NTSC games on a vintage early 80s PAL Television

I keep an early 80s colour TV for that classic vintage video look.

‘Rank Arena’ was a local badge for NEC screens in the 70s/80s, presumably because ‘Nippon Electric Company’ may have put off some buyers due to xenophobia or outdated ideas about Japanese products being unreliable.

It could be questioned why would one use a low-end older screen when there are much better, higher quality, RGB equipped alternatives available. In my case only a few inches to the left.

But this screen in particular is great for a period-perfect look when watching VHS tapes.

Yes, it’s the original cut with the voiceover…

It’s also a great screen to play old games with the proper vintage look. But most of my consoles are NTSC, which means a rolling black and white picture.

Luckily, televisions this old still had manual vertical hold adjustment knobs, right on the front in this case.

And so a stable black and white picture is easily attained with a quick adjustment, if squashed due to PAL TVs having 576 lines instead of the 480 of NTSC (or 288 instead of 240 in this case due to old consoles running a 240p signal)

But what about the colour?

There are various cheap NTSC to PAL digital adapters available these days. They work, but they add lag and judder, as they’re essentially buffering frames and rebuilding the analogue signal to display 60hz images in standard PAL 50Hz.

What I really needed was a pure composite colour transcoder. Luckily there was a situation that created demand for such a thing.

In the early 90s, a pseudo-standard called ‘PAL60’ was developed to allow people to watch NTSC video tapes. Compatible VCRs would output in PAL colour, but at 60Hz. Most TVs from the mid 90s onwards could handle a PAL60 signal.

This was fine for a VCR, and the standard was utilised by consoles like the Dreamcast and Gamecube which had PAL60 modes for 60Hz gaming. But if you imported an NTSC console, your PAL60 compatible TV would play at the correct speed – but in black and white, because the TV could not understand the NTSC colour.

Enter composite colour transcoders.

It leaves the signal completely alone apart from analogue transcoding the NTSC colour to PAL. Here’s it running on my NTSC NES.

Voila! Stable full colour 60Hz Castlevania on a very old PAL TV.

The picture remains squashed of course. This could be adjusted via the TV’s geometry controls, but it’s also exactly what PAL games looked like back in the day anyway. Only now they play full speed!

Sure it’s got nothing on playing it via RGB.

But this look has historical value, since it’s what these games looked like for 99% of people in the 80s.

Of course it also works great on the Sega Mark III.

Super Famicom

And any console all the way through to the end of the analogue era. Playing Silent Hill on this screen works beautifully, looking even more like the pulpy VHS experience it was always designed to be.

One thought on “NTSC games on a vintage early 80s PAL Television

  1. Alfonso May 13, 2021 / 11:46 am

    Glad you’re back mate! Cheers

    Like

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