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Deadline

Atari XL Characteristics (Asking for help for artistic project)

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Hi,

 

I am working on a project and I would like to ask directly to the Atari community about some things. First, let me give you some background. I grew up using Commodore 64, and so I am very familiar with those machines. Back in those days, you only got one machine, unless your family was super rich. Me and my colleagues now have Atari XL machines, and we're playing with them and learning about them.

 

So where is this thread going?

 

Well, this is not meant to be a plug for our YouTube channel, but only to make you aware that is what our project is for. You see, we're working on sort of, digital puppets, for lack of a better word. We then put these machines in front of a green screen, and then the programs animate their faces and mouths and makes them look like they are emoting, etc. The programs use keyboard and joystick input to change the faces. Then we take this footage and put the computer "AI's" into stories. We already have a C64 version (Clicky), and an Amiga version (Amy). We want to program the same sort of thing but for Atari XL machines. Here is an example of the kind of stories we're making just for reference 

 

 

 

The programming is not what I am focusing on here, as I could surely figure that out easily. My question is more about feedback from the Atari community to learn about quirks of the Atari XL's that I could artistically incorporate into the "face". For example, Clicky has what appears to be memory being written to the screen in the kind of way that unpackers would use screen memory for unpacking and it would create a few rows of characters that changes rapidly on the screen.

 

I have included a couple of images of Clicky and Amy from one of our vids (April Fools Day vid), to give you an idea of what we're doing.

 

I was wondering if there are any kinds of visual things like this that Atari XL users would know and recognize as being Atari, if that makes sense. Or if there is any other kinds of suggestions that would help to show this face is that of an Atari of the character that we'd like to call Pokey.

 

As you can imagine, we are going to put this to good use on our channel. We are working on other computer "AI's" as well for these types of videos, and so we want to have a whole range of characters that represent each of the old 8 and 16 bit machines so we can make hijinx and fun stories with them. Also, we are not going to use this as a way to lambaste the Atari XL or whatever, that isn't the intent. We will probably address the old rivalry between 8 bit systems, but we will do it in a fun way that is unbiased and so we want to bring out the best qualities of the Atari's for this, and to be inclusive to the Atari community for it.

 

One other question is about voice synthesis. We use SAM for the C64 Clicky character. Is there any modern programs that emulate an Atari XL speech? We record the audio on our PCs then overlay them into the video editor to sync with the puppets faces talking so it appears that they are talking. So what I am looking for is a way to record this voice synthesis easily in this sort of manner.

 

So yeah, just looking for some feedback and tips about how to make our Pokey character look and sound "Atari-ish". If you're good at Atari XL programming, it would be great to hear from you as well for tips on the characteristics of these machines.

 

Thanks for your time,

Deadline (CityXen)

 

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Posted (edited)

Just off the top of my head, the Atari's have their "rainbow" color cycling technique that could be easily placed as a background to the "face." That's definitely a unique Atari 8-bit feature that has been used since the beginning, since it has the 256 color palette for color cycling. I'm not really a programmer, but I think getting this effect is as easy as a single POKE. I don't think, for example, that there are very many old graphic paint programs for the Atari that don't have this as a basic feature.

 

I just started watching the "clicky" video you posted, but I had to edit and comment about one thing, right off the bat, that I personally think would make the video's better would be to also show the micro associated with the character under the monitors, and not just the monitors hopping about. It would certainly help solve the issue of distinguishing between the computers. Just a thought and my two cents. Maybe you do do that later on, I've only watched the first 30 seconds so far, but it just really jumped out at me as something I'd do if I was in your shoes.;)

 

I'm glad your intentions aren't to do any lambasting, I know my bias to the C64 or Amiga ended years ago when both companies went belly-up. I see no sense in hating another machine I didn't own since there is nothing to support or boycott anymore. I didn't have a 16-bit computer, I went straight from my Atari 8-bit to PC's in the 90's. And I know when I did start collecting them in the early 2000's I found I preferred the Amiga to the ST, then I found out why: the Amiga and Atari 8-bit were both the brainchild's of Jay Miner. So I'm now biased based on the engineers behind the machines. It's ironic, I think, how the companies basically traded engineers and the ST was designed by C64 engineers Jack brought to Atari, and Amiga, originally being designed for Atari, ended up with  Commodore. Honestly, it kind of screws over the better computer company BS. C64 fans should prefer an ST and Atari 8-bit fans should prefer the Amiga, IMHO. I'm a fan of all four of these micros now, the best of the best from the 80's micros.

