The Evolution of 8-Bit Art | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

The Evolution of 8-Bit Art | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios


When we talk about 8-bit today we are probably
thinking about a specific kind of style. 8-bit was born from video games that came out in the late seventies or early eighties up to the mid- nineties. The basis of true 8-bit is the
same process that’s used to create music for video games. I think 8-bit and music makes for super fun
building blocks of whatever you want to express. The cool thing about 8-bit is that it exists in that world and bringing it back gives a whole new
perspective on it. From nineteen seventy seven to the launch of SNES in nineteen
ninety-one, 8-bit is a throwback to a time when computers and video games had a distinct style. You’re probably thinking of early nintendo culture but there was another 8-bit which was tied to the early home
computers which was more of a DIY culture. And so the idea of 8-bit culture today
really is a combination of the graphical and visual style from the
console games with this idea of the DIY culture as it came from the 8-bit home computer games. I think 8-bit really has three functions. One is that it’s easy to make so if you
want to do a pixelated character, like almost everybody can do a character that’s
passable as 8-bit graphics. The second thing is that if you do 8-bit
you’re sort of belonging to a specific group, that you’re rejecting something like big budget productions. The third thing then, it also makes
the creative process more like a game because you are creating these kind of artificial
constraints in what you’re doing as a creative person. Like the pixels being
very large, mutations in terms of memory from a programming perspective,
limitations in terms of sound. And so 8-bit is just the alternative option, right. That there always is a more kind of low key or a lo-fi way of creating the same thing. The interest in 8-bit now is not only in the
technical limitations but also there’s a nostalgic factor. A lot of people grew up with it and it kind of reminds them of the time when they would come home from school and start playing video games. For someone in my shoes it’s definitely a
combination of both nostalgia but it’s also about finding an artistic
value in it that isn’t nostalgic. The Doctor Horrible project came about making the soundtrack in an 8-bit format and they got a good deal of attention and some of the cast members actually were talking about it on Twitter so I said okay maybe I’m onto something. So I decided just to create an animation to go along with it. A lot of people talked about it and it definitely helped the exposure. College Humor contacted me about doing Jersey Shore. Other ones I’ve done for College Humor were Man vs Wild, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Battle Star Galactica, Doctor Who, Saved by the Bell, and a Mad Men one. Theres just such a broad age range of people that both watch these shows and have any kind of an interest in old video games. It is becoming it’s own respected art form and
some people use it just for fun, other people use it to create works of art. I love being able to communicate in a really simple way. And to me, pixel art is like the simplest way to communicate. You can throw up four colors and it can mean
something. It is able to whittle down complexity to its simplest form and I lay
every dot perfectly. The visuals and the music are always connected
because we’re using the same tools. Usually it’s just done on the console like
a game would. I was really excited about making music
with gear that sounded like my childhood. It’s just frequencies moving at different rates. So there’s a triangle which is nice
and bass-y. It just moves in a way that rumbles a speaker. There’s a square
wave which is kind of harsh but it has a wider range than the triangle. And the pulse wave is the tweeter. And
then there’s noise which is awesome because you can make hi-hats and cymbals and explosions with that sort of stuff. It’s kind of debatable like if it should stay true to
itself and become its own style or, like me, I think that in
order for me to grow as a musician it needs to go beyond just sounding like video game music. And i think, you know, like these things
are just going to become instruments just like Casio keyboards are part of music. I think a Gameboy will just be another
tool that people can use. Experimentation will just keep going and just become part
of music in general. Most of my nostalgia for 8-bit music is not the 8-bit music of the eighties. Any nostalgia that I have for 8-bit music, is the 8-bit music I was making in high school with my friends. I didn’t really grow up with these sounds but I know where they’re from. When we make music, we aren’t trying to make technical demos of like what the Nintendo can do so much. I began
approaching this in the middle ground of programming and music. It’s funny to like take these cutesy, rough
sounds and put them like in a venue where people are like crowd surfing. It’s definitely an instrument. There are people that use like the ZX Spectrum, Amiga, NES, Gameboy, Atari ST, and I think every one of those except for the Gameboy predates my life. I think I prefer composing on a Gameboy or on a computer and I prefer performing with a guitar. Now the only time I play guitar is on stage. Today, why would a child pick up a guitar and not a computer
because on a computer you can have a guitar and any other sound that you can possibly imagine. That said, there’s a lot that like you miss with current technologies. Even like the
difference between like using a laptop versus a drum machine. They all present different things. I think what’s important is to get that they’re on the same playing field. We’re all just trying to like communicate. Music is a language, programming is language. It’s forcing a lot of the artists to almost become better and stronger because I’m going to really push what I’m doing to the next level. I think there’s something really attractive
about taking a digital image and making it analog. I had all these great
video game ideas that i thought we’re just funny but also had a real social
commentary going on. One of the first ones that I got really serious was JFK: the game. Once I put it through this 8-bit filter,
there’s a whole new medium that gives it a whole new meaning. When I started getting these ideas it kind of started snowballing into all these other things. And 9/11 is one of the most
important things that have happened and changed our culture so i wanted to put
that through the filter just to see what happened. The problem
is that people associate video games with something cute and
almost light-hearted and people automatically just assume that you’re making fun of something and
that’s not necessarily the case. That juxtaposition is exactly what gave the
piece its strength and its power. I saw the opportunity once I was making the video games to
really push forward in a new genre and I discovered that I have a real love for minimalism. I love stripping everything down and
coming to the basis of the art and having just color fields, straight lines,
hard edges, and making things that are very pleasing to the eyes. You have people that might not be into art who say
“oh I like that ’cause it reminds me of the video games I used to play.” There’s definitely a nostalgia to it. We live in a digital world now and this is
kind of a byproduct of that. I think 8-bit will probably always be
around as a kind of option. It’s a very unique style born from limitation and it’s stood
the test of time. Maybe in like twenty five years, the Atari twenty six
hundred and all that will be so far away from our memory that it’ll sound like the future. And it definitely makes you approach writing music very differently. There’s a lot of like backwards thinking that’s really refreshing. I think 8-bit is constantly growing and just like videogames it’ll get better and better.

