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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Sun Mar 27, 2016 4:25 pm

Warning: once you see it, you can’t un-see it.

If you are into the scene, it might not occur to you today that more than 75% of the screenshots you see posted by fans on fan-sites and Twitter are absolutely misrepresented. Many of the video-casts are, too.

“Back in the day” screens were either TVs or, starting in the mid-to-late 80’s, color cathode ray tube (CRT) based monitors. A perfect example would be the legendary 13-inch screen Commodore 1702 monitor, originally produced to be paired with the 8-bit Commodore 64 computer (C64).

For devices created to produce separated chrominance and luminance signals, the high quality performance of this monitor was unmatched on NTSC and PAL machines. In other words, this monitor was the ideal output for the games and programs designed for the C64 and similar devices. For example, an NES or SNES can produce “arcade quality” graphics on such a monitor to this day. While produced for the Commodore computers, it could also be paired with VCRs (and other media devices) for excellent picture quality. It was extremely versatile.

But it wasn’t the only monitor out there - there were several more to be sure. And they had one main thing in common with all CRT-based TVs of the time. They all were a very standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Even though color graphics were glorious on the 1702, the aspect ratio was exactly the same as on all TVs it competed with.


Literally every TV and monitor at the time was 4:3. All of the games were designed by artists with this key fact in their minds.

Here is an example of the dimensions of a 4:3 screen, to help illustrate this visually:
As you can see, the image is one part wider than it is tall.

Fast forward to today.

Modern monitors and screens have left the 4:3 world entirely. Add to the confusion the differences between PAL and NTSC, as the retro-gaming scene is just as strong in Europe as it is in North America.

For what it is worth, what I will begin to illustrate I do not believe to be an intentional mishandling of history. I think some of us have forgotten, and I think others simply assume that the emulators (or other screen capture software) take the original outputs into account of what is displayed.

They do not.

Moby Games has it wrong in many cases. Hall of Light has it wrong, too. Nearly everyone I follow on Twitter has it wrong.

In the Amiga’s case (although his happens to literally all consoles from the 80s and early 90s, too, since people are capturing via emulators), in North America the typical resolution was 320x200. In Europe, it was 320x256. But designers didn’t expect this output to simply display in the middle of your screen. No - using knobs on the back of your monitor when you first bought the machine, you were expected to adjust the “vertical size” of an image to fit nicely into that TV or monitor you owned.

In today’s world, many of the screens you see are being projected into widescreen, which wildly fattens everything horizontally. (Note: I am not singling anyone out here intentionally - these visual aids are purely for demonstration purposes to make a point. I know everyone in the scene loves these games, I merely hope to help get the screens right. There’s a lot of fixing to do!)

Here is a typical example of what a 16:9 (modern) monitor’s image would look like. Compare the height to the image to 4:3, which I've outlined in red.
OK, now for some real-life examples.

Let’s take a look at some games in the historical games database of Moby Games, a fabulous site. In this example, let’s take the visually ground-breaking game “Defender of the Crown”, art directed by James Sachs originally for the Amiga in 1986. These screens are stored on mobygames in the Amiga section.

Screenshots are being taken off widescreen monitors with no adjustments made, via hardware or software manipulation
It shouldn’t take anyone very long to immediately recognize this game is way too wide and looks vertically squashed. Look at that strapping young lad in green (who was actually Mr. Sachs in a staged photo which he used as an art reference). Do his shoulders look bizarrely wide to you? How about that body? This shot isn’t 100% 16:9, but it’s very close.

Now let’s take this same image and put it into a 4:3 aspect ratio, like the monitors and TVs (and game designers) of the day expected them to be viewed.
Note Robin Hood’s body shape now, and the nearly square scroll. Pretty dramatic, isn’t it? This is how Defender of the Crown is supposed to be viewed. But the historical bits and bytes all over the internet are being saved incorrectly for future generations.

Here’s another example. This time take a look at the human head in the screen and note how wide it is as well as the green isle of Britain:
This image, which is exactly the one pulled from, is 640x376 (pure 16:9 would be 640x360). In any case, it is immediately obvious this was taken from a widescreen monitor, and the original art is being stretched horizontally. Here is that same art, pushed into a 4:3 ratio (640x480):
Pretty dramatic, isn’t it? If you're like me and you grew up in the 80s playing games off TVs and CRT monitors, this should shake some braincells loose and leave you a bit stunned. It did me.