 

My order of preference: Atari 8-bit, Amiga, C64, ST.

 

Matt

 

P.S. the C64 SAM sounds IDENTICAL to the Atari version...

Edited by Gunstar
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@Gunstar Thanks for the feedback. Do you mean like put the logos on the bottom bezel of the monitors? And yes, the consensus that I've seen so far from other forums seem to go with the rainbow, and the attract mode screen saver thing that I didn't know about, as well as the key / io sounds.

 

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Posted (edited)

Sure, bottom bezel would do the trick, but I was thinking of just green-screening the monitors and the computers in front/underneath in every scene, showing the real computer.

 

I do prefer the rainbow, but it may hurt other's eyes trying to watch it all the time. And I forgot about the attract mode screen saver. Maybe the rainbow effect for "happy" look once in a while, but mostly the changing attract mode colors most of the time...

Edited by Gunstar

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Posted (edited)

@Gunstar okay I understand. So show the actual machine and monitor. That does make a lot of sense, but thus far we've only done the two machines so it wasn't much of a concern. Noted and will proceed with that suggestion in the future. Thanks for all your feedback.

Edited by Deadline
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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, Deadline said:

@Gunstar okay I understand. So show the actual machine and monitor. That does make a lot of sense, but thus far we've only done the two machines so it wasn't much of a concern. Noted and will proceed with that suggestion in the future. Thanks for all your feedback.

By the way, I enjoyed watching the video you posted, very funny. I especially loved the later scene with the Trash-80 Coco, brilliant stuff there! Speaking of not-so-nice names we all used to use for the other micro we didn't own. Did you C64 users have an unflattering name for the Atari 8-bits? Commode 64 was what I and some other Atari owner's liked to call the C64...if I ever heard an unflattering nick-name for the Atari's I don't recall and think it's all in good fun now, so I'd be interested in hearing or being reminded...I'm also a fan of the Trash-80 Coco 2/3's these days...I like the color of the Coco 1, but could never deal with that chick-let keyboard! 🤢

Edited by Gunstar
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3 hours ago, Deadline said:

@Gunstar okay I understand. So show the actual machine and monitor. That does make a lot of sense, but thus far we've only done the two machines so it wasn't much of a concern. Noted and will proceed with that suggestion in the future. Thanks for all your feedback.

Especially since a lot of people use the 8-bit Ataris with Commodore monitors!

 

BTW:  I read something a while back about Jack Tramiel, how he wanted a military name for his company, but Admiral & General were already taken.  

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Here's my 2 cents of feedback.  With the Clicky and Amy - it was tough to get a fair representation going for it.  I felt that the Amiga (Amy) face should have looked better so as to have that 16-bit vs 8-bit comparison going.  That Clicky could have looked a bit better as well (Which looked more like a Vic-20 or Pet representation).

 

You're not going to please everyone with whatever you do with it.  You're not going all out to do the best possible because that'll require programmers and designers involved who know the hardware well to push it as much as possible.

For the Atari 8-bit representation - for example - it may be possible for the character representation (Pokey) to change via the different graphic modes - 7.5, 8, 9, 10 and 11 for example but unfortunately the audio cannot go through as much variety to show a schizophrenia kind of personality change to match.  I'm thinking of a simple graphic and not anything too detailed nor carefully drawn.  While it would be nice to make use of the Atari Rainbow feature (one colour register changing through 256 colours) - it might be best to make use of this - towards the end, instead of using it too often.

 

Since you're more for the jokes and humor side - you're not going for a lot of extra work to really push the limits.  Requiring a lot of extra time and effort to do this - to knock viewer's socks off, so to speak.

 

All I can say - is best of luck with what you'll do and hope you'll have success with it.

 

Harvey

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On 8/12/2020 at 6:35 PM, kiwilove said:

Here's my 2 cents of feedback.  With the Clicky and Amy - it was tough to get a fair representation going for it.  I felt that the Amiga (Amy) face should have looked better so as to have that 16-bit vs 8-bit comparison going.  That Clicky could have looked a bit better as well (Which looked more like a Vic-20 or Pet representation).

