POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Talk about anything PB2K related.

Which monitor solution would you choose (read details below first)

LCD
26
76%
19" computer crt
1
3%
Original monitor with converter
7
21%
 
Total votes: 34

Basil
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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by Basil » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:14 am

I would like to keep my original monitor as long as its working.
When it goes I would like the LCD slide in with mounting kit as a replacement.
So if that video card option is available I would think that would be the way to go.
I would buy the optional converter too if that was the only option.

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Chuck
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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by Chuck » Tue Dec 16, 2008 12:06 pm

A lot of good questions/comments and a few misconceptions.

Mickster:
LCD black level - Did you see my machine running with the LCD? I just have to ask because no one complained about black level. There is a minimal "glow" from the backlighting of the LCD and *if* it bothered you it would be easy to reduce through a few methods. As the hologram effects goes everyone said the lcd produces a better effect.

Computer Monitor:
If you used a flatscreen or trinitron monitor this would be somewhat of an issue. Most non-flatscreen monitors would work great. The trinitron might work I've just never tried one.

Scan converter:
We tried this route and weren't happy because of the image quality issue. Ours would be a specific purpose converter and as such we wouldn't suffer from most of the issues that the other do.

I disagree that not solving this problem in the computer will "kill sales." Not solving the problem would cause us to lose sales but we are solving the issue.

As far as integrated vga cards go, there is a way to drive a cga monitor through software. Steve said I couldn't do it and I took the challenge and made it work (mostly.) :wink: The problem is using *any* vga card to drive a cga arcade monitor is a hack. The hack is somewhat easy to do on ATI cards. It's a complete PITA on Nvidia cards. It also doesn't work well with all pb2k monitors. We all spent about two months trying to make this work and decided it was not a good solution.

Please be blunt ;-) I appreciate people getting right to the point.

Subarubrat:
We have also tried the ultimarc card. As a matter of fact two Alpha testers are using them right now. I also have one. The problem is that the card only supports 16bit color. Xwindows grabs certain colors for effects and it screws up some of the color in the game. We can run Nucore from a terminal without xwindows but there are other issues that come up. We *may* be able to solve these issues (we have to a certain extent.) Right now I'm not comfortable suggesting the card.

LCD Wide Screen Format:
I was bummed that I couldn't get 4:3 lcd's anymore. I ended up buying a dell 22" widescreen thinking there might be an issue. I was pleasantly suprised at the effect a widescreen had. Since the widescreen is wide you don't really see the edges of the monitor on the glass like you do with the original monitor. This is really very cool IMO. The character positioning is not perfect. I compensated for this by adjusting the pixel clock on the monitor. Again, this is something you have to see and decide for yourself. My experience is that everyone was blown away with my 22" lcd ;-)

Jazzman:

Modifying the cabinet:
This is a misconception that just about everyone has. When I installed my LCD I didn't want to modify the cabinet at all and I didn't. One of our alpha testers even machined special mounting brackets for this purpose. All you have to do is screw it on. One could argue that adding 4-8 screws is modifying the cabinet. If you removed the lcd you could re-install the original monitor with no problems.

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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by ChadTower » Tue Dec 16, 2008 12:22 pm

Where are you getting the $250 price from on the LCD? If you wait for a decent sale 19" LCDs can be had at half that.

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Chuck
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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by Chuck » Tue Dec 16, 2008 1:10 pm

ChadTower wrote:Where are you getting the $250 price from on the LCD? If you wait for a decent sale 19" LCDs can be had at half that.
I actually paid less than that for my 22" dell. I do suggest a 22" widescreen btw. A 19" lcd is really only ~18" due to the bezel. So you really have to get a 20" or >

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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by ChadTower » Tue Dec 16, 2008 3:12 pm

Chuck wrote:
ChadTower wrote:Where are you getting the $250 price from on the LCD? If you wait for a decent sale 19" LCDs can be had at half that.
I actually paid less than that for my 22" dell. I do suggest a 22" widescreen btw. A 19" lcd is really only ~18" due to the bezel. So you really have to get a 20" or >

Good to know. If you look at a place like NewEgg 22" widescreens are starting at $160 right now. That's a sale price but the way things are going I expect them to go lower before they stabilize.

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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by Chuck » Tue Dec 16, 2008 4:37 pm

ChadTower wrote:
Chuck wrote:
ChadTower wrote:Where are you getting the $250 price from on the LCD? If you wait for a decent sale 19" LCDs can be had at half that.
I actually paid less than that for my 22" dell. I do suggest a 22" widescreen btw. A 19" lcd is really only ~18" due to the bezel. So you really have to get a 20" or >
Good to know. If you look at a place like NewEgg 22" widescreens are starting at $160 right now. That's a sale price but the way things are going I expect them to go lower before they stabilize.
Great price.