Once your mind memorizes the basic box shape these screens should be shown in, you can’t un-see all of the incorrect art being shared, and saved, as historical documents everywhere you look.

This distortion of our gaming past is so pervasive, it even visibly distressed Jim Sachs in a recent video where he lamented over his art being stretched by today’s screens (and even by the interviewer during the interview!).

If you don't believe me, go to your favorite retro site and pull a few images down. Then compare that image's size using this simple tool. Is your favorite site sharing images in 4:3?

Oh, and if they are, but the images have huge black bars on them, that's a whole other issue. And its still wrong. Ninety nine times out of ten, the designers of games in the 80s and early 90s never intended their games to be letter-boxed. Those are coming from emulators taking the resolution of a machine (like 320x200) literally, and not vertically stretching the image into a 4:3 box.

And so now, perhaps, everywhere you look you'll see widescreen screenshots of games created for boxes from the 1980s, before anyone had even heard of widescreen except for some really fancy VHS movies. Now, you will "see dead people", too. Sorry about that.

I may post a short "How To' in the near future on how to create perfect 4:3 screenshots even if your view, or capture software, doesn't default to it (but you should try hard to make it 4:3 before you capture).

Big props to Amiga guru Shot97 on YouTube who brought this issue to my attention with his own two part series on the problem. (i ii)

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Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Sun Mar 27, 2016 6:20 pm

A fantastic and worthy write up of this immense problem looming both today and in the future. You even did it without getting pissed, I used to write like that. hahah. While I do believe most are unaware or have forgotten/never knew, having done all of the lifting on this issue to this point, even when said nicely nobody takes kindly to being told all of their footage is wrong. Quite a few have been told they're wrong and how to fix it and the only positive remarks I hear about it are from those that do not make videos/screenshots. People that have made their own creative works from these games will fight back. They will find ways to justify their madness (circles), they might say they get it but this is how they remember it (Europeans) and they're not changing a thing...

I've only had one person that made videos start showing games right... And that was AFTER he unsubscribed from me and threw out a whole bunch of hate on Twitter assuming I was targeting him directly when I was discussing a large problem and pointed no fingers at any individual. When I calmed his ass down he decided to show his videos in 4:3 and despite him saying there was more effort in doing it that way, he could see how much better they looked because of it. Unfortunately he's a lot of drama and deleted his channel at some point after, so it's still just me at this point. I have since decided anger is the only way others will listen. They certainly don't listen to "my" nice talk anyway, I hope they take heart yours. I'm becoming pessimistic on this simply because In the course of several years both before and after I started making videos, I've made several people aware of all this. I stepped up and confronted the big "history" sites, Moby and Hall of Light. The issue was explained short/to the point, and my corrected screenshots were offered. Hall of Light did not care enough to even reply and Moby defended themselves saying I was wrong, they only care about 1:1 pixel for pixel perfect crap. It stops being ignorance once the knowledge has been spread and it becomes almost criminal not to act, and I've seen far too many people not act. Moby is aware, they are now intentionally distorting history as far as I'm concerned. And unless Hall of Light has the most backward emailing system ever, they are also aware.

Defender of the Crown will be reviewed by me sooner rather than later, to make sure one video is out there showing it right. Even though I've cared about this issue for quite awhile now, it really took on a whole new meaning and reinvigoration once I heard Jim talk about it and get a little choked up. It upsets me at times how few people seem to care but seeing Jim's face made me happy that at least I was doing them correctly, and that there is at least someone out there (small) spreading the word. Thank you for helping to spread the word.


^ - In near 16:9 - These have become my favorite screenshots to illustrate the issue... Take a look at that Amiga 1000 everyone... Look at that monitor... A game made in 1989... A good 15 years before widescreen monitors became the default, also long before they were even a thought. The person that drew this must have had an incredible sense of what would come, because if you look at any real pictures of the Amiga 1000 with its monitor you will see he was certainly not looking at that!


