Frequently Asked Questions

S-Video (PSX) + T.V Mini-FAQ 1.1
by Terry Lin

Some more minor corrections plus some T.V information at the end, plus some 
info on RGB

1. What is S-Video?
S-Video is one of the high quality methods of transmitting a television signal 
from a device such as a Camcorder, VCR, or a game machine (PSX/Saturn/SNES 
etc).  It separates the color information (Chrominance) from the brightness 
(Luminance), which prevents nasty things like color bleeding and dot crawl, 
and helps increase clarity and sharpness.  You can greatly improve the image 
quality of the PSX by simply converting to S-Video.

2. What are other options besides S-Video?

A. Composite (most common)
   By default, most electronic devices that hook up to your television send a  
   "Composite" Signal.  This is by far the most common of all 4 outputs.  The  
   cable has 3 jacks: yellow,white,and red. One jack sends the audio (left),   
   the second the stereo (right), and the third the video, respectively.  The  
   picture quality is decent but pales in comparison to S-Video or RGB.  The   
   US PSX only comes with a Composite Cable.

B. R/F lead
   R/F is the worst you can get in terms of picture quality.  It hooks up to 
   your cable, and the picture sucks.

   RGB is the absolute best in picture quality.  Better than S-Video.  The 
   reason why RGB looks so great is because there is no additional decoding 
   involved by the monitor.  (The PSX inherently uses an RGB color system)  

3. Is S-Video THAT much better than Composite?
In a word, YES!  The image is at least twice as sharp, and the color 
definition is far far superior.  Because of this the image looks a lot 
"cleaner".  Many fine graphical details in games only become easily visible 
with S-Video (some of which you may not want, more on that later).

4. What do I need to get S-Video working?

The Televsion
   First and foremost, you must have a T.V. that has an S-Video Input Jack.    
   Most newer/higher end T.V.'s have such an S-Video input.  Look in the back  
   of your T.V.  If you see anything with the words "S-Video" on it, you're in 
   business. If not, then you'll need to buy a T.V. that has an S-Video Input  
   Jack.  See question #11 for some recommendations.

The Cable
   So now that you know your T.V. can accept S-Video input, you must buy the   
   cable for your PlayStation.  This cable is NOT included with your PSX.      
   Don't go looking in your PSX box for some other cable that you've missed,   
   it's not there.  This cable is manufactured and made by Sony, and is an     
   "official" PSX accessory, so it shares the same greyish look as the rest of 
   your PSX stuff.
5. Where does the S-Video cable plug in to my PSX?
The Multi-A/V Output on the back of the Playstation.  BTW I recommend NOT 
using the two Audio jacks from the "integrated" S-Video cable.  Instead, take 
your old composite cable, ONLY plug in the two Audio cables (yellow and red) 
into the old Composite Audio Out ports on the PSX, and then hook it up to the 
Audio Input jacks in the back of your T.V.  Sort of like using the integrated 
S-Video cable only for video and the composite cable only for audio.  Makes a 
minor improvement in audio quality, because it's not all packed into one cable 
at the beginning.
6.  Why can't I use a generic S-video cable if I already have one?
Because thanks to Sony there isn't a "standard" S-Video output port on the 
PSX.  There is only a Multi A/V output (and of course the 3 jacks for 
Composite).  Thus you cannot buy regular S-Video cables because only Sony 
knows how to make cables that can plug into the Multi A/V Output.  That is why 
you have to fork over the exorbant US$30 for the official PSX S-Video cable, 
although truthfully you are getting your money's worth because it is a good 
quality S-Video cable.  Crappy S-Video cables that sell for US$2 at Radio 
Shack do not provide the shielding requried to maintain strong colors and you 
get Chromo and Luma crosstalk (which defeats the purpose of using S-Video in 
the first place).

However, a properly shielded S-Video cable won't run you US$30 either, but if 
you think it's worth it to hack your own dedicated S-Video port and save $10 
or so, be my guest.  It involves opening the PSX and buying some electronic 
parts at Radio Shack and some good electronic skills.  It would look pretty 
ugly :)  And the results might not be as good.

7. So now I've got S-Video... I don't see much of a difference.  Why?
Well, if you can't, then you should take a look at what it USED to look like, 
with Composite.  The moment I first saw my PSX with S-Video I was astonished 
at how clear and sharp the picture was, WITHOUT comparing.  I could easily 
distinguish individual pixels.

8. So now I've got S-Video... and my games look WORSE!  Why?
Because S-Video gives you such a sharp picture and excellent color definition, 
you can see all the "artifacts" that regular Composite was hiding up to now 
with its blurry picture.  These include:

- Extensive Dithering
- Crude polygon construction
- Use of checkerboard pattern to provide transparent effect as opposed to a    
  true transparency
- Poor texture mapping

Games that fall into this list are: Need For Speed, Warhawk, Twisted Metal, 
WipeOut (surprise), and most low-end 3D games.

Games that look amazing with S-Video are: SFA, SFZ2, DarkStalkers, Skeleton 
Warriors, Bust-A-Move 2, almost any decent 2D game.

