Will hinting be necessary when 300dpi high-res screens are the standards?

couzinhub's picture

With the high res screens coming closer, (http://www.macrumors.com/2011/05/12/samsung-2560x1600-tablet-lcd-paves-w...), I was wondering if hinting will still be necessary if fonts are rendered with the same quality as a magazine or a book on screen.

Fonts being vector based, even zooming in won't impair any quality, so I'm not really sure if hinting will be necessary when all computers and portable devices are built with high res screens.

Also, if hinting isn't necessary, will the font file be significantly lighter, allowing webfonts to include more otf features like ligatures?

Thanks for your inputs on this :)

hrant's picture

People have been predicting the demise of hinting almost as long as they've been predicting the demise of the book!

hhp

dezcom's picture

and the paperless office

Claire Bibio's picture

yes, but not everyone can afford this products.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Eventually, sure, this will make hinting unnecessary for displaying text on those devices. Heck, it's already unnecessary for iOS because Apple's Quartz rendering engine ignores built-in hinting anyway. And yet this has approximately zero impact on font production, because what matters isn't the least problematic environments, it's the most problematic environments. So the question isn't just when we will start having noticeable numbers of super-high-res devices, it's when will we no longer have to worry about the other devices... and that will be many years later.

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

>...when all computers and portable devices are built with high res screens.

Since there is no time when this will be true, 200 to 300 dpi screens literally everywhere, I'm going to start assuming people who talk so knowingly about the relationship between hinting and resolution are just showing off.:)

>... because Apple's Quartz rendering engine ignores built-in hinting anyway.

This is the third time I found this said by the same person!?

Quartz does not ignore built-in hinting. This has been discussed and examples shown.

This time I guess the only possible explanation is that T. Phinney is just a liar?

hrant's picture

> what matters isn't the least problematic environments,
> it's the most problematic environments.

Well said.

--

David, maybe Thomas is making a useful simplification? My own view doesn't go much further than his; I certainly believe that Apple's rendering is carelessly blurry. But I myself would appreciate learning of any attenuating complexities.

hhp

Chris Dean's picture

Posted elsewhere:

http://prometheus.med.utah.edu/~bwjones/2010/06/apple-retina-display/

“So, if a normal human eye can discriminate two points separated by 1 arcminute/cycle at a distance of a foot, we should be able to discriminate two points 89 micrometers apart which would work out to about 287 pixels per inch. Since the iPhone 4G display is comfortably higher than that measure at 326 pixels per inch, I’d find Apple’s claims stand up to what the human eye can perceive.”

Se also:

Curcio, C. A., Sloan, K. R., Kalina, R. E. & Hendrickson, A. E. (1990). Human photoreceptor topography. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 292, 497-523.

Long short, there’s only so much detail the human eye is physiologically capable of detecting. Sure, if we get in an look at the type 1 cm away we'll see a difference, but at 12 inches, ~300 DIP is our threshold. Beyond this neither resolution nor hinting make a significant difference.

hrant's picture

Sorry, that's bull. I can see the difference. And I'm human. The acuity of the eye has previously been measured at over 1000dpi, at holding-something--length. In fact it's even possible to see the effect of hinting between 1200dpi and 2400dpi printing.

Don't believe the iHype.

hhp

dezcom's picture

What matters is how it works in real usage. Type designers have the whole spectrum of screens out there to deal with. At what point they may deem it unproductive to support older systems is a market variable. If you are releasing type now or 2 years from now, you may have a different perception of where it remains profitable to support users with dated systems. The tough part is defining "dated" which is a moving target.

Chris Dean's picture

The acuity of the eye has previously been measured at 1000+ dpi, at a distance of greater than a foot.”

Reference?

hrant's picture

Memory. 20/20. :-)

But the challenge to Retina/qHD displays being
beyond our acuity is well-documented, and solid.
Part of this challenge involves the realization that
we have two eyes, and they're known to work
together in amazing ways.

hhp

Thomas Phinney's picture

DB: You're being more rude than seems called for under the circumstances.

However, in the interests of accuracy, I will henceforth change my usual comment to one with the appropriately nuanced caveat, such as this: "With normal settings and sizes, iOS Quartz rendering completely ignores all hints in a font."

The full explanation? At normally used sizes, with standard settings, Quartz ignores hinting. At *very* small sizes, it turns off anti-aliasing entirely and displays hinted, aliased glyphs. A user can change the default for the largest "very small size" if they like, to make it a bigger size so it will actually matter in practice. The possible range of settings is 4 to 12 pixels. The default is reportedly 8 px, which has no impact at what I think of as actually usable font sizes on screen. Even Verdana is not hinted to be usable at 8 px, as counters close up and the like. But I suppose that for the right typeface and if you were into extreme hinting, you might try to make something more workable at 8 px (or below).

