AuthorTopic: Pixel art and Sharpness  (Read 7958 times)

Offline Rydin

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Re: Pixel art and Sharpness

Reply #10 on: December 21, 2010, 07:11:58 am
Pixel art is not all about sharpness.  It's more about communication in spite of restrictions.  The meanest restriction against AA is Time.  Have enough time for pixel-perfect polish?  Then do as much as you can.  This adds to quality, and quality is good.  If important elements are in place first, however, the piece will still be readable when the deadline arrives.  Crispy AA or not.


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As for the focus of pixel art, isn't it to have as much control over the picture as possible and not to achieve a certain "look"?

Is blurry AA is a desirable end result or certain "look"?
Man cannot remake himself without suffering for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

Offline Helm

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Re: Pixel art and Sharpness

Reply #11 on: December 21, 2010, 02:11:53 pm
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Personally I feel that if I've spent more than 3h on an artistic work, it's wasted time.. at that point, it tends to become a game of trying to eliminate an error whose nature you do not comprehend.
(FWIW I'm clearly not an introvert, unlike (I posit) most artists -- I care more about doing than understanding.)

Both these statements are very interesting, Ai. I'd like it if you explained more about how it chasing an error you don't comprehend doesn't lead to some sort of comprehension of *something* (perhaps not how to solve the error itself directly) that's worthwhile. 3 hours per art piece - depending on how fast one is as an artist - might be too low to achieve forward movement and to get better from piece to piece in my opinion.

Cure, I do agree that Panda is 'better' than a vector robot because he chooses to place sharp pixels here and there and his routines are just tighter than the computers. But what if he worked with vectors and then spent 30 minutes putting in per-pixel detail here and there. Would the end result by for all intents and purposes, the same?

I'd like Panda to answer, actually, since we have him here. I'm really interested in the answers to these questions about what pixel art means to everyone.

Cure, that 'crispness' you're talking about, as opposed to just sharpness (which can be found in a jaggy line), is it about clusters? That is, if you can see the artist optimized his clusters but didn't do any AA of note, then you can tell they're beautiful/set up intentionally to be beautiful and this is 'pixel art' as much as a demoscene full-on AA-fest is pixel art?

I agree that unlike say, oil-painting, sharpness is inherent and promoted in pixel art. Which is why a lot of pixel artists have trouble transfusing their skills in other mediums, unless those mediums have really really opaque brushes.

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I think we attempt to achieve this "sweet spot" of pixel art because we approach the pieces depending on how the pixels interact to create an overall image. A black line of pixels across a light background is something we probably notice, and have the technique to smooth it out to make the pixels interact with each other better. Contrary to other arts where such a detail wouldn't get the same attention because the art is approached via sections or steps. Not to mention we as humans can approach these smaller pieces with a much more aware degree of accuracy that tools just can't do.

That's very interesting, Dusty. It does seem to go back to 'pixel art = means of fine as hell control' generally.

Ryumaru, your question is fair, but it seems to me that pixel artists *do* tend to pixel everything with the same amount of finish, usually. It's like an inward achievemet, "Render Get!". I very rarely see anyone intentionally draw an object in the background blurry and an object in the foreground incredibly sharp, say in a natural vista. It's usually sharp sharp sharp everywhere, or AA AA AA everywhere. It seems the micro-practises we adopt in pixel art define the macro-effect of the composition. This is something difficult to shake off. When I made that piece, Kitty Empire, with the very rendered dude about to stab a dog and the abstracted background, people in the thread were disappointed I didn't draw the bakground with the same amount of detail that I did the guy in the foreground. The natural end-result of that line of thinking is the beautiful work Fool is doing. Where everything is rendered sharp and detailed on all levels.

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I have to agree with Ryumaru here, I feel we've fallen into a trap of framing everything in this question of what is or isnt pixelart, and that limits the amount of stuff we can do with it, or even worse what we can learn from it to use in other mediums. There's just stuff that pleases you and stuff that doesnt...who cares what is pixelart?

