Thursday, October 13, 2011

S-Video Comparo!

Well before anyone was connecting a next-generation console to a next-generation TV with a next-generation HDMI cable, video options for something Super Nintendo and PS1 weren't nearly as exotic. However, they weren't completely limited.

S-video/composite combo cables
 Most of us (myself included) got by with those wonky screw-in RF connectors or composite connectors (you know, the red/white/yellow jobbies), and in our defense, we didn't know any better. But if you were a real baller, you were rocking Donkey Kong Country through S-video.

Unlike composite connectors, which use a single plug to transmit video data to your television, S-video (short for "super video") takes a two-pronged approach. Look inside an S-video cable and you'll see four tiny pins: two pins carry gray scale data, and the other two take care of the color, effectively doubling the video bandwidth over a composite video cable. Not bad, huh?

So how's it look? See for yourself:

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (click for more detail)
  A dark, 2-D game like SOTN is a perfect forum to show off the advantages to S-video. See the added color depth across Richter Belmot's shoulders, and the crispness of the sprites on his scabbard? And take a look at the background; the composite image looks positively muddy in comparison.

Some might argue that the composite image has a nice, smoothed appearance. However, when the sprites start moving, you'll notice a lot of blurring (especially when you're looking this close). S-video keeps those same sprites nice and tidy. The same holds true for on-screen text.

I definitely recommend giving S-video a try on your older consoles. Just about every modern flat panel TV has at least one S-video input, and quite a few CRTs support it, too. And heck--it's the best you're going to do on SNES, PS1, and Saturn.

Check out the slideshow below for even more examples (including that Donkey Kong Country I mentioned). Click any of the images for more detail:

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