AuthorTopic: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!  (Read 60346 times)

Offline Helm

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #20 on: December 20, 2013, 08:57:34 pm
Honestly, I think this is up to skill in execution. I could have edited the mouth and nose of your character without having changed the style and still have no single pixels. The reason I did (change the style) is because I wanted to maximize what I could do with that particular palette to convey something realistic, as I found it more challenging.

The pixel work I plan to do in this mode of no single pixels will not be cartoony, and it will be heavily planar, because that's jsut how I want my art to look. It's up to other people to try to prove me right, not wrong, by trying to do their own particular styles within this limitation. That's the only way to know for sure if what I suggest is style-independent.

« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 09:03:09 pm by Helm »

Offline Cyangmou

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #21 on: December 20, 2013, 11:34:06 pm
Honestly, I think this is up to skill in execution. I could have edited the mouth and nose of your character without having changed the style and still have no single pixels. The reason I did (change the style) is because I wanted to maximize what I could do with that particular palette to convey something realistic, as I found it more challenging.

The pixel work I plan to do in this mode of no single pixels will not be cartoony, and it will be heavily planar, because that's jsut how I want my art to look. It's up to other people to try to prove me right, not wrong, by trying to do their own particular styles within this limitation. That's the only way to know for sure if what I suggest is style-independent.

Yeah, planar lighting and construction has to be done right, that has nothing to do with how we lay in clusters. Vagrants new sprite just lacks form, but that has nothing to do with the technique helm mentioned.

After testing it out for my own (example will follow December 25th-27th)

Quote
"The ultimative question is however what we gain from using it, where it's more powerful and where it just sucks in terms of efficiency"

I'd say the technique could also be referred as "cluster based noise reduction"
It really brings out a lot of unecessary pixel you don't see unless you have 2 layers and kicking them out on one - or (most probably) you calibrated your eye to see this kind of thing.
This technique forces one to overthink how to form clusters

Quote
As to what is gained from applying this technique: yes, the image will have harsher shifts, and will appear more blocky. Compromises will be made. But I think what is gained is a stronger gestalt, where the form and the content of the image are better aligned. A piece of craftsmanship that is declaring what it is, not playfully hiding what is is by showing it can emulate what it isn't too. To take a picture that has unpleasant blockiness but a promise of gestalt into a picture that retains the gestalt but has a pleasant blockiness is a matter of experience within that mindset. I am too, working on this. 

Yeah if the technique is used for the whole image. However I think we should handle the whole thing like every other technique with a grain of salt and apply it only where it makes sense and were we want to have clear planes and sharp descripted forms. Like over-AA and over-dithe rthere is over-cbnr as well

Combining this technique with other techniques is possible.

I think for dither the technique can also be applied, however it needs another kind of ruleset because dither gradients feature 45 connected pixels. Easiest rule for this would be allowing 45 connected dither pixels and allowing single pixels for fading dither patterns

For single pixel specular highlights the technique won't work. We even shouldn't try to apply this technique there.

Especially for highly characteristical forms like facial features I suppose that subpixeling with single pixels is much more powerful, just because a human being knows exactly how a face looks like. Unless one uses the technique strictly for the whole piece I'd leave it out there.

I agree that for an aspiring pixel artist or a novice it's a valuable rule which should be taught in order pretend him from establishing bad manners and using bad gradients.
After all clean lines look sharper and nicer than "meaningless fake-dither" and forces him to build up an image with planes - even if the light construction on those planes is off the result still looks nice.
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Offline Cyangmou

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #22 on: December 25, 2013, 10:23:01 pm
as promised an example from my side



Short explanation what I wanted to do with the piece:

Quote
I tried to create sort of a realistic impression with a low-res canvas and fat and chunky pixels and as well as really low amount of colors - palette consists out of sweet 16.
Furthermore I tried within those harsh restrictions to capture a golden hour impression with a focus on chiaroscuro for an exterior scenery.
I used checkerboard dither for the illustration of soft lighting on nature which contrasts harshly with the clear cut light on the gothic architectural forms.
Single isolated pixels were mainly used for emphasizing some highlights and adding a tad more detail to the procession of knights.
I also played a lot with size relationships of single elements to increase the impression of the greatness.