Conceit, I am not interested in agreeing or typifying what pixel art is, I am interested in what pixel art means to different people.

Rydin, I do not think necessarily the greatest aspect of pixel art is that it's communicating in spite of restrictions. Some people use as many colors as they need and as big a canvas as they need and the end result is still pixel art and it's still sometimes beautiful. I think the restriction hard-on is more for the artists that can spot it and care.

Offline Panda

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Re: Pixel art and Sharpness

Reply #12 on: December 21, 2010, 06:32:12 pm
I don't think I have much to add; but over the years, I've realized that what I really like about pixel art is not the look, but its process.
The way you build up an image, having full control of everything. Sort of like a puzzle or building something with LEGO.
You have an amount of pixels you can use, and by arranging them in different ways, it just works.
Once you figure out how to start, everything else just clicks together.

Of course it could be replicated with vectors and some retouching (saving some time), but that simply doesn't interest me.
If I wanted to work with vectors, I'd be doing so.

Also I guess some sort of obsessive compulsive traits affect my choices as well.
I like order, and I like doing things right.
I just need a level of "polished-ness" to be happy.

So all in all, I just do what I like to do for my own mind-pleasure, following my own criteria.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2010, 06:33:45 pm by Panda »

Offline Cure

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Re: Pixel art and Sharpness

Reply #13 on: December 21, 2010, 09:29:57 pm
@Helm: I’d say it could be about clusters or it could be about hiding the resolution (in ways other than well-organized clusters, like aa). If the clusters are managed by the artist then you’re probably less likely to end up with an aa-fest, as you often see in demoscene. But by crispness I also meant well-managed aa, like Panda’s, in the respect that it hides jaggies/the resolution. It works along with the clusters, whereas I think aa-fest work usually isn’t quite as mindful of the clusters, or at least doesn‘t treat aa as something subordinate to clusters.

Offline Ai

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Re: Pixel art and Sharpness

Reply #14 on: December 21, 2010, 10:56:39 pm
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Personally I feel that if I've spent more than 3h on an artistic work, it's wasted time.. at that point, it tends to become a game of trying to eliminate an error whose nature you do not comprehend.
(FWIW I'm clearly not an introvert, unlike (I posit) most artists -- I care more about doing than understanding.)

Both these statements are very interesting, Ai. I'd like it if you explained more about how it chasing an error you don't comprehend doesn't lead to some sort of comprehension of *something* (perhaps not how to solve the error itself directly) that's worthwhile. 3 hours per art piece - depending on how fast one is as an artist - might be too low to achieve forward movement and to get better from piece to piece in my opinion.

re: comprehension:
I often find the principle behind 'you learn to ski in the summer' works for me:
 It seems to work much better to work for a time on something, then intentionally spend time away from it, drawing other stuff. The downside? disconnection from the original work -- maybe not in spirit, but it may well look like crap later, not worth the time to fix. The upside -- there seems to be a kind of synergistic effect: as long as you're drawing, you can be integrating the knowledge you are acquiring, subconsciously.. until you reach a saturation point for a given area, which gets in the way of noticing anything much consciously any more, like your consciousness gets tired of that for a while...

If you understand what I mean when I talk about the difference between epistemological (understanding)
rationality and instrumental (achieving) rationality, I'm basically just saying, working on instrumental rationality is both simpler and more rewarding in terms of boosting both: I have learned to trust my subconscious processes to notice things I don't have the processing power to notice consciously. Then I just need to identify the differences in my behaviour in order to boost to my conscious understanding.
(the four stages of competence might be relevant here)

So as to understanding -- I believe that the gains you can make in conscious understanding are much less than the conscious understanding you can gain through first doing in great variety. eg. 100 5-minute drawings of cats are much more valuable in terms of knowledge acquired per unit of time, than 500 minutes spent on one or two drawings of cats.. basically because most of your computational power is subconscious. (I'm aware incidentally that most people reading this will attribute more of their understanding and actions to conscious motivations and thoughts than can remotely be justified... this is a well documented cognitive bug.)