^ It was only briefly mentioned in regards to also being incorrect, but I feel it needs to be shown how a screenshot taken from an Amiga emulator defaulting into PAL mode and playing a 320x200 NTSC game looks like. Notice the aspect ratio "of the game screen" is exactly the same as the picture above in 16:9 - But the image including the blackness IS a 4:3 image. Close enough anyway. Despite this being a 320x200 NTSC game this image is 320x256 when screenshoted from an emulator in PAL mode. You can see the Hall of Light logo there, this was taken directly from them. This game has a resolution of 320x200 yet their image says 320x256... There to preserve the history of the Amiga, and you wouldn't even know a single game was ever in 320x200 because every image they have shows up as 320x256. PAL mode simply displayed the 320x200 inside of the 320x256, giving you the exact same distorted image as stretching it into a modern 16:9 monitor does.


^ - Manually stretched into 4:3 just like the real NTSC monitors did - oh... well... I guess that explains that... XD It's that obvious nothing more needs said. That's the Amiga 1000... That's also a floppy disk for those that have been alive long enough to have seen them.

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Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Mon Mar 28, 2016 11:29 pm

I will say hardware rather than "monitor" when talking about stretching into 4:3. True, the monitors and TVs of the day had size controls allowing the user to choose how the display was filled. I will go a step further and say rather than all the designers assuming everyone would fill their entire 4:3 screen and thus stretch the 320x200 intro 4:3 VIA monitor, that no... The hardware itself did the stretching prior to the monitor receiving any information.

This can be illustrated by using any multi-resolution computer of the mid to late 90's with a 4:3 display. I can play a true 4:3 pixel game by playing Wing Commander 3 in DOS with 640x480 resolution. I can play a true 4:3 game in Windows like the Sims with an 800x600 resolution. Both of these games will fill by entire 4:3 monitor. However I can also hop into DOS or use DOS Prompt in Windows and play a 320x200 game (much wider than tall) like Secret of Monkey Island and despite my monitor being set for all those other resolutions to fit the entire 4:3 screen, the 320x200 screen will fill the entire 4:3 monitor. If it was the monitor that was meant to do the stretching, then once you got into true 4:3 resolutions like 640x480 you would have seen the 320x200 stuff show up wrong on the same monitor. This means that the hardware itself did the stretching. Due to TVs being used for many of these older computers, the designers could not have wanted you to take a 320x200 picture and distort it VIA your TV controls. Once you did that the second you went back to regular television everything would be distorted on that end. They had to use some method prior to the video signal leaving the computer to put the 320x200 image into 4:3 - This is all the more reason to believe that the designers of these machines 100% wanted their stuff filling a 4:3 monitor.
Last edited by Shot97 on Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:52 am

"The 5/6 Method"

So... I was about to (and I did but immediately deleted it) post something say that although we were mostly right, we could have been "more right". I went researching for the sake of a new video. There is scattered information on the subject over the years in forums, most of it full of a lot of crap, largely due to the "circle argument" that holds zero weight because the major paint program did not feature a perfect circle. It's "perfect circle" was always seen wrong on 320x200 displays because it was a mathematical calculation not taking into account the 4:3 nature of the hardware.

I was going to say I found a bit of "good" information which might help us. Upon investigation, it's just as bullshit as the circle method. I'm telling you, the people that "think" they know what they're doing are even more dangerous than the people who don't have a clue. It "sounds" utterly right, the information makes sense, but it just doesn't fit the real deal.

This is called the 5/6 method. I want to talk about it just in case one of these people has something negative to say here. In this method you take your 320x200 1:1 distorted crap picture and you use your paint program of choice to enlarge the width of the pic by 5 and the height by 6. This makes it a 1600x1200 picture which is 4:3 - Due to that being incredibly large you can then take the picture and resize it to 640x480 or your 4:3 choice. Their reasons for doing this sound very logical. Because of the vertical stretching done by the "screen" on 320x200 machines what you end up seeing on the real CRT is what amounts to a half a pixel. In the digital realm you can not have anything less than one pixel, that's as low as you can go. They say if you take the original 320x200 pic and you immediately put it into 640x480 you end up getting some pixels that are doubled in size. When the program comes across one of these "half pixels" it turns it into a full pixel or even two. Which does not fully represent the original 4:3 image according to them.

