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Herra Tohtori
09-23-2011, 02:59 PM
Hello Mr. Team Daidalos and everyone else.

I'm intrigued by the following dilemma.

The custom skin system in IL-2 only allows for 8-bit, 256 indexed colours in the skins. This poses serious limitations to the types of skins that can look good when they are indexed - specifically, all types of gradients are harshly treated by any imaginable indexing methods; either you get hard lines between colours, banding of variable degree, or dithering. None of this is really ideal, so that means custom skins have to have rather simple colour schemes and even then, the quality is always decreased in comparison to true colour, 24-bit depth that pretty much every image editor uses by default and which is usually used for editing the skins (indexing is what I do at the very end of the process, and it always breaks my heart a little).

After familiarizing myself a bit with IL-2's internal workings, I discovered to my puzzlement that the game itself has no problems using 24-bit (or rather, 32-bit) textures. In fact, every default skin seems to be a 24-bit colour TGA file with 8-bit alpha masking for damage holes and canopy transparency.

The game even goes so far as to make a 32-bit, cached TGA versions of the custom skins that you select, and then it uses them for the graphics.

The way I assume it does this is that the game engine reads the bitmap data from the 8-bit skins, converts it to 24-bit and slaps on the alpha channel appropriate for that plane.

Now, I understand that there has been a lot of effort into improving the default skins in the game by both TD and modders alike, but these only really improve the default skins shown by the game. Custom skins are left with the, frankly, inadequate option of 256 colours, and since the graphics engine itself has no problems dealing with textures of higher colour depth, this somewhat frustrates me.



So, with that background I come to thee with these questions three:

Are there, or has there been any plans of expanding skin support to allow for 24-bit textures?

If not, is there some technical obstacle for it (such as not being able to do engine modifications on that level)?

If it were possible to do, would it be doable for the 4.11 patch?


Allowing for TGA or even PNG textures would be a great boon for skinners everywhere. However, I understand completely if no such modification is planned, or if it's impossible; I merely wished to express my interest in the topic and ask if anyone has considered this kind of thing. If it's not in your list of priorities, or is impossible for you to do, then so be it.


On a related topic, if you're able to upgrade the graphics system, support for Direct Draw Surface format with DXT compression could reduce video memory usage by a factor of six for RGB, DXT1 textures, and by factor of four for RGBA textures that require an alpha mask. I know the game supports S3TC compression which is technically the same as or very close to DXT compression; however as it's done on the fly, the compression quality is typically by far inferior to the compression done by dedicated utility such as nvDXT.

Of course, video memory is rarely the bottleneck for IL-2 1946, but regardless it could be a nice option to have, say, a compressed texture pack around somewhere that could be installed on older PC's with something like 128-256 MB of dedicated video card memory... or even PC's with integrated graphics cards where every piece of VRAM saved can increase performance...


Thank you for your time.

Spudkopf
07-06-2012, 11:06 AM
I’ve been AWOL from the forum for some time only dropping in on and off to check on the progress of TD’s superb patches, only recently getting back into the enjoyment that is IL2-1946. As such I missed out on some pure gems that have been raised by members of this forum.

Always looking for ways to enhance this enjoyment I recently pulled some defaults skins out of the game to use as base layers to create some personal skins, I was somewhat bemused (surprised in fact) to learn that the defaults skins were actually of RGB quality and not indexed, and as I have mentioned in another posting I've since been frustrated in my attempts to try and then use modified efforts due to major loss of quality that indexing delivers.

I was just about to ask some questions to TD in regards to the restriction of indexed colours for users skins when thought I take another look at former post to see if anyone else had raised the issue when I found Herra Tohtori posting that put the whole issue up far more skilfully and technically than I could.

Elation turned to despair to learn that the questions (a real revelation in my mind) asked in the above post seem to have gone by unanswered via any official response and worse still that the notion was not championed by any other members here (not even a casual +1), as it would seem on the surface to be a fairly reasonable and achievable request from my non-expert and uninformed standpoint. In my humble opinion these questions were then and still are very pertinent in regards to this excellent sim’s ongoing future.

