AuthorTopic: Dither heavy EGA experiment.  (Read 878 times)

Offline Shrubber

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Dither heavy EGA experiment.

on: January 22, 2018, 08:04:43 pm
Hello guys. I'm new here. In fact, I joined just because I wanted to share this experiment I made with people on the web who might find it interesting.

My idea was to try to approximate natural colourful images with the limited color palette of the EGA spec with a HEAVY use of dithering. I understand old titles already made great use of dithering, but the limited tools of the time limited the lengths they could take the concept.
Here, I was curious if by making use of modern conveniences, like photoshop's tools to automatically dither full color images specific palettes I could reach better results than those that the game-artists from back in the day had to laboriously create by hand.
So to test that hypothesis, i took screenshots from games that had both a 16 color EGA version and a 256 VGA version, and created my custom "Heavy Dither EGA version" based on the VGA one to test if it looked any better than the original's. Here is the first result: (I've made 4 more, but I'll post them later)

King's Quest (forgot the number)

Original VGA art:

https://ibb.co/hEVOjG

Original EGA art:

https://ibb.co/iOBkyb

My Custom Dither Heavy EGA version:

https://ibb.co/cRvZrw

And a comparison of all three:

https://ibb.co/n6AOjG

I think the results are particularly good. Admittedly, they are much more noisy, but that is the obvious unavoidable result of using heavy dither. What I'm going for here is a "squint worthy" image, not cleanliness. I wonder how they would look on an actual old school EGA monitor. The CRT helps dither a lot by blurring the resulting image somewhat, but at the same time, I wonder if whatever artifacts the EGA spec introduced at sub-pixel level could break the illusion.

I admit this might not be considered "pure" pixel art. I didn't hand place each pixel one by one to generate the final result from scratch. It was an algorithm that laid the ground work for me here, but there was still plenty careful retouching and adaptation done by me here. The original 256 image was converted to EGA 16 dozes of time, with different dithering configurations and different sets of filters (color filters, blurs, sharpens, etc) pre-conversion. With those in hand, I selectively chose which created the best result for every individual area of the image. And finally, I'd hand-touch multiple pixels and lines here and there until I was fully satisfied.

thoughts?

Offline Shrubber

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Re: Dither heavy EGA experiment.

Reply #1 on: January 22, 2018, 11:59:00 pm
Here goes another one with Monkey Island 1:

Original 256 VGA:

https://ibb.co/d373jG

Original 16 EGA:

https://ibb.co/iomkyb

My custom Dither Heavy EGA:

https://ibb.co/bMBJJb

The last two use the very same ugly 16 EGA colors. I just employed a lot of dither.

Which do you prefer?

EDIT: Changed how I embeded the images as suggested by eishiya
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 03:30:30 pm by Shrubber »

Offline eishiya

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Re: Dither heavy EGA experiment.

Reply #2 on: January 23, 2018, 12:17:28 am
Could you please make the Monkey Island images not links, and instead use text links like you did in the earlier post? Linked images don't get zoom capability.


In the King's Quest one, I prefer your version. In the Monkey Island one, I much prefer the original. I think the reason for that is simple:

Clarity/effective resolution.

The EGA King's Quest image is pretty noisy and unclear to begin with, there's not much sense of specific textures and some of the shapes are messy-looking. When you change their noise* to a different colour noise to create your additional colours, you're not damaging the clarity of the image, because it wasn't great in the first place.
The Monkey Island EGA example, on the other hand, has very careful use of dithers and lines that creates a great sense of texture and planes. The noise created by the dither eliminates all of that, making the image look very fuzzy, and effectively lower "resolution" than the original. The additional "colours" aren't worth the loss, in my opinion.

* I'm calling it "noise" rather than "dither" because although it is ordered, the patterns each occur in such small areas that they don't read as coherent without zooming in a lot.

Offline Shrubber

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Re: Dither heavy EGA experiment.

Reply #3 on: January 23, 2018, 03:54:35 pm
Yes, I'm aware of the trade-offs of my aproach. I am trading in clarity at the high-frequency scale for less garish colors on the macro level. The inevitable consequence is fuzzyness and a lot of noise. Personally, the noise bothers me less than the high-contrast colors of EGA. I find it almost difficult to keep my eyes focused at those super-saturated screens.
The reason I picked Lucas Arts and Sierra games to start with, is because those companies relied heavily on scanning their artwork once they entered the VGA era, and weren't necessarily as focused on pixel by pixel retouching as artists for Arcades and consoles of the same time period. My idea was to try and bring that sort of workflow to the EGA era and see how it would fare.
On the Monkey Island one, specifically, I was extra liberal with the fuzzyness of that one, as I thought it added a bit to the nightly and humid atmosfere of a carebean island. Later Monkey Island games also adopted this slightly more eerie and misterious aesthetic to their night-time locales. I changed the overall color of the scene too, as MI1 had the EGA version built first, and the VGA was created on top of it, retaining some of the more garish colour choices. I went for a palette more akin to that of the later games, and with a bit of an inspiration by Van Gogh, to witch I think the heavy noise is quite fitting by the way...

Here comes a third experiment, LOOM:

Original 256 VGA:

https://ibb.co/hV1w4G

Original 16 EGA:

https://ibb.co/kHSErw

My custom Dither Heavy EGA:

https://ibb.co/nxzSBw

Comparison gif:

https://ibb.co/b7JyJb

Offline Shrubber

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Re: Dither heavy EGA experiment.

Reply #4 on: January 24, 2018, 04:08:38 pm
Another one with Prince of Persia, the changes are more subtle on this one:


Original 256 VGA:

https://ibb.co/n4etmw
(Curiously, this one only uses 16 individual colors too, but selected from VGA's wider palette)


Original 16 EGA:

https://ibb.co/i3ctKG

My custom Dither Heavy EGA:

https://ibb.co/jvcFYb

Comparison gif:

https://ibb.co/cHiiKG

Offline Shrubber

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Re: Dither heavy EGA experiment.

Reply #5 on: January 24, 2018, 11:52:17 pm
Another one with King's Quest.

Original 256 VGA:

https://ibb.co/fxDWPG

Original 16 EGA:

https://ibb.co/d7ad4G

My custom Dither Heavy EGA:

https://ibb.co/bGYFjG