However, a user could increase that setting as high as 12 pixels, which would come into play quite a lot.

So, yes there are some circumstances, with people who have changed their system settings, in which hinting matters in Quartz rendering. Or if you want to go beyond where mainstream fonts have tread to date. I have long regarded this as an extreme corner case, and used the more simplistic phrase about what Quartz does.

Note: I haven't spotted a way to change this setting on the iPhone. Given the pixel sizes and resolutions involved, I'd say this really is irrelevant to the iPhone.

T

Nick Shinn's picture

The first Laserwriter was 300 dpi, and unsatisfactory for text type.

Never mind high-res screens, I have always preferred letterpress to offset.
As the man said, we have two eyes.

I also prefer rotogravure to halftones, and spot colour (including metallics and fluorescents) to CMYK.

The nature of LED screens is quite different to print: it's transitory, emitted light—whereas with print the image is fused into the medium, and illuminated by reflected light — you can turn the image and it changes, and even without moving it, one is aware of the different effect of reflected light through two eyes. The printed image is an object, an artefact which may be possessed in a relationship that is more substantial and profound than that involving temporary images on a screen.

Monitors are quite different to laptops and tablets. With monitors, the image plane stays relatively the same angle to the viewer, but with tablets, you can manually twist them away, more like holding a print document.

hrant's picture

Indeed, even after a year of having it, I still smile a little every time I use my Kindle.

hhp

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

>useful simplification

My sincerest apologies.

When, and upon whom is such simplification useful? It took 3 years, from 88-91 to re-educate the public after Adobe "usefully simplified" PS to treating fonts and graphics exactly the same. We're still re-educating over the "hint for CT just like for aliased fonts", MS "simplification".

Here is a user who wants to know, in pretty clear denial of the economics and processing requirements of resolution, whether we can have more OT features if we don't have to hint fonts.

If the truth is anywhere, it is that all OS operating below 100 dpi, use some hints sometimes, and...that resolution is to OT features as bluejays are to oak trees.

aluminum's picture

Not taking sides, as I really don't have a horse in this race, but 100dpi is probably a fairly common minimum PPI these days on most LCD devices (not that hinting can't help those devices too).

Richard Fink's picture

@thomas phinney

"...what matters isn't the least problematic environments, it's the most problematic environments..."

Perfectly put. I'll be quotin' ya.

quadibloc's picture

Despite the fact that the human eye can indeed distinguish letterpress from 300 dpi laser printing, one has to admit that hinting would usually not be relevant there, except when one gets into the realm of microprinting.

Also, while it is quite correct that abandoning the users of older or less-expensive devices is unconscionable, there is also the consideration that hinting is extremely problematic at the moment. The technology is essentially limited to proprietary environments because Apple still holds patents covering the use of hinting with TrueType. Of course, there's also the Adobe Type 1 font standard, and I remember hearing of a little-known third alternative outline font format which includes hinting (I can't find the name, but it may be one of Fastfont (Atech), Intellifont (Agfa Compugraphic), Nimbus-Q (URW), or Speedo (Bitstream); it definitely wasn't Metafont I was thinking of), but those are proprietary as well. (TrueDoc, derived from Speedo, does include hinting, so it might have been the one I was thinking of.)

Thus, hinting is essentially unavailable with free distributions of Linux, which means that it would be highly desirable to be able to avoid it completely.

hrant's picture

> it would be highly desirable to be able to avoid it completely.

And would it also be highly desirable to be able to avoid reading?
It's such a chore, and you can't do it when you're sleeping or skiing or stuff.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
That is a good point. Obviously, hinting is necessary if one is going to be using vector fonts, as opposed to bitmap fonts, on a display screen with conventional resolution.

I'm not trying to say that people should give up displaying text on computer screens, I was merely pointing out that there is an issue surrounding hinting that does give a reason to try to do without it. Whether by using bitmapped fonts extensively, as is done to a large extent in the X Window System, or the brute-force method of increasing resolution beyond what would otherwise be reasonably required.

Jens Kutilek's picture

The technology is essentially limited to proprietary environments because Apple still holds patents covering the use of hinting with TrueType. [...] Thus, hinting is essentially unavailable with free distributions of Linux, which means that it would be highly desirable to be able to avoid it completely.

That’s not true. Look into the source code of FreeType, even they agree that all the patents have expired by now.

And besides, hinting is essentially unavailable on Mac OS X too, so should we also avoid it for that reason?

quadibloc's picture

@Jens Kubilek:
Apple can't afford to license its own expired patents?

