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OLD CS1

Composite video failures and successes

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There is no single thread which chronicles the plight of our "240p" composite world and integration into technology of the modern era.

 

I have a thread here in which I talk about the Kanex Pro, which works pretty well.  I also worked up a comparison to the RetroTink 2x in this thread hijack in which I judge the RetroTink as inferior capture and quality, but it is advertised as zero latency, so YMMV.

 

I have also had excellent experience with an Eyoyo 5" USB-powered LCD monitor, and a few different micro-monitors (4" and 3") designed for car reverse cameras.  The Onkyo TX NR-656 will up-scale composite to HDMI but, like my Optoma projector, it treats the signal as interlaced resulting in tearing.

 

My experience with some Dell UltraSharp monitors has been promising and I now own several of these, a couple which I schlep up to VCF every year.

 

Here are a couple of other monitor options, one of which I am certain is SVGA fed from an F18A.  Following is a beautiful, yet seemingly convoluted, configuration of matrices and processors and more discussion of successful configuration.

 

My hope is to consolidate information into a single thread which can be more easily referenced.  My goal is to also create a simple spreadsheet to maintain this information.  To help me do this, please post your successes and failures, or links to comments or blog posts of the same, here

 

For our purposes, please include anything composite which we would use with our systems.  The assumption is CRT monitors and TVs will work, so failures of such are far more informative than successes.  For instance, my first post below will be about an automatic composite source selector. Please also include S-Video equipment.

 

While I expect NTSC to be the annoying beast in all of this, PAL information is important, as well.

 

Lastly, the "240p problem" exists across a multitude of platforms, such as the Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit, NES, Sega Genesis/MegaDrive, etc.  I welcome any information regarding these system, especially if you have a device which works with other systems but not properly or at all with the TI, or even vice-versa.

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My first disappointing failure to report is the Naki 55726 automatic composite source selector.  I purchased mine for about $18 on eBay.  It cannot lock onto signals from my TI, NES, Genesis CD-X, or Atari 7800.  Back to the good-old mechanical selector for now.

s-l1600.jpg

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Another failure and three successes:

 

Fail: Unbranded 3.5" TFT LCD for backup camera

Success: Pyle PRJG45 LED mini-projector

See here.

 

Success: Pyle PRJLE33 LED projector*

See here.

 

Success: Sony Bravia KDL-40EX653 via component cable

Shown by Asmusr.

See here.

 

(For those who were at Chicago Friday 2019, this was in use playing games on the dark side of the room.)

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Two mostly successful video capture devices.

 

StarTech SVID2USB23

I used this at last year's VCF-SE for the Dragon's Lair high score contest live-stream.  I works with OBS and a number of other video capture programs.  The capture produces clean video and I did not notice any tearing.  The only problem I have seen with it is the top of the screen tends to jerk laterally a bit.

 

EasyCAP

I am not sure where I picked this up and it is not marked with a model number, though a quick search turns up DC60.  It works but not as well as the StarTech.  It also seems to require its own special software to select between the composite (CVBS) and S-Video inputs, otherwise the default (S-Video, IIRC) gets used.  One can tell I was not as impressed with this device and have not used it as much as the StarTech.

 

I cannot recall which software came with or was recommended for which device so sometime this week I will run some additional test captures.  ULead Studio came with one of them (I believe the EasyCAP) and using it to capture from a Commodore 64 resulted in interlaced input and out-of-sync audio.  Captured graphics demos "Marquee" and "Lines" from the TI-99/4A did not seem to be interlaced and no audio was present to determine if loss of synchronization was a normal thing.

 

The EasyCAP is usable for quick-and dirty, necessity, or budget, and the StarTech worked perfectly fine for the live-stream, but for quality work I would prefer to use something like the RetroTink or Kanex Pro (the only two composite-to-HDMI converters in my repertoire) and capture the HDMI output.

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I think it's just worth saying that where signal processing is concerned, there's nothing really special or problematic about the TI-99/4A, as far as NTSC game and computing devices go.  It (happily!) throws almost no curveballs.  So virtually everything that's been examined in incredible depth elsewhere on the web regarding devices for upscaling, transcoding and capture of Composite (unmodded), RGB (F18A), or YPbPr (PAL) signals applies perfectly well, with no real caveats or special cases particular to the system.  So we aren't really faced with the need to do original research and testing, in this area, for the most part.  All that info is out there. 

 

Places like

 

retrogaming.hazard-city.de

 

and

 

The Shmups Forum

 

Are really if anything more relevant to the TI-99/4A case than to, say, Atari 2600 (where a game like BattleZone will do whatever it can to break whatever sync processing you had in mind, in a way more modern systems generally don't). 

 

One just has to select for products handing the right signal (RGB, Composite, or YPbPr, as your TI-99's case may be).  And there are even good products handling all of those signals. 

