Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

What’s Old Is New

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xbox_sd_scanlineI’m just a curious soul when it comes to software or electronics, and I’ve always been that way.  Now ask me to turn off the water in my house, change a window screen, or heaven forbid lay tile and I’m out.  For some reason those decisions and actions, while much more predictable than electronics and software, have permanent consequences and thus I leave them to professionals.  On the tech front it’s mostly just money, and I’ve wasted plenty of that to go into most projects all “gung-ho!”  On the flip side I try to capture my memories/nostalgia when it comes to gaming so I’ve done such insane things as bring a Pit Fighter cabinet into my house to play MAME (arcade) titles on, lugged a 300 lb 38″ RCA HD picture tube display for classic consoles and light gun games (a personal favorite), and I have a machine that literally boots into DOSbox and then Windows ’95 (it’s an old XP machine) just to enjoy a handful of games like Jurassic Park: Tresspasser and hopefully soon Ripper.  I think that’s why capturing gameplay and making more entertaining videos is so fascinating but also a challenge to me.  Last week I discussed how to upgrade your visuals for YouTube export but the clear omission was how to do it without losing that classic feel.  I don’t want to play my NES on my LED display, I want it on the old tube with composite video because it looks and acts like I remember, but I also don’t want it to look like the color bleeding blurry mess I see when I export it to YouTube either.  So now I’m trying to do the opposite of what I used to: get all of my consoles to export video – both for capture and gameplay – in the best resolution possible without buying the $500 framemeister (that was in last week’s post linked above).  This does mean that certain consoles, namely the PS2, Xbox, and Wii (yes, it was pretty much that same gen in terms of visual and output), are un-tethered from my big old tube TV and migrated into the main room for the LED television on account of their 480p/720p capabilities.  Along with that came the hunting of component cables, HD AV packs (shame on you Microsoft, the Xbox could output 720p and play DVDs natively but you chose to charge accessories piece meal…just like today), and even a HDMI conversion dongle for the Wii!  It wasn’t all that cheap, probably $60 in total for all the pieces, but the results are quite impressive.  I had no idea that X-Men Legends or Hulk: Ultimate Destruction could look so good in 720p on the Xbox or that Gradius V really does look much sharper in component even if it’s still a 480i signal on PS2, and I cannot get over how Super Mario Galaxy 2 dazzles on Wii via 720p HDMI upscaler dongle (despite me having still not played that game even though I’ve booted it up dozens of times for visual comparisons).  I’m also upgrading my SNES, N64, Saturn, and PS1 for S-Video output to get slightly better captures in 480p on my SD captures, which was like $20 on Amazon for random third-party cables (not as necessary to get high-end when not passing HD through an analog source like component cables on the PS3, for example).  This is probably nothing new to many of you out there, but HDTVs were not cheap and these consoles were just dipping their toes into the water when I was a new graduate and didn’t have time or money to figure out how to make an Xbox look fancy.  I always knew the option existed, but I was more interested in surround sound back in the early 2000s and never much into graphics.  Oh and before you mention it, I’ve had a VGA box for my Dreamcast almost a decade, but stupidly didn’t capture in anything but composite as of late so I’ve truly been cheating myself.

sf2compareWhy am I bringing all this up and trying to make old games look good now?  Well for starters because I intend to begin capturing the more recent stuff in quality you valuable readers/listeners/viewers deserve and to create parity between what I see on screen and what gets uploaded into YouTube (I understand that the compression will always be a bottleneck, but I can work hard and omit a large amount of those issues if I get videos into as YouTube friendly a format as I can).  I’ve grabbed some new software, Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 (formerly Vegas), and already used to create a new old school intro logo for GH101 before each vid (you can see an example here, which needs better transitions but bear with me, it’ll look good I swear).  I also intend to have all videos in either 480p for old school, 720p for anything with a component/vga/higher output, and 1080p when the source allows (360, some PS3, PC, and all new gen) – sure, many of you will view on a phone or device that supports only 480p or lower for decent streaming, but hey, a higher quality source downscaled will still look better.  I also picked up a capture box, which I initially went with the Blurex Capture Device both for cheaper price and also because it seemed to nicely meet my needs.  All you need to do is plug it in with the included AC cord, attach a USB storage device to it (I recommend flash memory like the $4 Micro Center 16GB stick I used, normal USB hard drives have too many corruption issues), and then you can hook a HDMI source or a Component source via included short dongle-like cords.  It has a headphone jack if your audio out doesn’t come from the component/HDMI cord, it has a mic jack if you want to embed commentary into the video, and it does have a headphone out if you don’t want to export sound to your TV/sound setup.  All output is HDMI, but it’s seamless and lag free from what I can tell (had no problems competing in Mario Kart 8 with it or conquering the first half of Gradius V).  It even detects if the source is 480p, 720p, or 1080p and makes the video to those spec automatically, so basically for everything newer than a PS2 you’re set.  I had a few problems, namely that the device only captures in 15 minute bursts (1.95 GB exactly in 1080p/30 fps MP4) although you won’t know it because it just creates another video with no visible lag between them so if you play them side by side or combine them it’s one continuous video.  Well therein lies the problem as already a few times in my weekend trials I noticed issues and lost entire 15 minute chunks in-between gameplay where the video was either corrupt or didn’t work for, as Windows 7 put it, “unknown reasons”.  I also found that Sony Movie Studio didn’t like any of these videos and neither did my MP4 merging program (Yamb) or my MP4box tools.  Somehow the MP4 container or format that this box puts things into doesn’t like traditional editing files (or at least not on my machine and I tested over 15 captures) and the cheap editor that comes free with the box isn’t even up to par with the cheap video studio I got with that standard def dongle I’ve been using.  Without Vegas or other software solutions these videos are no good to me – I have no interest, and potentially neither do you, with dropping items into YouTube without intros, professional editing, or even commentary and in 15 minute multi-video bursts.  Not what I spent $80 on.  So I’m sending it back to Amazon today and I’m gonna go grab the always faithfully recommended Elgato Game Capture (doing the traditional HD 30 fps model and not the 60 fps model because I’m more YouTube than Twitch stream) and hope that works out, I’ll let you know soon.

elgato2

With any luck these items, and the recently purchased upscalers I bought, will work like my TV does and make everything look positively beautiful on both my LED and online for you all.  I understand about lag and whatnot with upscalers, but I have amplifiers that provide multiple outputs on everything from composite to HDMI, so I’ll be fine and no lag created by upscalers or capturing will affect what I see on my screen.  Aside from all the tech talk – which is seemingly my Monday blog these days – damn do some of these games look great.  Oh and all this “capturing” also means that I’ll hopefully be able to do video reviews to accompany the written ones.  Next step, getting Jam some sort of setup.  I’ll work on that.  Anyway keep watching and hopefully you’ll see some content upgrades on the GH101 video front soon.  Also feel free to join in the discussion in the comments if you have anything to add or alert me to as I continue this journey.

Cheers.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 17, 2014 at 11:28 am

Posted in Blog

Tagged with , , , , ,

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