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hairy_hen

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27-Mar-2006
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16-Jun-2018
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Post
#1213745
Topic
Star Wars - What is wrong and what is right... Goodbye Magenta
Time

Plenty of pinkish flashes happening during explosions and such. Some of it is the actual light of the exploding thing that was photographed, and some of it comes from laser impacts having the entire screen deliberately tinted for one frame when it happens, as an added effect. The laser battles of the first movie are unique in this way because of it; none of the other films do this the way the first one does.

Nobody had a problem with this until the 2004 DVD came out and overemphasized it to a hideous degree. I never even really consciously noticed it until then. The problem in that version is a combination of the terrible color choices they made, and the physical deterioration of the film negative which results in the ghastly magenta blotches that spill out into everything. With the colors of the negative literally falling apart, things like this become increasingly screwed up in appearance, to the point they can’t be fully recovered without using picture information from an alternate source.

When you go back and look at original film print material, you can see that those flashes were indeed there from the start, but they don’t look bad the way they do on the DVD and Bluray. Sometimes it even is a pink or purple, too, not always a red or orange; but it’s a soft pink or purple that doesn’t look out of place with the surrounding colors, unlike the uncontrolled mess that covers much of the frame on the 2004 version.

Post
#1208103
Topic
Star Wars 1977 70mm sound mix recreation [stereo and 5.1 versions now available]
Time

Yeah, I’m definitely going to redo the other two movies using the same methods.

For receiver settings, I suspect that letting it play in standard 5.1 mode is best. The Shure has already added its own processing to the surround channels, so compounding this with additional processing in a receiver may yield a result that doesn’t sound that great. I can’t fully comment on this, since my system is 5.1 and I don’t know what this mix would sound like in 7.1 or Atmos firsthand, but I can’t imagine it would fit very well with what the 5.1 is already doing.

If you absolutely must upmix it further, try Prologic IIx in music mode, rather than movie mode. This should spread the surround channels out among the speakers rather than trying to specifically pan things like movie will do.

That tractor beam bass was always one of my favorites. It is essentially a sine wave starting at around 60 Hz, passing through an LFO (low frequency oscillator) and being varied in pitch and speed as the ship struggles to escape. This sound can clearly be heard on the in-theater 70mm recording, although it distorts because the microphone on the tape recorder was overdriven. Only the 1993 mix contained the correct version of this sound; the special edition mixes have versions of it, but they’re not nearly as good. In previous versions of this soundtrack I tried to boost what was in the '93 source by adding a copy of it to the LFE channel, letting it play along with what was already in the main channels. Unfortunately, bass management settings in receivers can cause correlated signals like this to become out of phase, even if they are in phase in the mix itself, causing this kind of duplicated bass to cancel itself out rather than get louder. I’ve heard it played correctly on some systems and completely wrong on others for this reason. The solution ended up being to use the '85 mix for the main channels here, and putting the low-pass filtered '93 bass separately into the LFE, so that there is no correlation between them. This way there will be no possibility of cancellation regardless of what the playback system is doing.

Post
#1207818
Topic
Star Wars 1977 70mm sound mix recreation [stereo and 5.1 versions now available]
Time

Well folks, it turns out the rumors of my doings are true: I have indeed produced a new version of the 70mm soundtrack, which can be found on the just-released 4K77 project.

Though the fundamental sound is still quite similar, this latest version represents a significant step forward in several ways. For a long time I put off revisiting this soundtrack as I felt the previous version was good enough that an update was not needed – unless I could make it a really major improvement that would justify the amount of work needed to redo it.

Everything in this third version is brand new, having been done over again essentially from scratch, all the way back to GOUT-synching the laserdisc audio and then building from there.

Improvements over the previous version include:

  • Increased audibility of midrange detail and reduction of high-end harshness due to global EQ adjustment.
  • Clipping and occasional clicks in the source laserdisc tracks have been repaired.
  • More seamless transitions between the 1993 base and the 1985 replacement material.
  • Elimination of phase issues during downmixing and bass management.
  • New, fully lossless LFE channel that no longer uses the special edition as a source.
  • Improved channel separation and sound field stability due to use of a Shure HTS-5300 for the upmix.

