| pixeltime tribute

what it is
Alas, it seems that Pixel Time is no longer, its parent site word one of the earliest glorious dotcom casualties. Its primary innovator Ranjit has his own website and tells me the Pixel Time concept may someday remerge. In the meantime, he was nice enough to get me a copy of my old pixeltime userpage, with all 105 images I created. (And with a bit of the ol' Pixel Master prose to boot.) Also, more recently I posted some pixeltime works by other people that I had saved.

Pixeltime is one of my favorite sites on the web. It's about the coolest user-participation site out there, leaving my Blender of Love in the dust. The core idea is that people can use a simple paint progam to make 45x45 GIFs, and then submit them to themed galleries for all to admire, and to compete for real-world prizes.

The entire affair is watched over by the Pixel Master, who seems to be a cross of Mr. Rogers and Max Headroom via Blue Man Group. He comments on every aspect of the site, from previously submitted works to your choice of tool and color when you're creating your own would-be-masterpiece.

This is kind of a tribute page to the site, a place for me to display my favorite works, as well as provide commentary on my own efforts. Thanks to Pixel Time, I've gone through stages where I've become completely obsessed with the possibilities of 45x45 16-color GIFs. I've been told that there are long-term plans to add a message board to Pixeltime, much like I have on the Blender. This would be great, I've found the community on the Blender to be very supportive and interesting, and judging by the imagination displayed in many of the pixeltime pieces as well as some personal e-mailing I've engaged in, I would suspect many of the artists have interesting things to say.

As you may have guessed, these works are the result of a kind of cheating. It started very simply; I had the (fullsize) version of a digitial image of Mo that I knew looked good in Black and White, because of how good it looked in 16 shades of grey on my PalmPilot. I wrote a Visual Basic program that took a grey scale image file and converted it into ASCII. This ASCII could then be used to copy by hand into the Pixeltime paint program. The first time I used it-- after I had laboriously entered all 2025 pixels of Mo's head-- I discovered my home LAN firewall wouldn't let me post to Pixeltime! Aargh! Also, Mo's face looked a little splotchy, the five shades of grey Pixeltime offers wasn't cutting it. So I upgraded my program:
  • to dither the 5 shades of grey, providing 9 shades in all
  • to manipulate the mouse and "paint" the pixels on the pixeltime applet by itself
  • to automatically adjust the grey-balance so that every shade of grey occupied the same number of pixels
  • to allow "hand tweaking" of the grey-balance
  • to allow selections of the 16 pixeltime colors other than the greys
  • to preview the image so you don't have to wait for it to redraw in Pixeltime
(As you can see, I got a little carried away.) I'm not releasing this program, and I hope no one copies the technique, for a few reasons. One is that, even though it has the tentative blessing of the founders of Pixeltime, it really does violate the spirit of the thing, and many people using this trick would really hurt what the site's trying to accomplish. (Hopefully one lone nut doesn't matter so much.) The other reason, of course, is pure greed and desire for attention. I do limit myself to a maximum of one photopix per gallery, and guilt over using this hack has led me to do more works "by hand" than I would have otherwise.

I got some good results by substituting family of colors for parts of the greys. The elephant is probably the coolest example of this. I tendo to do a lot of tweaking for most images, either in my VB program, or once the program has laid out the basic pixels. For example, on the elephant I did the background by hand (forgetting the part inside the curl of trunk, whoops), as well as touching up the tusk. The "Y2K rollover globe" near the top of this page was made by zapping over a frame from an animated GIF of the earth, but every single pixel ended up being retouched by hand.

kirk's works
This is my only work that received an official pixeltime award, an honorable mention in the Circus gallery. Actually, of all my circus entries this was around my least favorite, but hey.

A few people had done some small fonts before, but no one did both Upper and Lower case. This is a very small but still fairly readable font that I've found very useful, since sometimes a word is worth 1000 pictures.

A reference to "Dr. Strangelove"'s most famous scene. I thought this was an amusing entry for the "Travel" gallery.

A blatant attempt to make a picture that the PixelMaster might find worthy of recognition (I noticed he seems to have a fondness for zoomed-out scenes- which is a cool idea, that 2 or 3 pixels can be all you need to make a person, given the right context.)

I like the symmetry of this one. It's actually a pretty accurate representation of the legendary Atari 2600 joystick, once described (back in the day) as the only joystick that you woundn't be embarrassed to see on your desk at work, because its design is so elegant.

I do like playing with words in this format. It offers a bit more flexibility than pictures alone, but people probably rely to much on captions.

A programmer's joke for the Y2K Gallery. It is actual semi-plausible Perl code that produces the semi-infamous "19100" display bug. I think the text might be hard to read with these colors, alas.

Another Y2K entry. I like the way the guy came out, all huddled in his SPAM stockpile.

This was for the Dreams Gallery-- it's actually based on a flying dream I had.

For the Garden Gallery, I revisted a series called "Thoughts of the Produce Section" that I came up with in college. It's one of those "inner life of plants" things. It was tough coming up with interesting thoughts that could fit in the space- actually, only a few of these thoughts were original for this format. The cucumber didn't come out too well, but I like the eggplant and the asparagus.