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Old 05 June 2021, 20:44   #1
Foebane
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What image reproduction process did Amiga magazines use for printed screenshots?

I have looked at computer games magazines since I was around 10 years old, and back then I was familiar with the usual screenshots printed in magazine articles, where they simply took a photographic camera and pointed it at the computer monitor without a flash, took the picture and processed it like any other. The obvious thing was that that even if the picture was in black and white (to cut down on developing costs) the phosphor dots and scanlines, and even the bulge of the screen were often noticeable, and it was an accurate way of doing it at the time.

Then, some time later, I got my Amiga 500 and started looking at the platform's magazines, like Amiga Format, CU Amiga, Amiga Computing, Amiga Action and a whole host of others. Some, like Amiga Action, still used conventional photography for the screenshots, but I noticed that all the magazines by Future Publishing used a new method of reproducing images.

With this new method, the pictures looked cleaner, better (for the most part) and were free of phosphor dots and scanlines and tube bulges. The clarity of the pictures (for the most part) were so good, that you could achieve the same results by using WinUAE today and then printing them out on your inkjet. Basically, all you saw were the pixels themselves and no "filters", so to speak.

As time went on, I saw the same process appear in all computer magazines and it became the standard, and a lot of AGA and MS-DOS screenshots looked gorgeous with their pure subtly-shaded pixel and palette gradations, and modern PC games of the last 20 years really show off the capture technique used.

Except, there was a problem with the Future Amiga magazines: their image capture was broken.

You could see it in many of the printed images of screenshots, the colours looked off or skewed in some way in portions of the images, and sometimes it got so bad you could see "borders" between the pixels between certain shades of colour. I found it really annoying that it only happened in their magazines, but I never wrote a letter of complaint, as I wouldn't know how to describe the problem, but I'm sure that others must've known about it and did complain to Future. I don't recall reading any such letter.

I don't have any of the Amiga magazines (or ANY magazines) now, since I sold them all in an eBay batch back in the day, but if I did, I could take a picture of one of the images so you could see what I'm describing.

What I will say is that I liked the look of pure pixels on paper so much, I decided to never use fancy CRT filters on WinUAE or any other emulator.

What I'd like to know is, what the name of the process to take an image from the Amiga (or PC or whatever) and reproduce it accurately (most of the time) in print, without a photographic camera in sight?
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Old 05 June 2021, 21:09   #2
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Just a frame grabber running on a seperate computer.
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Old 05 June 2021, 23:16   #3
Foebane
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Just a frame grabber running on a seperate computer.
Any information on this frame grabber? Seems quite revolutionary to me.
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Old 06 June 2021, 02:55   #4
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Any information on this frame grabber? Seems quite revolutionary to me.
Take your pick. There’s tons of them for the Amiga and I imagine there were also versions for other platforms.

It’s also likely that for some screenshots they used a simple screen grabbing program to dump the screen output to an ILBM or other image format. Unless they had a full RGB framegrabber, that’s the only way they could have gotten WinUAE-like quality. Would only work for system-friendly stuff, of course.

Otherwise they’d probably have been grabbing a via composite signal, which is pretty low quality output.
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Old 06 June 2021, 03:22   #5
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You can browse magazines magazines here http://amr.abime.net
the Amiga Frame grabbers weren't that good.
I think it must of been photos
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Old 06 June 2021, 03:34   #6
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the cover could be photo, screenshot and then various software for editing to have more interesting picture to attract people. I like transform simple image in distorted or cartoon effect. My dreams will be have able to draw myself also carticaure, but i'm not able to do.

before:


after:

Last edited by Seiya; 06 June 2021 at 03:41.
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Old 06 June 2021, 08:22   #7
Foebane
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You can browse magazines magazines here http://amr.abime.net
the Amiga Frame grabbers weren't that good.
I think it must of been photos
I know about AMR, but it's not the same as looking at the actual magazines, close-up. Scanning only captures so much.
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Old 06 June 2021, 11:10   #8
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To me pure pixels look awful, and it's in no way a true representation of both what artist's had intended and what was really going on on the screen. It's a bit like viewing RAW photos from camera instead of jpeg or switching off all the gfx options in a modern game.

On the other hand, photographing CRT live displays is on of the trickiest things ever, and that's why the quality of photos in mags varies greatly. I sort of study this for one of my projects, and it's clear that some of their camera guys tried their best, and some just utilised the "publish whatever" technique. When the photo is taken properly it can look as awesome as the real thing, but this requires a lot of skill AND luck. So, no wonder so many photos in the mags look so-so at best.

The latter-style images could be from frame grabbers, or maybe even VGA monitors (their image is more stable, hasn't got as many artifacts and is easier to photograph), re-touched in postprocess or the mixture of all these. The results vary, some look okay, some terrible...in any case I'd still prefer the original CRT shot anyway.
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Old 06 June 2021, 13:30   #9
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"It's a bit like viewing RAW photos from camera instead of jpeg"
Are you kidding me? RAW would be pure, uncompressed data, before JPG introduces all those nasty artefacts into the image.

"switching off all the gfx options in a modern game."
Well, you're right there, but sometimes, sacrificing the intended vision of the artistic directors and staff of a game can vastly improve performance and frame rate, even if it looks like crud.
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Old 06 June 2021, 14:22   #10
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I remember an article in one of the magazines I used to read, so maybe AmigaWorld around 87(?), that discussed ways of getting print quality captures of computer screens.