Just like native wide screen support, if higher bit value images could be implemented then this would greatly enhance the ongoing enjoyment of the sim and may even revitalise the non-hard core custom junkies of the community. Personally I'd even settle for 16bit .BMPs (which seems to have very little loss effect on the altered default skins by the way) .

So please excuse me for dredging up this topic back up from some 10 months ago, but I for one wish to bring this post back to the forefront of the discussion and hope that it may receive more attention this time around.

Mysticpuma
07-06-2012, 01:59 PM
Well worth a +1 from me :)

Treetop64
07-06-2012, 08:42 PM
A very well-expressed post, Herra Tohtori.

Ace1staller
07-07-2012, 08:12 PM
Yes we need support for those skins, or other wise, the skins we made in 24 bits. Then we convert it to 256 bits will make our skins look terrible

zipper
07-07-2012, 11:50 PM
My guess is the skins were limited solely for dial-up multi-player. The problem with that is to this day most servers don't allow skin downloads because of perceived download lag (or, they just don't like bozo skins - sorry, bozo). I've never really experienced it and personally would actually like to see more skins.

Treetop64
07-08-2012, 03:28 PM
I would love to see higher resolution skins in a higher color depth. And high-res bump mapping.

Though I'm afraid that, even though it could potentially make the planes themselves look even more fabulous, it would contrast so much from the look of the rest of the game that it would be a distraction, actually. One would have to significantly upgrade the fundamental rendering of the entire environment to balance things out.

Mysticpuma
07-08-2012, 09:11 PM
It's a risk I'd be willing to take ;)

Spudkopf
07-08-2012, 10:19 PM
I would love to see higher resolution skins in a higher color depth. And high-res bump mapping.

Though I'm afraid that, even though it could potentially make the planes themselves look even more fabulous, it would contrast so much from the look of the rest of the game that it would be a distraction, actually. One would have to significantly upgrade the fundamental rendering of the entire environment to balance things out.

The thing is I'm not asking for a higher resolution, I can still live with 1024 x 1024 (just) but what I am asking for is to have the same colour depth for the user skins as we already have assigned for the default skins, so if anything the look would be more uniform and less of a distraction (for my eyes anyway).

As said in my original post, I'd even settle for 16bit, anything to ditch this reliance on 8bit index colours for user skins, which the more I think about just plain sucks.

As far as resolution goes I think the only resolution upgrading required is to progressively ditch anything that is still using 512 x 512 or at the very least any aeroplane that still is.

Spudkopf
07-11-2012, 08:10 AM
Simple facts:

Default skin for Hs129B2, native game RGB. :)
http://i94.photobucket.com/albums/l116/305th/RGB.jpg



Now exactly the same skin reduced to 256 index (8bit) colour depth the only (non mod) way to use a custom skin. :(
http://i94.photobucket.com/albums/l116/305th/256.jpg


I know I said I could live with 1024x1024, but one can just imagine how much better the view from the cockpit would be if the resolution was only doubled to 2048x2048.

Those who can remember the Jane's WWII fighters days can probably recall the difference that higher (multiple) res' skins made to that sim (especially on hammered's K4), in fact it was enough to keep many from switching over to Il2 for quite some time. But there-in lies the crux of the problem, it’s simply in 1c’s best interest for us to move over to COD and not stay with 46 even though there is still so much for 46 to offer.

Herra Tohtori
07-11-2012, 11:09 AM
Finally some discussion on this topic!

I don't mind the delay, it's good to hear there are like-minded people. Thanks for posting the images to illustrate the issue.

vpmedia
07-11-2012, 07:23 PM
It depends on what software and color reduction algorithm you're using and of course the skin....


Btw where would you get these 24bit skins?

Mysticpuma
07-11-2012, 08:54 PM
2048x2048 skin ;)

Herra Tohtori
07-11-2012, 10:27 PM
It depends on what software and color reduction algorithm you're using and of course the skin....