100 thoughts on “The Evolution of 8-Bit Art | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

  1. Both 1 bit and 8 bit will always be here. As we come up with radically new display technologies, their first applications will almost always be low-fi.

  2. give it up. the KIN8 is dead.
    we're entering an age of open contact with wild ancient ET cultures. don't waste your lives on the past

  3. Can someone here who's fan of 8-bit Music suggest me some good ones, videos, Mp3s or youtube channels. It can be any form of remixes from classic/retro games or complete new 8-bit music. Thanks

  4. These are kids! It makes me think that they are right and there's more to this than just a retro fad. I like 8-bit as a retro fad, but I will be very happy if these kids turn it into something more.

  5. 8-bit means that the screen can portray 256 colors per pixel. Nothing more nothing less.
    Most of the things from the 8bit era is actually 4-bit.

  6. I have to join the ranks of the guys who are whining. Man, this was about the most unprofessionally produced BS I've ever heard and seen about any computer related matter in years. Dude who said that making 8-bit graphics is easy and almost everyone can make it… I would actually like to see him proving that statement.

  7. Damn artists… don't even know what 8-bit means… Pretty much none of the stuff in the video was 8-bit.

  8. If you have an Android phone, I developed an app called Bitcam that turns your photos into "8-bit" art. Give it a try!

  9. 8 Bit stopped when the Atari ST and Amiga hit the scene for home computers and the Mega Drive/Geneis and SNES arrived for consoles. This was the 16bit era… Now it's all banded together under the 8-bit header 🙁

  10. you clearly dont know the difference between 8-bit and 16-bit. do some research mate, there was a lot of 16-bit in this video as well

  11. Listen bub, how about you stop telling people off for being different than you, and start appreciating these artists and their medium for their talent. Also, try to expand your views by actually listening to what these people have to say. You might learn something.

