Are We There Yet?

Drawing with the Commodore 64’s classic Koala Painter wasn’t the easiest task to do; joystick as an input, lots of crashes, pixels as big as Lego-bricks, and not to mention, a highly limited color palette. In fact, everything else was somewhat tolerable and forgivable, even the crashing if you just knew what procedures to avoid, but you just couldn’t get around with the poor amount of colors that was available. And because the resolution was equally poor, rasterization techniques were essentially ruled out from the get-go due to the hideous results.

Luckily, color palette has since then increased steadily from C64’s 16 colors, to modern hardware’s millions of colors. What this transition has caused by and large is that the number of colors has become basically a non-issue in contemporary mainstream real-time imagery discourse, as if the whole project of colors would be concluded. And it essentially is, since the 16,7 million color palette has been a consumer standard for years now, and obviously “good enough” for majority of people.

So, I started to think what else has come to its evolutionary end in the realm of real-time imagery, and one instance I could think of was screen resolution. I’m highly skeptical that there will be a demand for higher than 2560 x 1440 resolution (which is the resolution of a typical 27” display for professional use) in near future, since even 1920 × 1080 (Full HD) has been something of a gold-standard for quite some time. And bigger resolutions would entail bigger displays, which is hard to imagine happening in home environment for logistical reasons alone, given the enormous physical size of today’s flat-screen TVs.

Ok, I really didn’t see the iPhone 4’s Retina Display coming, but I guess only few of us did. The Retina Display’s resolution is far beyond the reasonable need, so it’s rather safe to declare that the pixel-density has now officially hit the ceiling, or at least is about to hit in the very near future.

As said, color palette and resolution haven’t been issues for a while now, which gives rise to the question when do we have, for instance, enough onscreen polygons ? Or when lighting is “good enough”? Perhaps I’m comparing apples to oranges here, since palette and resolution are more directly dependent on the technical features of hardware, than number of polygons or quality of shadows. Still, it would make sense that there will be a day when we aren’t anymore discussing polygons or shadows per se, but solely the artistic use of them. The technical discourse becomes obsolete.

In a way, I really don’t want to see that day, since the chase is always better than the catch.