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WinVice Palette Predicament

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There has been many threads and topics devoted to the colors of WinVice on a variety of forums; particularly for the NTSC region. The developers have certainly done tremendous work with the emulator and it is commendable.


Even relatively recently, the following was performed respecting the video display:



It brought contrast and saturation to a default value of 1.250. It makes the current NTSC default display appear as follows:




While indeed appreciated as a rather 'dull/muted' look is part of the issue with the way the NTSC display appears, there is another issue which was brought up previously that cannot be corrected properly through the video options offered via WinVice.


The default red and blue ratios are not what many NTSC users experience. The worst and most evident being the amount of red applied to blue as noticed on the boot screen, but there are other issues as well. The testimony of many NTSC users on these boards as well as numerous online examples of the actual NTSC hardware running on official Commodore equipment (I.E. 1702) as well as other CRT displays makes this clearly evident:




A shift of the tint value (More green/less red) will correct this (improperly) to a degree, but it also impacts the entire palette and will cause greys to look greenish as well as a slew of other undesired adjustments. Again, the main issue is red and blue ratio values, not something a tint/hue control can address the right way.


So here is hopefully something to assist those NTSC users. This is not hand-picked or manually manipulated palette colors. Rather we take the default.vpl file values from WinVice and offer up the following comparison:




Quickly looking over the chart especially the first three (Default, Default15, Default30) one may not notice much if any difference, but there is as we compare the various boot screens with the default and variety of ratio adjustments using the default user adjustable video option values of WinVice.


*Note: All screen captures going forward are in the following order:


default15.vpl --> default30.vpl --> default15-15.vpl --> default30-30.vpl.





Once an individual can figure approximately where their display falls in the spectrum, then other adjustments can be applied (Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, Tint). Here is what further difference the boot screen can appear with just contrast bumped up:






You'll notice from the boot screen that the default15 and default15-15 does not appear to look different; ditto with the default30 and default 30-30. To truly notice the full range of what has changed and not changed (Or hardly changed) let's take two popular titles utilizing again the default user video option values:


Bruce Lee





G.I. Joe




The differences from default and the four new default values should hopefully be much clearer.


The issue (red/blue portions) is not unique to the C64 under the NTSC region. All three Atari systems (2600/5200/7800) and the NES (Both with vastly different ways of how their palettes are generated) experience a similar phenomenon. The only proper way to address it is with the option of modifying red, green, and blue ratio proportions, once a set of default values are obtained from the appropriate performed calculations.


You'll notice that the percentage of 15% and 30% were utilized. Every 15% is where a very significant difference becomes apparent as highlighted in the captures. A higher percentage is possible but evidence of any online examples or personal experience of the ratios within a range greater than 30% is lacking.


How to apply the different palettes:

Copy the palette files to the C64 sub-folder found within the main folder where the main executable resides.
(I.E. C:\WinVICE\C64)


After copying the files you normally should be able to select them via the GUI interface: 'Settings' --> 'Video Settings' --> 'VICII Palette' tab. However, that appears not to work.


An easy method is to just open the vice.ini file (Found in the main directory where the executable resides - i.e. C:\WinVICE) with Notepad and about a third of the way down you will find two lines:




Change "default" to one of the new default files and change the 0 to 1. So for example if you wanted to try the "default15-15.vpl" file, the lines would be modified to:




Please make sure you save the file.


Proceed then to launch WinVice and make whatever additional video changes you desire - contrast, brightness, saturation, etc.


It would be wonderful to perhaps see these options/values incorporated and included in the WinVice distribution. To assist further and in aiding any who believe or desire to make manual adjustments to the default calculations here is the complete chart of palette values:




Download the chart in Excel format here: CHARTDELTAS.zip


Finally, the four new default palette files for WinVice can be downloaded here: WinVice_Default_Palettes_20131207.zip

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The Pepto palette: http://www.pepto.de/projects/colorvic/


It has been hailed as being the most accurate in providing the near exact video output of the C64. One of the benefits of the Pepto palette is it contains not only absolute black like the 'default' WinVice palette, but also absolute white along with standardized greys. There's an even distribution of RGB values concerning them.


Originating from/for the PAL region, it too when having the red/blue ratio adjustments applied brings it closer to the colors NTSC users are accustomed to seeing.


As provided with the 'default' WinVice palettes, here is the comparison of first the Pepto swatches unmodified, then four different ratio adjustments:



Also, like the WinVice ‘default’ palettes the differences may appear insignificant when viewed in the above format; however, when applied in practice the change is great.