Now, eventually, if you make the picture big enough those half pixels will add up and the paint program will see it proportionally correct. The half pixel will turn into a non distorted real pixel. When you look at a 320x200 picture and you compare it to this method VS our direct method this 5/6 method seems "more right". - Problem is none of these people ever looked at a real CRT monitor before making this bullshit claim.

Pictures from Monkey Island for DOS - I took 1 screenshot from the actual hardware which became a 320x200 .png which was then resized using our direct method and their 5/6 method. I also took one picture with a real camera pointed at my real CRT.

Image Key
1. 320x200 1:1
2. A real 4:3 CRT monitor on real DOS hardware
3. Our 320x200 to 640x480 method
4. Their 5/6 Method


Other than the real 320x200 pic being utterly distorted and the real CRT looking SOOOO much better than everything else... There does not "seem" to be much difference between 3 and 4.


Upon zooming in, again, other than the before mentioned, nothing is obvious...


Boom! The red arrows point from the original 320x200 to the 5/6 method. The original shows two pixels side by side. If you look below it and to the left you see a 2 high and 3 wide group of pixels. In the 5/6 method those 2 high and 3 wide become 3 high and 2 wide, while those two pixels next to each other remain just two pixels. Now, if you directly compare #4 to #3 you will see how this makes sense. #3 keeps the 2 high and 3 wide group of pixels the same while it turns the two pixels next to each other into 2 high and 2 wide. It has seemingly added two pixels from nowhere. Again... Makes utter sense which is why I was about to say this should be the method we use... Except when you compare the real CRT to #3 and #4. The real CRT does the exact same thing the #3 does. It takes the two pixels that are next to each other and creates two out of thin air. There is no "half pixel".

- And yes, I looked at it with my own eyes both really close and with a magnifying glass. Just in case my picture was doing the same thing and creating pixels out of nowhere I wanted to be sure. I assure you 100% #2 is as close as you can get to what I saw on the real monitor and those pixels are accurate.

These people with the 5/6 argument it comes from the heart, I understand, but it also comes from people assuming things and just not delving into it enough. They think it's the monitor doing the stretching. Given the previous post about my real hardware displaying real 4:3 resolutions like 640x480 and 800x600 filling the entire screen, and then that exact same hardware and screen going to a 320x200 resolution (much wider) and still filling the entire 4:3 screen - It's obvious it was never the screen that distorted the image. It was the hardware.

Somewhere along the line before the video exits the computer the image is put into 4:3 - There are no "half pixels" due to the monitor stretching things. There are only full pixels because the computer messed with them before it went out. This also makes complete sense when you think of the fact that a lot of these computers were going to be hooked up to television sets. They can't expect you to adjust a wide 320x200 picture for your computer on your TV because once you went back to broadcast TV everything would be messed up! The direct 320x200 to 640x480 is the best you can ever hope to get via screenshot. Now, ours is not 100% perfect either, no... If you look closely at those earing pixels you can see a couple that are wrong on ours. Look, none of this shit is perfect... But the way this 5/6 method works turns that earing into something quite jagged and it simply does not compare to the original picture on the real hardware. Ours is much closer if you ask me.

Now, go to the first picture again remembering what you saw in the last picture. Near the bottom right of the earing you see a jarring brightness difference in the 5/6 method compared to the CRT and our direct method. Do you notice an area of the earing that becomes quite bright when the pixels before and after are not as bright? This is also in the 320x200 1:1 image. It is an utterly smooth brightness level on the real CRT and although not perfect on our direct method, it's not as jarring a difference.

The REAL lesson here is far more painful to history: In all fucking truth the only way to properly store these images for the future is to take a picture of a CRT with a real camera. And that's not perfect either... But it's the best you can hope to get to experiencing the real thing. BUT... If you have to take a screenshot then make it a direct upscale to a normal 4:3 resolution, do not do this 5/6 method... Which sounds right... It does... I posted a complete write up of how although ours is plenty good enough for history, theirs might be better... Always - Always - ALWAYS look at the real thing first.

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:35 am

Another huge piece of this puzzle is the pixel dithering.