All of these are worthwhile improvements on their own, but together they add up to form a very nice update. The 1993 mixes all have a cut in the midrange at 2 kHz and a treble boost around 8 to 10 kHz. By reversing this EQ change, the tone of the mix becomes closer to how it was originally heard, and sounds smoother in the louder passages. Hiss and occasional crackling distortion are also reduced without needing to use noise reduction tools. The edits between sources are now seamless enough that I have a very hard time hearing that anything was even done to them in the first place, which is exactly how it should be. Use of iZotope’s Ozone and Insight plugins allowed for more precise matching of level and EQ than I had previously been able to achieve. Now, even the hiss does not change between edits.

The low end present in the 1993 mix has been removed from the center and surround channels and mixed solely into the left and right. This was done using a Linkwitz-Riley type crossover and preserves phase coherence between the channels. With a delay setting of 24 milliseconds on the surrounds, there is no longer a noticeable phase problem when this version is downmixed back down to stereo. Doing this is certainly listenable, if not stellar. I still recommend using a real stereo mix for 2-channel systems, whether it is the 35mm stereo mix or the non-upmixed version of this one. It just sounds better that way.

The LFE channel has been newly created by sending the front channels of the mix through a subharmonic synthesizer, the levels mixed in real time with a fader. Some manual editing was later done to prevent musical elements like timpani and bass drum from leaking into the LFE. The result is mostly similar to the previous version, but more tightly integrated with the main channels since it now has a closer harmonic relationship and the timing is locked in precisely. The goal was not to stand out, but to sound as if the new bass had been there all along. It is not possible to precisely replicate the boom channels of the real 70mm mix without adequate references, but it should be a close approximation given the material that is available. One bass effect, namely that of the Millennium Falcon struggling to escape the Death Star’s tractor beam, comes directly from the 1993 soundtrack; there are no longer any phase cancellation issues with this sound effect since it is now confined exclusively to the LFE channel.

The real draw here, of course, is the Shure HTS-5300 Acra Vector logic decoder used for the upmix. Having sought unsuccessfully to find one of these gems for some time, I finally located one on eBay earlier this year. Unfortunately, the seller wanted local pickup only, and since I was unable to travel to that area, it seemed I would have to let it pass me by. Thankfully, however, TServo2049 was able to obtain the 5300 locally and then mail it to me, and he has earned my everlasting gratitude for doing so, in addition to being credited in the 4K77 project for that reason. Indeed, I may well not have bothered with making a new version at all if it hadn’t been for this, so everybody give him a huge thanks for this invaluable contribution!

Since the Shure is an analog surround decoder, it necessitated sending the mix out into the analog domain and then recording its output back into digital again. Having been around plenty of audio engineers who routinely use analog gear in a digital environment, I’ve learned to embrace this hybrid method since the benefits more than offset any minor loss incurred by the extra conversion. The edited stereo track was played in Pro Tools through the line outs of a Universal Audio Apollo Twin and into the 5300, with the 5300’s output routed to an Audient ASP800 preamp, which handled the A/D conversion and sent the upmixed channels back into the Apollo through the ADAT connection, recording into the Pro Tools session as it played. Pro Tools’ initial output needed to be reduced in level due to the issue of sending a +4 dBu pro-level signal into -10 dBv consumer equipment, so the finished recording was then measured with Insight and its gain increased to get it back to its original level. Only the most minor of limiting was needed to prevent clipping in the center channel. A modest amount of noise reduction was used at the very beginning and end of the film since the Shure’s noise floor was noticeable there, and some de-crackling was needed on the surrounds; default settings in iZotope RX took care of this and produced no noticeable artifacts.

These changes were done at 32-bit float and then dithered back to 24-bit. The final result is 24-bit, 48 kHz and has been encoded to DTS-HD MA at this resolution. Both the 1080p and UHD versions of 4K77 contain this same file. I saw no need to make a 16-bit version since file size and bitrate were not an issue, but one could potentially be made if a smaller version was needed for another project. A 640 kb/s AC3 has been made, encoded from the 24-bit files.

