AuthorTopic: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!  (Read 120561 times)

Offline Helm

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #40 on: March 12, 2009, 06:00:16 pm
I think mainly subpixelling is pixel-only relevant as far as animation goes... what else? You animation people think it over.

I appreciate your sentiment but I do not also share it, you know... I don't want to prove to anyone what I think is art should be art for them also. Pixel art is already an art for me, I am starting with that as a presupposition when I write this stuff, it's not an apologia towards the unbeliever. If someone doesn't think pixel art is art then I don't mind to engage in exploratory dialog but I am not really interested to change their mind. Pixelation is already my "vital space", a friendly environment in which I don't have to explain I'm not an elephant every 5 minutes. It's enough for me, I don't need to go out and stake claim to larger areas.

I do not shy away from that perhaps our status as pixel artists on the whole would benefit from a larger awareness and acceptance of the medium as a valid one, artistically. And if it helps people believe in themselves that this sort of relatively (and I stress this) 'deep' approach to the subject exists then alright... but perhaps it's best if it doesn't, heh. A love of artistry should come from the heart, you shouldn't have some academic source to back you up when the going gets tough. Oh well, I don't think I'm doing any harm at least. Even if my attempts spawn a few "Pixel-art-is-ART!!!!" drones that go around pontificating "HELM SAID IT IN THAT THREAD THAT THIS IS DEEP, SO IT'S ART" well... that would be groan-worthy and embarrassing. But I'll survive and we'll survive and Pixelation will have gained from the discourse in any case.

Offline Gil

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #41 on: March 12, 2009, 06:23:56 pm
I do agree with your views on it, though I do have that sort of self-justification to go through. Mainly because I'm putting a lot on the line lately to make my way into a business (game design), partly fueled by a love for pixels (only about 10% though). I assume that you have to go through or have gone through this self-justification period as a professional comic artist.

I know that subpixeling is the obvious technique to cover, but I feel there are some other. I will meditate on it.

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #42 on: March 12, 2009, 06:49:22 pm
Apart from subpixeling and perhaps colourcycling I can't think of anything pixelspecific as far as animation goes. The rest is just like what you have in traditional 2D animation.

There are no ugly colours, only ugly combinations of colours.

Offline Gil

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #43 on: March 12, 2009, 11:36:53 pm
Well, as I said you can write some stuff about pixel cluster movement over different frames. You want to make sure your visible elements have some sort of persistence, so the mind can make an animation out of simple frames. It ties in with Helm's theory on clusters.

Subpixeling on the other hand ties in perfectly with the theory on AA. I'll see if I can write some interesting stuff later. I'm sure Conceit has some insights on the subject too.

Offline Helm

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #44 on: March 13, 2009, 08:32:41 pm
Pixel Clusters

Let's look at this sprite from a NES game from 1992, Little Samson:



In the loop I show the clusters that make up his face, headband and hair.

A cluster of pixels of the same color here, exactly because the NES could allow only 3 colors (plus one for transparency) for the sprite, becomes extremely important. The headband is just one, the hair is just one, the shape of the face is one. The eye is one, and the other eye is another. This is a very pure example.

If we change a single pixel of these important clusters, what they signify changes, along with their relationship with the clusters around them.
Here's what happens when we move a single pixel around on each frame in various places. Note how the balances and relationships between elements change



NES art is a very useful step in learning to do pixel art because it forces the beginner pixel artist to realize the power of pixel clusters and finding ideal shapes for them to work in unison to convey the intended characterization, without getting bogged down in dozens of colors and a huge resolution.

Let's look at something a bit more complicated:



This is a piece by the lovely Kenneth Fejer. You can see his work here.

Let's look at a detail of the piece up close:



The cluster of pixels outlined in red is where we aim our attention. Around it there is another color tone that is halfway between the bright green and the dark green. Single pixels smooth out the pixel cluster we're looking at. That is called buffering or manual anti-aliasing. I will not go into detail as to what antialiasing is here, more capable artists/german-aa-machines are working on texts to fulfill this purpose. Let's for now assume you are well aware of how anti-aliasing works. The reason I am showing you this piece in particular is because if you look at the buffer shade there between the two main colors, you'd think 'well... these pixels aren't a pixel cluster, are they'. They do not touch, they are - mostly - single pixels, so what are they exactly?