Screen captures going forward will appear in the following order:

Pepto (Original)

Pepto15 --> Pepto30 --> Pepto15-15 --> Pepto30-30


Comparing boot screen gives the following variety:





The Pepto palette may be seen by some (Especially NTSC users) as being even duller and further muted than the default WinVice palette. So instead of just bumping contrast to 2.0, as was done to the 'default' palettes boot screens in the initial post, here is a saturation setting of 2.0 and a contrast setting of 1.5 applied to the 'Pepto' palettes via WinVice's video options:





Utilizing not the default video option this time, but the increased saturation and contrast settings, here are a couple of popular games utilized previously with the 'default' palettes, now shown with the 'Pepto' palettes:


Bruce Lee




G.I. Joe



Here is the comparison chart of values:



Download the above chart in Excel format here: CHARTDELTASPEPTO.zip


Download the 'Pepto' palettes along with the four previously provided 'default' WinVice palettes here: WinVice_Palettes_20131209.zip


P.S. There was a better outcome with the method to utilize external palettes via WinVice GUI this time around. It works fine as long as there are no spaces in the path. If there is difficulty applying these palettes via WinVice GUI, please utilize the method mentioned in the initial post to modify the two lines within Notepad inside vice.ini.

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Accurately reproducing the Video Output of a Commodore C64... http://hitmen.c02.at/temp/palstuff/

Utilizing the data provided from the above link, focusing on what appears to be CRT screen captures with swatches under the NTSC Decoding section, there is a default palette shown and a palette labeled SONY CXA2025.


Being that they are CRT emulated captures, if trying to extract values for the swatches, due to the nature of the aforementioned video depending from where on the swatch the data is obtained, the RGB information changes.

To ensure consistent data is extracted a central spot was chosen centered for each swatch between both palettes to obtain the information making it fit within the WinVice current framework. Looking at the different palettes it could be thought that the difference is red to blue ratios as was the case with the previous two base palettes. The data extracts provides the following details:


It is in fact, only the green color which is stronger under the SONY CXA2025. This underscores again the importance of being able to adjust red, blue, green individual strengths and ratios in truly covering the wide variety of colors NTSC users experience with their displays. This stronger green ratio is not the same as a typical tint adjustment on a television set. Note too grayscale is not impacted. Red and Blue values are consistent between the two base palettes.

There is though a ratio issue with both palettes; most obviously seen concerning the values representing Red and Cyan. Red shows a very strong Blue to Red ratio, while Cyan is provided a very weak Blue to Green ratio. Unlike the prior base palette examples (default, pepto) provided in this thread that contained skewed Red ratio, these seem to have a skewed Blue ratio.

Just to be clear, as some may be confused when what is about to be presented was given previously for other examples of NTSC palettes and the way they were calculated and/or presented: The following palettes are not definitive. They are not being shown or labeled as perfect or the one(s).

They are subject to the video options and controls found on typical end user displays, preferences, and WinVice's video options. They are provided to demonstrate the range and pattern of differences NTSC users encounter and they are encouraging when and if the time comes for the WinVice (Or any other C64 emulator) video portion is overhauled, the importance, if not the necessity of having the ability to adjust RGB individual strengths and ratios. Again too, such emulators as MESS (MAME) and Nestopia (Undead) have such controls as is needed even with CRT emulation and the best of calculation methods utilized.

Now on to the palettes... :)

First up is the one labeled default under the aforementioned section. Since WinVice already contains a default.vpl file, the name that is given to the screenshot under the NTSC decoding section has been chosen, which is: c64_ntsc_default. Here are the swatches:


Here are the corresponding boot screens matching swatch order. Screen captures were taking with WinVices current default video options applied which incorporates a 1.250 value for both contrast and saturation:


Here are the in-game captures following the same swatch order:

Bruce Lee:


G.I. Joe:


Here is the chart providing the comparison list of values for the c64_ntsc_default family:


Moving on to the second base palette provided derived from the CXA2025 matrix, here are the swatches:


The boot screens applied with the WinVice default video options:


The in-game captures for the cxa2025 matrix:

Bruce Lee:


G.I. Joe:


Here is the chart providing the comparison list of values for the c64_ntsc_cxa2025 family:


All base families: default, pepto, c64_ntsc_default, and c64_ntsc_cxa2025 have been consolidated under one Excel spreadsheet with each family under its own tab. That spreadsheet can be downloaded here: COMP_COMPARISON_CHART.zip

All family sets of palettes have also been consolidated for download here: WinVice_Palettes_20131214.zip

To emphasize again in case it was lost or missed with all the above information:

The palettes are not definitive. They are not being shown or labeled as perfect or the one(s). They are subject to the video options and controls found on typical end user displays, preferences and available via WinVice's video options.

They are provided to demonstrate the range and pattern of differences NTSC users encounter and they are encouraging when and if the time comes for the WinVice (Or any other C64 emulator) video portion to be overhauled, the importance, if not the necessity of having the ability to adjust [R]ed, [G]reen, lue individual strengths and ratios.

Last but not least, it is hoped the above makes for additional useful purposes and a more enjoyable emulation experience; especially for NTSC users.

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