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Metal Letters - OpenType

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Shelby Moore's picture
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Joined: 10 Feb 2007 - 10:37pm
Metal Letters - OpenType
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I don't know how well I will explain this but I will try. Back in the day, we used Metal Letters that we would rub off onto our stencil and then handcut the letter from the rub off. The computer has made cutting letters much easier, but the one good thing about the Metal Letters is that as the type size increased, the serifs didn't scale, they were kept thin and this made for a nicer looking font. The computer fonts at large sizes all look heavy as they are simply scaling up the font.

I thought I read somewere that OpenType now supports Alternate characters, so I was wondering if it would be possible to create an OpenType Font with Fontlab that would alternate the character set above certain sizes. So 0 - 90 points would be one set of characters, and 90 - What Ever would be another. Giving us a closer look to our old Metal Letters. (This substituation would accure maybe two or three time depending on the font.)

Does that make sense? Is it possible? I know I could create three different fonts and suggesst sizes, but I would rather have it all in one font and automated.

Them old timers knew what they were doing and had good looking fonts, now if my computer was smart enough to do the same.

Shelby

Thomas Phinney's picture
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Joined: 3 Sep 2002 - 11:00am
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The official OpenType approach is to have separate fonts, but have optical size info in the fonts that can (in principle) automate the size-switching. The only problem is that except for some flavor of TeX, no application that I know of is taking advantage of this as yet.

Regards,

T

Typography.Guru's picture
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Joined: 8 May 2003 - 2:39pm
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I think users like to have full control of the typefaces they are using. So I am not sure if it would be a good idea, If fonts would be switching automatically, messing up the spacing and so on.

Ralf

Blank's picture
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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I agree with Ralf— a variety of optical sizes is the sort of freedom designers need, the computer switching them in and out automatically is guaranteed to annoy a lot of designers.

Ken Messenger's picture
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Joined: 23 Feb 2006 - 11:05am
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Obviously this is an option that could be controlled by the designer. Just as ligatures and small-cap replacement is now.

Thomas Phinney's picture
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Joined: 3 Sep 2002 - 11:00am
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Yup, just so, Ken.

InDesign actually already does this automatically (with a user-controlled preference) for good old multiple master fonts. There just aren't very many of those these days.

Cheers,

T

Mike Diaz's picture
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Joined: 14 Apr 2006 - 12:43am
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So how about Multiple Master OpenType? Context sensitive optical scaling- WOW. That would be nice.

Mikey

Blank's picture
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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So how about Multiple Master OpenType? Context sensitive optical scaling- WOW. That would be nice.

Especially now that Adobe has pwn3d the design software market. If multiple master fonts make a comeback, the lack of third-party support won't really be an issue anymore.

Shelby Moore's picture
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Joined: 10 Feb 2007 - 10:37pm
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OK so we can agree this might not be the best approach, designers may want the freedom to do this themselves.

Yet I still have the need to do this. So can anyone give an example of how with OpenType I can substitute a glyph for another glyph if the point size is > then a given number?

Thanks again,

Shelby

Thomas Phinney's picture
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Joined: 3 Sep 2002 - 11:00am
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OpenType was originally going to support multiple master functionality as well, but it was yanked from the OpenType spec way back around early 1998, IIRC. Although conspiracy theorists may argue otherwise, the main reasons were that there was a big support cost for multiple master, and end users hadn't embraced MM functionality very enthusiastically. The guy who was engineering manager for the type department at the time (Dan Mills) thought that we would find it a lot easier to make OpenType successful if it didn't include MM.
I believe he was right about that, although I for one miss MM functionality.

Although it didn't help that our partner in OpenType, Microsoft, was not particularly enthusiastic about MM, this was not the the core reason for Dan's decision.

So can anyone give an example of how with OpenType I can substitute a glyph for another glyph if the point size is > then a given number?

To the best of my knowledge, it isn't possible.

Theoretically you could get equivalent results by using elaborate TrueType delta hinting, but in practice it wouldn't work (too much work, and too many high-end rasterizers are ignoring delta hints these days anyway).

Cheers,

T