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I am searching for software that can reconstruct the exact pixels from a photo of an old videogame or a piece pixel-art. The goal would be the re-digitalization of digital images that only survived in an analog copy, say images of Mario Paint that where captured on a VHS tape or old digital art that only survived as a printout. Does such software exist?

Example of Pixel-OCR

This problem has quite some similarities with the scanning of 2D barcodes. Perhaps some software exists from that area that could be used for this purpose.

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I would say this has nothing to do with scanning 2D barcodes. In scanning barcodes, you know when you have a valid result or not. There is no way to know whether or not you have correctly found the original color, (other than rounding to the nearest 8-bit color, if the colors were limited in that way) – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 27 '10 at 14:02
The basic problem is still pretty much the same (i.e. start with deformed photo and reconstruct the original digitial information), with 2D barcodes you simply have additional hints for error correction and you are dealing with black&white instead of color. – Grumbel Apr 27 '10 at 20:16

I can't suggest any software to do this out of the box but you might get suitable results manually in Photoshop or GIMP:

  • Rotate/crop your image so that it has the same aspect ratio as the original video game.
  • (Optional) Do some blurring/sharpening, depending on the image quality.
  • Upscale your image to a multiple of the original videogame resolution.
  • Run the Mosaic filter on the image using Cell Size the same as the multiple value.
  • Downscale your image to 1/multiple, leaving it the same resolution as the original game.
  • Using Save for Web & Devices, save it as a pallet-based format (PNG or GIF) with a small number of colours to match the original. At this stage you will also be able to tweak each pallet slot colour to adjust colours more closely to the original.

Afterthought: If your originals are all fairly consistent (size, angle, aspect ratio, etc.) you can probably automate most steps using a script calling on ImageMagick.

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Instead of upscaling, why not scan in at a higher resolution if possible? Either way one might be left doing pixel-level modification to get the results perfect. A pixel based editor may be a better option than Photoshop or GIMP for fine-tuning the color pallet and final image. – afrazier Apr 27 '10 at 15:02

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