The benefits of upmixing through the Shure are immediately apparent. When I heard what it sounded like for the first time, I was surprised at how different it was since I was so used to the sound of Prologic II. There is less crosstalk between channels and the sound field is more stable since the Shure detects panning and signal dominance along more vectors than any version of Prologic. Front channel sound effects do not get pulled to the rear as they sometimes are with PL2, nor is there any side wall imaging for the music. It comes across as being a fully front-oriented soundstage, with discrete-sounding surround effects making themselves known from time to time. The surrounds are monaural, as was the standard for Dolby Prologic decoders in the 80’s and 90’s, but Shure did Dolby one better by adding an “Acoustic Space Generator” to its surround output, which widens the mono signal through a custom comb filter designed to sound like it is being played through many speakers at once, as it would in a movie theater. It sounds awesome, much better than I’ve ever heard these mixes sound before, but it does come with the caveat that in order to experience it at its best, you must ensure that your sound system is calibrated correctly, with the rear speakers exactly matching the front in level at the listening position. If they are set to play too loud, as they invariably are in most home setups, then the filtered surrounds will overwhelm the front, and it will be weird and bad. So get out those SPL meters and calibrate your systems again, or else.

Initially I was reluctant to embrace the idea of a mono surround being better than multichannel, but for films of this era it is absolutely more appropriate, since that is how they were actually mixed. It gives a more diffuse and ambient effect and does not have any kind of pinpoint imaging as is the fad now. Additionally, it helps prevent crosstalk from pulling to the side, keeping the viewer’s attention on the screen where it belongs and not out in the room. The 5300 is also able to avoid the center channel pileup of other decoders, where too much of the soundtrack is pulled into the center speaker since they default to decoding in that position; rather, the 5300 preserves panning of signals even if they occur simultaneously in opposite directions. In short, I’ve never heard the positioning of effects in this mix sound so good before, and having experienced it this way, I don’t want to go back. Fortunately, even though the 5300 is rare and long discontinued, you won’t have to own one to experience how good it can sound. Naturally, I plan on recording Empire and Jedi in the same way.

For anybody who has obtained 4K77 and watched it with the 5.1 soundtrack, let me know what you think of this version. I really hope you guys will like this one as much as I do. Hell, even if you don’t like it, let me know what’s wrong so I can fix it, if there’s something I’ve overlooked.

Post
#1192231
Topic
How are you planning for the Oppocalypse?
Time

This sucks. I had intended to get an Oppo at some point in the future, because everything I’d ever heard about them indicated they were among the best (and also rather less expensive than equivalent top of the line products from other brands), but I guess that’s probably not going to happen now. My existing Bluray player has been good enough for everything I’ve used it on so far, but I haven’t gone to 4K and I’d been hoping to get an Oppo when I did.

Most of my extra money these days has been going towards pro audio stuff, and those prices usually make high end consumer equipment seem cheap by comparison.

Post
#1161605
Topic
Politics 2: Electric Boogaloo
Time

My ass is biased in favor of emitting noxious fumes. People around me believe it is biased against the idea of breathable air.

In turn, my ass believes that these people have all ganged up on it in a vast conspiracy to unfairly curtail its freedom of expression. Furthermore, it has recently adopted the tactic of dismissing any atmospheric composition other than its own output as being fake.

I’m sure the truth is somewhere in the middle.

In other news, butt soup.

Post
#1161596
Topic
How many 'Bad' Star Wars movies could you take before you check out?
Time

Of course not having the original movies matters. Yes, people who frequent this forum, or others who are willing to plumb the depths of online file distribution, can watch good approximations of them any time they want now. But the general public is still not able to go to a store and buy them, as they should be able to do, so for all intents and purposes they do not exist. And yet in spite of this unacceptable state of affairs, Disney shows a great willingness to keep producing endless amounts of new content with the ‘Star Wars’ name attached to it. The true versions of the films that started it all are nowhere to be found, but they cynically exploit the name in order to keep churning out new films to form a perpetual revenue stream for themselves. That none of these new films are particularly good just makes it that much more galling.

The movies that got us all hooked on the galaxy far, far away have essentially died as far as official policy is concerned - that is my point. Disney has the power to resurrect them, but they are either unwilling to do so, or just can’t be bothered. Star Wars should have been allowed to die in peace, to just exist for what it was without having to be continually revisited. And yet the commercial exploitation continues and shows no sign of ever stopping. George Lucas, for all his infuriating stubbornness, at least had personal and artistic reasons for doing what he did, misguided though it was. Disney, on the other hand, doesn’t care about anything except money. So when I say Star Wars is a zombie franchise, I am perfectly sincere in my use of the metaphor.