We've covered a lot of ground with the aspect ratio. That's a good 75% of the problem as the the "canvas" is so distorted.. If you throw "indie developers" and emulators into the mix, the "paint" is wrong, too. This is a very difficult issue to rectify (outside of depending on photography, which isn't practical). Some suggest developing "pixel shaders" to emulate the look, but it's not easily solved.

Take this snap from an excellent article by Kyle Pittman on Gamasutra, where the author delves deeply into the science.
Highly recommend reading that article to everyone interested in this topic. And the pixel dithering issue is probably worthy of its own thread!

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Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:26 pm

That was a good article, I could go on and on about how much "better" a CRT is. Many that talk about that issue will say it's "defects" in a CRT that make you think it's better, not that it's actually better. I wholeheartedly disagree. There may be those things, like dithering, but on the whole, a modern monitor simply can not touch those resolutions and still look good. Your modern screen looks good in ONE resolution, that's it. If you force it into anything else all ugly hell breaks loose. Various "scalers" have been created in order to better represent older games on a newer monitor, but nothing is going to look as good as the stuff the actual designers looked at and expected when they made the game. And that's for video games which used simple pixels... Try putting on an old VHS or TV show onto a modern monitor... I think everyone forgets how much money they paid for those 32 inch CRT televisions in the 90's and how awesome they looked. We didn't "need" HD back then because a much smaller resolution looked a whole hell of a lot better.

If you look at a VHS home movie from the 80's/90's you kind of wonder why anyone ever left the Super 8 film format honestly... This crap goes to 480p at best, there's video noise... Meanwhile you can put your Super8 films into HD and they look magical... Why did anyone ever switch? - Because when you play a home movie on a real CRT and you compare it with the crappy Super8 VHS transfers of that era you see how crystal clear VHS is. They believed they were getting something better. That was the power of the CRT. Which is still used by super anal professional graphic designers to this day. CRTs can support HD, they just never got around to making the TVs do that. I have a couple CRT computer monitors that will far exceed any resolutions on my flatscreens.

But I've never really liked the idea of "emulating" a CRT. I've never been impressed. They just throw a bunch of filters on it and hope for the best. The CRTs were built that way, they are design features... Slapping a filter on a clear picture only degrades that picture. It does not make it feel like a CRT. The Sonic waterfalls are often sighted for that. On a real CRT with RF input you get this dramatic looking transparent waterfall. On a real CRT with RCA the waterfall becomes less dramatic, but it's still there, the thing is everything else looks a thousand times better in RCA. But on an emulator that waterfall looks like crap. A lot of Genesis games look like crap on an emulator because there was a lot of dithering going on. I never saw a difference between the SNES and Genesis in terms of colors back in the day, there simply was no difference, the Genesis looked just as good as the SNES, and they both looked good. But even dithering filters today are nothing special. They've never convinced me I'm looking at a CRT and having a "better" experience. All I see is an emulator trying and failing to feel like a CRT and it ends up being a bad experience.

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Posted Sun Apr 10, 2016 11:32 pm

I've been YouTubing for quite some time, I had on older channel, now I'm under PhilsComputerLab.

I started off with a basic S-Video capture device, but even then I always ensured the aspect ratio was 4:3 :)

I come from the PC, so we didn't have the PAL and NTSC issue, but because DOSBox saves all screenshots at 320 x 200, pretty much most screenshots are in widescreen.

I have mentioned this to a few other YouTube channels, but it gets ignored :D

But yea, you guys are not alone!

EDIT: Regarding CRT monitors displaying all the resolutions correctly, it does depend on the type of monitor. Most store the settings on a per-resolution setting. On the PC at least, 320 x 200 is doubled and in the datasheets you find it under 740 x 400 @ 70 Hz. The PC was very standardised, so it wasn't hard for the monitor to adjust itself based on the signal. Interesting are "off spec" resolutions though.

EDIT EDIT: Interesting withthe 5/6 argument. Haven't heard of this, but if you think about it, it cannot work. You cannot upscale an image meant for non-square pixel display, then scale it down and think it will suddenly fit into square pixels LOL.

But, if you have a 1600 x 1200 native display, then the upscaling will indeed give you the impression of having non square pixels. It just happens so that each "DOS pixel" ends up taking 5 vertical and 6 horizontal pixels on a 1600 x 1200 screen.

