Showing posts with label computers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computers. Show all posts

Thursday, October 06, 2011

steve jobs, r.i.p.

over nearly thirty years, every computer i've ever owned was made by apple. as a computer-curious artist, steve had me with macpaint. i still have a copy of the program and a working mac plus to run it on ...


macpaint (1984)


apple iic (1984), something of a novelty item


macintosh plus (1986), my first art computer


performa 600 cd (1992), color! with built-in cd drive


power mac 8500 (1996), my first video-capable unit


powerbook lombard (2000), my first laptop


powerbook g4 line (titanium, 2001 & aluminum, 2005)


ipod g3 (2003)


ipod g5 video (2005)


macbook pro (2010)

see also:
computer comix v1.0
computer comix v2.0
computer comix v3.0

Thursday, April 07, 2011

computer comix v3.0

while 1988 saw prometheus steal color, 1990 gave him painting.

less than five years after 1985's "shatter", the first entirely computer-generated (cg) comic series and less than two years after 1988's "crash", the first full-length cg graphic novel — featuring marvel comics' invincible iron man — artist pepe moreno, still a relative newcomer who'd assisted in illustrating "crash", brought the ever-accelerating desktop computing revolution to one of the biggest properties in mass-market comics:

between 1937, when the first all-original comic book come out, and the release of the first computer-generated comic in 1984, the tools used in the creation of comic art remained fairly stagnant.

that all changed with the introduction of the first affordable graphics-oriented computer. all of a sudden, we had a machine that could do anything. most miraculously, that bottomless box of microchips and cathode rays has allowed our medium to grow — from the standpoint of technology — more in the ensuing five years than it did in the preceding forty-seven.

— mike gold, editor, dc comics


faster chips, more memory, bigger drives and falling prices brought with them higher resolution and a vastly expanded color palette: pixelization, "jaggies" and color-banding were beginning to give way to a richer and smoother result approaching traditional oil or airbrush and less harshly cg.

like its predecessors, "digital justice" explores the consequences of all this brave new technology as gotham city, having once again succumbed to corruption "sometime in the next century", erupts in a cyber-showdown between two rival a.i. systems covertly left behind by their now-dead creators: a malignant "joker" virus and a no-longer silent "batcom" surveillance program.

a couple of old friends, peter gillis and mike saenz, showed me some rough printouts of a story that was produced entirely on a 128k apple macintosh computer, using but one disk drive. the artwork was chunky and brittle: it looked like some amphetamine addict had been given a box of zip-a-tone that suffered from a glandular disease. but the look was totally unique to comics. within several months, we refined the look and the resulting effort — shatter — was one of the best-selling comics of the year. it completely astonished the folks over at apple computer, inc., who never perceived such a use for their hardware.


we've come a long way in the past five years: the book you are now holding was produced on a macintosh computer that has 64 times the internal memory, 400 times the storage capacity, about 8 times the speed, and hundreds of software packages. more important, digital justice takes advantage of different devices that, five years ago, were barely dreamed of for the home or studio: computer-aided design, 3-d imaging programs, high-resolution and direct-to-film printers, graphics scanners, and color. a whole lot of color. in fact, there's the potential for more than 16 million colors.

back then, naysayers and technophobes looked at the end result and, seeing only its shortcomings, declared the computer useless in the creation of comic art. since that time, that bottomless box has become so useful it is now almost invisible: artists have been using their machines to generate special effects, designers have been doing their design work online, letterers have been creating their own fonts, and craftspeople have been coloring comics with a palette (and the resultant special effects) heretofore unknown in the medium. dc comics even has its own in-house computer coloring department.


pepe wanted to turn cold computer technology into a warm "product" and to make the computer invisible. this is a formidable goal; there is a certain point an artist can reach wherein the end result no longer appears to be computer generated; at that point, the project will appear to be self-defeating.

his early experiences with the commodore amiga computer and primitive art programs gave pepe a head start on the color macintosh ii. in creating the movie-like look of digital justice, pepe conceived and executed his work directly on the monitor with the electronic medium in mind. he used a wide variety of tools to bring the book to life: cad programs, vector illustration, 3-d modeling, text effects, and such paint programs as image studio, studio/8 and photoshop.

pepe then arranges these images into panels, and then, using quark xpress, the panels are assembled into pages, and finally, balloons, text and sound effects are added: the completed work ultimately is sent out so that printing negatives can be made directly from over 200 megabytes of computer files. no "physical artwork" is produced. indeed, the full color digital separations in digital justice represent a genuine technological breakthrough.