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nwojedi
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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by nwojedi » Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:01 pm

i'd say LCD as well. Thou i'd like to use the standard CRT till it takes a shit.

skulz
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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by skulz » Tue Dec 16, 2008 7:18 pm

i'd go with a 22" lcd

Subarubrat
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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by Subarubrat » Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:21 pm

We can run Nucore from a terminal without xwindows but there are other issues that come up. We *may* be able to solve these issues (we have to a certain extent.) Right now I'm not comfortable suggesting the card.
Ok, not trying to reverse engineer, just really curious so this question is just to satisfy my curiosity and interest in how this whole thing is pulled off. I work in a Unix (Solaris 8) environment (mission control center) and do a fair amount of tweaking of perl scripts, config files etc. so I am comfortable in the command line/ terminal environment. If Nucore can run from a terminal/shell why not skip booting into xwindows, most people will be using their Nucore system as a dedicated machine anyway so why not boot into Nucore from the shell?

I understand that making multiple variants could get out of control real quick, but as a turn key or build it yourself for advanced users the ArcadeVga card and nucore running in shell could be a great fix for keeping the original monitor and skipping the scan converter.

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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by Chuck » Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:26 pm

Subarubrat wrote:
We can run Nucore from a terminal without xwindows but there are other issues that come up. We *may* be able to solve these issues (we have to a certain extent.) Right now I'm not comfortable suggesting the card.
Ok, not trying to reverse engineer, just really curious so this question is just to satisfy my curiosity and interest in how this whole thing is pulled off. I work in a Unix (Solaris 8) environment (mission control center) and do a fair amount of tweaking of perl scripts, config files etc. so I am comfortable in the command line/ terminal environment. If Nucore can run from a terminal/shell why not skip booting into xwindows, most people will be using their Nucore system as a dedicated machine anyway so why not boot into Nucore from the shell?

I understand that making multiple variants could get out of control real quick, but as a turn key or build it yourself for advanced users the ArcadeVga card and nucore running in shell could be a great fix for keeping the original monitor and skipping the scan converter.
Actually it will run from a terminal outside of x windows (I wrote 2 rendering engines so both could be supported.) The issue is there are "hiccups" that interrupt the app from time to time even when you have the priority of Nucore set to max. We haven't been able to determine what causes them. If you have ideas email me ;-)

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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by Kenbo » Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:43 am

You guys aren't running a linux "so called realtime" kernel? Straight Ubuntu?

I was thinking earlier today how I'd love to write a game on QNX.

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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by mickster » Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:41 am

Yes I did, but I didn't get a chance to get to close to it or to play it at expo. The few times that I was around when it was up and running there were people playing/checking it out. One thing about incorrect black level is that it will show up in pictures/videos. I will take some time to checkout what you have online and post my opinions. Glad to hear that you plan on solving this issue one way or another.

Also, the reason you listed below that you like the larger monitor shows that even your original monitor had an incorrect black level. If the monitor is properly adjusted you won't see the edge of the screen. The monitor is not there to produce a 4:3 complete image. Its there to show the individual graphic items and nothing else. The only reason you should ever notice the edge of the screen is if graphics are being drawn all the way to the edge of the screen (almost all of star wars for instance).

One of the reasons you most likely didn't get any complaints (and the reason some seem so quick to jump to LCD) is that most people don't know how to adjust colors on a monitor to begin with. They just crank up the brightness/contrast to be as bright as possible (just like most tvs are misadjusted in the stores to show an incorrect over bright image). You will get a blank stare from most when you talk about Gamma, oversaturation, black level, etc..... As far as not getting any complaints and people are happy with the lcd, you really didn't have a setup to compare what people were actually looking at. If you know what you are looking for (or have a side to side comparison). You really start to see the differences. Also correct black level helps with the pinball part of the game, not the 'holo' part. (explanation below)

It doesn't help that many pin2000's (including the RFM at expo) have bad monitors or monitors that need rebuilt/adjusted. If you really want to do some comparisons, try using one of the video amplifiers listed in clay's 2000 repair guide(it was me that submitted the info to begin with). The difference is stunning to say the least.

I hope you don't need to go the converter route. Problem is with that is you are adding parts/cost to the process that really don't need to be there. You need to output the correct signal as opposed to outputing the incorrect signal and then fixing it with an 'oops' pcb. Finding the right video card for this project is the key.

Now to babble on a bit here is the reason for why I think 'black level' is an issue:

Normally setting black level on a tv set or monitor is purely personal taste. Some people will sacrifice good black level for a better brightness and saturation, while others want the absolute most brightness range (true black-pure white) possible and will fiddle with controls forever to achieve it.

