Retro gaming the RGB era

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I keep thinking about what to write. This one topic keeps coming back up in my head. This will be my journey into RGB. I would say mid 2000s is when I got my consoles out of storage and play them again. I had picked up other consoles along the way but these where the consoles I had before college. Well connecting them to my first HDTV it was fun but not the same or great experience. I thought the fix would be a receiver that would upscale like some DVD players out there. I still have my old now CRT. I plugged the systems into that and it works great at the time. My last CRT I bought has component inputs and I really enjoyed that. Well I even looked online for a solution. I came across a website that talked all about this stuff but at the time I just didn’t understand how to digest this information. Many of the devices where out of production. There was one at the end of the list. It was the Framemeister. I was looking at this. I couldn’t at the time really understand the problems that these scalers attempt to solve. Two major challenges upscalers attempt to resolve is accurate scaling and low latency in doing so. Lag is the invisible enemy in gaming. Growing up this was not a thing and it wasn’t until TVs went digital.

So chances are if you know what the Framemeister is then this is nothing new to you and we both having been going on similar adventures in retro gaming. There was some confusion about the Framemeister for me. I couldn’t really see the lag that was talked about online. Also I could recognize not all the inputs to this device. Having looked for component cables for the Gamecube in the past I had run across the D-Teminal. Once I saw the Component cable to D-Terminal I understood how I could use it. The RGB port was a mystery. It seemed important but the cables that it used where foreign to me. I knew the Framemeister was the best upscaler on the market at the time. I started to understand the evolution of these scalers. Then thanks to My Life in Gaming’s YouTube channel for demystifying this elusive RGB port. This was a nice clear visual explanation of the benefit of RGB and how it can be used. I understood Component so RGB was not a big stretch to comprehend. After that first video I now understood why the Framemeister was the king of upscalers. Then I started to review the information I had found earlier but know with a better understanding of what was being discussed.

I understood that getting the Framemeister would turn out to be the beginning of a new adventure in retro gaming. Once I got the Framemeister I started ordering SCART cables. Short story there are two ways you can go with this RGB SCART or JP21. They look identical and junction the same. The difference is the pin layout. SCART is used in Europe and JP21 is used in Japan. This was sort of like choosing a camera and then getting locked into lenses. I choose SCART because it seemed it would provide the most options for cables since an entire continent had been using them. Even though most of these consoles came from Japan. Video format is bigger than video games alone. Also knowing about PAL video signals and finding out that SCART can transmit NTSC signals with out an issue.

As I started to order one set of SCART cables after another I was also looking at what consoles didn’t support RGB out of the box. I quickly pickedup my first RGB modded console. there was always one console that I played growing up but didn’t have that I really wanted to play more. It was a console that had huge success in Japan and many great japan only games. One game I wanted to play since I first heard about it in game magazines at the time was Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. This was the driving force to get a TurboDuo. I got my TurboDuo a few years prior but hadn’t picked up this game yet. Well I quickly picked this game up shortly after getting the Framemeister. So I turned around and picked up a PC Engine Duo-R RGB modded.

After picking up more SCART cables for my consoles I really fell back into retro gaming more than modern gaming. The NES was the next console that can’t support RGB out without modding. Learning about the journey to getting RGB out of an NES I found interesting. It seemed to at one point was to use the Arcade PlayChoice systems to mod to an NES was a method. Time Worthington’s NESRGB mod seemed to really set the standard for getting RGB out of NES. I still have my original NES. Playing most of my other old consoles in RGB going to the NES really pointed out the low quality of the composite signal. Well it seemed complicated to find a modder and send out a system and wait a month or more and get your system back. That doesn’t seem so challenging these days. I knew about the difference in appearance the Japanese and European consoles compared to the US versions. The NES in Japan came out there in a very different way. For starters it is called the Family Computer. There was a keyboard and a floppy drive for it. Learning about the extra sound channels and the Famicom Disk System games had me leaning to getting an AV Famicom with an RGB mod. I thought if I’m going to buy another NES why not get something different and have the option to play Japanese NES games. With a simple cartridge adaptor I can play my NES games. I couldn’t see a downside. I’m really happy with this decision. NES with RGB has really provided a clean image that makes it for me even more enjoyable.

The next system that I needed to get an adaptor to work with my Framemeister was my Dreamcast. The Dreamcast supports VGA. VGA is another type of RGB signal. The Dreamcast can output a 480p signal through VGA. Many games support VGA on the Dreamcast and some can also be forced. Not all VGA adaptors are equal. This is what I was learning about while researching. A wrinkle about VGA and the Framemeister is that the Framemeister doesn’t support VGA. I found a solution to this problem. The Toro made by the BeHaro Bros solves this problem while also being a great VGA adaptor as well. This device cleverly takes the VGA signal and remaps the wiring to output 480p through SCART as well as VGA. This was great. This was another console that uses SCART.

Two years after getting the Framemiester the consoles that I am using SCART has grown. Now there is a pile of cables I’m swapping out into my Framemeister. The next thing for my Setup was to attempt to tackle cable management with Switchers. I have used Switchers since the 16 bit generation when I had my NES, SNES and Genesis hooked up to my TV through Composite then S-Video and later Component switchers. I think I looked at SCART switchers for about a year. Looking at switchers confirmed to me I made a good decision early to go with SCART over JP21. I finally pickedup a SCART Switcher. The gSCARTsw is what I now have. It has 8 inputs and 2 outputs.

The more I ventured into Getting RGB cables for my consoles to hook up with my Framemeister the more I kept seeing more about PVMs and BVMs. I am still looking into utilizing the component input of my CRT with an SCART adaptor or flirting with getting HD retrovision’s component cables. It wasn’t until I saw a PVM playing retro games with the same SCART cables to an RGB BNC adaptor that I remembered about these monitors. I had seen these before in High School TV and film class in the editing station. The PVM looks great and with RGB connections it handles the clean signal great. I had been looking online for them for about a year off and on. Stalking Craigslist for them. Recently I got my first PVM. Now I can play on the HDTV or on my PVM.

Well that is a long and also condensed version of my journey into RGB gaming. I plan to revisit and expand on some of these and talk more about what I didn’t cover here in the future. I feel in some way I have gone full circle.

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