  12. How about we continue calling it pixel art and chip-tunes instead of using a meaningless and inaccurate term like "8-bit" to use as a blanket statement.

  13. only the "artist" seems to have that problem i think lol.

    I'm sorry, modern art often isn't art. It's deconstruction. Which is a tool of art. But very arguably not its focus.

    Not one mention of minecraft though? Son I am disappoint

  14. You had almost eight minutes time to talk about the history and future of "8-bit" graphics and music and managed to do it without a single mention of the demoscene. This signifies such a level of ignorance that I decided to push the dislike button.

  15. 8 bit music is just one tone at a time. NES didn't have an 8 bit audio processor, it had a 24 bit processor (three tones).

  16. It's strange to hear someone say that the Atari and the ZX Spectrum, etc, were 'before their time' because all of the things mentioned in this video have happened 'during' my lifetime. They came along and blew my mind. It's what addicted me to technology, Fascinating video. I like it!

  17. Addendum: I'd still love to own an Atari. It had some of the best music software you could get at the time – way ahead of the competition. Used by 'Pro musos' or whatever they called themselves in that era. Great bit of kit!

  18. Wow, I do consider gaming and music and graphics in videogames to be an art. Mostly considering the time it takes. But this? These are just random dudes that thought dubstep was too mainstream so they grabbed their mac and started corrupting soundtracks and gluing them together to make some weird beats. Sad.

  19. somehow 8-bit technology of the past turned into a ridiculous hipster douchebag trend, they don't even know what 8-bit is and confuse it with 16 bit, before making a docu inform urself, don't just talk out of ur ass in 3 second clips of face zoom

  20. Well… no….
    There is no soundtrack corruption or even macs most of the time.
    The main idea of chiptune music is using the hardware of the past(ex. 4:03) and by using the most fundamental waveforms(square, triangle, etc) to create music. Its a really cool process, and, due to the limitations, its really creative.

  21. I mentioned the demoscene during my interview. It didn't make the final cut, but rest assured it wasn't forgotten. <):')

  22. That's because the kids in this video had nothing to do with 8 bit. This is the hipster thing. They latch on to what's cool about what we grew up with and could care less about the substance. The difference is that we grew up with it so we know the history and we were part of the actual thing. This video is about kids who just want to cash in on the look of what we know. I wouldn't expect them to know any more than what the commercial, hipster 8 bit scene knows.

  23. I had to stop watching this after about 38 seconds. "EIGHTBIT" IS NOT A NOUN. It's like those cereal adverts where they bang on about it being full of "wholegrain" as if that's a thing. Ugh. Shutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutup.

  24. "8-bit" and "pixelated" are not synonymous. 90% of what they showed here didn't even use 8-bit color. Go on making it, but come on. call it what it is.

  25. I Hate How People Hardly Ever Make 16-bit Music because Mario Paint (a 16 bit music program) was and still is underrated I wish More People Made 16 Bit Music

  26. No. Well yes. But no. This is supposed to be "art in the style of the graphics of the 8-bit home computers", which had 8-bit processors. The processors themselves didn't limit the colour range directly, though in practice not being able to move much data around quickly, meant graphics had to be lo-res and lo-colour, or else animation would be very slow and jerky.

    In actuality this whole stupid fad is inspired by graphics from 16-bit machines. The ST and Megadrive etc. But hipsters are idiots.

  27. Well people who do Adlib (opl2, opl3) muic would qualify as 16 bit right?

    plus anyone using digital trackers from the ms-dos era would also be making 16bit music (16bit sound samples).

    I guess there is alot of 16 bit music being made but it has less of a "specific" sound signature such as 8bit?

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