(story and art by pepe moreno)

see also:
computer comix v1.0
computer comix v2.0

Monday, December 06, 2010

computer comix v2.0

we are currently seeing the business world transformed by a microcomputer implementation called desktop publishing. ... it can be likened to having your own little printshop right on your desk.
— mike saenz, 1988

color. vector drawing tools. page layout. 3d modeling. less than three years of rapid advances in technology allowed artist and graphics software pioneer mike saenz to follow up 1985's "shatter" — the first comic series created entirely on computer — with 1988's "crash", a full-length 63-page graphic novel featuring marvel comics' high-tech hero, the invincible iron man.

... however, today's off-the-shelf tools are still evolving and are not yet suitable for my own specific need: the ability to create professional quality film for color offset lithography. that capability is a tall order. but it can be done. crash is proof.

... the macintosh ii was forthcoming from apple at that time. it was generally known that the mac ii was a powerful, color, open architecture machine. this was vital to the concept. only with the emergence of the mac ii in the early summer of 1987 could i enlist the help of fellow associate william bates of knowledge engineering.

... i presented bill with a written and illustrated wish list of the program that i wanted for crash. from there, bill coupled my ideas with his and code that he'd developed over the course of two years. bill called the resulting program lithographer.

also, i enlisted the help of michael miller ... of umecorp ... a diversified research and development company which has developed such products as high tech toys to real-time expert system shells — the kinds of things tony stark would use. mike functioned as a technical consultant on the character iron man.

... finally, i enlisted the help of fellow comic artist pepe moreno. pepe is well known throughout europe and the u.s. his books, rebel, zeppelin, joe's air force and gene kong are much acclaimed.


rounding out saenz' software arsenal was a new type of drawing program called illustrator '88 and a dimensional modeler called pro 3d. the results were a futurist's wet dream narrated in glorious techobabble.



working in a commercial program that i co-developed called comicWorks (mindscape), i was able to create the 10 megabytes of bitmaps that compose a good 75% of crash. while comicWorks was designed to create black and white, low resolution comic art pages, it was used on crash as a dedicated bitmap editor/creator. using a selection of graphic tools that i designed into that program, i was able to do just about everything required for raw black and white bitmap entry. once imported into lithographer, we could color them.

... lithographer was written as a 32-bit program, stepping beyond the 256 color limit of color quickDraw (apple's graphic system for drawing color images on screen) and utilizing the full range of the mac ii's color capability for display: 16.8 million colors. lithographer can process black and white images into 24-bit color and allow the user to blend the images.

the resulting graphics are free of the jaggy-edged quality of low res bitmaps. the higher resolution and greater range of colors can fool the uninitiated into thinking that parts of crash were created by conventional means. this process can be seen on many pages in crash. it looks like oil painting.


a much more precise and memory conserving method of creating complex graphics is to use computer drawing tools. computer drawing involves designating points, lines and curves without being forced to render all of the bit data in between points. for the mac, adobe illustrator is such a program.

using illustrator, i was able to create the crash cover, recreate marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. logo (designed by bill sienkiewicz) and other graphics throughout crash. the result is black and white artwork with smooth and precise bezier curves and lines. ... while the results were very satisfying, due to the inherent time limitations of computer drawing input and output, i could not use this technique to create more graphics in crash.


using pro 3d (enabling technologies) for the mac, i built all of the 3d models required for the book. fury's osprey, stark's limosine, the robots, the shield levicarrier and others were created with pro 3d. using pro 3d's tools — which resemble a carpenter's lathe and jigsaw tools on screen — i was able to fashion the models and take "snapshots" of their various positions in a postscript file format. the pro 3d data was black and white so bill wrote code in lithographer that could import the data, display it, and allow me to compose it on the page and assign colors to it.