No, that isn't a reason to avoid hinting.

John Hudson's picture

David, to clarify, the use of hint instructions by Apple is as Thomas describes, yes? i.e. 8ppem and lower unless raised by the user to a maximum of 12ppem and lower. Or are you aware of some other use of hints by Apple?

Té Rowan's picture

Yes, I only just got around to compile and install Freetype 2.4.4 on my Linux box. They are now enabling the bytecode interpreter by default. Last time, I had to edit ftoption.h before compiling to enable it.

mikeklaas's picture

Will hinting be required for text sizes on 300dpi displays (say, 9-12px text height)?

An alternate formulation (that nevertheless loses something in the translation) is:

Is hinting currently required for display sizes on 100dpi displays (27-36px text height)?

Chris Dean's picture

A five minute search:

Ziefle, M. (1998). Effects of display resolution on visual performance. Human Factors, 40(4), 554-568.

Abstract: The role of display resolution in visual information processing was investigated in 2 experiments. Experiment 1 examined the effects of 2 CRT conditions (resolutions of 60 and 120 dots per inch [dpi]) and a paper control condition (255 dpi) on proofreading speed and accuracy. The results showed that reading performance was significantly better in the paper condition than in the 2 CRT conditions. Experiment 2 examined the effects of 3 different CRT resolutions (62, 69, and 89 dpi) on eye movement parameters (fixation duration and number of fixations) in a visual search task. Further, search reaction times (RTs) and observers' ratings of visual fatigue were analyzed. RTs and fixation durations were significantly increased in the low-resolution condition (62 dpi) as compared with the high-resolution condition (89 dpi). The significant interaction between display resolution and time both for search RTs and fixation durations was taken as evidence for stronger fatigue in the low-resolution conditions. Additionally, the extent of visual fatigue correlates both with search RTs and eye movement parameters. This finding gives rise to the assumption that observers' responsiveness to effects of display resolution in terms of visual fatigue differs markedly Actual or potential applications of this research include recommendations for the use of high-resolution displays (90 dpi and greater) to optimize visual performance, to make prolonged on-screen viewing more comfortable, and to avoid visual fatigue.

Note the year. Old news. No electronic text is available from the databases and I do not have access to the paper version yet. However, it appears as though reading comprehension is not being measured. Knowing where and when people look, and how tired they “feel” doesn’t really tell us anything about comprehension. It’s entirely possible (and very easy to do) that an exact replication of this study could yield no significant difference in comprehension, were it to be measured. Give me another hour and I could probably find a study that supports (or refutes) this. Dyson or Larson have probably already done it. Again, I would need to read the entire paper to support or refute its conclusions.

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

>David, to clarify, the use of hint instructions by Apple is as Thomas describes, yes? i.e. 8ppem and lower unless raised by the user to a maximum of 12ppem and lower.

The default, I thought was 10 or 11. But the points are three. If you say "Apple OS uses no hints", you are mightily insulting MS, who in the same reolution spectrum, uses lots of hints. In fact they need everyone to hint or else.

Second, the clear facts show that the OS does use hints, so why repeatedly say otherwise?

>Or are you aware of some other use of hints by Apple?

Yes. The Mac OS has the capability to special case any font, gaspishly using hints to any OS specified size, or ignoring the user's smoothing prefs, and presenting smoothed fonts below the users prefs. This, doing what the font says, special casing applies to Courier and Luci da Grande at least.

And third, I'm still here. I can't leave or else, well, just imagine I wasn't here for the last 6-7 years of lies rendered and rerendered. ;)

Christopher, wow, what a find! I didn't think anyone in the field of psych could imagine such a useful study! Old, yes... but the timing was perfect.

>Is hinting currently required for display sizes on 100dpi displays (27-36px text height)?

Just on windows.

hrant's picture

> The default, I thought was 10 or 11.

Still too low. Even the max of 12 is way too low.
To me about 30 would be a good max.

Special-casing: how do we get MacOS to do this for our fonts?

> Just on windows.

Just for humans.

hhp

miha's picture

I don’t think there is any hinting in Apple mobile devices (with iOS). This includes iPad with 133 PPI.

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

>Still too low. Even the max of 12 is way too low.To me about 30 would be a good max.

so as a windows user, do you just set your smoothing to none? Does that work for ya?

>Special-casing: how do we get MacOS to do this for our fonts?

if you want your font to antialias only, you name it LucidaGrande, and for non- antialiasing, I'd try naming it Courier.

