Friday, February 24, 2017

New NESRGB Firmware Featuring RGBSource Color Palettes

If you enjoy using my NESCAP, HYBRID, and/or NESCLASSIC color palettes, you now have the option of doing so on Tim Worthington's NESRGB! Two firmware (.pof file) options are now available.


Download palettes1_NESCAP_HYBRID_NESCLASSIC.pof

3. FCEUX (aka "Improved" - default firmware palette 2)
Download palettes2_NESCAP_HYBRID_FCEUX.pof

The remainder of this post is a guide for updating the NESRGB firmware on an installed system. Tim's original guide for updating firmware can be found here.


1. Altera Quartus Prime Programmer and Tools (Standard Edition) - Found under the "Additional Software" tab. Requires free account creation to download. I have used both the latest (v16.1) and the older 13.1 version linked on Tim's page.
2. Altera compatible USB Blaster (JTAG Programmer) - I use the Terasic P0302. Other Altera clones work too.
3. Altera JTAG to NESRGB JTAG adapter. Here's what I created, followed by a wiring table.

Altera JTAG Pin NESRGB Pin Signal Name Description
4 1 VCC (TRGT) 3.3V DC power supply
2 2 GND Ground
3 3 TDO Data from device
1 4 TCK Clock signal
9 5 TDI Data to device
5 6 TMS JTAG state machine control

The NESRGB has a 6 pin JTAG programming connection on the lower left hand side of the board. Pin 1 is encircled.


Steps to update the NESRGB firmware 

  1. Install Quartus Programmer software
  2. Connect USB Blaster to your computer and install driver (default location for v16.1 drivers: C:\intelFPGA\16.1\qprogrammer\drivers)
  3. Run Quartus Prime 16.1 Programmer
  4. Click Hardware Setup and select USB-Blaster from the list.
  5. Select File → Open → palettes1_NESCAP_HYBRID_NESCLASSIC.pof or palettes2_NESCAP_HYBRID_FCEUX.pof
  6. Check the boxes for Program/Configure and Verify.
  7. While the NES is turned off, connect the USB Blaster to the adapter cable, then to the NESRGB. Make sure you connect the adapter correctly to the NESRGB JTAG connection!
  8. Turn the NES on, making sure that the adapter is making contact with the NESRGB JTAG connection (e.g. gently hold at an angle - gravity is enough)
  9. Click the Start button and wait for the process to complete!
  10. Once completed, turn off the NES, disconnect the JTAG adapter from the NESRGB, and enjoy!
Step 6 - Selecting firmware update actions

Step 7 - Connecting the USB Blaster to the NESRGB JTAG connection

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Retroactive's New 64drive HW2 - Now You're Playing with Ultra Power!

Retroactive recently began shipping their completely redesigned 64drive. It offers a solid alternative to the Everdrive 64 and provides a number of special development oriented features. The new HW2 features an Altera Cyclone IV FPGA and retires the Compact Flash (CF) interface in favor of a discretely positioned micro SD card slot and USB interface for N64 game development.

Here's a quick run down of the notable electrical components contained in this cartridge:
FPGA - Altera Cyclone IV (EP4CE10F17C8N)
2x SDRAM - Alliance Memory 1Gb DDR2-800 (AS4C128M8D2-25BCN)
USB Interface - FTDI Hi-Speed USB to Multipurpose UART/FIFO (FT232HQ)
ST 8Mbit Serial Flash memory (25P80VP)
Microchip Technology 8-bit MCU (PIC16F1613-I/ST)
Ai-Thinker Serial WIFI MCU module (ESP8266MOD)

What's most surprising is the inclusion of a Wi-Fi Module! When inquired as to it's usage, the tentative future feature is - "to [sic]be able to post doge pics on twitter from my N64".

A "fuller" review to come soon. So far everything I've tried with the ED64 v3 also works with the 64drive HW2. The UX is a bit nicer on the 64drive than the ED64!  Stay tuned!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

NES Classic Palette - Ready for Consumption!

After sifting through the NES Classic's noise texturing, I've extracted the color palette for the NES Classic! The "sifting" was accomplished by running a median filter to select the correct "original" color.  This allows the palette to be used on other devices that may add the noise texturing Nintendo provides with the NES Classic.

If you'd like to try my NESCLASSIC palette, you can download it here.

Here are sample images using the NESCLASSIC palette.



Thursday, November 10, 2016

NES Classic Palette "Beta" - Sifting Through the Noise

Without further ado, here is my capture based extraction of the NES color palette used by the new NES Classic! Nintendo added a surprising feature - subtle active "noise" throughout the picture. I surmise this was to give a "magic" texture to the image for games with large flat fields of colors. See the following image capture with zoomed in snippet to observe the noise.

UPDATE: Release version of the NESCLASSIC.pal can be found here.

If you'd like to try my NESCLASSIC palette, you can download it here.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

NES "Hybrid" Palette - Striking a Balance Between Composite and RGB

After "accurately" capturing the NES composite video signal and creating a palette, I felt that the resulting image could use some seasoning of sorts.  While I enjoy the FCEUX palette, it can be a little too vibrant with a number of titles in the NES library.  I took the opportunity to create a "Hybrid" palette - an interpolation between my NESCAP and the FCEUX palettes.  The results of this palette give a best of both worlds colors.  Even the purple-ish sky in Super Mario Bros. retains some of it's purple-ish without going too deep into saturated sky blue.  Keep in mind that the color temperature and other settings on your display heavily influence the perceived color as well as the viewer's vision system (eyes and brains!).

If you'd like to try my HYBRID palette, you can download it here.

If you'd like to try my NESCAP palette, you can download it here.

The following images have NESCAP on the left, HYBRID in the middle, and FCEUX on the right.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Creating an "accurate" NES NTSC Color Palette - Revisited

After discussing my NES palette capture pursuits with Brian Parker (RetroUSB) at PRGE 2016 I decided to revisit the sampling process of the paltest palette capture images.  Instead of running multiple median filter passes to normalize the captured image for sampling, it was discussed to try taking an area of pixel values and averaging them.

If you'd like to try my NESCAP palette, you can download it here.

The following is a debug image that plots out the pixels I sampled for the average.  This was useful for ensuring that I wasn't sampling erroneous data and/or sampling unintended colors.

The resulting palette, NESCAP.pal, was within +/- 1% difference, so the original NTSCU.pal still is a valid palette to use, but there's always the nth degree of improvement to be made as seen below!

Friday, October 14, 2016

N64 HDMI "bit-perfect" Captures: UltraHDMI + BMD Intensity Pro 4K

Here are some "bit-perfect" 1080p captures of the UltraHDMI mod for the Nintendo 64 in action. The special thing about the BMD Intensity Pro 4K is it's ability to capture 1080p60 HDMI sources with no color space conversion, which results in a 1:1 copy of the source signal! The UltraHDMI was set to 1080p60, Sharp Pixels set to Integer+ (5x scale), and VI de-blur enabled where applicable. Enjoy!