They are part of the meta-cluster that they are buffering towards, or from. For reasons of simplicity, it is best to think of them as always belonging to the smaller cluster that is touching the bigger cluster, but this doesn't really matter in applicative terms.

Once the artist realizes that the anti-aliasing around a cluster is nothing more than part of that cluster and its main purpose is to define that shape better, they stand to expel a lot of the anxiety and confusion that usually occurs to the beginner when they're faced with the near-infinite options of pixel placement that are available when they start a new piece. The artist can stop concerning themselves with just placing single pixels willy-nilly and replacing them and rearranging them by trial and error "until something looks right" and can instead apply a functional, progressive way in which to build their art. Pixel clusters are the tool that the pixel artist uses to convey 99% of the render of their object, not pixels themselves. The beginning artist should start a piece with a single pixel cluster shaped as the silluette of what they're trying to convey. Let's say, for example that I want to draw a face.



This is what I start with. Then the silhouette should be segmented to temporary planes. The experienced artist, once comfortable with visualizing his model might not have to do this stage and go directly to the next one, but for the purposes of this tutorial I'll go ahead and do it:




This is more or less a simplified 3d wireframe, with the planes of the face. This isn't lit yet, it just shows me a selection of shapes from which on the very next step I shall pick to make my pixel clusters. Naturally the smaller the piece the more difficult to actually pixel this stage, but it's not difficult to imagine it, and the artist should always imagine the factual planes of what they're attempting to render.



This is really the most important level in establishing ones pixel clusters. I have chosen a light-source and lit some of the planes. They have created pixel clusters of different colors that are competing in the small space for definition and information. Please note that I have not anti-aliased consciously, nor have I removed much of the apparent banding yet. If your pixel art doesn't look solid in this stage, no amount of pixel polish and tricks later on will save it. This is where your traditional skills come into play. Note also that the palette I'm using isn't very contrasted yet, this doesn't matter. If you light the planes correctly, you can then adjust the contrast as much as you want the the piece will still stand.


Here for example is a drastic contrast adjustment via fast remapping:


"The horror... The horror."

Look at the planes in this stage before we move on. Isn't it easy to tell where buffering should be applied? It's a matter of common sense. The sharper the edge, the less anti-alias needed. The smoother the transition, the more anti-aliasing will be needed. The buffer pixels should never overpower the cluster they belong to.



Here I have refined and antialiased the clusters into metaclusters. Keep in mind that Anti-aliasing can create banding! Look below:



If the buffering pixels line up with an edge below they will band. This is an extremely common error with anti-alias-happy artists and they can spot that something looks 'off' but can't put their finger on what it is exactly. Well, now you know. This is where a pixel artist expert in anti-aliasing shows their true skill. This is the thick of the fray, as it were. Adjusting single buffer pixels until they don't band, but yet represent the intended shapes.



Here I do more and introduce dithering. Not a lot of it is needed in most pieces of pixel art. Dithering isn't a mystery of any sort, think of it as the tapered, fading edge of a brush stroke... the dither belongs to a parent cluster. The places where one needs to dither following this methodology are self-evident, it's where I didn't have enough colors to make a transition smoother. Again this creates banding (dither-aa-clash) and it renegotiates some unclaimed space from the flat pixel clusters. Solving these problems elegantly is what pixel artistry is about.



Though color is beyond the scope of this tutorial, here's the final piece with a palette. It's very easy to colorize a solid grayscale construction. Then bits of banding around the outline were removed and a final refinement and it's done.


{...}

-------------------

Still a lot to write, a lot to flesh out, but let's discuss this part before moving on.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2009, 08:43:47 pm by Helm »

Offline Helm

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #45 on: March 14, 2009, 10:23:11 am


Just making art I'm going to need.