I also remember the Polaroid Digital Palette, which worked a bit like a projector, except it projected its image onto slide negatives. Maybe that's the kind of gadget they used.
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Old 06 June 2021, 14:41   #11
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Are you kidding me? RAW would be pure, uncompressed data, before JPG introduces all those nasty artefacts into the image.
Whereas in reality, camera sensors are linear in nature, and raw images are linear too as a result and thus appear very flat, dull and ultimately uninteresting to the human eye compared to an image that's been processed for human consumption. So, given the choice between displaying a raw and a properly processed jpeg version of the same image on your wall, you would choose the jpeg every time.
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Old 06 June 2021, 15:45   #12
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I remember an article in one of the magazines I used to read, so maybe AmigaWorld around 87(?), that discussed ways of getting print quality captures of computer screens.

I also remember the Polaroid Digital Palette, which worked a bit like a projector, except it projected its image onto slide negatives. Maybe that's the kind of gadget they used.
Ah, yes. In a pre-digital desktop publishing workflow that would have been their methodology. I imagine the early editions of Amiga World and Amazing Computing in the mid 80s were produced this way. I don’t quite understand the technology but I think it’s called a phototypesetting system. Involves a lot of image projection onto film.

By the mid 90s Amiga Format was definitely using either Quark Xpress or PageMaker, but there was some hybridization in early digital workflows, too. High quality art was distributed on slides (think full-page ads, official product photos and press kits) because scanners couldn’t reproduce the image well enough or the resulting file would be too big to transmit. .INFO did something like this even earlier. They made a point of saying the magazine was entirely produced on Amigas, but their screenshots were very obviously photographs. I don’t understand how those non digital assets were incorporated into the workflow, but they were, somehow.
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Old 06 June 2021, 17:03   #13
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I used to do a fair bit of photographing my amiga to slide when I was at college. I got my best results at night with all the lights off, and the only light coming from the CRT. When I got it right, the image looked better than the original screen. I do remember holding the shutter open for quite a while and I think I had the screen brightness lower than normal. This allowed me to get an 'average' of many interlaced frames and a certain amount of glow that blended it all together.

I would think they had a dedicated 'dark room' to do this and if they were doing it every day, I think they would develop some skills. Almost definitely they used slide.
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Old 06 June 2021, 18:54   #14
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I remember an article in a computer magazine where they have shown their photo rig. It looked like a truncated pyramid and was build of plywood. The inner parts have been painted black. The camera sits on the narrow end with the bottom of the pyramid to the screen. They said they used it to work at full daylight.
Taking screenshot is much easier today
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Old 06 June 2021, 19:40   #15
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I used to do a fair bit of photographing my amiga to slide when I was at college.

From what I understand it was a bit easier back then because film cameras had different sensors to digital ones and weren't so sensitive to moire, which is one of the three big gotchas when it comes to photographing CRTs.



Even so, when you look at the magazine shots, they are very often over/under exposed and/or some colours don't match. No wonder. I've spent countless hours trying to get it right using modern DSLRs in darkroom conditions, with various settings combinations, and a "perfect" shot appears only sometimes. Mostly at least one colour is out of whack, or there is moire, or clipping, or all of that together
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Old 06 June 2021, 20:58   #16
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I sincerely doubt that the process I describe would still involve pointing a camera at a CRT, no matter how good it was. the moire would still be there, as would the scanlines.

The capture cards are what I was thinking of, but for the screenshots to look so crisp as they did in the Amiga Format and other magazines, then the whole process would have to be DIGITAL.

It'd be a similar leap as to when Desktop Publishing and the Today newspaper were born in Britain in the 1980s, with colour photographs and everything. That newspaper literally changed the shape of newspaper publishing, and introduced digital printing processes, I'm certain of it.
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Old 06 June 2021, 21:34   #17
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I sincerely doubt that the process I describe would still involve pointing a camera at a CRT, no matter how good it was. the moire would still be there, as would the scanlines.
It's entirely possible to take a moire-free shot. Scanlines/shadowmask won't be visible in resized images, depending on size. You can also run filters in postprocess which will smooth the image.



Not saying that's what necessarily happened (at least in all the cases) and that they always shot CRTs, but I have an increasing feeling that perhaps your'e recalling these revolutionary, "crisp" images with nostalgia-glasses on. Even if they got rid of some of the tube artifacts, by using grabbers or whatever else, there were still other problems, at least in some random latter-day pics I'm looking at. Feel free to link to some examples though (all these mags are online), I'm quite interested in this subject.
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Old 06 June 2021, 23:06   #18
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Good point dreadnought, I was presuming film, but it should of been declared. I love film.

Foebane, I think you could be on the right tack. Framegrabbers did start to appear on the Amiga along with other machines of the day. I mean if they only used a Digiview grabber, they could of recorded the video output to a professional format like BetacamSP and then been able to pause a clean still image which could be grabbed by Digiview.

However, I think they would of gone a simpler route and used a professional frame grabber. In mY first job in the video industry, the graphics department had an Accom disk recorder which gave us one minute of uncompressed video playback. We could see the machine on the network and record frames to it via special software. Likewise, the edit suite would see it as a video machine and could control it like a normal tape machine. They could record video to it for us to mess with. So the mags could of used a device like that. This was the early to mid 90’s by the way.
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Old 07 June 2021, 13:05   #19
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The Action Replay III was used often, as long as the game didn't have copper trickery.
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Old 07 June 2021, 14:44   #20
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Whereas in reality, camera sensors are linear in nature, and raw images are linear too as a result and thus appear very flat, dull and ultimately uninteresting to the human eye compared to an image that's been processed for human consumption.
You use gamma correction for that, not jpeg.
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