The 3h thing: in retrospect, I would say it depends on a) experience level -- how many mistakes you've already done, and b) cognitive skill -- your ability to notice elements that are discordant with reality.

Currently I feel that I will never really have 'enough' artistic vocabulary, if you know what I mean by that..
so I'm focusing on getting the feel of various kinds of things; don't really want to hang around too long on one subject . I need more experience. 
Conversely my cognitive skills are quite good. (I found things like LessWrong's explanation of normal and quantum physics had a great impact on my ability to see things more like what they are. various other stuff helped me to train and trust more in my subconscious ability to notice things, rather than constantly trying to notice errors consciously). I still would like to comment that as the duration of time increases, the chances of remaining in 'the zone' drops. Hence the effectiveness of eg. repetition+speed drills -- forcing you to devote all your attention to the one thing, at which point you notice more things consciously but a huge quantity more subconsciously.

This also applies, IMO, if what you are practicing is 'finishing' -- you need to choose things that you can finish quickly, so you don't get stuck.
(actual paid work is different, of course. but paid work doesn't focus on learning, which is what I'm talking about here -- efficient learning processes. actual period of time spent on a single piece has to be short enough that you can sustain that 'HUP HUP HUP HUP! CHAAARGE!' mindset)


* by 'you' in this post I mean anybody. While these are mainly my observations of myself, my understanding is that they reflect general human cognitive behaviours.

</ramble>

hope some of that makes sense ;)
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

Offline Ai

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Re: Pixel art and Sharpness

Reply #15 on: December 21, 2010, 11:25:36 pm
@Helm: I’d say it could be about clusters or it could be about hiding the resolution (in ways other than well-organized clusters, like aa).
Might be worth noting: personally I think of AA as a type of cluster (with most of the pixels hidden), just like buffering (AA= huggy buffering in my mind ;). This probably effects my ability to work with higher numbers of shades favorably (eg. the gfx reworking I did for bub-n-bros)

My various routines (it would be nice if you could clarify what you meant by that Helm :) are oriented towards modelling real-world color interpolation.. in much the same way as I used vector experimenting and raytracing to develop my understanding of antialiasing. If I have an axe to grind here, it's that: people don't seem to relate these different areas of graphics work closely enough. They don't seem to use the high level tools (vector) to learn about the low level(pixel -- aa, cluster,..) anywhere near what they usefully could.
(personally I'd advocate alternating between vector and pixel in working on a vector-ish pixel piece. in this process I would feel pixeling such an image was not futile, but an exercise in modeling AA/shapes accurately)

anyway getting back on topic, I personally feel there is not such a thing as too much AA. rather there is such a thing as thoughtlessly applied AA. It's a thing to apply as a strategic art-direction choice, IMO -- the balance of AA in the image effects how the eye travels, just like the more macroscopic idea of focal blur.

My personal preference is significantly more AA than is common, particularly so you gain greater emphasis on non-AAed areas.

Possibly I'm boring in this cause I think most of these things are art direction choices, haha.
I'm even okay with demoscene stuff intentionally blurring away (or sharpening forth) stuff. I think it's somewhat of a bad artistic choice, OTOH it seems like good practice (in a narrow sense -- getting your head into AA at a deep level.)
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

Offline Rydin

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Re: Pixel art and Sharpness

Reply #16 on: December 22, 2010, 04:55:35 am
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Some people use as many colors as they need and as big a canvas as they need and the end result is still pixel art and it's still sometimes beautiful.

Who are you thinking specifically?
Man cannot remake himself without suffering for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

Offline 9_6

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Re: Pixel art and Sharpness

Reply #17 on: December 22, 2010, 07:43:10 am
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Some people use as many colors as they need and as big a canvas as they need and the end result is still pixel art and it's still sometimes beautiful.

Who are you thinking specifically?

I think I can say I'm obsessed when I posted my most recent work...

http://www.wayofthepixel.net/pixelation/index.php?topic=10960.msg115379#msg115379

This you mean?


Does scaling an image blur it?
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