Video: A Brief History of the Modern Pixel

Simon Cottee -- the artist behind Rule, the recently noted animation created entirely inside Sleep Is Death -- has put together this thoughtful musing on the power of the pixel, talking with SiD creator Jason Rohrer, chiptune artist Dot.AY, and Studio Joho (the same behind semi-controversial pixel vid Dan the Man). PIXEL - A pixel art documentary [Simon Cottee]


  1. I watched a little bit, until I was turned off as well. It helps me understand where pixel art came from (something I’ve learned about on boing boing, and still have yet to see anywhere else, despite it’s apparent popularity). I guess it is one of those things I just don’t “get”. And as it’s art, I feel perfectly entitled not to understand or enjoy some types of art. But if it is your thing: more power to you.

  2. “Squares of color”.

    No they aren’t.

    Repeating a common misconception among artists, likely stemming from the way most graphics applications depict pixels at zoom levels > 1:1, doesn’t make it true.

    “A Pixel Is Not A Little Square” — a memo from computer graphics guru Alvy Ray Smith that every person whose job involves dealing with pixels (or talking about them) should at least have read once:


  3. I like how you people can say you have an opinion of this video if you didn’t even watch it. It was kind of boring in the first couple of minutes, I’ll give you that; but you’re really doing yourself a disservice by not watching it to its end. It’s really quite insightful.

    Also, to the pixel is not a square comment, that is getting a little overzealous. To claim that a pixel is not a square, merely because when zoomed in, each pixel is merely becoming compounded in size by many other pixels, someone is just being a bit anal. Also, to further illustrate this, the article mentions voxels not being little cubes. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a voxel being referred to as a cube, as it’s simply a 2d object (sprite) within a 3d “world,” but obviously referenced by the computer as a single point in the world. It’s rendered as a flat object, and regardless off what the computer knows it as, we still see it as a square. Thus, the term “square” is accurate enough.

    Obviously, in the early days, pixels were more visible, and they actually utilized a single pixel on the screen, rather than, as in the zoom example, being amplified by neighboring pixels. So the computer knows it as a point, but we still see a square. …Or, more accurately, if you want to be as anal as that guy, a rectangle, as pixels are rarely square, if you want to get into pixel aspect ratios.

    To say a pixel is not a little square, is to say that a car is not something you drive, simply because it is made up of smaller parts that are what drive the vehicle. It’s a nitpicky little soapbox argument.

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