PF3000 – Large Format 8-bit Sprite Designer (2023 Collective Project)
PF3000 was completed in October 2023 and debuted at the 2023 Autumn Lights Festival at the Gardens at Lake Merritt where it won an award. Thanks to all who supported this project and special thanks to our sponsors at ArtPush.org
Draw Pixel Graphics using Touch!
Introducing Filma Collective’s art piece for the 2023 Autumn lights show in Oakland, CA: The PF3000 – Stupidly large format 8-bit Sprite Designer. The PF3000 is a wall of large pixels that you control with touch. Tap a pixel with your finger to turn it on, tap it again to change the color. Multiple people can join in and work on epic sprites together. Make video games just like they did in the old days but REALLY BIG.
We are still collecting donations for the PF3000 – Just $20 enables a single pixel. Make a tax deductible donation today and get cool perks.
PF3000 Latest News
- Update 11/13/23 – Carl Cosmos talks PF3000 in a KQED interview
- Update 10/20/23 – Filma’s PF3000 takes home award at 2023 Autumn Lights Festival in Oakland.
- Update 9/26/23 – Meet the Team
- Update 8/22/23 – Frame Construction and Touch interface are under way!
- Update 8/19/23 – PF3000 has been accepted in the 2023 Autumn Lights Festival in Oakland, CA
- Update 8/1/2023: Construction has begun on the full size PF3000 – read more about it here.
- Resolution: 16×16
- Pixel Count: 256
- Custom engineered microcontroller circuit
- Pixel Size: 3.75″x3.75″
- Full Dimensions w/ Frame: 6′ x 6′
Touch sensitive Big-ass Pixels:
- Strip of RGB LEDs
- Acrylic Prism Light Diffuser
- Indium-Tin Oxide Conductive Film
PF3000 Technical Background: Computer Graphics in the 80’s
Sprites (a.k.a. “Pixel Graphics”) and Video Games
Our latest art project which has a little something to do with a character called “Mario”.
On the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), little mario is a ‘sprite’ built using 4 colors (a palette) within a 16×16 grid. Video games back then (and some video games today) used sprites for video game characters. An artist would draw, on a grid, pixel by pixel, these video game characters. Then, to make Mario run or jump, an animator would take a sprite like this and make multiple animation frames (a frame is just an image) – modifying Mario ever so slightly for each frame. These frames are played really fast by the NES (60 frames a second to be exact), which gives the illusion that Mario is running, jumping, or whatever, when the player presses a button on their controller.
We’re huge fans of animation, old computers, and video games – we wondered… what if there was a way where people could get together to create characters just like Mario? What we came up with is a custom, low resolution, touch sensitive display designed specifically to create characters just like Mario. Read on to learn more about how it works.
A giant very low resolution touch display
The PF3000 is designed similar to a computer monitor – but a computer monitor at very low resolution. For example, your TV if it is 4k has 8.3 million pixels. By comparison, the PF3000 will have 256 Pixels – just enough for a simple video game character from the 1980s like Mario or Pac-Man. Just like in your TV, the pixels are arranged in a grid and each pixel can be a complex color comprised of three basic colors: Red, Blue, and Green. And, just like your modern digital tv, we draw images by choosing which pixel is which color on the screen. Then, provided a little distance between your eyes and the screen, our brain tells us that all these little far away colors are an image – like a dog or mario. A monitor that is high resolution will trick our brains into thinking we see a really real image – and a monitor with low resolution will show an image that looks more blocky (you know, like a bunch of blocks).
Pixels are drawn one at a time, but fast enough to complete an entire pass of your screen in a fraction of a second (yes, all 8.3 million of them). Because these pixels are drawn so fast, humans aren’t capable of comprehending the pixels being drawn in real time. Rather, when human looks at a screen, it looks as though the image is solid – as though it were a drawing on a piece of paper or a painting. The process of drawing an image out of pixels into an image is often referred to as rendering a frame where “render” is a fancy word for “draw” and “frame” is a fancy word for “image”.
If frames are presented to a viewer fast enough it will appear as though an object is moving. The faster the frames are presented to the viewer, the more realistic the presentation of movement will be. If the frames are presented slowly the movement will look choppy similar top stop-motion animation like the old t.v. show Gumby. All a video recording is, is a bunch of these frames (images) played back really fast. Animation is the presentation of these frames as created by drawings instead of photographs. Video games are rooted in these concepts – for example, the original NES could render 60 frames per second for Super Mario Bros. receiving input from the player and updating mario in realtime to make him seem alive. The PF3000 doesn’t render frames quite as quickly as the NES, but it doesn’t need to – just a few frames a second is enough to create the illusion of movement.
Where the PF3000 differs from your tv or computer monitor (besides the resolution) is how the colors for each pixel are controlled. Instead of a computer telling the PF3000 (a big low resolution tv) what to display, you and your friends will control the color through touch. By touching the pixel the pixel will light up and change color allowing you to draw sprites.
Animating Sprites – Digital Animation on the PF3000
Because what good is a video game without characters that move: The PF3000 allows a person to not only create a single image on its 16×16 grid – it also has support for animating the images allowing up to 4 frames of animation. The PF3000 features an animation workflow that allows you to copy an existing frame into a new frame and then modify the new frame for the animation you want. If you’ve never animated before, the PF3000 is a fantastic way to learn.
Here’s how it will work:
- Draw your character in it’s initial position
- PF3000 has a button that will copy the character and advance to the next frame
- modify the character for the next teeny-tiny piece of the animation
- Press the PF3000 copy/advance frame button again and repeat this process up to ten times.
- Animate by pressing play – the PF3000 will loop through all of the images you’ve created and animate them.
Let’s take pac-man who has three frames of animation. Going from left to right in this image, you would draw the first pac-man, press the PF3000 button, draw the second frame in the middle, press the PF3000 button again, and update the image to the the final frame on the right. Then, upon pressing play, pac-man would look as though he’s chomping away
PF3000 Floppy Disk System – Saving and Loading Sprite animations
The PF3000 supports a save/load feature using 5″ floppy disks (like from the 80s). More on this feature coming soon.