Sunday, December 13, 2015

Wrapping up an Atari 2600RGB Install

Shortly after Tim Worthington released his 2600RGB kit this year I was chomping at the bit to install one as it is the first any only solution for obtaining RGB output from the Atari 2600!  While the Atari 2600 was my introduction to video games, any nostalgia I had for the console had always been hampered by its awful RF only output, full of noise in both the picture and sound.  A little over a decade ago I discovered some folks had created composite and S-Video mods, but they varied in picture quality and none stood out as being an ideal solution for the Atari 2600.

After acquiring an Atari 2600 to install the 2600RGB kit I was surprised by the extreme level of picture and audio noise when connecting the system to my HDTV using the stock RF switch output!  Thankfully the 2600RGB clears things up in both picture and sound departments.

I installed the kit in a "heavy sixer" several months ago, but hadn't finalized the output wiring until today!  This was in part due to the metal casing that surrounds the main circuit board.  Tim's installation guide for this particular revision of the Atari 2600 suggests using small wires to run underneath the metal casing, but I decided to take another approach!

2600RGB kit installed, but in need of output re-wiring.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

UltraHDMI - PEXHDCAP Stills

While using my PEXHDCAP capture card to record videos of the UltraHDMI I took a few still captures.  The PEXHDCAP doesn't allow for 1080p60 capture, so an upgrade might be in order.  Enjoy!






 
The following two pictures are from "direct mode" (480p un-processed)
 

RGBSource Channel on YouTube!

I decided to create a YouTube channel so that I could share clips from the UltraHDMI and other retro gaming related videos.  Check it out! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsHeL8jqcIGNUbgreZvjNoQ

Thursday, December 3, 2015

UltraHDMI - Retro mode and 1080p Integer+ Pictures and Video

Here are some screenshots of the UltraHDMI Retro Mode as well as 1080p Integer+ (added with V1.01).  The Retro Mode settings enable scan lines, TV bloom, gamma boost, and over scan to simulate a CRT look on a flat panel.  I'm not so much a fan of scan lines outside of real ones on a CRT, but am very impressed by the implementation.  It's far superior to what the XRGB-mini and various scan line generators can achieve!  One impressive thing is that brighter pixels actually occupy a larger pixel area like a CRT would.  Take a look!








Wednesday, December 2, 2015

UltraHDMI - V1.01 Firmware Released

A new firmware version is available for the UltraHDMI!

V1.01 adds the following improvements:
  • INTEGER+ setting in the Sharp Pixels menu.  This provides a 3x scale for 720p output and a 5x scale for 1080p output.  It cuts off some of the top and bottom rows of pixels in 1080p, but these rows are considered outside the "title safe" area and tend not to clip any required UI elements. 1080p INTEGER+ appears to center the image vertically in the 1080p frame, which is much appreciated!
  • Improved de-blur detection and rendering. Perhaps it's an experimenter's bias, but the overall de-blur appears to be cleaner after updating from V1.00 to V1.01!
The firmware is provided as a .Z64 file that is loaded via your choice of flash cart.  Select the firmware update "game" from the menu, follow the prompts, and the result is a firmware update!  The whole process takes around 5-6 minutes to complete.

Here are some pictures for reference. Enjoy!










Monday, November 23, 2015

UltraHDMI - Nintendo 64 HDMI kit!

I'm fortunate enough to be among the very first people to acquire MarshallH's brand new creation called the UltraHDMI! It's a device designed specifically for the Nintendo 64 console that provides digital video and sound over an HDMI connection with an output resolution up to 1080p! We finally have a "perfect" solution for connecting the N64 to HDTVs! From crystal clear integer scaling, to full blown CRT effects, there are scaling and processing options that should suit the tastes of virtually all retro gaming enthusiasts.

Here are some notes from my first installation, usage, and settings.

Installation
  • Attaching the FFC ("PCB ribbon cable") with kapton tape was a little tricky as there are a number of components right near the RCP (graphics/audio chip)
  • When drag soldering the FFC to the RCP you need to avoid the 3.3V pins that do not have FFC connection. The center most 3.3V pin is connected to a decent size PCB plane, so it's easy to create a solder bridge with adjacent pins that can be difficult to fix. Thankfully I was able to resolve a challenging solder bridge on my first install!
  • Cutting the HDMI output opening on the bottom shell of the console wasn't too bad, but having a template to guide the depth might be worth creating for future installs
Usage
  • The default hot key combination to open the OSD is pretty well thought of.  However, I did manage to accidentally open it while playing Sin & Punishment!
  • When the OSD is open, controller input isn't muted, so be sure to have your current running game in a state that will not result in data loss or other shenanigans!  The D-Pad isn't used by many games and can be handy for navigating and making settings
  • Changes made in the menu must be "saved" or else they will be lost when powering off the N64
  • The 48kHz digital audio sounds great and haven't found anything yet to critique
Settings
  • It IS possible to get pixel perfect integer scaling with 1080p output.  4x, 5x, and 6x scaling are easy with a few settings.
    • 1080p 4x - Set Sharp Pixels to Integer
    • 1080p 5x - Set Sharp Pixels to Integer+ (Note: Added in firmware V1.01)
    • 1080p 6x - Set Sharp Pixels to Fractional, Fill Mode to Cinema, Overscan to 0
  • HDMI Direct Mode vs. Processed Mode
    • Direct mode provides line-doubling from 240p/480i to 480p only.
      • 480i signals are never de-interlaced, just shown as fields regardless of settings
    • Direct mode with V Sync lock setting did not work with either TV I tried
      • The sync apparently uses the same timing as the standard output.  Most computer monitors should work fine.
    • Processed Mode unlocks all of the settings and provides the excellent de-blur filterThis is one of the most important features of this kit!

Conclusion

If you're at all interested in playing N64 games using a real console on a HDTV, there is no better solution than MarshalH's UltraHDMI!  It's not the least expensive N64 video mod out there, but it provides results that are leaps and bounds beyond what was possible before.  In that respect, the UltraHDMI is an excellent value as it is a fraction of the price of acquiring an analog RGB modded N64, quality RGB cable, and a XRGB-mini.  Highly recommended for the retro gaming enthusiast!

Here are some pictures taken off of the HDTVs I was using to test the install as well as some installation pictures.  Enjoy!


















Monday, November 9, 2015

Atari Jaguar XRGB-Mini Cable - Part 2

I just wrapped up the cable assembly for connecting RGB video and composite sync from the 24 pin Jaguar connector to the 8MDIN (mini din) connector on the XRGB-mini.


I used a "premium" quality 8MDIN plug (Calrad 30-505-8) and Belden 179DT for the signals. The Belden cable selected for this project is light weight, flexible, double shielded (foil & braid), and has 75 ohm impedance.  Looks like I will be ordering a fresh connector though before I finish the cable.  To be continued!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Atari Jaguar XRGB-Mini Cable - Part 1

I've decided to create an Atari Jaguar RGB cable using double shielded 75 ohm mini coax cable. Here is a picture of the progress so far. The cable will have separate cabling for the audio and RGB video.  One stretch is to two RCAs for stereo audio, and the other is a premium 8 pin mini din plug for RGB input on a XRGB-mini!
Left and right audio soldered. Additional heat shrink tubing for all 4 connections to be shrunk!