AuthorTopic: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.  (Read 13088 times)

Offline Helm

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Offline Indigo

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #1 on: April 12, 2016, 07:23:13 pm
it's great to hear him describe his process for authoring the color cycling scenes.  Super great stuff

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #2 on: April 12, 2016, 07:39:32 pm
Yeah, loved every minute of it. Ironically the purists and wannabe gatekeepers of the art form would probably dismiss a lot of his process as forbidden "dirty" tooling. ::)

Although his current work is not very polished on the pixel level (thinking about what he's doing for Thimbleweed Park at the moment), it's just highly functional and very charming and it would be completely unpractical/impossible to pump out that amount of art in a reasonable time if one wanted to carefully anti-alias everywhere and massage all clusters into place until perfection.

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #3 on: April 12, 2016, 08:22:20 pm
Regardless of whether agrees with his method or whatever, dismissing a person such as he is like disregarding a huge part of the history of the medium, which he was there to see grow and influence as he went.

Offline Gil

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #4 on: April 13, 2016, 08:36:19 am
Oh man, I love Mark Ferrari so much. He's right up my alley in more than just one way, thanks for sharing that talk.

I think his main point is very interesting: that the reason he was able to master the form was time+tools. That a tool, such as the latest greatest game engine is worthless, if no one is spending ten years mastering the form. You can see this on consoles, by comparing the graphics of a console release title to an end-of-life title.

That being said, Mark is very much a tools person, learning the nooks and crannies of tools to be able to produce art that looks better than what his peers are able to do with those same restrictions. This philosophy is completely the opposite of what a lot of people here and in the larger "pixel art" sphere are trying to do by trying to make art of a similar quality with as much restrictions as they can muster. The only reason Mark's art is even interesting to a lot of us, is that time factor, causing him to stay in the 8bit sphere for so long.

Personally I'm somewhere in between Mark's camp and the pixel art camp (I think what Tim Soret and Cyangmou are doing is more or less where I find myself going to). Not that any camp is "right", people should find value where they find value.

Offline Ai

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #5 on: April 13, 2016, 10:13:11 am
* I think a semi-automatic way of applying dithering (so that the TP scenes could have similar amounts of work put in but result in less banding) is possible, since good 'shape-wise' smoothing is already possible (see GMIC Anisotropic smoothing filter). Probably it would generate a result with dithering in all areas and you'd then have to erase out bits that looked uncrisp / sabotaged the effect you were going for.

* So, his method boils down to thoughtful and layered use of templating.. I don't really agree with the AA method (just before 00:24:00), it seems very limited and I would usually think it would be faster to just throw the pixels down by hand.

But it did inspire me to think about whether there is a templating-based way to do it better.

I think having a single 'A onto B @ N% opacity' template would solve it for any given pair of two colors (with A being the color region 'on top' that you are AAing 'over'/'into' B).
Programmatically it's simple: Vectorize the region A (eg. via PoTrace commandline interface) -> generates a 8-bit mask M. Iterate over the mask M, reading each pixel in the mask (-> variable Mp) and same location in the original image (-> variable Ip). If 0 < Mp < 255, then look up the color in the 'A on Ip' lookup table (scaling 0..255 to 0...lookuptable_width) and write that color to the image. Otherwise don't change the pixel color at that location (when Mp is 0 or 255, pixel is either already fully inside the region or fully outside the region)

Interfacewise I guess you'd want a palette-editor-like gui, except with very minimal usage of screen estate. Manually poking LUT pixels would be a bit of a pain (on about the same level as manually poking AA pixels, worse if you don't get realtime feedback)


* His anecdote and comments around 00:32:00 echoes a thought I have had increasingly.. that the tool hardly matters, except as an educational thing -- art is about a) intent and b) understanding, and if you have both of those regarding your subject matter, you will more or less consistently produce good art, and if you don't, you won't. (not all tools have the same depth, but hardly any tool gets used to its full depth either)

Fascinating that he is a relative technophobe. When viewing his works before I thought 'that must be done via some compositing code that mixes images in a palette-friendly, well-defined way to produce the single 8bit image that's the final result'. The process he describes actually doing seems.. not 'ridiculously onerous' so much as 'obsessive' and indeed as he says, extremely tedious.

