(Topic ID: 143059)

Understanding DMD resolution with visuals


By Aurich

3 years ago



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  • Latest reply 3 years ago by roffels
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GotPixels.png
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#1 3 years ago

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:

This image is 1600x400 pixels

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:

128x32 image, full color

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:

128x32 image, 16 shades from black to red

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.

-1
#2 3 years ago

What exactly can they do with each pixel? You mentioned 16 shades of red. How many degrees of bright/dim can each pixel be? What other attributes of each dot can be changed?

With GOT, I am a big fan of the show so when I see the ripped scenes on the DMD I know what I am looking at. I can understand that someone who is not familiar with the show might see a scene clip and say "What the hell was that?".

#3 3 years ago
Quoted from LOTR_breath:

What exactly can they do with each pixel? You mentioned 16 shades of red. How many degrees of bright/dim can each pixel be? What other attributes of each dot can be changed?

16 shades = 16 degrees of brightness. That's all they can do.

#4 3 years ago

Wow. No wonder it's so hard to make it look good.

#5 3 years ago

Real, hand made, pixel art can look great. 4bit monotone orange digitized movies will always look like crap.

#6 3 years ago

Great explanation.

I have to wonder what goes through the head of whoever is doing the DMD animations. After all, it's decades-old tech and I wonder how transferable a job skill it is. Outside of pinball, what DMD (and other extremely limited resolution display technologies) use artwork to the extent of pinball? Where it's still used, which is less and less, it's all used for text. Even the credit swipe at the grocery store has 5x the resolution (and color!).

I guess it's "what's expected" in pinball, though. Even some virtual pinball games still display score in dots format.

#7 3 years ago

A couple more visuals to help you understand since this seems helpful.

So first, let's take our red image from above, and blow it up so that each pixel is larger. Same visual information, just bigger, more like the size of a real DMD:

Now I'll apply a dot mask, to simulate the rounded LEDs in a matrix, which softens the hard edges of the pixels a little bit and spaces them out:

Same 128x32 pixels, but now with round dots like a DMD shows

Little easier to see with it bigger and with "dots", it's what we're used to. But as it should be clear it's still that same dinky image from above, no extra information, just larger pixels.

Click them to enlarge if you want to see them full size. Helps to do that, and then step back from your screen and view them at "pinball distance" to see what it's like in real life.

#8 3 years ago

Now that you're grounded in the basics, watch this video of Metallica with the ColorDMD treatment:

No smeary giant messes, because everything was designed to be clear and crisp at the low resolution. And remember, this is in full color, the artists had to make sure it worked in "greyscale" where instead of white you have red, and then darker red, with 16 shades including "black" which is the LED fully off.

Good dots still look great to me, especially in color. It's a little retro, sure, but it's a good look. Video clips just don't work though. You need a high rez LCD like JJP or Heighway is using to do that as far as I'm concerned.

#9 3 years ago

Yes, this is totally cheating, image is 64 pixels tall and full color, but it's a nice comparison - original source some French pixel art site...

GotPixels.png

#10 3 years ago
Quoted from ecurtz:

Yes, this is totally cheating, image is 64 pixels tall and full color, but it's a nice comparison - original source some French pixel art site...
GotPixels.png

Yeah, 64 pixels in height means you're effectively doubling the resolution. It's just a super hard spec to work with!

#11 3 years ago

But those would make awesome JRPG style portraits with just the top half...

#12 3 years ago

Here's a good image for looking at how people tackle simple pixel art with some familiar characters:

image.png

This is more realistic DMD scale. I agree though, those ones above cropped in half would be cool.

#13 3 years ago

The dragon animations I saw in the Got code are looking great. What do you say about them? I would like to see more of those kinds.
And no matter if it's dmd or lcd you need animations that have dynamic to be considered as cool. I like the seek and destroy animation with the zoom to the mask more than many videos in woz. But woz shines with interactive animations like the witch. I am still waiting for more interactive narrators or enemys that react with animation and speech to the actions of the player, they should taunt and encourage. The witch was a small but great step in this direction. It's the reation of the animation to the actual gameplay that does the magic for me to bring those games to life.
But short video clips that don't correspond to the gameplay just used as rewards are boring.

