R for… Raster (bars)

Rasters have been around for a very long time, they have been here almost since the beginning of the 90s like classic effects such as shadebobs , vectorballs or dots. But first of all I should remind you that the Atari ST was released 30 years ago and can only display 16 colors at once while PC can display 16… millions of colors. As it happens rasters are coloured horizontal bars, as a consequence they have a direct impact on the viewer’s eye :

Typical rasters seen in an 1993 intro by the Replicants.

The first thing about rasters bars is the technical treat achieved, showing so many colors simultaneously but I also think that if used properly they can bring a lot to a screen, looking pretty stylish too. It was seemingly harder to create vertical rasters even tho we were offered some examples. In my mind they look even more beautiful  :

A wave of vertical rasters in a screen by  MJJ Prod. (1992)

Besides these two versions we can also find rasters that move diagonally or according to any angle coming out of a coder’s imagination. Coders also have the authority to choose colors and unfortunately it wasn’t so rare to find ugly dithering only using red, green or blue (what we actually call « coders colors » 🙂). The modest yet very enjoyable 2003 Mind Rewind demo by Reservoir Gods shows that nice colors do make a difference (thanks to Evil/DHS who captured the demo and uploaded the video) .

A bit of variation can add a lot of depth !

Note that this kind of effect was often seen on the rival of the Atari ST, namely the Amiga except that on Amiga, it was pretty easy to code thanks to an additional chip called « cooper ». The 1992  No Cooper demo by 1984 rightfully finds it name from this little story and shows that skills can sometimes do better than hardware ! Another example comes from 1992 Illusion screen by NeXT.

As you can see the right screenshot perfectly shows the wider screen gained thanks to overscan/fullscreen ! It DOES a big difference, doesn’t it ?

These days the so popular rasters from the 90s are not to be found any more. Maybe we have seen too many of them. Maybe they would need some sort of an update. I don’t know but I sometimes miss them. Anyway they made a short comeback in the 2008 demo  More Or Less Zero by Dead Hackers Society :

We are offered both vertical and horizontal rasters and they even run in overscan ! What a feast !

Time to put an end to this article with a few videos showing our beloved rasters. Let’s start with a tribute to 1991 Ooh Crickey Wot a Scorcher demo by The Lost Boys :

Following is an excerpt from 1992 No Cooper demo I talked about earlier. And if you enjoy this part of the show I can only suggest you fully watch this 18 minute demonstration!

Let’s continue with the beautiful example seen in 2003 Mind Rewind !

And we end with 2008 More or Less Zero demo that truly gives a new life to rasters (go directly to 3″27 for a second example) !

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