 

It's unfortunate there isn't a simple takeaway answer for new users, which hands you the $20 solution to "perfect" analogue to digital transcoding of the TI-99/4A's Composite signal, out of all this.  Ultimately, you do get what you pay for.  Scaling (pun not intended) all the way from $20 no-name devices up to $400 Micomsoft upscaling or capture devices.  And different users will be looking for very different things.  From an "it just works" device whose picture processing is a mystery of no interest to the user as long as enough frames are rendered and they can read what's on the screen, to devices with vast and rich picture processing and sync processing toolsets which are at the user's fingertips. 

 

It's like trying to point to the "perfect" amp/receiver for playing Beatles music.  There's a lot of technological variety out there, a huge price range, and the differences do matter from a user standpoint.  But none of them really have anything to do directly or uniquely with Beatles music.  Everything would be just as relevant, if someone were reviewing an "amp for listening to Rolling Stones music". 

 

By the same token and in the same way, it doesn't make a lot of sense (unfortunately, since it'd make things a lot simpler) to ask "what's the best upscaling/transcoding/display solution for a TI-99/4A in particular?"  Simply because there's nothing particular about it, as far as that specific technology and its function goes. 

 

You could spend $20, or $2000 on solutions which share nothing whatsoever in common, and either of those could be exactly the right one for you, and exactly the right price point.  As for determining which is the right one for any given user, however, it would seem unfortunate to pursue that as if it were a question which can only be addressed usefully by TI-99/4A users on a TI-99/4A forum with direct reference to the TI-99/4A, when huge amounts of info perfectly relevant to the TI-99's case are out there.  It seems unfortunate to pretend nobody has ever reviewed/tested an amp before, because nobody's ever reviewed/tested an amp while playing my favourite band's music. 

 

 

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There may be plenty of "research" out there, but the question still gets asked here.  The links you provided may prove to be helpful to some.  But as previously stated, there is no single thread or resource here which goes through this.  Again, the question gets asked over and over, and people spend money on what they think will work and does not.  Hell, even when I picked up devices in the past I did research to determine if they would work and wound up having to take the dive myself -- there was no detailed information on how my Onkyo would work with old computer composite other than "it works," but I had to find out on my own exactly how and any caveats.

 

In my experience it is also unfair to say that one device, at least in the consumer space, working on one source will work the same for all sources and I cannot subscribe to your Beatles and amplifier analogy; different devices behave differently for different systems and to say the TI composite output is equivalent to the Atari 130XE or Commodore 64 composite output ignores the subtle differences and nuances in the circuity which generates the signals in the first place, and how components can produce wildly differing results as they age.  An example can be found here, in which the poster describes replacing the 10MHz crystal to correct a problem with color synchronization.

 

As another example, my Dell UltraSharp 2001fp looks much better using Commodore composite input than the TI.  I had a mini-monitor which worked just fine with the Sega Nomad but showed the TI video in B&W, and this device was tossed in frustration without any notation for posterity.

 

The request is neither for additional research effort nor to imply anyone should become invested in doing so.  I neither begrudge nor eschew outside information and work already done.  This is a thread for our community to relate their individual successes or failures with specific devices with the TI, and optionally how it may work with other platforms in their repertoire, neither at the expense of work from other communities.  Not everyone peruses outside of a few sources or a single source, web searches do not always return gold, and digging through heaps of information in chain-linked forum posts or articles does not suit well for everyone.  Thus, my idea for this, a single thread from which I can build a spreadsheet to place in the FAQ.

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I recently came into possession of a ridiculously bulky 32" TV, the Olevia 232-T11.  This is a way out-of-date TV, looking more like a plasma screen than an LCD, and emitting just as much heat.  It synchronizes to the composite output of the TI as well as my other devices: NES, Atari 7800, and Sega CD-X.  Like many of the composite-compatible devices, items in motion have smoothed edges, and the sampling causes moving objects to interfere with the background.  As well, some colors appear offset horizontally adjacent to each other, easily seen with the magenta and blue bars in the Midnight Mason title screen.

 

This week I had to integrate my former office into my home office, giving me the opportunity to try out the 32" class 32S305LABA Roku TV which graced to top of my filing cabinet.  I picked this up from Target roughly two years ago for $118.  This is a 720p smart TV with three HDMI and one composite inputs.  It can also play media from USB, supports screen casting from Windows 10 or Android, and supports my 5GHz wireless lifestyle!  Not only does it synchronize with the TI and the other 240p devices above, it is hands-down the best composite to digital conversion I have yet to test.  The images look like what one would expect from a CRT monitor.  Objects in motion are only slightly rounded on the edges with no motion tearing*, with only minor sampling errors detectable if you look very closely.

 

This is a beautifully sharp and clean display, with the only exceptions being high-contrast color combinations.  Again, pretty much as on a CRT (e.g. the TI monitor.)  The display is so good that I could give up on all of my efforts to go digital with composite to HDMI up-scalers.  It cleans up the composite output of the TI and all the devices listed above, including the horrible composite mod on my 7800.

 

* On every single device I have tested, including this one, the bouncing title for the NES's Super Mario Bros 3 does tear.  I figure this is due to the single-row up and down shifting every 1/60th of a second.

