Interview

The Rasterbator

Interview with Matias Arje
Matias Arje, Rasturbated

Have you ever gotten close enough to a billboard to see all the strangely captivating multicolored dots that form the image? Now, thanks to the work of a clever Finn, you can make the same kind of beautiful halftoned enlargements of your own photos.

Matias Arje is the creator of the Rasterbator, a free online tool that can turn an unsuspecting JPG into a beautiful dotted billboard. All you need is a printer, some paper, scissors, tape or glue, and a little time to spare.

Since the Rasterbator went online in 2004, it's rasterbated 1.1 million images onto 30 million pages. Not bad for a side project whipped up by a self-proclaimed "lazy-ass web developer."

We asked Matias to answer some questions about his creation, and he was kind enough to reply. Check out his interview, along with some rasterbations by members of the JPG community, on the following page.

JPG: Who goes there?

I'm Matias Arje, web specialist with artistic inclinations, author of the Rasterbator. 29, M, Helsinki, Finland.

How did the Rasterbator come to be?

Several years ago I was living in a student dormitory and had a roommate, Aarne Junkkari, with whom I shared sort of anthropological or sociological interest in kitschy religious apparel. We decided that the living room needed some redecorating and got the idea of creating a huge poster of the now late Pope John Paul II.

Just enlarging the image yielded crappy results as the quality was greatly reduced, but we played around with Photoshop and used the color halftone filter to create a rasterized image. It was a lot more striking than we expected.

During the following years, many people asked how the poster was made and mentioned that they would like to make one using their own source image and I started wondering whether this could be automated - apparently it could.

What's the response been like?

Most of the feedback is positive. People extend their gratitude for such a free tool. The only negative feedback is that teachers tell me that they would like to use the application, but they cannot because of its name. Curiously, this is limited to America. Other teachers, including British, gleefully teach the joys of rasterbating.

Yes, it's wordplay of an utmost naivete, but nevertheless, the Rasterbator has turned into a very strong brand. Originally, "rasterbator" was a slang term for a graphic designer who perfected his work for a long time with no apparent progress. I'm quite happy we've been able to hijack the term.

What's the coolest thing you've ever seen come out of the Rasterbator?

I'm very happy to know that people use it in schools, to create montage paintings and demonstration posters. I would never have expected it would be used for creating banners for the 75th birthday party of an Austrian grandmother.

Tell us something about the Rasterbator nobody knows.

Some lazy-ass developer programmed the simplest possible method for creating halftones for the Rasterbator. The colorization is even more stupid, but only print professionals would notice. And the process isn't even rasterization, it's actually halftoning.

Check out JPG's Rasterbator theme!

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