Btw where would you get these 24bit skins?


Yes, the content of the skin itself affects the end results. If the colours are "clean" and simple, the end results are typically quite good (though there is always some losses). With a lot of gradient colours, like soft blending from one colour to other, the amount of colours usually runs out and then you end up either with dithering or banding, both of which usually look really bad.

The 24-bit skins you get by making them. Most image editors use 24-bit RGB as the default mode, so all the images you usually make end up as 24-bit to begin with. For example if you begin with a template (in either 8-bit or 24-bit), add colours and decals, it's all done in 24-bit; the conversion to 8-bit is what causes the problems.

Spudkopf
07-13-2012, 11:45 AM
Well it’s hard to compete with the wonder of the DT 4.12 update, but here I go anyway.

It’s comforting to know that the DT members do take notice of the things we write here, case in point I received a PM from the team explaining that to get better indexing results the tool of choice is Bright (available from the simmer's paintshop) and supplied me with a link to Hs129B2 default skin that had been indexed using this tool.

The results are greatly superior to anything obtainable through Photoshop or Gimp and while by no means a true substitute for a skin that has a 16bit or 24bit RGB colour depth, but unless you know what you are looking for it is quite hard to pickup the differnces in this particular case.

Default skin for Hs129B2, native in-game RGB. :)
http://i94.photobucket.com/albums/l116/305th/RGB.jpg

Same skin extracted then reduced to 256 index (8bit) using Bright (via the default settings of Brighter). :]
http://i94.photobucket.com/albums/l116/305th/Bright_Brighter.jpg

And the same skin reduced to 256 index (8bit) through Photoshop CS5. :(
http://i94.photobucket.com/albums/l116/305th/256.jpg

But the above is thus far not without its problems: I keep my edited stuff separate from my working files and so I have installed all my extraction, indexing, etc. tools on to my portable drive along with a copy of Il2-46. While this all works perfectly well on my work PC (Win 7 Pro 64) the same can’t be said for my home PC (Win 7 Pro 64). On my home PC when I try to fire up Brighter from either the Portable or even fixed drives I get the following error:

http://i94.photobucket.com/albums/l116/305th/Brighterfailure.jpg

Now it would appear to be associated with one of the following (and it doing my head in big time) active x control, visual basic, administrator rights????

Running brighter as an administrator gets Brighter to start, but it then errors when you try to run it, say it can’t find bright?

Any tips would be more than welcome as it’s a tad hard for me to do my customs at work :(

Spudkopf
07-13-2012, 12:06 PM
Dont ask me how but I got it workig...... for the moment !?!

Herra Tohtori
07-13-2012, 03:24 PM
What settings were you using to index the image with GIMP/photoshop?

It looks like you had some dithering option enabled. I'm not sure if there is anything that would make Bright's colour indexing filter inherently better than any other indexing tool. Bright is very good for converting a lot of frames into unified palette for animated GIF purposes, however.

Spudkopf
07-13-2012, 11:16 PM
What settings were you using to index the image with GIMP/photoshop?

It looks like you had some dithering option enabled. I'm not sure if there is anything that would make Bright's colour indexing filter inherently better than any other indexing tool. Bright is very good for converting a lot of frames into unified palette for animated GIF purposes, however.

I've tried every kind of possible combination over the years in both these programs, with and without dithering and unless the skin was more or less 8bit to start with I have had some rather shocking results.

For the most part I usually generi-fi my skins, in that I'll remove the quick ID markings to allow my skin to be non-front specific and also try only to use colours that are already present in the pallet. In many cases this involves the removal of a large amount of yellows from the colour table and when necessary I’ll even go to the effort of removing any extra colours (like those found in the original artists logos or in backgrounds) just to squeeze out every last one of those (my precious….) 256 swatches.

I'd be very interested however to learn what others consider are the optimum settings for both Photoshop and Gimp? So I can continue to experiment.

