Finding Proper 4:3 Correction for Vintage Video Games

FirebrandX has just uploaded a video demonstrating how to calculate the true aspect ratio of pre-HD era video games that were meant to be played on CRT’s.  This information is essential for anyone who’s processing captures from classic game console, to match the way they originally looked.

I think it’s important to understand the scenario’s in which you would want to apply this knowledge…as well as the scenario’s that I don’t think it matters.  Let’s start with the easiest:

Playing Classic Games Through a Scaler on your TV

In this scenario, most people will want a “happy medium”:  Close to the original aspect ratio, but filling as much of the screen as possible without over-stretching.  The RetroTINK line of products already takes care of this for you, as well as the OSSC in “generic mode”.  People who tweak even further will use OSSC (or Framemeister) custom profiles to get an even sharper image.  In these scenario’s, I think using a 5x vertical scale (as well as a 6x horizontal scale for 256 modes) is the perfect happy medium;  A few pixels on the top and bottom of the screen get cut off, but really not much more than on an average CRT.  Also, it fills much more space on a widescreen TV, leaving less black bars on the sides.  Now, not all TV’s are compatible with 5x modes and some games cut off too much info, but overall it’s excellent middle ground for playing, as well as for content creators who want to show off the best ways these games can look on your TV’s.

Basically, if you’re just playing your games, either don’t worry about it at all (assuming you’re using proper equipment like mentioned above), or take the time to tweak your scaler for both sharpness and size.  Scanlines do throw a bit of a wrench into this if you’re using the OSSC, but that conversation is worthy of it’s own post…

Archival / Developer Use:

If you’re someone creating content to present the original look of a game, or if you’re someone building devices to scale images, getting the correct aspect ratio is much more important.  Anyone building a scaler or HDMI mod for original hardware would need information like this to make sure games are presented properly, as well as make sure the screen size doesn’t jump around when resolutions are switched.  Also, hardware and software emulation developers can implement this into their designs to allow people to choose the experience they want;  As FBX mentions in his video, people who grew up playing these games on software emulators might prefer square pixels, while people who played on CRT’s would probably prefer a CRT’s aspect ratio.  Having that choice is always a good thing.

I also think it’s important that people making documentaries present these games the way they were seen when they were new.  Unless you’re specifically talking about emulation, it’s a big pet peeve of mine when I see videos showing game footage that never pays attention to aspect ratio…some shots are square pixels, others are stretched too far, etc.  Anyone who cares enough to preserve the experience of these games would want to take the time to watch FBX’s video and get it right.  To be clear, I’m not saying preservationists should only use real hardware and take video’s of CRT’s, I’m simply saying that if you take the time to create a “historical” video, prepare the captures (original hardware, software emulation, whatever), properly.

If you’d like more information on video capture and post-processing of classic game capture, please check out the video capture section:

Also, if you’d like more info on why these aspect ratio’s are off, check out Displaced Gamers video on it:

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