[stella] Higher Resolution through Interlacing

Subject: [stella] Higher Resolution through Interlacing
From: "Andrew Davie" <adavie@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 22:19:22 +1000
Uh oh.  I've been thinking!

After Kirk started his tutorial and made the statement "There are 192
visible scan lines on a TV." - which I corrected in a private email which,
amongst other things, explained exactly how NTSC and PAL TV systems work.  I

"No.  TV standards differ from country to country - specifically there are
two standards in common use... PAL (England, Australia and more) and NTSC
(USA, Japan).  PAL standard is 625 scanlines per image, and NTSC is 525
(check these figures!).  Each image is composed of two 'frames' - each frame
being half of the image - so each image we see is actually built of two
halves (one half being the even-numbered scanlines, and the other the
odd-numbered scanlines).  In PAL countries, the powerline frequency is 50Hz,
and the TV picture is, too.  So we see 50 frames drawn per second.  In NTSC
countries, the powerline frequency is 60Hz, so NTSC images update at 60
frames per second.  And THAT is why we have differences between PAL and NTSC
Atari games.  Firstly, the number of frames displayed per second, and
secondly the number of scanlines in each frame.

Now, I said that the TV standards had a whopping number of scanlines per
image - but each frame has roughly half that (625 lines is divided into two
frames of 312.5 lines each).  Now, the correct number of scanlines to
display for a PAL Atari game just happens to be... 312!  Guess what it is on
NTSC?  Let's work it out...   525 lines per image,  interlaced to two
frames... so each frame has 525/2 = 262.5 (ie: 262) lines.  So, dear reader,
our PAL game needs to send 312 lines, and our NTSC needs to send 262.  If we
send more, or less, our TV will be confused.  It might roll the image, it
might not be able to display anything at all!  So, be very very careful that
you are sending the correct number of lines per frame."

As I was saying, affter sending this to Kirk, I started to think a bit more
about how we do Atari 2600 kernels, and exactly what is happening when we
hook up a TV to a '2600.  As I explained above, a TV draws its image in an
interlaced form - that is, each image is actually composed of two fields -
one containing the odd numbered scanlines and the next containing the even
numbered scanlines. But when we write Atari 2600 games, we ignore this, and
(typically) simply send the same data for each field.  This works fine,
because the TV just merges them together (over the two frames) so it looks
like a 312 line (PAL) or 262 line (NTSC) playfield.  But in actuality, we
are seeing a playfield twice the size (in vertical resolution) displayed
twice (first, as odd lines, then the next frame as even lines).  And so
that's how the '2600 display is compatible with a TV - when we write a 312
line kernal for PAL, we are actually sending the TV  624 (+1) lines, making
it compatible with the PAL TV format.  And when we write a 262 line kernal
for NTSC, we are actually sending the TV 524 (+1) lines, making it
compatible with the NTSC TV format.

Soooooo.... my theory is that if we have an Atari Kernel which displays
DIFFERENT images on odd and even FRAMES (that is, it alternates its image
every 1/50th (PAL) or 1/60th (NTSC) second) then we will actually be doing
things the way a broadcast TV image does things.  And if we do that, we
double the vertical resolution of our '2600 display.  So instead of, say,
160 x 192 as a standard resolution - with very little extra work we could
have 160 x 384 resolution.  Now, I may be way off the mark - in which case
I'll be interested to find out where my analysis is incorrect.  But I think
I'm on the right track here.

An interesting side-note to this... I don't believe ANY emulator would be
taking account of the interlaced nature of TV displays. Thus, I don't think
they would cater for the possibility a '2600 game writes its screen in
paired (odd,even) frames.  And as the emulators are pretty much written to
work with EVERY '2600 game,  then the likelyhood is that NO '2600 game to
date has attempted this method (High Resolution through Interlacing).

Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems as if it would work.  I like the idea of
requiring people to play on actual hardware on an actual TV to get the full
effect of a game.  It worked fine with my ChronoColor (TM) technology.  Now
here's another method we can try.  I'll think of a good name for it soon.

Any comments?


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