Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

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ivarf
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Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by ivarf » Thu Jul 16, 2020 8:06 pm

Screen shots of games looked better in the old days. This particular shot is a scan from 160x200 pixel Amstrad game with 16 colours. It was taken by a camera before being printed in 1985 by a french magazine. I wish Retro Gamer could do the same, sometimes use real photos from CRT monitors. Old games are not as pixelated as many people believe

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Re: Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by NickThorpe » Fri Jul 17, 2020 7:19 am

Good news: I've submitted a feature for issue 210, which will explore the impact of legacy display technologies on the graphics of retro games. This will cover the issue of CRTs, scanlines, different cable types, and more. In this feature, you will see some photographs of games running on real hardware, via CRTs.

Bad news: While there are plenty of practical reasons that we don't photograph CRTs, one of the biggest considerations is that evidence suggests that readers actually prefer the raw pixel look. We polled people about their preferences on this matter on Twitter recently, and with over 450 responses almost two thirds voted in favour of sharp images. (Results here.)
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Re: Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by Antiriad2097 » Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:26 am

I do like that the photo the OP posted shows that scanlines weren't really a thing back then, and that their emulation tends to overdo it. They existed, but they were barely perceptible due to the way the CRT would bleed light all over them
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Re: Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by Darran@Retro Gamer » Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:34 am

Antiriad2097 wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:26 am
I do like that the photo the OP posted shows that scanlines weren't really a thing back then, and that their emulation tends to overdo it. They existed, but they were barely perceptible due to the way the CRT would bleed light all over them
It depends on the TV really. I had an old trinitron where they were very noticeable and they're super noticeable on my 29-inch PVM :lol:
While I understand that some would prefer authenticity over the look we currently offer, we made the decision when I first joined the mag that we wanted the magazine to look as professional as possible and wonky photography may add charm but wouldn't achieve that.
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Re: Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by merman » Fri Jul 17, 2020 10:51 am

Antiriad2097 wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:26 am
I do like that the photo the OP posted shows that scanlines weren't really a thing back then, and that their emulation tends to overdo it. They existed, but they were barely perceptible due to the way the CRT would bleed light all over them
I have never got this obsession with CRT filters. The games did not look like that, with harsh sharp differences between lines.
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Re: Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by Antiriad2097 » Fri Jul 17, 2020 12:31 pm

Exactly. Every scanline filter I've seen gets it horribly wrong. Even the official products from some companies now have these nasty scanline emulations that look nothing like a real display. I'm hoping the feature in the mag agrees with me here.

I'm happy in general for the mag itself to keep using clean, sharp images for screenshots.
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Re: Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by NorthWay » Fri Jul 17, 2020 12:40 pm

I don't find the "perfect" pixel representations doing games any good either. The glowing effect of a crt is usually lost too, though I have seen the odd emulator snap that has pretty passable filters for colour reproduction and (non)sharpness.

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Re: Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by Eric » Fri Jul 17, 2020 6:43 pm

Darran@Retro Gamer wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:34 am
Antiriad2097 wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:26 am
I do like that the photo the OP posted shows that scanlines weren't really a thing back then, and that their emulation tends to overdo it. They existed, but they were barely perceptible due to the way the CRT would bleed light all over them
It depends on the TV really. I had an old trinitron where they were very noticeable and they're super noticeable on my 29-inch PVM :lol:
While I understand that some would prefer authenticity over the look we currently offer, we made the decision when I first joined the mag that we wanted the magazine to look as professional as possible and wonky photography may add charm but wouldn't achieve that.
I bought a 14 inch Trinitron back in the Saturn days. After returning it twice it turned out that it was designed as a two-part tube. This meant it had a
large horizontal black "scanline" direct centre of the screen caused by the joining of the two tubes. Much arguments with Dixons were had until a refund was offered. I had never seen this in a tv before or since. I the idea was to give a flatter screen. Did'nt help that it had an auto brightness feature that altered the brightness level according to room light, with no option to turn it off.

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Re: Screen shots of games looked better in the old days

Post by Matt_B » Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:47 pm

Those lines you see on Trinitrons aren't scanlines. Rather, they have one or two very thin wires that hold up a particularly fine but flimsy aperture-grille that ensures that the three colour beams hit the correct pixels. This is a trade-off because you get a much sharper picture overall. I personally liked Trinitrons because of this, but I know it can be offputting to other people who prefer shadow-mask CRTs that don't have it.

Actual scanlines are caused by the way beam moves across the screen horizontally. This means that, although they'll hit every part of each phosphor dot equally as they move from side to side, they won't equally spread across their full vertical extent so you'll get brighter regions at the middle of a horizontal line than towards the edge of it. The overall effect is more akin to a string of glowing baubles on a thread than the obvious banding you'd see in a crude filter. This is barely noticeable on smaller and more modern CRTs - particularly when you throw in the artifacts from composite video and the like - but if you've got an old 20+ inch set from the 1970s you ought to be able to see them easily enough.

The main issue when it comes to scanline emulation with CRT filters is that it's not a consistent effect across all computers and consoles running on all TV sets, but something that can vary considerably. Some of the better filters will let you configure the parameters though, so you can try to find that happy medium if you're prepared to get your hands dirty with a config file. Also, running at higher resolutions will help; you might think that 4K is overkill for running old games from the 1980s, but that's really what it takes to get a good emulation of an aperture-grille. Anyway, here's a comparison (in 4K of course) of various CRT filters and an actual CRT screen at the end:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9C_TfmPgYM

I think CRT Royale does a pretty good job, but even that feels a little exaggerated compared to the real thing. Some of the other filters just look terrible though, so I can see why CRT filters get a bad rep generally.

Also, I'd like to point out that the image in the OP has obviously been re-scaled and converted through a number of different image formats that have left it with visible artifacts of a totally different sort than you'd see on a CRT set. This is a much clearer photo of an Amstrad monitor in action, and you can zoom in a bit to see the scanlines as well as the horizontal separation between adjacent pixels in primary colours caused by the shadow mask. It's particularly obvious on the red posts on the bridge.

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