Now with pinball 2000 (or any video game that uses a reflected mirror such as omega race and space invaders to name a few) black level becomes extra important. The reason is you are not trying to reflect the entire image that is being created by the tube or screen. You only want to reflect the particular graphics being rendered. The reason for this is you are looking through the image to see the rest of the playfield. When the black level is wrong, instead of seeing just the 'individual holograms' you instead seeing a 'transparent sheet of paper of holograms'. You don't see 'holograms' anymore, you see a reflected TV screen. Now it is also important to have nice bright graphics to begin with, it takes both to achieve the trick. You need a picture with very high contrast (black background with vivid foreground). This is also most likely why you didn't get any complaints when you have shown your current lcd rig. The fact you are outputing a non-interlaced signal at a higher resolution, you are helping the other side of the coin (brighter, more detailed graphics). This makes things easier to see and punches up the explosions and animations. This definitely makes the foreground better. The problem is you are trying to achieve more than this. You are trying to create a hologram by showing some of the screen (achieved by the playfield glass) and the back of the pinball machine (to create the real 3d stage that the 'hologram actors' perform on). Here are two other examples of this:

1) 1979 Midway Space Invaders. It uses a half silvered mirror to reflect the game on a 'lunar moon' background. They also use a white black light bulb to help achieve the effect.

2) Atari Battlezone. It uses a half silvered mirror to reflect the vector graphics (vector monitors have perfect black level because of the design as opposed to normal raster monitors) onto a 'control panel' background. Not only does it combine the images, but ends up making the cabinet look extra deep.

Ok back to the explanation:

Another issue with pinball 2000 is that output levels of the standard pin2000 computer are actually low compared to what the monitor needs to drive it. This causes a 'low contrast' condition. This can be fixed by a $15 video amplifier and is described a little more in Clays pinball repair guide. Also many pinball 2000 machines have working, but dim monitors due to dried out capacitors and poor quality picture tubes in some of the games. How does the average person fix the above problem, they just crank up the brightness and contrast controls to the max and figure if they can see the image it must be right. Most don't realize what they missing because they don't know what they are looking at. The reason that I do is that I have been repairing and adjusting monitors/tvs for about 20 years now. I can walk by a row of classic games at this point and notice right away purity, convergence, geometry, mis-adjusted color guns/bias. Also being a classic game collector has allowed me to goof with a decent number of games that use half silvered mirrors and use the same 'trick' as pinball 2000.

George Gomez and Pat Lawlor specifically designed their game to use this type of 'trick'. George and Pat wanted a game with 'holographic' characters. Star Wars was designed with something else in mind. Its designers went with a complete image with backgrounds. With this game, black level is not nearly as important. If you watch the movie tilt, it even explains how George was disappointed with how the star wars images are displayed (It may be in the extras, I don't remember at this point).

Well I think that is more than enough about black levels!
Later,
Mickey


Chuck wrote:A lot of good questions/comments and a few misconceptions.

Mickster:
LCD black level - Did you see my machine running with the LCD? I just have to ask because no one complained about black level. There is a minimal "glow" from the backlighting of the LCD and *if* it bothered you it would be easy to reduce through a few methods. As the hologram effects goes everyone said the lcd produces a better effect.

Computer Monitor:
If you used a flatscreen or trinitron monitor this would be somewhat of an issue. Most non-flatscreen monitors would work great. The trinitron might work I've just never tried one.

Scan converter:
We tried this route and weren't happy because of the image quality issue. Ours would be a specific purpose converter and as such we wouldn't suffer from most of the issues that the other do.

I disagree that not solving this problem in the computer will "kill sales." Not solving the problem would cause us to lose sales but we are solving the issue.

As far as integrated vga cards go, there is a way to drive a cga monitor through software. Steve said I couldn't do it and I took the challenge and made it work (mostly.) :wink: The problem is using *any* vga card to drive a cga arcade monitor is a hack. The hack is somewhat easy to do on ATI cards. It's a complete PITA on Nvidia cards. It also doesn't work well with all pb2k monitors. We all spent about two months trying to make this work and decided it was not a good solution.

Please be blunt ;-) I appreciate people getting right to the point.

Subarubrat:
We have also tried the ultimarc card. As a matter of fact two Alpha testers are using them right now. I also have one. The problem is that the card only supports 16bit color. Xwindows grabs certain colors for effects and it screws up some of the color in the game. We can run Nucore from a terminal without xwindows but there are other issues that come up. We *may* be able to solve these issues (we have to a certain extent.) Right now I'm not comfortable suggesting the card.