9. Why does S-Video look better? (long and technical)
First, S-Video is "essentially" the same as Chroma & Luma, Brightness & Color, 
or y/c.  They all mean the same thing, in a vague sort of way.  Don't get 
confused here.

A Television set needs a signal in the form of brightness & color, or Chroma & 
Luma, to display a picture.

We all know that to obtain the best quality in video or audio, you want to 
keep encoding/decoding to a minimum and retain the original signal as much as 
possible without modification.

The PSX works with RGB.  So do most things with computer graphics.  All the 
images that the PSX works with are in RGB format.  I have just told you that 
the T.V. does not accept an RGB signal (see #10 for exceptions), so obviously 
at the very least some ENCODING (or converting, whatever suits you best) is 
required, in order to display those RGB images on a T.V.

When you use a composite hookup, the PSX has to encode the RGB image into a 
single signal.  That signal is sent to the Television, where a device called a 
COMB FILTER in the TV separates the composite signal into Chroma & Luma.  
Because there is "separation" AND "encoding" involved, a major loss of 
reproduction quality is observed.

When you use a S-Video hookup, the PSX has to encode the RGB image into two 
separate signals, Chroma and Luma.  Well gosh darnit, isn't that what the TV 
needs in the first place?  Exactly!  The T.V doesn't have to touch the signal 
at all, it just takes what the PSX sends to it and displays it, because it is 
in the right format.  The only loss in quality comes from the "encoding" of 
RGB -> y/c, and this results in a minor loss in reproduction quality.

When you use a RGB hookup with an RGB monitor, it is even better.  Now the PSX 
doesn't have to encode anything, it just sends the signal as it is, and you 
get perfect reproduction quality.  The PSX works with RGB, so does the 
monitor.  A perfect combination.  But an RGB setup is not easy and you are 
limited to small monitor sizes.

This is better illustrated with a diagram: (ascii is cheap I know)

  PSX         |     Cable       |                      T.V               |
                                -----------------           -----------
---R(ed)-----}|\                |               |--chroma--}|         |
---G(reen)---}|----composite---}|T.V comb filter|           | Picture |
---B(lue)----}|/                |               |---luma---}|         |
                                -----------------           -----------

  PSX         |     Cable       |                      T.V               |
                                -----------------           -----------
---R(ed)-----}|------chroma----}|               |--chroma--}|         |
---G(reen)---}|                 |T.V comb filter|           | Picture |
---B(lue)----}|-------luma-----}|   (not used)  |---luma---}|         |
                                -----------------           -----------

  PSX         |     Cable       |        Monitor           |
---R(ed)-----}|----R(ed)--------------}|         |
---G(reen)---}|----G(reen)------------}| Picture |
---B(lue)----}|----B(lue)-------------}|         |

This should illustrate it more clearly.  Note how the comb filter is NOT used 
for S-Video.  This means that T.V's with analog comb filters look just as good 
as those with more expensive digital comb filters (ie Sony XBRs) IF you're 
using S-Video.  However, a T.V. with a digital comb filter will look 
significantly better if you're using composite.  Cable T.V, regular VHS and 
Laserdiscs are all inherently composite, which is why savvy videophiles spend 
the extra US$300 or so on the digital comb filter in their T.V.  

(this gets even more complicated... the comb filter in the T.V. does get used 
even with S-Video, because in the chroma signal are two seaprate signals, i 
and q, but this is getting very estoric and I believe understanding the 
general picture is more important than being confused left and right with this 
tech talk)

(ok, this gets even MORE complicated with those LaserDiscs that have 
S-Video... if your LaserDisc or VHS machine has S-Video then that means there 
is a comb filter in your LaserDisc.  Whether or not it looks better than 
regular composite depends on whether the comb filter in the Laserdisc is 
better than the one in your T.V... remember a comb filter separates a 
composite signal into y/c, and a T.V. needs y/c, so this should clear it up)

10. What about RGB?

People feel that if they're going to spend their time and effort (and some 
$$$) on improving their picture quality of PSX games, then they should shoot 
for the highest thing out there: RGB.  

Well, let me give you some reasons why aiming for RGB is futile and isn't 
worth it.

1. No T.V's today have RGB (BNC) inputs.
   Yes it's true.  Years ago some very high end DirectView and Rear Projection 
   T.V's (r/p's for short) had BNC inputs, but manufacturers realized that     
   this was a waste even on high-end T.V.'s, since less than 1% of the         
   population who bought them were using it.  The other 99% would probably     
   want to save the extra cash by dumping the BNC input.  And so this is what  
   happened.  Today, only some Front Projectors (f/p's for short) have BNC     
   inputs.  The Sony VideoScope VPH-1001Q is one of them, and retails for      
   US$5990.  Go to http://www.sel.sony.com, look up any XBR/XBR^2 and discover 
   for yourself which ones have BNC inputs (there are none).