finally, lithographer automatically created 4 files for each page, one for each process color (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) and downloaded them to a linotronic 100 machine. the lino is a laser raster imaging device. it uses a small helium-neon laser to image and expose all of the millions of tiny dots directly onto black and white film. after proofing the film on a color proofing system, we could tell, and marvel's printer could tell, just how well the color separations came out.

there really is no "original art" created for the production of crash. the entire book exists as magnetically encoded data on floppy disks. to my way of thinking, this is an advantage. that data is flexible and could be useful again some day.


(story, art and software design by mike saenz; art assist by pepe moreno; programming and software design by bill bates)

see also:
computer comix v1.0

computer comix v3.0

computer comix v1.0

back in a galaxy not too far away, back before photoshop, back before color even, back when there were only two programs, called macpaint and macdraw, and back when only a few guys actually knew how to use them[1] ...

as first comics managing editor mike gold wrote in december 1985:

well, of course it had to happen.

when we released the first shatter special last february, we thought it would do well — after all, nobody had ever done an entire comic book on a computer before.

but curiosity value wears thin pretty fast. we took a chance with the shatter special and printed higher than our distributor's orders might indicate — something that is very, very rare for first comics (when our books are gone, they're gone; we're not in the back issue business and nearly all of our comics "sell out.")


those extra copies sold out very, very quickly. the distributors could not keep the book in their warehouses. in fact, we were under a lot of pressure to do a second printing.

"what the hell," we figured. "it's not a regularly published comic book, let's do a second printing."

that second printing "sold out" four days before it shipped from the printer — every copy we had was committed to the various distributors' warehouses all across north america and england.

so as we were thinking about doing a third — and final — printing on the shatter special, mike saenz and i started talking about what we'd do about shatter after our experimental six-issue back-up series in jon sable, freelance. we couldn't stay there — mike grell wanted his book back!

... actually, there was only one possible solution: shatter would have to appear in his own book.


the only question was how we would approach the project. we learned a lot from our six short experiments, and computer technology — particularly as it relates to apple's macintosh — evolved quite a bit since we started working on shatter.

what you are seeing in this issue is a far cry from what you saw in the shatter special. the library of type fonts has expanded greatly, so the words in the balloons should be a lot more readable. we learned when to use digitizers and special effects, and — just as important — when not to use them.

apple came out with two giant leaps forward: they perfected macdraw, a new graphic arts program that can be used along with their macpaint. macdraw is fantastic: among other things, it allows mike to draw each object as a separate entity which he then can place behind or in front of other objects. shatter is no longer simply dots on paper.


better still, apple came out with their laserwriter, an unbelievable printer that produces crisp, sharp printouts of mike's work. for graphic art reproduction, the difference between the laserwriter and traditional dot-matrix printers is like the difference between glossy coffee table art books and paintings on cave walls.

and even better still, the folks up at apple gave us a laserwriter. that sucker isn't exactly cheap; it's nice to know you're appreciated. thanks, apple!


(story by peter gillis and art by mike saenz)

see next:
computer comix v2.0

computer comix v3.0


[1] in fact, when artist saenz left the series after only a few issues, the book temporarily returned to traditional production methods since no one else knew how to use the computer equipment!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

quote of the day

hacker masato nakatsuji after his arrest, charged with unleashing the destructive "octopus virus", which replaces all of its victims' files with cartoon images of cephalopods:

i wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time i was arrested.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

how i learned to stop worrying

... about the coming machine slaughter and love HP!

from gizmodo:

this is awkward. it appears that HP's new webcams, which have facial-tracking software, can't recognize black faces, as evidenced in the above video. HP has responded:
we are working with our partners to learn more. the technology we use is built on standard algorithms that measure the difference in intensity of contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose. we believe that the camera might have difficulty "seeing" contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting.

so this difficulty somehow escaped HP's attention because ... ???

help me out here, HP.