Offline skw

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #46 on: March 14, 2009, 12:13:32 pm
What on to the pixel clusters, well. . . this is a nice bit of good writing!  I like the meta-clusters theory -- never thought of it in this way, or even if, never been able to formulate my thoughts in this way.  One question:  Is buffering the same thing as manual aa, ot is this a special type of manual aa?

I'm reaching an obvious conclusion that pixel clusters are nothing different than paint daubs in any other media, such as paints, or even digital stuff -- Photoshop sort.  An artist starts with emphasizing the spatial relations by means of a stroke-play, then goes on to define the right shapes and volumes out of vague blots and spots -- just as a pixel artist, after polishing a particular cluster, apply aa to it to polish it even more.  Then the colors mingle, and the hue once used as a buffer can be utilized somewhere else as a main cluster color. . .

I think you should've picked a little bigger picture for this tutorial, something the size of e.g. the Kenneth's woodgirl piece, as the changes, though visible, aren't easily discernible.

. . . and BANDING.  I think MEGA-BANDING or ROUND BANDING:


A sky without stars by BlackZero

. . . type "moon" in the search engine at Pixeljoint and check some examples at the end of a list . . .

needs a description on its own, though technically it's just a ROW OF FAT PIXELS, occasionally transmuting into the STAIRCASE BANDING.  This would mix well with the part on aa, since aa-ing round shapes is something all of us have or had problems with at some point in time -- and it's easy to commit some "banding mistakes" just as the guy in the picture above did.  I remember some professional artists switching to the pixel art medium had those problems as well.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2009, 12:18:22 pm by johnnyspade »
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Offline Hugo

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #47 on: March 14, 2009, 01:21:55 pm
"I'm reaching an obvious conclusion that pixel clusters are nothing different than paint daubs in any other media, such as paints"
yeah, i think the same thing...


but it seems this is not what Helm means...  :blind:

Offline Helm

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #48 on: March 14, 2009, 02:04:40 pm
Yeah that's what I mean obviously, but the specific thing in pixel art is that you can go in and make the shape of every cluster very very deliberate, whereas in most real-art cases when you put your drawing utensil down on the paper you're going to have to live with a degree of randomness in its shape. You can always go in and mess with it later on but not to the fineness you would with pixel art.

Yeah buffering is the same as manual aa though as a verb it sounds better.

Quote
Then the colors mingle, and the hue once used as a buffer can be utilized somewhere else as a main cluster color. . .

Yeah, exactly, that sort of optimization of the same color slot both for buffering work and to be used as a main color for other clusters also isn't as common in other artforms. In oils, the artist might have a very limited palette too, but just by the natural way the oil strokes work they can do fades and stuff without reaching for a different color, if you see what I mean...

I disagree on the 'round banding'. I think circular gradients that are levelled like that are common in other sorts of art as well and they do not convey a lower resolution if their edges are properly buffered.

I don't mind that the piece of art I used is small, I would expect the dedicated reader to take the art and look at it in his program of choice after all.

So what's left now is to take this from the top and fix the writing here and there and provide more examples where needed, along with a few points that will occur to me later on. I don't know when I will do this, as I have troubles 'finishing up' stuff that I consider I've already essentially done. The information is there. The formatting... heh, not a fun job.

Offline skw

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #49 on: March 14, 2009, 02:29:52 pm
Quote from: Helm
I disagree on the 'round banding'. I think circular gradients that are levelled like that are common in other sorts of art as well and they do not convey a lower resolution if their edges are properly buffered.

I wanted to focus only on the moon outline, not the whole lunar-light-to-the-sky gradient.  So, just to clear things out: compare with the piece above, basically it's something like this:



The left example.  The right one is an effect of putting automatic 1-pixel circles one "on top" of another.  It looks displeasing and even worse, but notice -- they don't band like in the previous example!

PS:  This tutorial will be a pretty massive thing when you release it in one bit! :)  Keep it up!  /What on to the general formatting, I can help with that if you like.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2009, 02:49:27 pm by johnnyspade »
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