solved usable digital paint issues and an artist-friendly familiar way of creating artwork that required no computer knowledge meant that the Paintbox was an instant success. The Paintbox became the global industry standard digital studio and image manipulation tool for the next fifteen years, bringing digital art and graphics onto everyone's TV screens.

The second generation V-Series Paintbox was released in 1989[5] as a modernized and more compact and affordable model;[6] with internal hardware improvements, better tablet, upgraded keyboard and a cordless stylus. Prices started at $80,000[citation needed] (equivalent to $196,639 in 2023).[2]

In 1985, Quantel found a way to vastly increase the framestore capacity, enabling them to create a high resolution print quality Paintbox, which revolutionized the photo manipulation industry five years before Photoshop was introduced and led to Quantel's high-profile lawsuit against Adobe for using the Paintbox's patented features. In the late 1980s, Quantel filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Spaceward Graphics for creating the Matisse system, which was marketed as a cheaper version of the Paintbox. They won the case against Spaceward at the High Court in London in 1990, but lost the case against Adobe in 1997, who were able to demonstrate that Dick Shoup's 1970's Superpaint had introduced particular features before Quantel's Paintbox. Though Adobe didn't yet exist as a company when Paintbox was launched, demonstrating prior use to the court meant that Quantel's Patents became invalid and the case was thrown out by the judge in Adobe's home state of Delaware.

A Paintbox was usually integrated into Quantel's editing systems, especially the Quantel Henry,[4] and later Quantel Editbox .

In contrast to the earlier DPB-7000 series machines, the V-series made extensive use of Altera CPLD and FPGA ICs, which integrated much of the complex SSI logic into a smaller number of ICs. Some versions of the V-series hardware refined the design further by moving the CPLD and FPGA logic into "hard-copy" ASICs, which were manufactured by Orbit Semiconductor.

In 2002, the generationQ series of products introduced the last stand-alone Paintbox and the QPaintbox software for PCs.[7] Eventually, Paintbox became a feature of Quantel's other, more powerful editing, media management and post-production products.[8]

In 2005 Quantel updated their line of x86-based workstations (with Paintbox and Paintbox gQ models, and a software-only version of QPaintbox).[9][10] They also released their new Quantel Editbox.

Despite becoming the industry standard TV graphics and post production computer with hundreds sold around the world, Quantel lost all its market share against cheaper systems and software. There are just fifteen V-Series models and only five original DPB versions known to still exist, one of which is being restored to working order.[11]

Paintbox and Art[edit]

Front cover of Quantel's Graphic Paintbox brochure

Quantel invested heavily in art, employing a hundred digital artists by the late 1980s to improve and demonstrate the Paintbox features. Graphic Paintbox was used to create the poster for The Silence of the Lambs, JFK, The Doors, and record covers for Nirvana's Nevermind, and the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. The Miracle, rock band Queen's studio album, was designed by Richard Gray and created by Richard Baker.[12]

The first company in France to buy a Paintbox, Computer Video Film,[13] were funded by Jack Lang at the French Ministry of Culture to create the 1985 short film Six Peintres Sur Ordinateur[14] but it was most famously used by David Hockney, who created his first digital art on a Paintbox in June 1985, then Richard Hamilton, Howard Hodgkin, Larry Rivers, Sidney Nolan and Jennifer Bartlett in 1986 to create original digital artwork for the groundbreaking 1987 BBC series Painting with Light.

Quantel also gave three Paintbox systems to three art schools in the UK in the mid-1980s, including Blackpool College where it was used extensively by artist Adrian Wilson to create digital images, including the James album cover for Gold Mother. Two of Wilson's Paintbox pieces were included in the pioneering Art & Computers exhibition at the Cleveland Art Gallery, England, September 1988 and he was sponsored by Quantel, who used his images for the cover of the Graphic Paintbox sales brochure.[15] One recipient, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art had recently appointed the video artist Stephen Partridge as a lecturer who then established (1984) The Television Workshop to support artists and filmmakers' production and access to high-level broadcast technology. Over 400 productions were supported in this way from 1984 to 1992 until desktop video pre-empted the need. Artists and filmmakers using the workshop included Richard Morrison,[16] Jeff Keen, Robert Cahen, Tamara Krikorian, Pictorial Heroes, Judith Goddard and many others.[17]

The music video for Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" was created on a Bosch FGS-4000 3D animation system using a Quantel Paintbox for backgrounds and textures.

Graphics for Disney Sing-Along Songs were also created on a Paintbox.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Quantel in 2023, Adrian Wilson curated an exhibition of Paintbox Art for the Computer Arts Society,[18] with the exhibition and catalogue designed by Kim Mannes-Abbot, whose image appears on the front cover of the 1994 Paintboxed! book.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Quantel Paintbox". www.quantelpaintbox.com. Archived from the original on January 5, 2024. Retrieved February 17, 2024.
  2. ^ a b 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  3. ^ Ward, Alex (July 22, 1984). "COMPUTER GRAPHICS ENLIVEN THE SCREEN". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 20, 2017. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Pennington, Adrian (November 25, 2019). "Industry innovators: Quantel". IBC. Archived from the original on July 11, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  5. ^ "Quantel Paintbox for the PC". www.quantelpaintbox.com. Archived from the original on January 6, 2024. Retrieved January 6, 2024.
  6. ^ Robertson, Adi (July 14, 2012). "Watch this: 1990 demo of the Quantel Paintbox". The Verge. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  7. ^ Pank, Bob. "The Digital Fact Book Converged media 20th anniversary edition" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on February 6, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2009.
  8. ^ "Pablo grading and finishing for HD, 2K, 4K and stereo3D" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 12, 2011. Retrieved November 6, 2009.
  9. ^ "QUANTEL'S NEW GENERATIONPRODUCTS ARE NOW THENUMBER ONE CHOICE WITHBROADCASTERS" (PDF). film-tv-video.de. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  10. ^ October 2004, TVTechnology 07 (October 7, 2004). "Quantel re-engineers Paintbox". TVTechnology. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "DL207 Quantel DPB-7001 Digital Paintbox Restoration & Repair Part 1". YouTube. Archived from the original on February 2, 2021. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  12. ^ "The Making of the Miracle Album Cover with Richard Gray 1989 (From GVH2 disc 2)". YouTube. Archived from the original on May 7, 2021. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  13. ^ Quantel Paintbox @ BCS Moorgate - Part 3. Cesare Massarenti, archived from the original on January 6, 2024, retrieved January 6, 2024
  14. ^ "6 Peintres sur Ordinateur". YouTube. Archived from the original on January 6, 2024. Retrieved January 6, 2024.
  15. ^ "Kvisoft FlipBook Maker". Archived from the original on March 31, 2022. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  16. ^ Landekic, Lola (September 15, 2015). Landekic, Lola; Perkins, Will (eds.). "Hackers". www.artofthetitle.com. Archived from the original on August 2, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  17. ^ "The Television Workshop" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  18. ^ "Exhibitions - Quantel Paintbox". computer-arts-society.com. Archived from the original on August 5, 2023. Retrieved August 5, 2023.

External links[edit]