I don’t sit around fuming about it (though for a few days per year I may get pretty annoyed); note that this is the practically the first time I even bothered to post anything on the subject since TFA came out. But I’m under no obligation at all to consider any of what they do to be significant. Unlike producing entirely new works, a long stream of sequels tends to become decreasingly relevant in comparison to the ones that started it. I also do not like having alternate interpretations of characters or events foisted on me years after the fact. And so, because it is clear that what Star Wars means to me has little in common with what matters to those in charge of it, I have checked myself out of any involvement with the new material other than passive disinterest.

@Catbus: I would eliminate it with a shovel if I could, but it would probably just keep coming back regardless. 😉

Post
#1161166
Topic
How many 'Bad' Star Wars movies could you take before you check out?
Time

I didn’t say I wouldn’t see the new movies - in fact, I’ve seen all of them. Some parts I even liked somewhat: Rey is an interesting character, Rogue One had its moments (mostly near the end), and there were about 20-25 minutes of The Last Jedi where I was kind of into it. I’m just curious enough about what they might do that it’s worth spending an afternoon to find out, though I usually wait until they’ve been out for at least a week to avoid crowds.

But as I indicated, I have little involvement in what I’m seeing. I had a visceral distaste for TFA, the result of which is that I don’t have much stake in how the story goes from there, because it has to build on such a shaky foundation. So when I see everyone arguing about how Luke’s character was handled in TLJ, I just shake my head from a distance because I wonder why they didn’t see it coming earlier, like I did. That isn’t “my” Luke Skywalker up on the screen (and it wasn’t Mark Hamill’s either, apparently), so it hardly makes any difference what the details are.

Like I said, checked out.

Post
#1160309
Topic
How many 'Bad' Star Wars movies could you take before you check out?
Time

I pretty much checked out a while ago and haven’t seen any reason to check back in. As far as I’m concerned, the whole thing can only ever be a zombie franchise until the movies that actually made it what it is - namely, the original unaltered films - are given justice. The longer it continues in this zombie state, the more irrelevant it becomes.

Post
#1159911
Topic
Politics 2: Electric Boogaloo
Time

The idiots on Fox ‘News’ were crowing the other day about how the exam results supposedly prove that he’s not mentally unfit for office. Like nearly everything else heard on that rotting slime mold of a channel, they completely missed the whole point. Meeting the bare minimum qualification of not being schizophrenic or having Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean you’re mentally competent, it just means you’re not clinically insane. It doesn’t say anything about not being a bloated narcissistic sociopath or a human wasteland who can’t be trusted not to actively ruin everything he touches…

Post
#1159896
Topic
To Canon or Not To Canon...
Time

Though it took me a while to disengage from my former way of thinking, I’ve developed a very simple philosophy about this sort of thing. I call it “selective nihilism”.

What it comes down to is this: if you like a work, and think the story makes sense, then it ‘counts’ as being a real part of the overall story of that fictional world. If you don’t like it, and think the story doesn’t make sense, then it doesn’t count.

Your position will be far more justifiable if you can articulately explain (as much to yourself as to others) why you think something shouldn’t count, but ultimately it is up to the viewer/reader of any work to decide if the story is worth anything to them or not. If it isn’t, it can be negated, and thus dismissed from existence.

For example, many here (including myself) have decided that the prequel films do not conform to the events or storytelling logic of the originals. We have therefore decided to dismiss them and say they do not count. I personally do not believe that any amount of retconning, invented explanations, fan-editing, or other mental gymnastics can be successful in making them fit with the original movies, and since they are generally bad and irritating, not only do I never watch them anymore, I have actively dismissed them from my mind to the extent that they no longer influence my thoughts about the original movies in any significant way. In fact, I have very nearly succeeded in forgetting they exist.

If you find that a work cannot be entirely negated in this way (it usually takes a while to disengage completely due to emotional involvement in the story and characters), then problematic storylines can be relegated to alternate universes, while the “true” story can continue in your mind unpolluted by the unwanted elements. I tend to think of the new SW movies in this way: they are tedious sequels that can be shunted into an alternate universe containing the prequels and special editions, while the Thrawn books by Timothy Zahn are to me the ‘true’ sequel trilogy that follows the original unaltered films.