#14 3 years ago
Quoted from ecurtz:

Yes, this is totally cheating, image is 64 pixels tall and full color, but it's a nice comparison - original source some French pixel art site...
GotPixels.png

Actually I went to mess with it and you're really cheating!! That's 128 pixels tall. But it looks like with double sized pixels, so technically you're right. Here, I adjusted it to use single pixels, and then cropped it to 128x32 and added a dot mask.

128x32 with dot mask

#15 3 years ago

Great thread. I second your sentiment that dots are great when specifically made for a game. No one wants to watch a movie in that low resolution. I wasn't a part of the discussion in the other thread but I have wondered for awhile if Stern could hedge their bets by making their visuals upgradeable to a higher resolution later on. Or ,if God forbid, they decide to use low-res for pros and high-res for premiums and LEs. But it's probably just a dumb thought because if they went to the time and trouble of making high-res color pictures, why not use them and reap the benefits.

#16 3 years ago
Quoted from dmbjunky:

I wasn't a part of the discussion in the other thread but I have wondered for awhile if Stern could hedge their bets by making their visuals upgradeable to a higher resolution later on.

It's certainly not impossible. But it's hard, because the requirements for good low rez are are just so very different from the requirement for good high rez art.

Quoted from Asael:

The dragon animations I saw in the Got code are looking great. What do you say about them? I would like to see more of those kinds.

I don't know that I've seen those yet. I played and watched some GOT at Expo, but that's it. Anyone have a video clip by any chance? Are they hand drawn or more ripped videos?

#17 3 years ago

Thanks Auirch. On a related question, Spike system can run more dots (or LCD at a higher resolution) and and in color?

I am half wondering if Stern does run a new SM not based on the movies as has been rumored, would it have new dots and color? Running on a Spike system, or would this be too complex and would a SM VE likely be on the old SAM system anyway?

#18 3 years ago
Quoted from rai:

Thanks Auirch. On a related question, Spike system can run more dots (or LCD at a higher resolution) and and in color?
I am half wondering if Stern does run a new SM not based on the movies as has been rumored, would it have new dots and color? Running on a Spike system, or would this be too complex and would a SM VE likely be on the old SAM system anyway?

I don't know what Spike is really capable of. But considering that WWE LE had an LCD screen running clips I think we can assume it's already set for video on LCDs on some level. Maybe it hasn't been finished for a main screen yet, or they're just being conservative about the switch.

Stern hasn't made a secret out of planning to go to LCD, it's just a matter of when really. I love my ColorDMDs, dots in color rule. But if you're gonna rip movie clips I think you need high rez.

I have no clue what the rumored Spider-Man VE would utilize. My guess is dots, but who knows.

#19 3 years ago

I couldn't resist.

Robert.jpg

#20 3 years ago
Quoted from Aurich:

I don't know that I've seen those yet. I played and watched some GOT at Expo, but that's it. Anyone have a video clip by any chance? Are they hand drawn or more ripped videos?

Not ripped and not hand drawn, they used a polygon dragon model for these animations. In the making of the Kiss Pinball video you can see this new technic they are using now. They are making polygon charakters so they can make any kind of animation they want with those polygon models. The same thing they use in modern video games. Perhaps we will see motion captured animation in a near future and enemys that react realtime to the gameplay.
If they would use a Polygon model of the face of the hound for GoT he could talk and taunt the player. You don't need ripped clips anymore.
Watch from 7:28 to see what I mean:

I wish they would use more of this in GoT!!!!

#21 3 years ago
Quoted from Asael:

Not ripped and not hand drawn, I think they have used a polygon dragon model for these animations. In the making of the Kiss Pinball video you can see this new technic they are using now.

Oh yeah, the 3D model stuff. No, I think that looks bad, sorry.

I feel the same way about the animations on BOP 2.0 too. All that 3D rendered stuff is fine in and of itself, but when you knock it down to a 128x32 resolution space with all the blends and curves and antialiasing it just smears into a mess.

It was probably smart of Stern to hire those guys to be in house, but for future LCD content and virtual pinball stuff. Anything 3D rendered and shaded and then jammed onto a low rez DMD comes out poor, IMHO.

