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Thread: Best And worst Quality FMV (Streaming video) on the Sega CD?

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    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Default Best And worst Quality FMV (Streaming video) on the Sega CD?

    What was the absolute best case of optimization of streaming video for the Sega CD? How many games looked poor simply due to poor optimization or limited compression (or none at all) and how many actually looked reasonably good even when compared to contemporary games (or versions of the same games) on more advanced platforms in the early 90s? (namely PC, Mac, and 3DO, but CD32 and Jaguar also come in)

    Sound comes into play too and there are a few with poorer sound than others, but that seems to be more even throughout compared to video quality. (I'd assume most used uncompressed PCM in the format of the Ricoh PCM chip, though they could vary in sample rate and mono vs stereo -not sure if any are stereo)

    From what I've seen, the best live action example is in Road Rash and the best cartoon animated is probably in Batman and Robbin, and Soulstar has pretty good CGI, as does NovaStorm, though the latter is a bit curious. (they were extremely sparing on dithering such that things look far more posterized and low color -I'd honestly have preferred a bit more dithering to the posterization)
    Batman and Robin and Road Rash both seem to use Sega's custom cinepak derivative as well as tile by tile palette optimization and possibly even reloading palettes (not sticking to the same 4x 15/16-color palettes) and have plenty of dithering, but done fairly tastefully and with fairly high resolution/screen size. (both seem run at 15 fps too)

    There's also cases where video is obviously compressed due to the framerate and resolution used, but it seems odd that compression artifacts aren't visible. In some cases the dithering generally obscures the artifacting too, but in the case of NovaStorm and especially Silpheed they'd need 2:1 compression at the very least (likely more unless mode 2 form 2 data is used allowing 174 kB/s rather than 150 kB/s model 1) yet I can't make out any compression artifacts, and I highly doubt lossless compression is being used. (I think Starblade looks like that as well)


    There are obvious cases of poorly optimized video, I think Rebel Assault is among the worst: it seems they couldn't double buffer it in some cases so you get nasty screen tearing (I have yet to confirm that on real hardware though, but recording seem to support it) with horrible compression artifacts in-game in any cases more than wide open space sequences with a few fighters attacing or capital ships in the distance, and low framerate on top of a ll that. (seems like ~8 fps)
    They also has the end credits as streaming video (and tearing) rather than using hardware scrolling. Rebel Assault is one of the few games to use streaming audio as well as video in-game on the platform. (it probably exacerbated the video quality problem, but honestly should have been OK had they been willing to reduce the screen size instead)

    I think the Digital Pictures games tended to use cinepak, but not as nice as Road Rash or Batman and Robin (perhaps a different version was used) with smaller screens and less optimized dithering, and I think some looked better than others (Sewer Shark generally looks better than Night Trap I think), but at least they all tended to run at 15 fps. There are a few others with added FMV cutscenes like Bram Stoker's Dracula (also has dynamic streaming BG in that case -uncompressed I think) and Terminator, both Cinepak I think, though I haven't looked too much into those in particular.

    Mortal Kombat's intro video used a rather odd format which seems to halve the horizontal resolution with double wide pixels and in some places used double height pixels as well, and on top of that it seems to use temporal dithering: that is using a flickering composite of several similar frames to approximate more detail and or color. (much of the time the graphics seem to be modified every frame though the actual video frame isn't fully updated padded that "dithering" for several frames -with a variable affective framerate of what seems to be 8-12 fps)

    Then you have things like Dragon's Lair which don't use simple ordered dithering like most of the cinepak video (or GIF images), but error diffusion dithering like Floyd–Steinberg dithering giving a somewhat nicer appearance. It also seems to use largely static backgrounds with a moving layer in front of that. (possibly overlaying 2 BG layers or sprites over a BG) I'm not sure if it's compressed or not, but it seems a bit like the way the ST or Amiga floppy ports of Dragon's Lair were handled. (though the animation looks a fair bit smoother and possibly more colorful -or better dithered)


    Then you have the uncompressed video like in Sonic CD, and I think most of the Japanese LaserDisc games (Time Gal, Road Avenger, Cobra Command, etc maybe some others like Keio Flying Squadron -namely Japanese games) were done that way. Usually single layer 16-color images with a fairly small screen size and limited framerate (sonic CD's intro is 256x112 at 8 fps) though they also seem to minimize dithering when possible in favor of carefully chosen colors and reduced color when necessary with some occasional dithering and a fair amount of posterization. (I'd honestly have preferred a little more dithering)
    That ended up giving a rather pixel art-ish appearance and also make it seem rather choppy with the framerate issues. On top of that, Sonic CD's intro (at least) is missing a lot of the scenes from the original animation (included on the PC, Saturn, and GEMS versions of the video) and the only conclusion I can come to is that they felt that cutting out more frames to allow the full length animation to play while keeping within the time limits of the music matched to the original animation was impractical. (they probably could have managed the full animation with a higher framerate if they'd reduced the resolution a bit more -an interesting option to address issues with small screen size would be to hardware scale the low res image; though compression would have been a better option and I'm not sure why they didn't go that route in cases after the sega-cinepak codec became available -1993 at least)


