Sunday, 20 March 2016


An iOS feature?  Am I going all Zzap!64 already and covering other formats?  Well no, but the last post I put up showed you my attempts at taking screenshots for the blog with some pretty awful results.  I won't be going into the reason why again but if you missed out just scroll down (or click here if you're lazy).

I did say, however, that my initial idea was to splash out on a brand spanking new webcam but I'd discovered more of the settings in my iPhone's camera and realised the answer may have been lying there the whole time.  Scanning through the App Store I came across various downloads which promised much but delivered very little.  Sure, they'd slow down the shutter speed which the online advice on photography websites said was the solution to the problem but that didn't appear to be enough when I tried out their free previews.

The refresh rate of these old TVs is the problem and slowing the shutter speed down ended up being only one of a few things that needed to be done in order to stop the flickering, as well as the problems with contrast and the visible wobbly lines on the screenshots.  I definitely didn't want to go down the route of hooking the C64 up to the Mac and taking screenshots through it, as they'd end up too crisp like they did when using the HDTV, with everything looking overly blocky (even more so than normal).  I wanted to do this the old-fashioned way magazines like Commodore Format did, but modern cameras and old TVs don't particularly like each other.

But now, enter Manual:

Here's what to look out for on the App Store

Compared to the £70 webcam that was already on offer, forking out a whopping £2.29 for this was a steal.  Using a combination of slowing the shutter speed (though not as low as the websites advised), adjusting the ISO in accordance to the brightness of the 64 screen I'm photographing, along the manual focus which zooms in on whatever is right at the centre of the shot and lets you move the slider until it's perfect, I've been able to get some great results.  So I'm finally able to start reviewing games!  In fact one is already written and ready to be published this week.

Surprisingly simply to use, each one of Manual's options animates
beautifully and it offers a world of options to get those perfect shots
under any circumstances and for any subject

As you can see in the screenshot from my phone above there's many other bits'n'pieces to play with too and as I continue with the blog over the next while I'll be experimenting with it more to see how I can improve the photos further.  At the moment though I have to say the results I'm getting are pretty damned great and wouldn't look out of place in an issue of Commodore Format, and that's exactly the kind of feel I'm going for, complete with bendy screen!

Here's a comparison shot of the photo I showed you last time and the Ready screen I took with Manual:

Bit of a difference isn't it?  The first game I've reviewed is Fantasy World Dizzy and with it being mainly black with simple coloured scenery and one-colour sprites Manual didn't really need to stretch its muscles to get the results I wanted.  As other games and pieces of software are covered with much brighter screens it'll take a bit more tinkering as it did with the Ready screen above, but all it takes is a few seconds and the app compensates to whatever my 64 can output.

Superb stuff.

So if you're interested in taking some good old-fashioned screenshots from a good old-fashioned CRT for that authentic C64 screenshot look no further than Manual - here's the App Store link.    

Developer: William Wilkinson
Price: £2.29

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