I am still occasionally prone to feelings of resentment about the state of official Star Wars canon, but by adopting the philosophy I have described above, my enjoyment of the earlier works that I fell in love with can continue unabated and untarnished by the later foolishness. The only problematic thing about using this method is that it can be difficult to explain to other people: I usually avoid talking about Star Wars in more than a fleeting sort of way with people in real life (unless I know they hold similar views), because I dislike having to explain that while I love Star Wars a great deal, I am by no means a ‘Star Wars fan’. Just because something carries that name does not mean that it is automatically worthy of my time or consideration, or that I should have to think about any story concepts it may have introduced while thinking about the earlier works.

Post
#1156995
Topic
Good headphones suggestions?
Time

If you’re looking for a good balance of quality vs price, look no farther than the Audio Technica ATH-M40x.

I use these nearly every day in my capacity as a audio engineer. I’ve got two sets: one for home, and one to carry with me to work. Easily found for $99, they sound great and can be run on almost anything. Most of the time I listen through an Apollo Twin from Universal Audio, which is a high-end portable recording interface costing around $900, but they sound great even through a Macbook Pro’s headphone output.

If you feel like stepping up in a price a little, the ATH-M50x is a superb choice as well.

For an external interface to listen through, consider something like the Audient iD4 or a Focusrite Scarlett Solo. While these aren’t quite up to the level of the Apollo (which also contains built-in DSP chips for running audio effects only a professional or serious audio mixing hobbyist would need), they are much more affordable: $199 and $99 respectively. Either will get you great sound quality for headphones, as well as the ability to record if you need it and to connect to external powered speakers.

So the cheapest route here is the M40’s and the Focusrite. That will set you back about $200 altogether for both headphones and interface. Audient with the M50’s would go up to a maximum of $350, or feel free to mix and match to get a total price somewhere in between. Either way, you’re looking at some serious sound quality here.

I highly recommend buying on Sweetwater for anything audio related. The customer service is superb (be ready for them to call you to confirm the order, and then again later to ask if you are satisfied with what you got!) and you get free shipping along with it.

Post
#1114373
Topic
The Stoned Thread
Time

About three and a half years ago I was going through a bad time and was feeling reckless, so I tried pot for the first time. (I interned at a recording studio for a year, so I was constantly around musicians, and those folks always have some around.) I overdid it and ended up standing in a corner for a few hours, somewhat afraid for no reason and completely forgetting how to talk. It was rather odd, to say the least.

I tried it several more times over the next few months, but it never quite agreed with me the way it does for other people. In general I found using it to be slightly unpleasant, so after a while I just kind of stopped. Thankfully it has no addictive qualities, so there’s absolutely no compulsion to keep going if you don’t want to.

The one thing about it that is rather remarkable is that if you’re really stoned and involved in creative activity, it puts your mind into places it wouldn’t ordinarily go. That first time, I was sitting in the room with my audio mentor as he worked on mixing a song (he himself gets high on a regular basis and loves it), and I had the rather extraordinary feeling of being ‘inside’ the music. It quite literally felt like my mind was inside the song itself, and everything about the way it was written, performed, and mixed just made so much sense, in a powerful way I can hardly describe. When that happened I began to understand why musicians use it so frequently, and I have to admit I’d probably use it more if I didn’t dislike the physical sensation of breathing it in. I’m not sure I could actually function as an audio mixer if I were that stoned, though!

Post
#1109665
Topic
Video Game Thread
Time

I can’t really be all that arsed about texture packs… they can be kind of nice but I don’t regard them as essential. I love Twilight Princess HD (in fact I got a Wii U specifically so that I could play that version of the game, having already loved the original), but the Gamecube/Wii era lends itself to that sort of thing much better, because the 3D models are more sophisticated. With N64 stuff, it takes you into a weird franken-zone of having detailed textures pasted on top of blocky and simplistic 3D models. And running the whole thing at 1080p or whatever makes the popups and switches between hi- and low-res stuff extremely obvious, when they should not be. To me that looks much more bizarre than simply running the game at its original resolution.

Yes, playing it from the real system with only 320 x 240 resolution does look soft and not very detailed, but it also doesn’t present any of the weirdness that results from running in ways it was not designed for. And using scanlines really does break up the pixelation and render it almost unnoticeable. The Framemeister’s image can be made very close to how it appears on a CRT… and the thing is, playing them that way 20 years ago was just fine. I wasn’t sitting around fretting about how crappy and soft things looked in 1997, I was enjoying playing the games. If I enjoyed it then, I can enjoy it now the same way. I don’t require massive upgrades in the picture to think something can continue to be relevant.