Do you have save-game or screenshot I can use to upscale on my 1920 x 1200 screen and take a photo? Or can we take another one that's easier to get, like Prince of Persia right at the start (lots of 1 pixel spots) or Wing Commander in the bar?

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Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:49 am

Hey Phil! I believe the sites creator is on vacation at the moment, so I'll do the honors of welcoming you aboard! I've been subscribed to him on YouTube for awhile now and I think he has a wonderful channel and suggest everyone check him out. He's got a passion for the hardware and has very in-depth topics with an attention to details. PhilsComputerLab

I have to thank Phil for his recent 1600x1200 4:3 video where he's discussing old school gaming on modern hardware. The two of us have had discussions about the old school 4:3 stuff being shown wrong in videos and screenshots before. We are two of the very few YouTubers discussing such issues. He's coming at it more from the DOS side where I'm coming from the Amiga end, but our goals are one the same: To show these old games as true to what the designers envisioned as possible in the modern age.

I posted on that video in regards to him suggesting the 320x200 should be put into 1600x1200. With the research I put into my previous post about the 5/6 argument him and I talked about that and I got him to come over and have a look for himself. However, since Phil asked for my screenshots I felt I should go take some fresh ones just to make sure everything was 100%... Upon doing that I've got some new research!

My 320x200 screenshot in my 5/6 post was not correct... I'm not sure why... All I can think is the original might have been saved as a .tiff in DOS and then was resized to 800x500 and saved as a .png picture. 800x500 maintains the 320x200 wide aspect ratio so I can't say where I went wrong with that, I believed I was looking at a proper screenshot at the time... But today when I went to get a new screenshot I saved it in DOS as a .bmp and didn't mess with it at all and I just brought it over as a 320x200 picture. When I compared this new 320x200 screenshot to the old screenshot they were off. Lesson: It's terrible how ridiculously complicated attempting to be true to history becomes...

Anyway, I have some corrections to make on my previous 5/6 post. The guy I based that post on is still wrong, but so was I. Meanwhile, Phil had it right! Turns out enlarging a 320x200 picture to 1600x1200 matches just about perfectly with my CRT picture from what I can see. However, Phil is also right when he says resizing that picture into a lower resolution does not make sense. It just ends up looking exactly the same as taking the 320x200 and putting it into 800x600 or another 4:3 display. Now - I have to say, going straight into 800x600 is not the worst thing ever in my mind, and even when I thought it was "more right" in my previous post I noted these are small nitpicks and either way is a thousand times better than using the original 320x200 in widescreen.

^ My new 320x200 screenshot is not the same as my previous one... Apologies on that... I don't know what went wrong with that one. When compared to the CRT picture (better than all of them IMO) the 800x600 is slightly off in spots. The 1600x1200 to 800x600 picture looks exactly the same as the 800x600 picture, so the post I was originally referring to is wrong. But the straight 320x200 to 1600x1200 picture looks damn near perfect to the real CRT.

But if we want these screenshots to be "perfect" than it looks like we'll have to put them into 1600x1200 - If you want the games to look perfectly on your modern monitor, you'd have to do the same. This presents a big issue: 1600x1200 is big... Since scaling it back down to a lower 4:3 resolution does not seem to work from what I see, leaving them as 1600x1200 would be very difficult for sites like Moby to do I would imagine. That's a lot of bandwidth when you think about all the games that would need to be done. I think I might have to personally make compromises with my screenshots. When posting to a site like this, 1600x1200 is just too damn big - I think for written review purposes a straight 640x480 or 800x600 conversion would be close enough to get the idea. But for more detailed oriented screenshots I'll have to try both from now on and go with the picture that looks best. OR - Maybe do the smaller 4:3 shots for the review everyone sees but link to the bigger 1600x1200 shots for people that want to see them as close to perfect a screenshot can get. Phil had a shot from Wing Commander in his video where the bartenders eyes were a bit off when put into 4:3 like we were doing (I did mention our way did not look perfect compared to the CRT in the previous post) but looked better in the 1600x1200 post. That's why I wanted him to come over and take a look, we're both very passionate about this issue and I wanted to see if we could further the discussion! And I think we did!