>I don’t think there is any hinting in Apple mobile devices (with iOS)

Me too. So as I have my smoothing set to 4, the type from my desktop, to my iPad, to my iPhone, all have the same general presence on the page, though as the resolution increases it all gets crisper.

I've wondered for some time, how windows devices handle this, with the discontinuities between CT and print (which it's lighter than), and CT and unhinted windows rendering, where the asymmetrical rendering drops off. I just hope there isn't a problem in the pad resolution spectrum, in the middle between, all and no hints being used in windows rendering.

hrant's picture

I'm on XP, with CT off. Except for the 16ppem Georgia "v" not much really stares at me. Aliased is better than blurry. Hand--anti-aliasing (preferably via bitmaps*, but alternatively via mega-hinting) is best, but few people have the backbone for that. And to me, rendering "inconsistency" between sizes/devices/whatever is cosmetic. This is sort of parallel to my rejection of the Modernist "gray rectangle" approach to typography - it's display-centric, not in tune with how people actually read. And I would argue that Apple is [now] a display-centric company.

* http://www.themicrofoundry.com/manademo/

hhp

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

You only ever want to see jagged pixels all the way up to 30? I'm fairly certain the tuning fork is in your court;)

It's actually pretty hilarious, a reader voluntarily working on an antiquated system,, saying a company that delivers fully integrated modern products to millions and millions of device gobbling users every month and they are wrong - we should retreat to the dark and aliased age of fthe 80s?

hrant's picture

I'm saying aliasing is less bad than blurry anti-aliasing; not everybody will agree, but I don't think it's such a strange opinion. But most of all, I'm saying anti-aliasing "with intent" is much better than either. That's what hinting (or hand-editing) can do.

BTW, I chose 30 because it's a little bit higher than where I think "blind" anti-aliasing -coupled to a high ppi- can give decent (if non-ideal) results; namely around 25. A little bit higher because some people might be even more picky than me. :-)

hhp

hrant's picture

Concerning the less relevant issue of what kind of system I personally work on: I've used computers since 1977, age 9. Contrary to what somebody who doesn't own a cellphone might seem to be, I'm no technophobe. I've called myself a "technoskeptic" :-) since I do feel I know when a technology is unnecessary to me personally, and I don't like just buying stuff, so I'm not into getting the latest-and-greatest; it just has to do what I need, and I'm not editing video! The time I spend staring at a glyph makes hardware performance moot. BTW, I'm on my fourth car, and none of them were bought new. I will move to Win7 one day (I avoided Vista - we probably all agree it sucked too hard) but just last month I bought a new 9-cell battery for my warhorse (after 5 years), for $35. Which is a nice segue to Apple, since gradually they're making their batteries non--user-changeable, and this belies a business philosophy I'm not alone in hating...

Apple isn't "wrong" to sell stuff (except to the extent that Capitalism is wrong, and you can't blame individuals too much for the system they've grown up in) but I do feel that does not equate to the qualities that I personally value, not least functionality, yes, at the expense of popularity, superficial attractiveness, etc.

All that said, nobody should ignore the reality that Apple does have a lot of presence these days, especially in the portable market; so testing on those platforms is critical. Which is why I'm grateful to LAUSD for putting a free Macbook about 3 feet away from me. :-)

hhp

Té Rowan's picture

@couzinhub - Do you want your glyphs to look so sharp on those 300dpi displays that you can cut rock with them? If so, then you'll need at least some hinting/instructing. If you don't mind a bit of blur (or if that's your fave band), you can go without.

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

>I'm saying aliasing is less bad than blurry anti-aliasing;

You're saying aliasing is better than Quartz rendering on the desktop?

>I chose 30 because it's a little bit higher than where I think "blind" anti-aliasing -coupled to a high ppi- can give decent (if non-ideal) results; namely around 25.

You chose to view type on the screen aliased up to 30 ppm because 25 ppm is the bottom threshold for dumb-rendered, high resolution usability of aliased type in small print text?

>The time I spend staring at a glyph makes hardware performance moot.

That's great, and I once had the same Spartan views, but if you're going to talk a lot about the way your or other people's fonts behave, appear and perform, specifically, or in gross generalities, shouldn't you have and use these devices to the point of being immersed in the user-experience, to see your and other people's work and support the validity of your points?

Back on the thread, I seldom but deeply wonder about how much other stuff, besides dpi, would have to change to bring some vast majority of the lap 'n desktop crowd up to 300... like graphics processing power, battery life and OS software. Anyone else?

And then, there's the graphics state of the web in this pined for resolution rapture.:)

hrant's picture

> You're saying aliasing is better than Quartz rendering on the desktop?