IceFire
07-13-2012, 11:18 PM
I've tried everything in Photoshop to try and get it to do as good a job as Bright does for converting to indexed colour images. Never worked as well. Bright was always superior.

vpmedia
07-21-2012, 08:27 AM
I tried Bright in 2005 but turned brown oil into purple (Jutocsa advised same thing), maybe newer version is better.

This is how I save a 256 color image in Photoshop v12, first as png then resave it as bmp.
Theres no other software I know about where you could select the color reduction algorithm (blue drop down list in the pic) which is important to have best quality.
Best result = biggest size (size is in lower left corner).

http://img833.imageshack.us/img833/9186/save8bit1.jpg

results:

left side / 8 bit
right side / 24 bit

100%

http://img688.imageshack.us/img688/5207/28bitcopy.jpg

200%

http://img822.imageshack.us/img822/1798/28bitcopy2.jpg

And this is what happens to the color table when somebody not familiar with Photoshop starts to add his colorful skinner logos:

http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/9190/save8bit2.jpg

Phil_K
07-21-2012, 09:24 PM
Don't see what the fuss is about really - when you actually play the game, you very, very rarely get close enough to another plane to appreciate even the detail that's available now.

Greater colour depth is OK when viewing skinning as an artform/hobby in itself (which I don't, btw), but from an in-game point of view, the chunky differences in the LOD's (the stepped increase in the crudeness of the model to represent increasing distance) is far more noticeable.

I also don't understand why anyone would be using an extensive palate to skin a military aircraft - the point is to best represent a three-dimensional object (i.e. bring out the play of light on surfaces), not show how great a painter you are.

Spudkopf
07-21-2012, 11:14 PM
Don't see what the fuss is about really - when you actually play the game, you very, very rarely get close enough to another plane to appreciate even the detail that's available now.

"you very, very rarely get close enough" so is this close enough for you?
http://i94.photobucket.com/albums/l116/305th/256.jpg

Perhaps you may have missed the emphasis of my post, I'm not talking about the other aircraft, I'm talking about the one I'm sitting in.

Greater colour depth is OK when viewing skinning as an artform/hobby in itself (which I don't, btw), but from an in-game point of view, the chunky differences in the LOD's (the stepped increase in the crudeness of the model to represent increasing distance) is far more noticeable.

Sure if your focus is mainly beyond your own aircraft then maybe you do not have the opportunity to admire your own wings, engines, etc. but if you’re flying long bomber or fighter bomber missions you can have plenty of time to look over your wings, and with some German aircraft it is somewhat necessary to do so as the engine related instruments are on the cowls.

[QUOTE=Phil_K;447282]I also don't understand why anyone would be using an extensive palate to skin a military aircraft - the point is to best represent a three-dimensional object (i.e. bring out the play of light on surfaces), not show how great a painter you are.

Most military paintwork is applied with an airgun and thus there are smooth graduations between differing colours and when you add other details like panel lines, rivet detail, stencilling, weathering, etc. then the limitation of 256 colours is simply just that a limitation that is usually resolved by harsh and dithering.

If the entire environment is so un-important then we might as well still be flying Aces over Europe or Air War Over Europe with better FMs.

vpmedia
07-22-2012, 02:42 PM
So skinning isnt a hobby & artform in your opinion? Wow :rolleyes:

Phil_K
08-21-2012, 10:13 PM
"you very, very rarely get close enough" so is this close enough for you?

Yeah, but the point I would make is that at this close distance, it is the limitations of the model that is more of an immersion killer than the limitations of the skin - i.e. the best skin in the world won't make up for a model that just hasn't been built for 2048 x 2048 skins.

Phil_K
08-21-2012, 10:22 PM
So skinning isnt a hobby & artform in your opinion? Wow :rolleyes:
Not for myself personally, no.

As you know, I make loads of skins and loads of missions and campaigns, and for me the skins are purely there to augment the missions I write.

For yourself and others the emphasis may be different, and that's fair enough, but as a player of the game there are an enormous amount of things that I would request prior to improved skin definition.

Improved landscape textures for a start!