Well, so the "CBNR" version shows the cleaned version with applied rules for cluster, AA and dither. The other version shows the version without extra polish (or overdone technique).

The CBNR version definitely looks a lot more polished, goes lighter on the eyes and looks sharper. Plus if I'd have done it right away with CBNR I most probably would have saved a lot of time.

However I am finally really questioning myself now what's good "pixel art" and what's good "art made with pixels". I am having a lot more questions now, than before.
I mean this simple rules lead to quite a big difference in the whole thinking process and this rules don't leave you another choice than ending up with really clean pixel art.
I mean one of the biggest choices I really had to do were I intentionally wanted to put a highlight and where I don't wanted to do it. THere are barely any "scribbled" or "unintentional set single pixels" left.
The group of knights shows this process of cluster polishment and highlights quite good. In this area there are also the most single pixels in the whole image, due to really small scale.

I mean the piece showcases quite well a completely different style with completely different qualities than the other realistic image from last year. Also in terms of size and palette it's more optimized to this technique than the other one.

Maybe someone wants to add some thoughts.
"Because the beauty of the human body is that it hasn't a single muscle which doesn't serve its purpose; that there's not a line wasted; that every detail of it fits one idea, the idea of a man and the life of a man."

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Offline r4c7

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #23 on: December 26, 2013, 04:24:28 am
On the topic of this technique, I feel it should be fleshed out more as an idea. Maybe add more rules in support of single pixels.
Here are my ideas, but as an amateur, take them with a grain of salt:
Pixel art tries to push the boundaries of bitmap images. Sometimes there will be a "shape" that is too small to be more than one or two pixels or too big to be ignored. This picture is an attempt to show how a complex shape (below) may be portrayed in single pixels (above). Sometimes this may force us to use single pixels. Sometimes it may be better to change the form of the shape to make a better cluster with less single pixels.
Antialiasis shouldn't be explained as making an outline smoother, but as a way to better portray a shape/cluster.

I don't know how to explain dithering. Just my 2 cents here.

Offline Vagrant

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #24 on: December 26, 2013, 08:32:41 am
I recently discovered thanks to this, that I tend to lean towards art made of pixels, rather than the purist 'pixel art', as proposed here. But not as extreme as a 'pixel drawing', made without any knowledge of the pixel polishing basics.

When I dive into the craft, it's almost always a matter of eyeing the preview box at x1 often for a great visual aspect at that scale, and I'll negotiate with as many techniques as I can until it looks right.

This is different though. It's a unique visual style that seems to look better when zoomed crispy without blurs. Very clean. 

Offline Arne

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #25 on: December 26, 2013, 02:44:01 pm
The whole cluster approach reminds me of the Photoshop filter Noise>Median which blobbifies an image. I sometimes use it in my analog'ish digital art to get rid of unwanted noise. The effect smells a lot like filter though, so I don't like using it. Similarly,  I think a pixel art image which has been heavily clustered/noise reduced (and posterized) can be... rather boring to look at. All the interest points and subtle little scuffs, knobs and trinkets have been washed away. There are no depths to explore once you've taken in the immediate surface.

Also, I think clustering is more effective at a low color count (great difference in color) where haphazard noise really shouts for attention and you need to be graphically clear about everything (detail and subtle stuff can be quite unaffordable). In the case of the lady face which has so many colors, I think orphan elimination isn't as important. In the case of the castle image, I think some of the peninsula erosion is detrimental as it truncates the range of expression (makes things a little blobby).

Offline RAV

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #26 on: December 26, 2013, 04:48:42 pm
If we go by the idea that every school of art is an actual... school, that is to teach something specific, instead of a genre definition that excludes everything else, then the regular training in the core tradition is to help you improve even in your divergence, rather than tell you not to.

Offline Helm

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #27 on: December 27, 2013, 04:44:05 am
Quote
However I am finally really questioning myself now what's good "pixel art" and what's good "art made with pixels". I am having a lot more questions now, than before.

I mean this simple rules lead to quite a big difference in the whole thinking process and this rules don't leave you another choice than ending up with really clean pixel art.

Exactly.