#22 3 years ago

Here is my thought with Stern and their video clips in a dmd. If we think it looks like ass I am sure they see the same thing that we complain about. They added clips for every spike system with Kiss having concert clips. The Spike system is already setup for lcd screen compatibility. Stern also has found out how profitable selling mods and add-ons are to their games. The mark ups are huge. I believe once they switch to an LCD display for an upcoming game (not a matter of if, but when), they will sell upgrade kits for their spike system games to make them full LCD. With the clips already programmed into the game it will be an easy transistion and of course a must upgrade to owners of KISS or GOT. My guess pricing will be $500-$750 for the kits when they go full LCD. Profit margin will be huge and Stern now found a new revenue stream with mods and upgrade kits.

#23 3 years ago

Well, can't they replace the DMD with an LCD? I've heard they have higher resolution, and in advanced applications they can display color. A friend of mine saw a crazy technology called "flat screen TV" that showed video clips that were much better than CRT. The technology will even be in your house someday!

PS: excellent demonstration of the issues of DMD.

#24 3 years ago

My guess is when Stern goes LCD (question of when, not if) that they'll use the same laptop panels that ColorDMD and everyone else is using. But I doubt they're going to hide the screen behind the speaker panel, they'll show the whole thing. 16:10 or maybe 16:9.

That would mean nothing they do for it is compatible with old DMD aspect ratios. Just a guess.

#25 3 years ago

See I don't think they r going full screen like jjp. I think they are gonna do traditional dmd size led screens and keep the look of classic pinball. Just a guess. Only time will tell!

#26 3 years ago
Quoted from Willy39:

See I don't think they r going full screen like jjp. I think they are gonna do traditional dmd size led screens and keep the look of classic pinball. Just a guess. Only time will tell!

I don't mean JJP style, just a bigger DMD area, like a Sega game. There's no cost effective way to get a DMD sized LCD screen. ColorDMD uses a full size screen, that's hidden behind the speaker panel. I just don't see them getting a high rez screen then burying most of it behind a panel just in the name of continuing some old aesthetic.

So personally I'm calling it now, taller speaker panel, with full sized laptop screen, and a slightly shorter translite over it.

#27 3 years ago
Quoted from Aurich:

I don't mean JJP style, just a bigger DMD area, like a Sega game. There's no cost effective way to get a DMD sized LCD screen. ColorDMD uses a full size screen, that's hidden behind the speaker panel. I just don't see them getting a high rez screen then burying most of it behind a panel just in the name of continuing some old aesthetic.
So personally I'm calling it now, taller speaker panel, with full sized laptop screen, and a slightly shorter translite over it.

I agree, there's no logic to not using that extra real estate for information. Does Dutch Pinball use a normal 16:9 screen?

#28 3 years ago
Quoted from dmbjunky:

I agree, there's no logic to not using that extra real estate for information. Does Dutch Pinball use a normal 16:9 screen?

DP is having glass custom cut last I heard. That's pricey. Can't see Stern taking the option that costs more.

#29 3 years ago

Either way. It's long overdue and will be welcomed addition to stern games. I guess just wishful thinking since I dream of my GOT premium would one day have full hd video graphics.

#30 3 years ago
Quoted from Aurich:

My guess is when Stern goes LCD (question of when, not if) that they'll use the same laptop panels that ColorDMD and everyone else is using. But I doubt they're going to hide the screen behind the speaker panel, they'll show the whole thing. 16:10 or maybe 16:9.
That would mean nothing they do for it is compatible with old DMD aspect ratios. Just a guess.

Gary Stern has said they aren't going LCD because its not the same. This was during a dead flip broadcast where Gary Stern was a guest.

#31 3 years ago
Quoted from Blindseer:

Gary Stern has said they aren't going LCD because its not the same. This was during a dead flip broadcast where Gary Stern was a guest.

Yeah well, multiple people inside Stern have repeatedly admitted they're going LCD, it's just a matter of when. So basically when it comes to Gary saying shit I don't believe a word of it.

Who knows for sure, I know I don't. If Stern is going to stick with old school DMDs they're going to look pretty dated when literally every single other company competing with them will be using color LCD screens.

