Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Click to enlarge
Read on if you're interested in the c64 machine limitations.
This is simple commodore 64 hi-res mode. The machine has a built-in palette that is approximately this:
I say approximately because these colors were not exactly picked from the machine itself, as this is notoriously tricky to do. The c64 palettes you might find on the internet are perceptual variations of how approximately the real colors would look on some c64s. These colors, however, cannot be altered. They have to be worked with as is. All c64 images you might find on the internet are using a slight variation of this palette and trying to do tricks so it looks like they're not limited by palettization at all. I like the palette, I like artistic limitations, so I use the pure colors it has on there a lot without interlace flickering and other techniques to blur middle shades and use them as primary ones.
The main difficulty with the c64 HiRes mode then, is that the screen real estate is segmented in a series of 8x8 pixel blocks, in which there can be only two colors from the available 16 showing at the same time. Look at this for a disambiguation of the process.
(click to enlarge)
Therefore it is difficult to use a lot of colors in close proximity to shade the represented item properly. A lot of fiddling about with 8x8 cell borders just for a simple bevel highlight, for example. And dithering (the little checkerboard patterns between two colors that do soft fades) needs to belong to its cell as well, can't mix a lot at the same time without dreaded attribute clash.
The top image in the post has the border around the screen alternated between the whole palette. I like a few of them more than others, the dark blue background, the light red one and the green I ended up using for the final piece.
C64 HiRes is good at duochromatic images (black and white, for example) as it was originally intended for hi resolution text mode on the machine. It's also pretty good at 90 degree dependent images (imagine a graphical word processor with its various panels open for example) where you can play with the 8x8 squares to their advantage. However it doesn't do curves and full color very well (the other native mode of the c64, 'multicolor' sacrifices half its horisontal resolution to get 3+1 colors per cell instead, giving the appearance of the pixels being wide). I wanted to challenge the machine - and myself - to make a colorful curvy picture in HiRes.
Actually, let's not understate the significance of the object in the picture, this isn't just an exercise, it's a celebration of one of the most beautiful things in life, I count it as being as significant (personally) as any of my comics or whatever else you might find on this blog.