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Brown does not look 'brown'....


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New to Inty programming (obviously)....but the "Brown" color does not look brown to me.  More dark Green tint.  Is this Intybasic, PC, monitor, or my eyes??  Is this one of those situations where 'it looks right on original hardware/CRT' but not on PC's?  I don't have any type of cuttlecart or any way to test my program on real hardware.


Attached is a simple card tile defined as a constant for a background.  (Ignore the black stripes on top and bottom, this was clipped from MSPaint) I'm using what is supposed to be Tan foreground (yellow was too bright) with Brown background, giving a value of $1E03 -can someone make sure I'm doing this right?  sure as hell looks like a green background color to me....maybe the combo of colors tricks the mind?  And in case it makes any difference, I'm using MODE 1 (FG/BG), not color stack.



Edited by eddhell
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It's the emulator.  The emulator programmer decides the colours.  It definitely looks different on real hardware and different again the older your television is.  I remember it as a golden colour with a green tint.  Some describe it as olive.  My guess is that it was intended to be brown but the engineers at Mattel didn't quite get it right.  The PAL implementation might be closer to the intended brown.


Here's a discussion on colours.



Run the mattel test cartridge in your emulator and compare the colours to see if you're getting the correct colour.  Brown is also the colour used for the titlescreen colour in the early Mattel cartridges.

Edited by mr_me
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Thanks, glad to know it was NOT just me.  I bought the programming book from Nanochess, read the entire thing several times before asking.


I notice in your avatar pic, the old Auto Racing cartridge.  I see what looks like 'almost' brown on the roof of the building, must be a snapshot taken from real hardware.

Edited by eddhell
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The part of the roof in the shadow is brown; the part in the sun is tan.  That screen shot is taken from jzintv.  Intvnut changed the colours in the emulator a couple of years ago and brown looks even more green.  You can find screenshots and videos of people using crt televisions for comparison.  They all look different.

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When I took screenshots for Chocolate Mine materials, I ran jzintv in PAL mode because Mike Thomasson kept complaining about "green chocolate."


Even back in the day, I recall playing Space Armada and at Level 11 thinking the border was "olive green."


Worse is color 13.  Even in PAL mode, it hardly passes for "light blue."  I always wondered why Intellivision games often had purple skies, and why there was a misprint in the Night Stalker manual calling the "pink robot" blue.

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For what it's worth, when I tuned both the NTSC and PAL colors for "brown" recently, I compared against multiple televisions and capture cards.


PAL "brown" is closer to an actual brown.  NTSC "brown" is closer to "olive drab."  Both are relatively greenish.


I spent a lot of time looking at a particular screen in Congo Bongo that displayed "brown", "tan", orange, yellow, and a few other colors that are hard to nail, and got jzIntv looking pretty reasonable vs. the TVs I tested on. Even Mattel's internal docs on what they thought the colors should be don't match what we see on screens.  That's why PAL doesn't match NTSC.


I've gone down the rat-hole of trying to map the actual bit-patterns coming out of the AY-3-8915 color processor chip to the actual NTSC colors multiple times, and haven't ended up anywhere satisfactory.  I will say the I/Q values in the AY-3-8915 datasheet aren't what the Intellivision produces.  (If you dig around PapaIntellivision long enough, you'll find the right values.)  But even with the right values, you won't end up with the right colors for NTSC.


There's some non-linear effects in the NTSC pipeline I haven't figured out yet.  I've tried SPICE with various circuit models, I've tried other non-linear transforms... clearly, I'm missing something.


The current jzIntv is the closest to "correct" I think I've been so far.  Even then, I'm sure it's wrong.  Sooooo annoying.

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Heck, allow the color RGB values to be defined at command-line or be pointed to within a text file.


Intellivision Lives for Nintendo DS seems to have taken the easy way out by just making "light blue" be light blue.


Then there's the Intellivision Flashback console, which turned color #9 (cyan) into a dark murky teal color.  Whose idea was that?

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I think the current jzintv colours might be accurate with modern video equipment but I'm not sure it's how 1982 televisions would display them.  It's not how I remember them.  I took some screenshots of old TV commercials.


The first two images are from the same star strike commercial, the fourth is from a B17 commercial; the third is current jzintv.  The moon in star strike is intellivision brown, jzintv is way too green for me.  The earth is intellivision light blue, the same as the sky in B17 and Biplanes.  I don't remember the sky in B17 Bomber or Biplanes being pink, a;though they do look pinkish on my TV now.



Here's how John Sohl described the colours in 1980/81.


BROWN: Very dark, the color of wet topsoil.
MAGENTA: Very bright, garish pink with a tinge of purple.
LIGHT BLUE: The color of the California sky looking up at 45 degrees. Perhaps a pastel color.




Edited by mr_me
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I remember fiddling with various knobs on the old T.V. in the basement we had our Intellivision connected to, trying to get the  screen to match the brown title screen from the manuals. Eventually we had to settle on greenish in order to have tolerable colors for everything else. 

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I got reminded of this brown/olive green issue yesterday when I watched a video with Molly Burke trying on new clothes. Since she is blind, she had to ask her mom and assistant what colour her pants were, and they were both saying green, olive while to me they looked brownish.



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  • 3 weeks later...
On 11/26/2019 at 8:52 AM, eddhell said:

New to Inty programming (obviously)....but the "Brown" color does not look brown to me.  More dark Green tint.  Is this Intybasic, PC, monitor, or my eyes??  Is this one of those situations where 'it look[snip]

Start your emulator like this:


start jzintv  --gfx-palette=jzintvpalette01.txt 


Where jzintvpalette01.txt contains this:

#000000 ; black
#0000ff ; blue
#ff0000 ; red
#c8d271 ; tan
#188c2c ; dark green
#00c442 ; green
#fff000 ; yellow
#ffffff ; white
#9b9da1 ; gray
#13d1d1 ; cyan
#ffa600 ; orange
#666600 ; brown  #3d5a02
#ff00ea ; pink
#a28ff5 ; light blue
#04e604 ; yellow-green
#8a229f ; purple


Tweak that to get the colors where you want them. Hope that helps!



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The one thing to be sure that jzintv emulator using the correct color information right on CRT is to output the emulator on the CRT tv.  The one color that the Colecovision is the color pink.  It output orange on the CRT TV.   The colors are produced by the television's voltage if I remember correctly.  Right now, jzintv is set up to use the custom palette because I'm too lazy to test my games on a CRT TV. 

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