I have to stress the importance of the real hardware though when making big write ups like this. I feel it is vital to have that piece of information. If the original poster had that piece of information I think he might have simply suggested the 1600x1200 method and seeing his real picture of the CRT would have made me believe him and not check for myself. I also have to say to people: Don't be afraid of the CRT screen. There are techniques for taking a picture of a CRT and getting good results. I'm going to link to the real screenshots for anyone to download - Does anyone think my real picture of the CRT is not the best picture overall? It's not "perfect" either, but what you see is way closer to what I see on the real monitor than any of those screenshots. I think anyone would do well to attempt to learn how to take proper pictures of a real monitor. Personally I think when it can be done right it's the best you can get.

Would love for Phil to download the screenshots he wants and and give his thoughts. Let me know if these are good enough or if you want more specific screenshots. I'm sure I can make some of Wing Commander/Prince of Persia if you still want them.

Anyway, for Phil and anyone else to look at, the following will be links to my actual screenshots: New 320x200 , Last Posts 320x200 , Real CRT , 800x600 , 1600x1200 To 800x600 , 1600x1200 , My Screenshot Of Them All

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Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:54 am

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these pictures. This is from the game First Shapes on the Amiga. It uses medium resolution, the same resolution that Workbench uses.


The above was a direct screenshot from my Amiga which is 640x200, a SUUUPER wide picture that always shows on my NTSC Amiga in 4:3 full screen. Now, even the people that show this game wrong (all of them) do not show it in this super wide aspect ratio. Because they use emulators what they get is PAL mode stretching it into 320x200 and then adding onto the top and bottom a total 56 pixels making it 320x256, which still looks wrong because this game was designed in America to look correct on a 4:3 monitor, but it does not look super wide like the original screenshot is.

I use this because it's a huge example of how there is no way in hell anyone designed anything to look correct in that super wide mode. I do not believe anyone on this planet would think it looked right in the original resolution. It's so obvious that the designers intended it to be stretched. I do believe the hardware (on the computer end or the monitor end) put it into 4:3 and not the end user. I mean it would be great if interviewers gave a crap about this issue and would ask some of the designers these questions... That would be wonderful! I can tell you if I ever got a hold of Jim Sachs I would have asked him a whole lot of questions about the way he wanted these games to be shown where as Matt Barton glossed over it, did not get into the topic, and showed Jim's pictures wrong.


The above is how European users would have seen the 640x200 picture. It would have been stretched by their own PAL machines with black bars on the top and bottom. I can't tell you the exact resolution that the monitor or the hardware would have put it into (PAL medium resolution was 640x256) because their hardware intended it to be stretched. But for consistency I'll say it went into 320x256. They had black bars on the top and bottom which if cropped would turn into 320x200. As you and I know 320x200 is wide and blows up to near 16:9 widescreen. This is the perfect way to tell European users who think 320x200 should be in widescreen that no, they were designed to be stretched in 4:3 on NTSC hardware, and even your precious PAL hardware stretched some images.

You see European Amiga users had extra resolution compared to NTSC Amiga users. This was great IF you had a PAL game that used that resolution. 320x256 (close to 4:3 - But not exactly, even their hardware stretched it a little bit) is going to look better than 320x200 stretched into 4:3 - Of course, extra resolution is always going to be better... But the European Amiga users ended up seeing 320x200 (American NTSC) games inside of their 320x200 display.

So you see where this is a HUGE issue with the Amiga world? They don't know it though. On the real hardware from day one PAL users saw 320x200 games incorrectly. So I have to fight with their very own memories of the actual hardware when I try to tell them this stuff was meant to be stretched into 4:3 - It's a daunting task because if you manage to convince them they usually just end up saying "well, I see what you're saying but THIS is most nostalgic for me" which I believe is a huge disservice to the actual creators of these games. Nobody other than myself is currently showing NTSC Amiga games in the proper 4:3 aspect ratio. Europeans don't even think a single game was ever made in America, that's how much ignorance there is on this subject. They think they are showing it right and despite an actual artist (Jim Sachs) nearly coming to tears over people showing his art wrong, they won't change a thing because it's "nostalgic" for them. It's just an extra headache for me... Trust me I hate when I see DOS games stretched into near 16:9 as well, but I'm happy there are at least some people (like you) who are showing them right. There are a lot of people who played on the actual hardware who remember it that way. Because the Amiga was so big in Europe and they saw it wrong from day one it's just that much more of a pain in the ass for me.