LCD Wide Screen Format:
I was bummed that I couldn't get 4:3 lcd's anymore. I ended up buying a dell 22" widescreen thinking there might be an issue. I was pleasantly suprised at the effect a widescreen had. Since the widescreen is wide you don't really see the edges of the monitor on the glass like you do with the original monitor. This is really very cool IMO. The character positioning is not perfect. I compensated for this by adjusting the pixel clock on the monitor. Again, this is something you have to see and decide for yourself. My experience is that everyone was blown away with my 22" lcd ;-)

Jazzman:

Modifying the cabinet:
This is a misconception that just about everyone has. When I installed my LCD I didn't want to modify the cabinet at all and I didn't. One of our alpha testers even machined special mounting brackets for this purpose. All you have to do is screw it on. One could argue that adding 4-8 screws is modifying the cabinet. If you removed the lcd you could re-install the original monitor with no problems.

mickster
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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by mickster » Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:44 am

Yep I saw it, but did not get a chance to play it. Black level would only be affected by the monitor adjustments and the type of monitor displaying the image.



Menace wrote:
mickster wrote:1) LCD con -- Absolutely horrible black level on most LCD's. This ruins the hologram effect in RFM. What happens instead of seeing individual hologram targets, you have a big square image that pretty much shows the player he is looking at a reflected monitor instead of a 'floating hologram'. For star wars it isn't a real big deal since most of the game is designed with backgrounds. RFM has plenty of images with black backgrounds.
I'm not sure if you've seen the NuCore game in person (assuming not), but I was fortunate enough to see it / play it @ Expo this year, and even with the LCD installed I saw nothing of what you described as being an issue. The P2K glass is only slightly mirrored at the top anyway, and I would think that would interfere with the black level more than anything, so a moot point?

As for the wide screen "stretch" issue mentioned, I'm sure Chuck will chime in to explain (can't remember what it's called exactly - pixel shift?), but they have taken this into account and it's not an issue. (again, played it first hand @ Expo and all the images line up correctly with targets etc on the PF)

Doug

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Chuck
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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by Chuck » Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:22 pm

mickster wrote:One of the reasons you most likely didn't get any complaints (and the reason some seem so quick to jump to LCD) is that most people don't know how to adjust colors on a monitor to begin with. They just crank up the brightness/contrast to be as bright as possible (just like most tvs are misadjusted in the stores to show an incorrect over bright image). You will get a blank stare from most when you talk about Gamma, oversaturation, black level, etc..... As far as not getting any complaints and people are happy with the lcd, you really didn't have a setup to compare what people were actually looking at. If you know what you are looking for (or have a side to side comparison). You really start to see the differences. Also correct black level helps with the pinball part of the game, not the 'holo' part. (explanation below)
This is absolutely correct. Most people don't know how to tweak a crt to get the best possible picture. Also most people should never attempt to try and re-cap a crt board. So if a monitor is bad, which most are, it should be replaced anyway. Why not use a LCD?
mickster wrote:You need to output the correct signal as opposed to outputing the incorrect signal and then fixing it with an 'oops' pcb.
Mick, earlier you suggest fixing a tired crt with an "oops" pcb. Why not correct the problem instead of using a hack fix? :wink:

You are suggesting there is video card to solve this issue and there isn't (outside of the arcadevga which is somewhat problematic - but we *may* be able to fix the problems) We will not provide a low-quality solution. That's why we won't suggest video converters we've tested.
mickster wrote:Now to babble on a bit here is the reason for why I think 'black level' is an issue:
I do understand black level but I do appreciate your writeup explaining it to others. I am actually a little bit of a nut about it myself. Every once in a while I pop my Avid disc into my blue ray player and cabilbrate my projector to set contrast/saturation/and black level. The funny thing is this is an issue I did bring up at expo. I mentioned it to a few people and they looked and felt it wasn't an issue at all. I also mentioned before that I do have a fix for it ;-) It's also worthy to mention Larry DeMar's reaction to my machine. He really was "blown away." He said we made pinball 2000 better. He loved the LCD among other things.
mickster wrote:George Gomez and Pat Lawlor specifically designed their game to use this type of 'trick'. George and Pat wanted a game with 'holographic' characters.
It might suprise you to know that, either Larry or Cameron (I can't remember which), said they wanted to use and LCD in the original design but didn't due to costs. So maybe we've helped realize the design team's original vision?

The good news is the people who want an LCD can buy one. The people who want to keep their original CRT can. And you will be able to tweak you monitor to the best possible setting and have the black level you desire. Everyone can be happy =)

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Re: POLL: Pay for a video converter or replace monitor?

Post by ChadTower » Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:38 pm

Speaking of black level and image edges... is there a bezel in a pin2k cab? I get a little bit of a halo around mine because light leaks through around the edge of the CRT. Not much but I can't imagine that was part of the original design.

Actually thats a common problem. It's pretty easy to fix. You can buy weatherstripping and run it around the edge of your monitor. That should take care of it.

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