2. There is no RGB cable for the PSX
   You'd have to hack one yourself.  Same story with S-Video, you need some    
   good electronics skills, and need to find some schematics on how to do it. 

3. Differences are minor
   I have compared SFZ2 on my Sony KV27V20 to SFA2 in the Arcade at SkyGames   
   (local Fairview Mall).  All my friends, including myself, believe the SFZ2  
   at home looks much better, with better color saturation.  So in order to    
   see the benefits of RGB, you'd have to have a very good monitor.  An old    
   13" Commodore 1084 RGB monitor might cut it, but umm... 13"?  

4. Display choices are very limited
   As already stated, you are limited to either a Front Projector ($5000+), a  
   Commodore monitor (tiny), or an Arcade RGB monitor (hard to get).  There    
   are problems with all of them, whether it's a gaping hole in your wallet or 
   having all your friends hunched over by a tiny computer screen, or not      
   being able to use a VCR/LaserDisc with it.

Unless you're extremely rich and the Front Projector is peanuts to you, I'd 
advise you to stay clear of RGB.  It simply isn't worth the money, regardless 
of what type of display output you choose.  And the difference is arguably 
very minor (you could always buy a better T.V and get better quality with 

11. What Television Sets with S-Video do you recommend?

If you do not own a T.V. with S-Video, I can provide you with a basic list of 
recommendations.  I am mostly familiar with Sony's but do know what to avoid 
with other manufacturers.  I read rec.video often, you should too if you're 
considering buying a T.V. and have a particular question to ask (look for 
someone named Louis Carliner in that NG, very helpful person).

In general beware of T.V.'s with Scanning Velocity Modulation (T.V 
manufacturers will advertise this as a feature, but any half-brained 
videophile will tell you this is something to avoid as it causes significant 
ghosting).  The only things you should be looking for are color temperature 
settings, and a digital comb filter if you're planning to enjoy composite 
sources.  Otherwise simply avoid SVM and go for one with color temperature 

Recommended models:

SONY (1996-1997 models)

This is a good choice for those on a budget (like me).  The picture is great, 
but like most Trinitron's, the reds are very strong.  The good thing about 
this set is that it does not have SVM (Scanning Velocity Modulation), which 
sacrifices sharpness for brightness.  Decent analog comb filter provides good 
quality composite at this size.  The quality of S-Video on this set is just 
about the same as any XBR.

If you need PIP and those extra handy-dandy features, you may want this one, 
but beware that it has SVM and you may experience ghosting.  It's been rumored 
that you can't even turn it off in Service mode, and need a technician to open 
your set up to disconnect SVM.  Otherwise it's exactly the same as KV27V20 in 
terms of picture quality.

XBR's (32"+)
At anything above 27" you will probably want a Sony XBR, because with regular 
T.V. and other composite sources, you will need a digital comb filter to avoid 
seeing dot crawl at such a size.  The 32XBR100 is the ultimate in DirectView. 
Even if you don't care about composite, big size V-Series often have SVM and 
cannot be disconnected by the Service mode.


I've only been hearing good things about the Panasonic GAOO series (CT27XF33 
is a good choice), but generally you can only stick with the higher end as 
they are the ones with S-Video.  Cost more than a V-Series but a little less 
than a XBR, but you get a good digital comb filter.  You also get some 
rudimentary color temperature settings (set it on Warm, that's close to the 
NTSC standard).  Unsure about how to disconnect SVM.


Also high on the recommendation list.  I am not too familiar with Hitachi's, 
but they too have been getting good reports in rec.video.


Yet another good contender.  However, avoid anything in the 27-32" size, 
almost all of them have glass comb filters which would make composite rather 
ugly.  Stick with the Cinema series, as most of them have digital comb 
filters.  Toshiba has a nice web site 
(http://www.toshiba.com/tacp/TV/pull.html), it should be easy to do your own 
research if you're considering a Toshiba.  Very unsure about the ability to 
disconnect SVM.

Please avoid Mitsubishi (reputation for inadequate power supplies), RCA, 
Proscan, Magnavox, and mostly anything else not mentioned in this list.  If 
you're buying a T.V now, don't start scrimping.  And if you live in Canada, 

12. What's this service code you're mentioning?

We are really getting off topic, but almost every T.V has a "Service Mode" you 
can enter by punching in a secret code on the remote. 

I only know the code for Sony T.V.'s (this works for V,S, and XBR), and it is:


(must do this when power is off)

In service mode, push 1,4 to cycle; 3,6 to adjust; muting,enter to save  The 
first thing you should adjust is the screen size (VSIZ,HSIZ), as most TV sets 
are generally overscanned by 15-20%.  Once you adjust these watch as all the 
top and bottom screen information gets restored in games like SFA :) 

Also change SHPF to 3, this helps with the sharpness.  Change 
GDRV=18,BDRV=14,GCUT=4,BCUT=1, this will bring color balance closer to NTSC 
standard.  This should make the picture look a bit reddish at first, but after 
you will find it to be much more natural.

Terry Lin {tlin@servtech.com}

Terry Lin

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