[ Retro GIF of the Week ] The Empire Strikes Back

December 3rd, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Star Wars AT-AT Empire Strikes Back Retro GIF - circa 1988Click to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

The Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite films of all time, so I have always cherished this particular image that someone uploaded to my BBS in the early 1990s. It depicts two AT-ATs walking through the snow in a scene recalling the Battle of Hoth from the 1980 film.

Its 16-color 640×400 format suggests a few possibilities as to its origin platform. IBM's little-used MCGA standard (introduced in 1987) could do 640×400 at 16 colors, and so could a few "extended EGA" graphics cards on the IBM PC platform.

But so could the Amiga — in fact, 640×400 at 16 colors was its original high-end graphics mode. Since many early GIF files originated in the graphically rich culture of the Amiga (a machine well-known for its graphics capabilities), and since this file is dated 1988, and since MCGA adapters were scarce, I'd say this image most likely originated on the Amiga platform.

[ Update: 11/04/2012 - Since I originally wrote this, I've realized that this AT-AT image uses a 12-bit (4096) color palette (from that palette the artist could use 16 colors on screen at a time), which was unique to the Amiga platform. So this image definitely originated on an Amiga. ]

By the way, this image is actually signed by the artist. You can see a small "BMW" in the lower right corner (and we're not talking about the German car company here). If anyone knows who BMW is, please leave a comment. That would be fascinating to find out.

[ Wondering what a GIF is? Read the introduction to this column. ]

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: ATAT.GIF
Source File Date: June 26, 1988
Source File Format: GIF - 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 640 x 400 pixels
Color Depth: 4-bit (16 color), 12-bit palette (4096 colors)
Origin Platform: Amiga
Derived From: Unknown
Creation Date: circa 1988
Artist: BMW
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

4 Responses to “[ Retro GIF of the Week ] The Empire Strikes Back”

  1. John Says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this. Although I cannot help you with any information, I enjoyed seeing this very much.

  2. bear Says:

    there is a special effects guy Barry Whitrod only one i saw with those initials on the credits not sure if its him though

  3. Jeremy Thomson Says:

    To clarify … MCGA/VGA used 18bit palette colour values of which your could use 16 or 256 in a picture. Amiga had a 12 bit colour palette so you could choose from 4096. On the PC/PS2 that choice was from 262144 colours.

  4. Chris Says:

    This picture was created and displayed using the Amiga's HAM ("Hold-and-modify") mode, which allowed 4096 colors, often with artifacting. The artist of this picture had paid special attention to avoiding the way the HAM mode displayed artifacts when sudden, multiple RGB-value changes occurred in pixels in the same scanline from left-to-right.

    This usually meant somewhat limiting a color palette or using adjoining colors which did not significantly differ from left-to-right pixels.

    As I recall, this picture was stunning not only because of its advanced used of the HAM mode, but it was even using the highest resolution possible (it displayed in a flickering interlaced mode on my 1084p monitor — but the master was complete in that the picture was created in a way that minimized the interlacing effect!)

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