MiSTer FPGA S-Video & Composite Update – May 2022

Today I put out a short video giving an update on how work is going on the S-Video MiSTer FPGA cores by Mike Simone.

If you are not into watching videos, here is the script.

Antonio Villena Prototype Adapter

Last week Antonio Villena sent me a couple of prototype dongles which are designed to be used with these new cores. Remember, Antonio has had an external RGBs to S-Video and composite adapter available for years now which works with any core, you can see my video about it in the card above.

Antonio was nice enough to send me a prototype which works with the new cores and while some parts of it still need work, some cores already really great over composite. He is calling this one the “cheapo”, as his original adapter cost 35€ but he aims to sell this one for 15€.

I use a PAL TV and then I played games in PAL, the image looked really nice, very authentic. I wanted to show you some examples but please be warned, I am absolutely f**ked at capturing footage from a CRT. I just couldn’t make my Sony ZV-1 play nicely so I captured these on my iPhone 6 (yes I use iPhone 6…). So don’t take this footage as gospel, I just wanted to show you something so this video isn’t just shots of my fat head.

Super Nintendo was very close between PAL and NTSC, but PAL was definitly still better. When I looked at a core like the 32x which is known to have deeper chroma issues, you can see the difference more clearly. Virtua Racing in PAL looks very clean and feels like something I would be happy to play on. When we switch to NTSC you can see very noticeable rainbowing around the fonts.

He also sent me another prototype, which is a version of his VGA to component breakout board with a switch to combine chroma and luma on board. Again, this is not a ready product and as far as I can tell doesn’t include a proper luma trap for composite but will give excellent S-Video. While this is a prototype it does give an insight into the directions Antonio is going with his designs.

Mike Simone’s Work on the Beta Cores

The work that is still happening with these cores is about composite output. S-Video is already rock solid straight out of the IO board and any cable or dongle solution will already give you a great result. Check out my previous video if you wanna hook up S-Video from these cores.

In Mike Simone‘s design, composite is not generated internally, but it relies on an external dongle to mix the S-Video chroma and luma into composite. That dongle design isn’t complicated, that’s not whats taking the time. It’s that you need to add some simple components to tune the signal and that varies on a per core basis and then take NTSC and PAL into account. Right now that’s over 30 cores. So rather than having a complicated dongle which accounts for each console, Mike is doing this tuning inside of each core’s code, however that takes time and lot of work to get it right.

RetroCastle IO Boards with Sega Saturn video output

For example, AliExpress seller RetroCastle has a custom IO board for sale which outputs S-Video and composite via a Sega Saturn video out plug. It’s designed to work with regular Mister cores and to account for the differences in each console’s output, RetroCastle has included a small pot, a variable resistor on the IO board. This means you can tune the composite individually for each core. Plus side is it works on regular cores, down side is you gotta do that tuning each time you switch cores.

Will these beta cores be rolled into the mainline distribution?

The next question which comes up a lot is will Mike’s S-Video modifications eventually be rolled into the mainline mister cores. The answer to that one is a definite maybe, hopefully. Alot of the decision here rests with lead Mister developer Sorg who in the past has been opposed to such a move, he’s not a fan of using composite or s-video. Now, all respect to Sorg here, he has set a very strong vision for the mister project and its that vision and leadership which I think is a huge contributor to why the project is so successful today. So it can just be that Sorg isn’t aware of how useful these S-Video changes would be to many people. If this is something you would like to see, why not respectfully and politely shoot a short message to sorg. Just briefly tell him that this functionality would be useful and appreciated. maybe on the mister forums, or twitter or his Patreon if you support (I do and I suggest you consider it as well).

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