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New image algorithm upscales 8-bit images without jagged edges

Posted by Bradley Wint on 26/05/2011

Two researchers have come up with a new scaling algorithm called Depixelizing Pixel Art that extracts a resolution-independent vector which allows for any level of magnification without image degradation. It also has a special feature that takes sharp pixelated edges and transforms them into smooth curves with the relevant matching color grades.

Scaling vector images is done quite easily in Adobe Illustrator for example, but since the base images were only of 8-bit nature, upscaling would result in huge blocks eventually being formed. Johannes Kopf from Microsoft, and Dani Lischinski from The Hebrew University came up with a formula that converts 2×2 squares that are connected at one point into the flawlessly smooth curve based on the shape of the neighboring pixels, allowing for a smoother image to be created resembling the original (tiny) 8-pixel image. They also reduce pixel aliasing artifacts and improve smoothness by fitting spline curves to contours in the image and optimizing their control points.

At the moment the emulator is still in the works and very complex in nature, and some images are hard to upscale (mainly anti-aliased images), but they are hard at work at developing a more efficient formula for mass scale applications that can handle a variety of low pixel resolution images. Most of the works were conducted on a series of Nintendo games with surprising success. Doom 95 failed to properly upscale due to the image being in anti-alias format.

The potential for such a formula is great for graphics designers as well as those who may want to convert retro-games to look more like today’s Nintendo DSi and Wii games. Imagine playing Mario that has decent graphics? You can read up more about the project and their other works here.

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  • Not-me-boss

    Well lets hope Nvidia and AMD got hold of this and use it to it’s full potential for there GPU software.

  • Anonymous

    Just so you know HQ3x and Super 2xSai have been around for over five years (since the birth of GBA emulators, in fact), and they both tend to make entire games look much better than the blurry junk your result shows. In fact-the result you’re using has already been achieved to a point of just blobs on the screen from thresholded blur.
    WOW it’s so new…
    You can’t sell a car for retail price as new and call it new if you bought it 5 years ago and drove it around everyday. Same reason you can’t release old news and call it news. Because there’s no such thing as new news, there is only “news” because it’s new.

  • Masky One

    Eat My Shorts Jakey Bee!  I have been using HQ3x and 2xSai for about 10 years now (at least 2xSai), and the results that I just watched blow away the stupid 2xSai and the HQ3x.  So go and troll somewhere else.

  • Bradley Wint

    We aren’t talking about the HQ3x utility. It may have been used for a comparison but that is not the focus of this story.

  • Ddg

    whats the fun into having a pixel less 8 bit image?

  • ljdarten

    huh. interesting and looks good but you should have used a list of images and use all methods. the way it’s presented here looks like you’re hiding the fact that some of the methods worked better for different styles of images. I think all the “our method” ones look good and that’s what matters but it just looks funny.

    when trying to prove a process is better you shouldn’t just show best cases, it makes it look shady.

  • Bradley Wint

    Hence I linked this in the post. They compared quite a lot to list them out on a small image.

  • ljdarten

    I like that comparison page. does look like it shows pretty much any pixel art pretty good.

    I don’t think anti-aliased images should even be a concern. I don’t know much about how aa works, but it seems to me it would be a bit like trying to use this method for photographs. just too “dirty” of an image, a pure pixel pic is very clean.

  • Sererena

    Maybe I’m biased as a pixel artist myself, but WHY would you want to artificially upscale classic pixel art in an emulator?  I can understand the real use for this kind of technology in computer graphics, photo edting, etc. but I mean, are there really people playing classic roms but wishing they weren’t as “pixelated.”?