So, as a thought experiment, if we put this process at one end (actually, even moreso at the end of one spectrum we should put not-even-45-degre-connections-allowed) and at the other end we put demoscene art that is pixel-by-pixel (let's consider that there was no blur brush or whatever) but at such a high color count and so overwhelmingly dithered that a single pixel really alters nothing on its own by being or not being there, then we have a range of expression.

In that range of expression, when one sits down to draw something with pixels, they might want to consider where their piece (or parts of their piece?) will sit. And for what reason they chose where it'll sit.

That's all I'm interested in, as a method of learning, for people to consider the pros and cons before they start, even if they deviate after they start.

As to that feeling you got about what is good pixel art vs what is good art made of pixels, I think that's a valuable issue to explore further, just as long as we do not put a value judgement on either way. Let's focus on the pedagogical quality of learning 'good pixel art' or 'good art made of pixels'.

Quote
Antialiasis shouldn't be explained as making an outline smoother, but as a way to better portray a shape/cluster.

Either can be valuable though I would choose to go with the latter, but what if there's a beauty to just using clusters that do not need to be smoothed out to suggest something else that isn't there exactly? That's the point of this excercise, it's where the form informs the content, and not only vice versa.

Vagrant, I hear you, and that's fine. I just would suggest to not make any final decisions about this stuff just after considering it for a week. I used to AA just looking at the x1 zoom preview as well and that was when I was over-aaing the most and creating subtle banding and then I'd spend so much time trying to take it out. What if I hadn't put the over-aa in there to begin with?

As to whether the method I'm suggesting looks better zoomed in or zoomed out, I stand firmly in the side that says it looks crisp and beautiful at 1x and like a dizzying game of tetris up close (which, if I'm not being clear, to me looks like a good thing). If something just looks better at 1x zoom but falls apart close up, there's an element of misdirection in there somewhere. Or perhaps that's just how I feel about it, let's not state it like it's objective.

Arne, I absolutely agree the benefits of this are most apparent when you don't have too many colors.

Tomorrow I'll be starting my own piece using this technique, and at 90 degree angles as well. There will not be a single single pixel.

Offline 0xDB

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #28 on: December 27, 2013, 08:19:49 am
Based on...
"A group of pixels (more than 1 pixel) of the same color, making a shape."
...and...
"No 45 degree connections allowed."
...
I decided to start my exploration of clusters in a formal way, by thinking about how those clusters would form from the void.

So, I took a single pixel (not a cluster by definition) and started finding all possible variations of it by applying mutations (defining a mutation as an addition of exactly 1 pixel to it, according to the "no 45 degree connection rule"). It quickly became apparant, that down the generation tree, there would be many repetitions of clusters, as results of different mutations. Interestingly, on the third generation(or fourth if you start counting at 1 instead of 0), all classic Tetris blocks were born (see image below).

When I saw that I felt this could not be coincidence, so I did a little searching and found there is already a mathematical name for what we are dealing with here. A pixel "cluster" without any 45 degree connections (and assuming the pixels are squares) is called a Polyomino (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyomino) (and the Tetris blocks are all Tetrominos).

So, I suggest the use of Polyomino as a term when referring to those types of clusters for it appears to be a well known term which has been around since 1953.

Offline RAV

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #29 on: December 27, 2013, 10:29:21 am
Though, if we go by the notion of pixel art as a conscious mode of work to learn about, rather than definition of happenstance result, then it becomes a "platform agnostic" principle. That means, the truest teaching of this school is universal in application as much as recognizable.

The pixel art is first and foremost based on a morphological idea of pixel. The pixel changed over time, as the physical definition of hardware changed, both in possible colour and dimension. Thus it can also be abstracted to a "virtual pixel", which in its most base form is simply a scaled pixel to emulate its history.

But why stop there. Part of my own research on virtual screenspace is to show how weird it can get, while keeping all artistic lore applicable:


Then of course, most should already know when I did this:


Most importantly though, what you might not yet know is my abstraction to it:


So, looking at the end of the last, what if a single "pixel" is not only 3d, but also of arbitrary size and even in form of a "half-pixel", which then is a natural 45.

You might feel I am stretching it now, and misappropriating this thread, and maybe I am. But if nothing else, at least cluster theory is relevant to it, so this is where my interest comes form.