 

You're not going to please everyone with whatever you do with it.  You're not going all out to do the best possible because that'll require programmers and designers involved who know the hardware well to push it as much as possible.

For the Atari 8-bit representation - for example - it may be possible for the character representation (Pokey) to change via the different graphic modes - 7.5, 8, 9, 10 and 11 for example but unfortunately the audio cannot go through as much variety to show a schizophrenia kind of personality change to match.  I'm thinking of a simple graphic and not anything too detailed nor carefully drawn.  While it would be nice to make use of the Atari Rainbow feature (one colour register changing through 256 colours) - it might be best to make use of this - towards the end, instead of using it too often.

 

Since you're more for the jokes and humor side - you're not going for a lot of extra work to really push the limits.  Requiring a lot of extra time and effort to do this - to knock viewer's socks off, so to speak.

 

All I can say - is best of luck with what you'll do and hope you'll have success with it.

 

Harvey

 

Hi,

 

Yes well the entire project is a work in progress. I expect to get things looking better as we go along. I get it, they could use a bit of a  makeover, but we're not exactly demoscene coders so we're still learning as well.

Thanks for your feedback. Anyway, here's what we came up with for Pokey, and our video link to his first appearance.

We will be featuring Pokey more in the future as well, and the program is up on our github page under APMs.

Anyone can certainly help to contribute to make him, or any of our other puppets, better.

Pokey is programmed using assembly language and is compiled using MADS.

We did use the SAM program, but we changed the pitch and speed for Pokey so it would be somewhat different than Clicky.

Thank you all who chimed in to help us make it the best we could.

 

Deadline (CityXen)

 

https://github.com/cityxen/APMs

 

2020-09-18.thumb.jpg.291a619e713480749decd51238167a8a.jpg

 

 

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On 8/12/2020 at 2:43 PM, Gunstar said:

By the way, I enjoyed watching the video you posted, very funny. I especially loved the later scene with the Trash-80 Coco, brilliant stuff there! Speaking of not-so-nice names we all used to use for the other micro we didn't own. Did you C64 users have an unflattering name for the Atari 8-bits? Commode 64 was what I and some other Atari owner's liked to call the C64...if I ever heard an unflattering nick-name for the Atari's I don't recall and think it's all in good fun now, so I'd be interested in hearing or being reminded...I'm also a fan of the Trash-80 Coco 2/3's these days...I like the color of the Coco 1, but could never deal with that chick-let keyboard! 🤢

Thank you! I can't recall any derogatory terms that were used for Atari's. As I mentioned before my family was poor growing up, so the fact that we had ONE computer was amazing and it happened to be the C64. In fact I didn't even know about the "Trash" reference until more recently, like 2010ish. I did use a TRS-80 COCO back in the day and even programmed in BASIC on it. We're just trying to have some fun with the old machines and share our love for them overall. Cheers.

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The SAM (Software Automated Mouth) software was available for the Atari 8-bit computers.  If there was any other software (or hardware like the TI had) I don't remember it.  I'm afraid your talking PCs are going to sound like twin sons of different mothers.

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4 hours ago, Geister said:

The SAM (Software Automated Mouth) software was available for the Atari 8-bit computers.  If there was any other software (or hardware like the TI had) I don't remember it.  I'm afraid your talking PCs are going to sound like twin sons of different mothers.

We addressed this by changing pitch and speed.

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There were several hardware speech synthesizers for Atari's back in the day, like the Speech Thing and Voice Master. But their voices sound similar and are no better than what S.A.M can create with software and the POKEY anyway. All require words to be spelled phonetically to make them understandable. I always wanted the Voice Master until I found out about S.A.M, now I no longer want one as I think it's much cooler to use the Atari's incredibly capable POKEY to achieve the same quality of voice synthesis.

Edited by Gunstar

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On 8/12/2020 at 3:42 PM, Gunstar said:

I'm not really a programmer, but I think getting this effect is as easy as a single POKE

It requires changing the display list and a very short machine code routine to switch colours

every line using display list interrupts

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