Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections

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Truevision TGA, version 1.0

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Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name Truevision TGA File format, version 1.0

TGA (often referred to as TARGA) is a simple raster format for individual images first established by Truevision, Inc. in 1984. Designed for use on systems that used MS-DOS color applications, TGA is the native format of Truevision's TARGA (Truevision Advanced Raster Graphics Adapter) boards, which were some of the first graphic cards for IBM-compatible PCs to support truecolor display (most often defined as 24-bit RGB color encoding).

TGA supports mapped/indexed color and RGB color, with additional support for transparency information (sometimes referred to as alpha channel, as in RGBA color space). Transparency information permits images to be superimposed over other data, e.g., additional images, text layouts, or video, and permits effects like cross-fading between graphic images and video, etc.

TGA images may be encoded at 8, 16, 24, or 32 bits per pixel (as mapped/indexed color, RGB, or RGBA). TGA supported 24-bit color before such support was available in the TIFF format, and this helped establish the format's popularity during the 1980s.

Production phase Most often an initial-state or middle-state format.
Relationship to other formats
    Has later version TGA_2, Truevision TGA, version 2.0

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings The Library of Congress has a small number of TGA files in its collections.
LC preference See the Recommended Formats Statement for the Library of Congress format preferences for Still Image Works. The U.S. Copyright Office includes TARGA files on its list of eCO Acceptable File Types.

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms

Disclosure Proprietary. Truevision used to make the specification available. Truevision was acquired by Pinnacle Systems in 1999. The TGA specification does not seem to be available from the Pinnacle Systems website.

The specification Truevision TGA, File Format Specification, Version 2.0 is available in various forms on the Internet, e.g.,

Adoption This format was widely used by graphics specialists before most personal computers had graphics displays. As an industry standard, it is not as widely supported as PCX or TIFF formats. TGA (versions 1.0 and 2.0) have retained popularity for computer graphics professionals and video-game developers as a simple format that supports high bit-depth (up to 32 bits per pixel) and transparency. It is widely supported by high-end paint programs and ray tracing packages. Used in particular for "texture" files used for image composition and 3D-rendering techniques.
    Licensing and patents Technically proprietary, but not exploited.
Transparency Licensing and patent claims
Self-documentation Single image identification element of up to 255 characters.
External dependencies None.
Technical protection considerations None.

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Still Image
Normal rendering Good support.
Clarity (high image resolution) Support for images with high spatial resolution. Support for RGB (plus transparency) color space or mapped (indexed) color and bit depth of 8, 16, 24, or 32 bits per pixel.
Color maintenance Designed primarily for use on PC video displays using RGB colorspace. No support for ICC color profiles.
Support for vector graphics, including graphic effects and typography No support for vector graphics.
Functionality beyond normal rendering Support for transparency.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension tga
Recommended in TGA version 2 specification.
Filename extension vda
Used in application-specific contexts for version 1.0. Deprecated in TGA version 2.0 specification.
Mac OS file type TPIC
Documented in TGA version 2 specification.
Other NF00428
Wikidata Title ID Q1063976
See Does not distinguish between versions
Pronom PUID x-fmt/367

Notes Explanation of format description terms

History Truevision defined the first version of its TGA file format in 1984 for use with its first videographics products, including video boards for PC displays. In 1989, Truevision introduced TGA version 2.0. The new version was designed to allow software that worked with version 1.0 to work with version 2.0 images (ignoring the added functionality).

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Books, articles, etc.

Last Updated: 05/23/2024