Testing MiSTer S-Video and Composite


Louis from ZezRetro and I wanted to test out some of the hardware available that lets you output S-Video and Composite from a MiSTer.  There’s multiple ways this can be accomplished and we wanted to test the pro’s and cons of each, live and in real time.  There’s a lot that goes into these conversions and if you’d really like to know what goes into this stuff, unfortunately, the best way is by listening to the full livestream above.  I’ll have some tips below though…

RetroCastle Case (Saturn MiniDIN):  https://www.aliexpress.com/item/3256802518204182.html
MikeS’s Work:  https://github.com/MikeS11/MiSTerFPGA_YC_Encoder
Antonio Villena’s Boards:  https://www.antoniovillena.es/store/product/vga-composite-s-video-adapter/
Pork’s upcoming boards will all be available here:  https://misteraddons.com/
More MiSTer Info:  https://www.retrorgb.com/mister.html
ZezRetro:  https://www.youtube.com/c/zezretro

Composite Video:

This is the hardest thing to achieve.  At the moment, the best solution is the Retro Castle case and I/O board with the variable capacitor.  While yes, you’d have to adjust the variable cap with every core, I think it’s a perfect “available right now” solution.  Also, please note that the cap is like a clock – If you turn it all the way around, it’ll start back to zero again…so you can just slowly spin it around a few times, find the best spot and leave it there.

S-Video:

While S-Video solutions vary, there’s a few good options.  First, if you already have an all-RGB setup with your MiSTer (or any other device), pick up something like the Axunworks or Linuxbot3000 RGBs to S-Video converters.  They’ll even still work with lightgun games when used on a CRT!

If you’d like an S-Video solution contained in a MiSTer case, Retro Castle’s solution can get you S-Video with a Sega Saturn S-Video cable.  PLEASE NOTE:  Just like with any S-Video, something cheap and unshielded with look pretty much like Composite Video.  I didn’t have a good solution available for this livestream, but hope to test one soon.

MiSTerAddons will soon have their own I/O board with Sega Saturn MiniDIN.  It performed well in our tests and seems to be a viable option.  We’ll test more when production samples are ready, but definitely follow them on social media for immediate updates.

The Future:

The future of analog video on the MiSTer is still uncertain:  First, will newer cores require dual RAM, thereby making Direct Video the only solution for analog video?  This is the main reason I’ve held off on my “MiSTer Analog Output” video and only the future will tell.

What comes next isn’t just about Direct Video though!  Developer MikeS has been working on beta cores that include S-Video and Composite support directly, only requiring a basic PCB with a pin converter and simple circuit.  While they have the potential to be the best solution for analog video, that comes at a price.  First and foremost, adding video support to every core is an insane amount of work.  That alone needs to be a major factor.  Next, each core needs to be individually tweaked to get proper levels on the outputs;  Another massive amount of effort.

And lastly, all of this code would have to either stay in separate beta cores, or be merged into the main builds in a way that won’t take away from anything else.  When looking at a project like MiSTer, it’s easy to think “oh that’s a neat feature, they should add it!”…but with every addition comes side-effects and resources used.  A ton of things have to fall into place to allow stuff like this to happen, so let’s hope the team decides on the best overall solution that will benefit the most people.

…and if you’re looking for an easy way to get started with MiSTer, check out the video below:

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