We were having a discussion in another thread about the Game of Thrones clips on the DMD, and someone was wondering it they were "low rez" to save memory space. It occurred to me that people might not have a great frame of reference for what a DMD's resolution is really like. It's all low rez!
So a standard DMD, plasma or LED, is 128x32 dots, or "pixels". In the old plasma games they were 4 shades of brightness, now on the newer LED ones the get 16. Either way it's monochrome, you have "black" (off) and full brightness (red or orange typically).
Basic stuff so far, sure everyone knows this.
But the issue isn't that anything is being put in at low rez to save memory. The issue is that the screen is just low rez to begin with. For people who don't think about pixels all the time like I do it might help to have a frame of reference.
So obviously this applies to any DMD game, but since the discussion was about GOT I'll use an image of the cast as an example.
So here's a nice decently high rez image of the cast. Nothing you'd print a poster from, but more than good enough to see on your computer or smart phone screen:
It's going to be shrunk in the Pinside embed, but if you click to enlarge it you'll see the full size. Clear, easy to see all the facial expressions, etc.
Now let's take that same image, keeping it full color, and shrink and crop it so that it's DMD rez, 128x32:
That is exactly the size of the file your DMD is showing you. If you're a hardcore fan you might guess that it's a GOT image if you didn't know already, but good luck reading a facial expression! This is what the animators are working with. Not easy.
Now let's take that same image, and transform it so that it's on a color scale from black to bright red, to simulate what and LED screen is going to give you. I'm also adjusting it to only have 16 shades of color, because that's all an LED DMD can do:
Taking away the color really isn't helping anyone figure out WTF is going on in this image.
If your job is to animate GOT, or any other Stern or B/W game, Data East, whatever, this is what you're given as far as tools. It's tough! You've really got to think about every single pixel. One pixel is about 3% of your entire vertical height.
When you look at a game with killer dots, like Metallica say, someone really crafted all those pixels to work at this incredibly small resolution. It's a real artform. Total respect for it! My Metallica has a ColorDMD, but even when it was all in red it really looked great. Very clear and crisp.
But you can see why a game like Iron Man, or Spider-Man, or Game of Thrones — that are relying on clips that were originally full color, HD, and a taller aspect ratio — struggle to show anything clearly on the screen. It's why I'm not a fan of ripped video on DMDs. Tron isn't so bad, because they blew up the contrast so that the backgrounds are mostly black, and the video is a little bit closer to line art, but anything playing a normal video clip is going to be a smeary mess.
And as you can see, it's not about file size. You could use the highest compression quality available, and it's not going to make those pixels appreciatively clearer.
I'm sure this is totally old hat to some of you, but if not hope this helped you understand.