One game I do run with hi-res textures is Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight. But the reason that works is because all of the 3D models can be replaced with versions that have a much higher polygon count, as well. You can’t do that with 64 stuff.

Another thing with emulation is that the timing of events in the games is often not right due to it running at the wrong speed. People tend to complain about frame rates and such, and when seeing a version that runs without slowdown will pronounce it superior, but I’m starting to believe that this is not always a good thing. If a game ran at a certain speed, then eliminating the slowdown completely makes it feel ‘off’, in an almost indescribable but significant way. The first time I noticed this was in GoldenEye: at the end of the Runway level, a brief fanfare plays as Bond flies off in the airplane. When emulated, this scene happens much faster than it does on the actual N64, with the result that the fanfare is always cut off before it is heard to completion. I’m becoming increasingly convinced, too, that the speed of the gameplay was designed around the amount of slowdown that the N64 produces, because many levels just don’t ‘feel’ the same in their pacing as they do on the console, and the slower version ironically seems more natural. It’s definitely easier to keep Natalya alive in the Control Center on the real N64 than on the computer, because the enemies aren’t shooting as quickly or as often.

And to point out a very dramatic and obvious example in Zelda, when firing a Light Arrow at Ganondorf, the huge flash of light that results from hitting him causes the system to slow down by a huge amount for a several seconds until the flash has dissipated. The visual effect of this is rather stunning, because it causes the impact of the Light Arrow to remain onscreen for far longer than it otherwise would, turning it into an awe-inspiring moment. When emulated, the flash runs at full speed without any slowdown at all, with the result that it is over and done with before it can really call any special attention to itself. It’s still a nice-looking effect, but it lacks the majestic grandeur of the slower version. (Apparently in the 3DS re-release they actually intentionally added the slowdown back in for this scene, though I’ve never played that one.) I’d actually forgotten about this for a while, having been so used to playing it emulated on the faster Gamecube version, that going back to the real thing was kind of shocking, in the best sense of the word.

I can hardly even begin to talk about my frustrations with the sound problems of N64 emulation. Crackling and dropouts abound, and the audio often visibly lags behind the image by quite a bit. Not good.

I seem to have spent quite some time complaining about these things on here… I didn’t really mean to come in here ranting and raving about how emulation sucks or whatever. I don’t mind emulators when they actually work properly–all of my SNES playing for the past few years has been emulated, mostly on the Wii Virtual Console but sometimes on homebrew, since my sister has the SNES we grew up with and hasn’t sent it back to me yet. The few N64 games they they have on the VC tend to work pretty well for the most part. A few years ago I was trying to convince myself that I could set the real system aside and just emulate, since my controller joystick was busted and I thought my cartridges didn’t work anymore (I didn’t realize that cleaning them with rubbing alcohol could work such wonders in getting them going again!), but after running into so many problems with games not running right, graphics glitches and sound problems and crashes and the constant grind of changing settings, I got sick of it and made the effort to start using the real thing again. Once I got a suitable replacement joystick (I currently use the Gamecube-style stick with a custom-made replacement circuit board, which calibrates the sensitivity to accurately replicate the original stick), it was like a reunion with long-lost friends. I tend to divide my time equally between playing on a CRT and using the Framemeister, and it looks great on both through S-video cables. Really it depends whether I feel like sitting in a chair and playing on a larger screen, or sitting on the floor and using a smaller screen, like we did back then. I’m just happy to be able to keep using my N64, rather than having to give it up and get rid of it like I thought I would.

In a few days my new Everdrive should arrive in the mail, and I suspect that I’m going to enjoy the hell out of that thing. I’m okay with using the Wii VC for SNES games for now (it can be set to output 240p, meaning they look really good over component cables on the Framemeister and CRT both), but someday I do want to get back my real SNES too, because I’ve been missing it lately.

