by Arthur Leyenberger
Imagine that you've just finished creating a work of art on your ST. For example, you had been using DEGAS Elite for a couple of hours every night for the last two weeks. Now, the masterpiece is finished, and you are justifiably proud. Just seeing the results on the video screen is a pleasure, and you want to share that experience with your family and friends. But there is a slight problem.
In order for you to share your new and colorful creation with others, you have to turn on and boot up the ST, run DEGAS Elite and then load your file. By the time you get the picture on the screen, you've got an anticlimax on your hands. Not to worry. Take a photograph of it for yourself and posterity. It's easy to do, and the following simple suggestions should allow you to take some screen snaps in no time at all.
To take great pictures of your computer screen you don't need much more than a camera, a tripod and some film. Just about any camera will work, but best results come from using a single-lens reflex (SLR) type with a lens between 50mm and 100mm. With an SLR, less guesswork is required to obtain excellent shots because what you see through the viewfinder is what you get on film.
Most people cannot hand-hold a camera when taking pictures using a shutter speed of 1/60; second or slower. If they try it, the result will often be a blurred picture—hardly the quality you would want to pass around to friends. To prevent a case of the blurs, use a tripod that provides a steady support for the camera.
If you don't have a tripod, an improvised camera support like a chair or table will do fine. To avoid bumping the camera while the shutter is open, it is best to have an inexpensive (about $3) shutter release cable. This will allow you to close the shutter without touching or moving the camera. If your camera has a self-timer, you can use that in place of the cable release.
Finally, you need some film. For slides I generally like to use Kodachrome 64. For prints I use Kodacolor 100. It doesn't have to be Kodak film, but the ASA film speeds of 64 and 100 are important since the information that follows is based on those speeds. Now for the fun part.
Line up your camera so that the back of the camera is parallel with the front of the TV or monitor. With a 50mm lens, the camera will need to be about two to three feet from the screen. Make sure that the lens is pointed at the center of the screen. With the image on the screen that you are going to photograph, adjust the monitor controls for the best possible picture Get the color and tint balanced first, then adjust the brightness and finally use the contrast control for the crispest image you can get.
Now set the camera to an f-stop of 5.6. This will be the aperture setting that you will always use. Any variation in the exposure will be done by adjusting the shutter speed. Each marking on the shutter speed dial is either 1/2 or twice the previous marking so it is easy to use and understand. Initially set the shutter speed to 1/4 second. Focus the camera lens and adjust the distance from the camera to the screen so that you can see two inches on all sides of the video screen. This is important because when the pictures are developed, part of the picture around the edges is lost.
To take the picture, turn off all the lights in the room and press the cable release. It is very important that the room lights be off, otherwise you will get reflections on the monitor screen and on your pictures. If you are using a self-timer, you might want to activate it first, then turn off the room lights until the shot is completed.
If this is your first time taking pictures off of your screen, it would be wise to bracket your shots. To bracket your shot, take two additional pictures with everything exactly the same except the shutter speed. Take one shot at 1/8 second (a little faster) and another shot at 1/2 second (a little slower.) These two settings will allow the film to receive less light and more light, respectively.
If you are using print film, it is most important that you tell whoever is doing the developing that you have CRT shots. If you forget to do this, I can tell you from experience that your prints will come back with washed out and often strange looking colors. The automatic printing machines used by film processors are designed to adjust the color balance of the photograph as if they were pictures of sunsets and the family dog.
This is understandable since 95% of what they process are just these types of snapshots. Screen shots on the other hand contain very bright colors and black areas that are difficult to reproduce photographically. Slide film is not as critical, but it would not hurt to tell the developer that you have CRT shots.
Another decision you have to make is whether to have matte or glossy prints made. If you plan to send them as postcards or handle them a lot, order matte finish. It is more resistant to fingerprints and will not scratch as easily. On the other hand, if you want the sharpest looking print or you are sending prints to a magazine for publication, choose glossy finish. Be sure to handle the prints carefully, along the edges if possible.
I generally use 1/2 second shutter speed for slides and 1/8 second shutter speed for prints. But you will have to experiment with various exposures until you find the right speed. A good approach is to shoot a roll of film as a test roll. Use different shutter speeds (bracket your shots) and be sure to keep a record of each exposure. Then when the film comes back, pick out the best looking shot, determine what exposure was used, and you will be all set. You can continue to use these settings as long as you do not change the contrast and brightness controls on your monitor.
Regardless of what you do with your screen shots, if you follow these simple instructions and experiment a little I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. And so will your friends and family. Happy shooting!
Playing the angles
It's been a long, long time since a game has been interesting and challenging enough to keep me up most of the night playing it. In fact, I don't think I could even tell you the last one that moved me so. But I can sure tell you which one has caught my current fancy: Arkanoid by Taito.
I have always enjoyed Breakout, first in the arcades years and years ago, and then on the Atari VCS and 8-bit computers. Basically a Pong derivative, Breakout has several rows of "bricks" that you knock out with the ball. The ball bounces off of a paddle that you can move horizontally. If you're good, you can even put some spin on the ball by controlling the paddle in just the right way. Simple enough.
To me, Breakout is one of those simple yet appealing games that compels you to keep playing, always trying to top your previous score. Better than Breakout, I discovered, was Super Breakout. Primarily the same game but with a few twists that make the game more challenging and fun. One game option has the rows of bricks march down the screen. Another option has two extra balls enclosed in small windows surrounded by bricks. Knock out the proper bricks, and the balls are released giving you a little help with more difficulty at the same time.
Arkanoid takes Breakout several steps further. Still of the "knock out the bricks" genre, Arkanoid adds complexity and challenge. The major addition is that when certain bricks (energy blocks) are hit, they release various types of capsules. These capsules rotate as they descend and are labeled with a letter, indicating their type.
The paddle is called a Vaus in Arkanoid, and to reap the benefits of the capsules you must catch them with the Vaus. One type of capsule awards you an extra life. Another one temporarily slows down the ball. Still another expands the Vaus to twice normal size, giving you more surface area to deflect the ball with. My favorite capsule is the one that arms the Vaus with a laser weapon that allows you to shoot the blocks and aliens (little fellows that float around and deflect your energy ball when they touch). Other capsules let you catch the ball, advance you to the next screen and release three energy balls instead of one.
Arkanoid has 33 screens, each more difficult than the last. Some of the more difficult screens include blocks that require more than one hit to eliminate, more and faster aliens and more intricate patterns of blocks. The real skill comes when you learn that you should not try to catch all of the capsules. For example, once you catch the laser capsule you can fire lasers at the blocks until you catch another capsule. Sometimes it pays to ignore other capsules and continue using your laser. You also soon learn to always catch the "extra life" capsule.
Arkanoid can be played with either a mouse, joystick or the keyboard. I've found that I have the most control of my Vaus when I use the mouse. Arkanoid retails for $39.95 and is available now From Taito Software, Inc., 11715 North Creek Parkway South, Suite 110, Bothell, Washington 98011. I highly recommend it, but I warn it's addicting. Have fun.