#32 3 years ago

Gary Stern told me they would not rerun any old games less then a month before they announced Ironman ve.

#33 3 years ago
Quoted from Blindseer:

Gary Stern has said they aren't going LCD because its not the same. This was during a dead flip broadcast where Gary Stern was a guest.

Probably because it's not released yet. That's pretty standard behavior, IMO.

#34 3 years ago
Quoted from bam10:

Gary Stern told me they would not rerun any old games less then a month before they announced Ironman ve.

There you go! Gary doesn't exactly have a stellar track record on this shit.

And he's a salesman, you think he's going to go on a podcast promoting one of their games and say "Hey guys, don't buy this stuff we're making now, because we're going to have cooler screens later, save your money".

It's coming, you can bet on it.

#35 3 years ago
Quoted from Aurich:

they're going to look pretty dated

Going?..going to look dated? I believe that has already happened.

#36 3 years ago
Quoted from TxJay:

Going?..going to look dated? I believe that has already happened.

Heh, fair enough! Though I'm really pleased with my Sterns that have ColorDMDs.

But I can think of at least 3 machines that will be selling next year with LCD screens, and none of them are Sterns, so it's going to ratchet up that comparison.

WOZ gets put in the corner with some people because of the theme, fair or not, but these are games with more testosterone. More cross shopping against the kinds of themes Stern does.

The reality is, as I hope I've demonstrated clearly, that DMDs are super limited, and very hard to work with. Real credit goes to those animators who've done great things with such a limited toolset. If you want to do dots for a retro feel or something then the ColorDMD route seems like the move.

#37 3 years ago
Quoted from Aurich:

DP is having glass custom cut last I heard. That's pricey.

Why do you say this is pricey? yes it would be pricey for someone needing a one off to replace one that broke (or say 24 custom playfield glasses for a new fangled machine), but I seriously doubt the cost to DP to have 500 or 1000 made at that size is any different than getting them made to the current size. Not like the current size is some standard size in the glass industry.

#38 3 years ago
Quoted from rosh:

Why do you say this is pricey? yes it would be pricey for someone needing a one off to replace one that broke (or say 24 custom playfield glasses for a new fangled machine), but I seriously doubt the cost to DP to have 500 or 1000 made at that size is any different than getting them made to the current size. Not like the current size is some standard size in the glass industry.

I believe he's referring to the LCD panels, which certainly didn't look like a standard aspect ratio to me.

#39 3 years ago
Quoted from ecurtz:

I believe he's referring to the LCD panels, which certainly didn't look like a standard aspect ratio to me.

well, he said 'custom glass cut' -- not custom LCDs. The need for custom glass would be driven by a larger speaker panel.

They certainly did not get custom LCDs made for the prototypes, but the ones in the prototypes are certainly not standard laptop size. Regardless, they are clearly changing the aspect ratio from what it was a year ago, based on what was at expo this year. the graphics now had black bars on the side, so guessing they will be using a different LCD as well, and while it still may not be a standard laptop size, not sure, I seriously doubt they are having custom LCDs made.

#40 3 years ago

Great thread, Aurich. This is precisely why I have always hated the video clips used on many modern Sterns. They simply look like shit given the super low resolution of the DMD.

#41 3 years ago
Quoted from ecurtz:

I believe he's referring to the LCD panels, which certainly didn't look like a standard aspect ratio to me.

I am, yes, sorry if I wasn't clear. And no, definitely not a common aspect ratio.

Quoted from rosh:

They certainly did not get custom LCDs made for the prototypes

Yes, they did. I asked Dutch Pinball in person how they did it at Expo 2014. And Randy from ColorDMD got their source and asked for a quote, for obvious reasons he was interested, and the cost was too prohibitive to be realistic.

Now it wasn't OMG expensive to the point where no one could ever do it, but it was pricey, and I doubt Stern is going to buy expensive custom shaped panels just to keep some old DMD aspect ratio that's not really relevant to anything. I want to say that the panels were going to be like $200, instead of the usual $65 or whatever. I might have those numbers off a bit, I'm going from old memory, but it was something along those lines.

Makes way more sense to get closer to 16:9, which is going to be native to a lot of video clip sizes anyways.