The above was me taking the 640x200 picture and putting it into 800x600, a 4:3 resolution. This is how it's displayed on real NTSC hardware and is what the designers (who designed it on NTSC hardware) wanted you to see. It's the exact same deal with DOS/Amiga because we both had 320x200 as a primary resolution and the designers wanted them to fill the entire 4:3 screen. Now, because Europeans could display 320x200 inside of their 320x256, you do end up getting some games made in Europe in 320x200 that actually should look correct in that widescreen mode. It gets very complicated with the Amiga, which is why I try to tell everyone just to try NTSC mode and see what it offers you. They're going to find that they've been playing a whole hell of a lot of games wrong for a very long time. There were actually a great many American Amiga games as well as a great deal of ports from DOS and other computers that were meant to be shown on an Amiga filling a 4:3 screen. In the words of Jim Sachs, artist for the great original Amiga game Defender of the Crown, "I just wish people would consider it, but nobody does." - I would just like these people to stop and consider it...

The problem is further magnified in that some people who think they know about aspect ratios love to chime in on message boards with "The Circle Argument" as I call it. Some might look at the above First Shapes pictures and think it looks better in PAL mode because perhaps certain shapes line up a little more than in NTSC mode... Because they think they know about aspect ratios they love to point at circle objects and say that they look correct in widescreen. In my post showing Test Drive II above with the computer screens showing correctly in 4:3 VS widescreen the way most people show it - In my original video on the subject I pointed to that game when it showed the Fararri F40 - In PAL mode it's a super skinny car and when you get the actual picture of the car the dimensions are damn near perfect in NTSC mode. I say damn near because "circles" were not perfect. They never were. The main program used to design art on computers back then (Both The Amiga AND DOS) was Deluxe Paint. The designer of the program, thinking mathematically instead of artistically, programed circles to be perfect as you would see looking at a real 320x200 picture. It's just code, he probably never even looked at it when he first designed the thing. What this means is that anyone who is accustomed to looking at circles for aspect ratios (very popular for old television shows) looks at a lot of 320x200 games and they think they know what they're talking about because the circle is perfect in widescreen. It's just so much more complicated than people want to believe. On the real hardware the "perfect circle" in the most used paint program simply did not show a perfect circle in 4:3 - It's unfortunate but true. Now you could make a perfect circle yourself by using the oval tool and just dragging it until it was perfect in 4:3 but the majority of people just used the circle tool if they wanted a circle. And there are plenty of Amiga and DOS games that do not have perfect circles in 4:3 - Circles do not mean a thing with 320x200 resolution. You have to look at everything else. If there's a car, find a real picture of that car... If you see a computer screen, I really don't think the artists of the 1980's wanted a computer to be shown in 16:9 - Just look at the bigger picture. Perhaps First Shapes using so many shapes is not the best example, nevertheless I assure everyone that's an American game and what you see in NTSC mode is the exact same thing the designers saw. Find out where these games were made... If it was America/Canada/Japan then they should be in 4:3 full screen. If it was designed in DOS or on an Apple then it should probably be in 4:3 - It gets complicated but once you come to terms with the fact that most things were simply designed to fully fill your 4:3 display back in the day, it's rather simple a concept to me.

We are all here and we're playing 20+ year old games... How can we be here if we don't consider these games as expressions of art? If these games effected you that much that you're still playing them 20+ years later... Can we not just agree that this stuff qualifies as art? If it's art, lets please do our best to show the art correctly.

Anyway... So what the hell am I supposed to do with a 640x200 picture? What is the mathematical conversion to make that look correct when compared to a CRT? Ah man... Who would have thought showing these things right would be so hard... hahah...

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:51 am

"The Circle Argument"

It's Wrong, Enough Said.

Collected from a real 4:3 VHS tape and showing a real Amiga 2000 in proper dimensions, the 4:3 monitor is displayed filling the entire screen and the circles are not correct. But everything else is. Everything else any artist designed would have looked right this way. Please stop with the circle argument.

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