Post
#1108362
Topic
Video Game Thread
Time

So a few weeks ago I played through GoldenEye on the N64 and finished the entire thing on 00 Agent difficulty, something I’d only ever done once before (about a year ago). A lot of the levels are perfectly doable, but man, those last few are crazy. The Aztec on 00? Holy crap! It can take several tries just to make it out of the first room alive, let alone surviving the rest of it. The enemies are so insanely fast and have such good aim, you have to be really careful to stay on top of it and not make any mistakes, otherwise you’re a goner…

Now I’m playing through Perfect Dark, on Perfect Agent difficulty; and as hard as GoldenEye is, this makes it look like a walk in the park. Most of the tricks that could be used in GE to avoid taking damage from enemies no longer work, enemy gunfire depletes your health much more rapidly, and the whole thing seems to have been designed to appeal to people with a masochistic need for punishment in their games. Last year I did manage to get through all the regular levels (though not the bonus levels), but many of them required multiple attempts before I could pull it off. I’m pretty sure I must have tried and failed to beat the Skedar Attack Ship at least 35 times before finally managing to scrape through with almost no health left. It is brutally unforgiving, and if you make more than one mistake in the beginning, you pretty much have no chance of completing it. I want to see if I can beat them all again, but I’m not entirely convinced I’ll be able to manage it this time!

GoldenEye and Perfect Dark are one of the main reasons why I eschew N64 emulation in favor of using the real system (and was willing to spend $400 on the Framemeister to get acceptable picture quality from it). There are far too many graphics glitches and emulation inaccuracies when trying to run these on the computer, to the point that it often hardly even feels like playing the same game. Using a non-N64 controller for games designed with a six-button layout in mind is also really irritating, and trying to dial in the joystick sensitivity to allow the weapon aiming to work the way it’s supposed to is an exercise in frustration. Much better to just use the original version, which ‘just works’, and skip all that other garbage.

Post
#1105557
Topic
Video Game Thread
Time

Game systems that originally rendered in 240p resolution (ie, everything Nintendo 64 and earlier) should always be viewed on a CRT display if at all possible, or with something that mimics what a CRT does to the image. It’s the only way for it to look right, and to see what the game designers would have actually seen at the time the game was made. Anything else–whether it be horrid blocky pixelation, or destructive smearing filters–just looks wrong and ruins the intended presentation.

The CRT effect preserves all the resolution the game produces while smoothing pixelation in a way that our eyes naturally respond to. Blocky edges are rounded out very nicely, and the visible ‘scan lines’ (which are actually blank space in between the lines of resolution, and appear due to the nature of the 240p signal) break up the harshness of the pixelation, tricking our brains into seeing a more detailed image than what is actually shown. In a way it’s similar to how film grain can trick us into thinking we see a sharper image than we really do–even though it’s an illusion, it is one that fits very well with our perception. In contrast with this analog goodness, digital displays are very unforgiving and show only the harshness of the raw image, ruining the illusion the low resolution art is trying to create unless it can be brought back as a post-processing effect.

Just recently I took the plunge and ordered the XRGB-Mini Framemeister upscaler, which excels at turning 240p signals into HD resolutions and can add convincing scan lines as well. The experience of playing classic games through this unit (using S-video, component, or RGB connections) far exceeds the results typically experienced by plugging an old console straight into an HDTV. Almost entirely without fail, modern TV’s misinterpret the 240p signal as 480i, applying unnecessary deinterlacing and ruining image detail, as well as adding a significant amount of input lag. The result is thoroughly unsatisfying, and nothing at all like the original experience. The Framemeister brilliantly restores the image quality and playability of classic games on modern displays, and I’m thrilled to have it. Last year I did pull my old CRT out of the closet and I’ve played a bunch of old games on it since then, and nothing can really beat the experience of using the real thing (that analog ‘glow’ it imparts on the image cannot be entirely replicated by any digital display, although CRT shaders are becoming quite nice), but since CRT’s are no longer made, I like having the ability to use my old systems on newer TV’s as well.

A couple years ago I spent a lot of time messing around with emulators, but lately I haven’t been all that interested in them. With some systems, like the SNES, it has become good enough that I don’t mind it, but others like the Nintendo 64 continue to be unsatisfying. I became very frustrated with the ubiquitous graphics glitches and inaccuracies, the near-constant need to mess with settings, and my progress being hampered by crashes. Once I got my controller fixed and started using the real N64 again, the experience was so much more satisfying that I never intend to go back to emulation if I can help it. Playing on a console is just better than doing it on a computer; it feels more ‘real’ somehow, and in the near future I want to get an Everdrive so I can play a wider selection of games than I’ve been able to find actual copies of.