#42 3 years ago

there are dozens and dozens of different size LCDs available, for example, the link below shows 9 different variations of a wide screen display . . .

http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/12-14-15-19-27-28_60208859102.html?spm=a2700.7724857.35.1.YbacTR

So while they may not have bought them off of ebay or amazon, there are tons of manufacturers that offer non-standard sizes. So, they may have had to go to one of these guys and yes, on a small volume it can be pricey, but should not be on the volume they would ultimately need.

#43 3 years ago
Quoted from ecurtz:

I believe he's referring to the LCD panels, which certainly didn't look like a standard aspect ratio to me.

Right, the current panels in TBL are 21:9 aspect ratio, which is ultrawide LCD. If I recall one of the guys said they were going for a less wide aspect (probably 16:9) and that's why we saw vertical bars on the old prototypes at expo with the updated gamecode. I really like the ultrawide screens and they are more expensive, so it will be interesting what they end up with in the production games.

#44 3 years ago
Quoted from luvthatapex2:

If I recall one of the guys said they were going for a less wide aspect (probably 16:9)

TBL was shot at 1.85 so a 21:9 (2.33) would be too wide, while 16x9, 1.77 , would be closer and while it would result in black line tops and bottom, those could easily be hidden behind the bezel to have the screen nice and full.

#45 3 years ago
Quoted from rosh:

there are dozens and dozens of different size LCDs available, for example, the link below shows 9 different variations of a wide screen display . . .
http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/12-14-15-19-27-28_60208859102.html?spm=a2700.7724857.35.1.YbacTR
So while they may not have bought them off of ebay or amazon, there are tons of manufacturers that offer non-standard sizes. So, they may have had to go to one of these guys and yes, on a small volume it can be pricey, but should not be on the volume they would ultimately need.

That screen would look real good on modern machines

#46 3 years ago
Quoted from rosh:

there are dozens and dozens of different size LCDs available, for example, the link below shows 9 different variations of a wide screen display . . .
http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/12-14-15-19-27-28_60208859102.html?spm=a2700.7724857.35.1.YbacTR
So while they may not have bought them off of ebay or amazon, there are tons of manufacturers that offer non-standard sizes. So, they may have had to go to one of these guys and yes, on a small volume it can be pricey, but should not be on the volume they would ultimately need.

Yes, understood, but I'm telling you that I went directly to the source, asked them point blank, and they were custom made sizes, made for that game, and Randy talked to their supplier about prices for ordering custom cut panels. For a price they'll do any size you want.

What they're doing now I could not tell you, but the prototypes are custom LCDs, not off the rack from Alibaba or whoever. Maybe they're rethinking that cost, and it's one reason they're changing panel sizes.

Anyways, bottom line is I'm guessing Stern will go with the cheap and easy option, which is laptop panels.

#47 3 years ago

It's been about a year since I looked into this.

There's someone in SoCal who has a patent on cutting down after-market LCD panels. I contacted him directly and was told that success depends on how the original panel was fabricated. I could send him one panel and he would cut it down for something in the range of $1000-2000 with no guarantee that it would be functional in the end. As an alternative, he suggested I contact some of his licensees in Asia so I tried that.

Their prices were better but they were only selling certain sizes. They would consider cutting something custom for our use but were trying to steer me to use an existing panel they were already offering. The cost of the cut panels in volume was around 3x the cost of standard panels.

I was mainly interested in this for installations where the tall LCD just wouldn't fit, but using their panel would require changes to our controller board and there was no record for reliability once the panel had been cut.

#48 3 years ago

I cant wait for someone to offer (4:3) lcd's for arcade replacements. Like 25" screens.

#49 3 years ago
Quoted from Luckydogg420:

I cant wait for someone to offer (4:3) lcd's for arcade replacements. Like 25" screens.

I believe they do, Happ makes slash sells then, "visionpro" or something like that.

#50 3 years ago
Quoted from rosh:

TBL was shot at 1.85 so a 21:9 (2.33) would be too wide, while 16x9, 1.77 , would be closer and while it would result in black line tops and bottom, those could easily be hidden behind the bezel to have the screen nice and full.

Cropping videoclips would be trivial.

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