 

tl;dr

Success: Olevia 232T11

Amazing success: TCL 32S305LABA

 

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Another success.  In continuing the re-integration of my contract office with the home office, I installed the TCL mentioned in my previous post as a replacement for the Westinghouse WD32HB1120 sitting across from my desk.  This is another 720p 32"-class LCD TV, though not a "smart" TV, with three HDMI inputs, a shared component and composite input, SVGA, and USB media player.  Plus, it has a full remote control, contrary to that blasted Roku remote.

 

This device is about three years older than the TCL, but it operates much the same.  Perhaps it is built on the same or similar family analogue converter.  It does a great job of cleaning up bad composite signals, showing a fantastic clear TI-99/4A screen, including motion.  Like other converters, it tends to smooth out staggered edges of moving objects.  For instance the heads of the ghosts in Midnight Mason are triangular.  No motion tearing is evident in TI-99 games, nor in other sources.  Again, the exception being Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES, as the introduction bounces the title -- but with this set it becomes apparent the graphic bounces more than just a single line, more like three or four.  As well, for about a frame or two, sampling artifacts are visible in about a two pixel area of objects in motion over backgrounds.

 

One other thing worthy of note with this set is that colors from the Atari 7800 seem to lean toward the green side.  The TI-99, however, is great with colors and clarity very similar to the TCL.

 

Success: Westinghouse WD32HB1120

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This is one I have had under my belt for a while.  The Sanyo DP19657 is an HDTV with entirely analogue video inputs: two component with audio, one shared composite and S-Video with audio, and one digital audio (coax.)  I use this for exhibition at VCF, and as a portable or temporary setup.  The analogue sampler is just about perfect in some areas: no tearing with motion, squared edges on objects in motion, and no perceptible sampling artifacts around objects moving over a background.  Other areas not so well: moving objects with diagonal patterns show a moire patterning, and even with pixel size setting at "1" giving a 4:3 aspect, the display distorts edges around darker colors and has a good bit of scaling distortion.

 

While not as clean as the previous LCD TVs, it does give a usable and pleasing display for the TI.  As well, the tuner does a fantastic job on RF output from an Atari 2600.  NES display quality is between CRT and digital LCD, as is the Atari 7800.

 

One perfect test I have previously failed to apply is Tursi's "flag girl" demo of the DMWT mega-demo.  This screen switches between multi-color and bitmap modes every jiffy.  On some devices this is painfully obvious, either showing flickering between modes (visible on the TI color monitor) or artifacts from the previous mode.  This TV shows her very well without flicker and with only minor pixel corruption.  I may go back and test this on other devices, as well, as it has been a good benchmark.

 

Success: Sanyo DP19657

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On 2/16/2020 at 1:06 PM, OLD CS1 said:

There is no single thread which chronicles the plight of our "240p" composite world and integration into technology of the modern era.

 

 

This is a very useful thread, thank you. Really excellent material to date. A spreadsheet with some type of score card (at different option levels) would also be nice once some data is collected. E.g. with plain composite monitor connection, via video enhancing intermediary devices, and up to the F18A chip.

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11 hours ago, MikeV said:

This is a very useful thread, thank you. Really excellent material to date. A spreadsheet with some type of score card (at different option levels) would also be nice once some data is collected. E.g. with plain composite monitor connection, via video enhancing intermediary devices, and up to the F18A chip.

Thank you.  My plan is to, at some point, put this info in a spreadsheet.  As I do more testing I think of different information which can be included.  I will not be covering the F18A as it outputs SVGA, which is compatible with (probably) 99.9% of monitors and TVs with SVGA inputs.

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Another really cool success tonight is the Monoprice 5.8GHz wireless audo/video transmitter set.  This transmits analogue composite or S-Video and stereo audio up to a listed 200 feet in clear line-of-sight.  Like all wireless devices, performance and stability will differ based upon environment.  Signal interference tends to manifest as crackling in the audio and video color distortions.

 

It operates in frequencies which are above the standard 5.8GHz wireless network (WiFi) channels so it offers ostensibly little to no interference.  However, I found that my wireless at channels 149 and 153 (using 80MHz-wide channels) are disturbed with the set on channel 4.  No such interference from channel 1 setting.  The listing of frequencies may, given this result, be listed in opposite order of their channel numbering (5790, 5828, 5847, and 5866 MHz.)  Whereas WiFi channels 149 and 153 are 5745 and 5765 MHz, respectively.

 

I do not know if this system translates the analogue signal into digital for transmission.  Whatever the case, it works flawlessly with TI video, as well as the other systems on my stand.  I am hoping to find another set for use in my VCF displays.

 

Success: Monoprice 5.8GHz wireless audo/video

Discontinued, but found on eBay complete-in-box for $25.

 

Thinking retrospectively: my only lament about these devices is they run on 12V DC, which makes them less portable than a 5V DC set, able to be powered by a USB battery.

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