For reading size, to me it is. Whenever I look at OSX rendering, all I can
think of is wasted potential. And, really, is it so shocking to suggest that
Apple's solution is a vapid cop-out, that they no longer really care about
type, that they don't mind if people read less? When is the last time you
saw a Lofting at a conference? What about Chalkboard? Come on.

In contrast MS's work of the past many years -in type and elsewhere-
borders on philanthropy - I tend to see it as a quest for true functional
improvement. That's pretty shocking for a huge corporation. It's also
why Apple makes more money now. And this is coming from somebody
whose disdain for MS in the 90s is well documented, on this very forum.

Hopefully once Apple becomes preposterously rich like Microsoft some
sense of social duty will sprout, and then we will see amazing things.

> You chose to view type on the screen aliased up to 30 ppm because
> 25 ppm is the bottom threshold for dumb-rendered, high resolution
> usability of aliased type in small print text?

I don't view type aliased up to 30ppem; what I said is that seems
like a good maximum in terms of user choice. I've disabled* CT but
otherwise have not changed anything. So -for most fonts- anything
higher than 16ppem gets anti-aliased, but -critically- it's still hinted.

* Actually it might be that I never enabled it;
I forget what the default setting was back then.

> shouldn't you have and use these devices to the point of being
> immersed in the user-experience, to see your and other people's
> work and support the validity of your points?

Agreed. And I do have a Macbook handy, and I've always been a
big believer in testing. But I don't have an iDevice, so I admit to
not being immersed in that realm. However I'm not making type
for hand-held devices* so it's not such a big deal. Any convincing
I might be qualified to do remains in the realm of larger screens.

* I'd love to, but it's hard to crack.

hhp

dezcom's picture

@dberlow: you still have a week to go before either Rapture or 300ppi rendering engulfs us. Use your time wisely--personally, I am off to the pastry shoppe and the chocolatier for goodies . ;-)

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

Good capitalism MS vs bad capitalism Apple? Give it a rest. Ya don't like quartz, ya don't like CT, and ya won't invest in resolution, or a windows upgrade. Sounds entirely personal —Hrant against anti aliased text.

hrant's picture

?
You know how many hours I spent on this?
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/manademo/
You might want to start with frame 13.

hhp

hrant's picture

How can I be against anti-aliased text when I spent all that time making a pixelfont family that relies on manual anti-aliasing? And that's something I've been advocating for many years now. Maybe Mana is a deluded design effort, but at least it proves where my rendering-depth loyalties lie.

What I would love to do is a subpixel-manual-anti-aliased font. But that requires support for color bitmap fonts. Oh, and an amount of time I haven't had in a while... :-/

hhp

dezcom's picture

"...spent all that time making..." Might the issue be that people reading this thread are trying to avoid spending large amounts of time hinting would also be likely to want to avoid spending even more time manually anti-aliasing?
My take on the original post in this thread was that person was wanting to know (if not indeed HOPING to know) that they need not bother learning the tedious TT hinting process because 300ppi was knocking at the door ;-).

dezcom's picture

And how are those twins other than taking up all your time? ;-D

hrant's picture

> trying to avoid

I just don't want people to try to avoid reading... :-/

BTW, early Wednesday morning I was carrying the girl and she punched me square in the left eyeball! By mistake. Or at least I think so... Anyway, I couldn't open my eye at all for an hour, and I'm still recovering. It's a good thing designers need to squint a lot.

hhp

dezcom's picture

"Or at least I think so... " LOL!!!

We often wonder about such "editorial comments" by our children :-)

hrant's picture

Update:
Today the blessed wifie brought home an iPad2 (cost: $0) which I
have a hunch will be used for some pretty immersive font testing...

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: Today the blessed wifie brought home an iPad2 (cost: $0)...

Isn't that also what Foxconn pays the Chinese workers who make them?

hrant's picture

You know, this is a veritable gold mine of off-color jokes,
but that other thread has rendered the timing less than ideal...

hhp

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

>Oh, and an amount of time I haven't had in a while... :-/

Stop your bellyach'in an' learn to hrint:-|E3)

>How can I be against anti-aliased text when I spent all that time making a pixelfont family that relies on manual anti-aliasing?

Right, I wasn't abundantly enough clear. Everybody who knows what they're making screen text fonts for, likes hand-tuned, full x-hinted greyscale fonts the bestest.

You, as I intended to say, are against the current regimes of anti-aliasing, where the horse and barn, the ship and dock, and train and station are parted, aliased windows users missed them all and are out of the mainstream appearance of TV, Pad, phone and all new Windows platforms.

Blessed wife indeed. How about now? OS anti-aliasing of digital outline fonts on demand has a future, no?

Syndicate content Syndicate content