* 00:44:00 CGA info seems wrong? pretty sure CGA = 4 colors used for whole picture.
* 00:49:00 Is this really correct? Photoshop has no shapeburst gradient fill? Or he just didn't think to do the "smooth"/CG-ish fill and then make it dithered (indexization)?
I also think that he would probably get a lot out of learning either ImageMagick or GMIC.. CLI/scripted image processing seems an extremely close fit for the more highly structured parts of his workflow.

* 00:52:00 interesting illustration of how to use shapeburst/contour type fills in a way that doesn't look totally cheap. 'clown color templates' is kind of catchy, heh.
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Offline Gil

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #6 on: April 13, 2016, 11:04:28 am
Ai, we are miles and miles ahead of what he's doing right now, it's his older stuff that's interesting, not his workflow in Photoshop today, which I thought was rather cringe worthy. The resulting art is fun, but that workflow could be a lot better. He never claimed to be an expert on Photoshop though, in fact, he clearly stated that tool experience is very important to him.

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #7 on: April 13, 2016, 12:12:27 pm
I like that there's "something for everyone".
So I kinda agree with everyone here.

Love his anecdote that reminds artists not to be simple tool-can-do monkeys.
And that he was picked as game artist precisely for his experience in non digital.
Something like "Easier to make an artist go digital than a technician do good art."


And yet I find it interesting that he's actually very much torn on the matter of tools non the less.
Throughout the video you'll find quotes that go either way, like I would expect from a master.

He critisized a common over-reliance on tools for art,
and yet also the quick rate of tool obsolescence for industry.

He loved exploring the creative depth of the pixel art tool with his general art knowledge.
This difference in experience too is what made his art clearly stand out on the high end.

For him, the genre definition of PixelArt pretty much was what you could do in Deluxe Paint.
He spent many years developing his art techniques specific to pixel art and this tool,
becoming the perfect fusion of general and specific art knowledge.

To a point, a decade of experience let him do things that make any artist blush today.
Just by seeing these videos explaining colour cycling and pattern tiling,
you are so very far away from producing his level of quality,
even if you use DeluxePaint, but especially if you've never had
any experience with pixel art tool technique at all.
Your experience in other arts is most important,
but that doesn't make pixel art shallow.

Pixel art is really not just a matter of applying dithering or aa by pixel,
but the specific creativity of the common workflows to a certain ruleset,
manifest in the mechanics of palette, tile and sprite features,
that have you do a planning for world building that's unique.

While switching tools away from what he understood for pixel art,
didn't stop him from being a great artist, he did feel missing something,
something fulfilling he really liked doing, that gave him identity,
not just as about any artist, but as a pixel artist. Inspiring.

Offline Gil

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #8 on: April 13, 2016, 12:19:02 pm
For him, the genre definition of PixelArt pretty much was what you could do in Deluxe Paint.
Yeah, that's it exactly, which is more of what we would call a "demoscene" mindset, than what most of us are trying to do, especially at more genre-specific galleries, like PixelJoint. That said, even for people that are looking towards that part of the experience, there's a lot of gems in this talk :)

Offline Ai

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Re: Mark Ferarri on 8-bit pixel art. GDC talk. Must watch.

Reply #9 on: April 13, 2016, 12:57:40 pm
Ai, we are miles and miles ahead of what he's doing right now, it's his older stuff that's interesting, not his workflow in Photoshop today, which I thought was rather cringe worthy.
Not sure what you're referring to here -- maybe my comment about shapeburst, which should be taken with the context that I have no experience with Photoshop and thus would expect it to have shapeburst but don't actually know. I agree his photoshop technique is unremarkable to say the least, but the technique was only a peripheral concern in my post. The practical, step by step illustration of the concept of highly layered templating is the most valuable part of the video, for me.

(When I talk about this stuff, it is always as someone who can -- and expects to -- write their own tools. Unless the fundamental basis for those tools is incredibly broken, that's generally what I focus on -- what tool do I need to make? If I don't know yet, what process is it that I need to break down into a workflow->tools?)

Personally I think an artist needs to master each of their tools, but to some extent this mastery of the tools they already know comes through extending themselves to new tools.. because each tool teaches certain ways of thinking, and getting stuck on one tool == getting stuck in one substrata of ways of thinking about art.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2016, 01:27:39 pm by Ai »
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.