    In all cases the data format used is also an issue as mode 1 is the standard 150 kB/s with error correction, though mode 2 form 2 is also possible with ~174 kB/s and a general lack of error correction. (so possibly used for some cutscenes but likely avoided for in-game FMV -it's the standard data format used for VCDs and most streaming video on the PSX iirc -probably Saturn and 3DO as well -except maybe cases where it's integral to the game)

    Finally here's some examples:
    Road Rash Sega CD
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLfjG9ohXhY See Also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ygd6OBUAOHw (lower quality but square pixel aspect ratio, if you care) And 3DO to the right for comparison http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnpvQlorBac


    Batman and Robin:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdnwyuKC4MM
    (I think that may be from composite video and a bit filtered so you get a bit of blur and obscure most dithering, the Road Rash clips seem to be from emulators so the dithering is more apparent -one could be via RGB, but it's most likely an emulator capture -there are some other uploads that look like real hardware, but many are significantly poorer quality with additional compression artifacts defeating the purpose of the comparison)
    This one seems to be using an Emulator, thus exposing a fair bit more of the dithering:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daVUII1NVRM


    Here's a compilation of the Batman and Robin Cutscenes.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMkKtk_PhWs
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLLImTICjf8




    Also here's a longplay of Rebel Assault with clear enough recording to show the problematic artifacting clearly (I[m fairly sure the screen tearing isn't from the capture hardware either, particularly as it only occurs with large streaming background segments and since a separate TV preview/advertisement also shows screen tearing in the clips shown)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6yOX2vmxgY (note that several cutscenes look considerably nicer and that the main issue isn't color limitations or ugly dithering, but sheer compression artifacts with tons of posterized microblocking)
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 06-23-2010 at 03:45 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    Joe Redifer's Avatar
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    For cartoon, probably Popful Mail or the Chuck Rock 2 is the best. No grain at all, just awesomeness. For live action, I'm not sure. No game that used streaming video also had stereo streaming audio. Some games, like Silpheed, would have stereo audio generated by the system and zero streaming audio.

    Solar Eclipse for the Saturn had the best video quality on that system without the MPEG card, bar none. Not sure how Crystal Dynamics did it, but it looked better than what anyone else achieved on the Saturn as far as video.

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    Stellar Fire for the Sega CD had remarkably clean video for it's opening, but it wasn't that way for the entire thing. The outer space scenes were very clear and seemed to be done specifically with the color palette of the system in mind, but the scenes with the pilots were grainy as hell. Not sure why they didn't clean those up.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Redifer View Post
    For cartoon, probably Popful Mail or the Chuck Rock 2 is the best. No grain at all, just awesomeness. For live action, I'm not sure. No game that used streaming video also had stereo streaming audio. Some games, like Silpheed, would have stereo audio generated by the system and zero streaming audio.
    I think it might be a matter of taste in terms of dithering (I personally don't mind it as much as some seem to), but I'll have to take a look at those. (not sure if it's anything like the BC Racers intro that's not amazing IMO)

    Edit:
    OK so it's a bit like BC Racers but more interesting to watch and seems to have better animation/framerate. (or maybe it's just that the BC Racers intro seems a bit bland -it does seem to run fairly smoothly) Very pixel-art looking, rather like some cartoony DOS games, which isn't a bad thing and it certainly facilitates a lack of dithering. (256 colors in DOS facilitated it more so) I wonder how it's compressed. (perhaps on a tile by tile animation basis)
    The audio is particularly clear as well.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jJ23FMVM2c

    I still think I like Batman and Robin better. (expecially given that the dithering is masked very well in composite video -detial that would otherwise be lost anyway due to composite)
    Sonic CD would have benefited in either case though. (either as Core did with their cartoon animation, or as was done with the Batman animation)


    And Popful Mail's intro does look really nice, though that type of animation really caters to the platform (lots of still shots and panning or minimal animation with mostly still frames), Keio Flying Squadron's intro is a bit like that too though it doesn't look as good and certainly has more posterization. (though there's a bit more action/animation too, not quite the same kind of animation)
    The art was obviously heavily optimized for the Genesis color palette/tile limitations.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGt8dnr09Lw


    Solar Eclipse for the Saturn had the best video quality on that system without the MPEG card, bar none. Not sure how Crystal Dynamics did it, but it looked better than what anyone else achieved on the Saturn as far as video.
    Didn't some Saturn titles used software MPEG/H.261 decoding (not up to VCD standard, obviously)? (the rest used cinepak I think, which would be underkill for the Saturn's processing capabilities -especially if the Audio DSP and/or 68k were taken advantage of, possibly the DSP in the SCU or the SH1 if it's not monopolized by managing the CD drive/buffer full time)

    Quote Originally Posted by The Coop View Post
    Stellar Fire for the Sega CD had remarkably clean video for it's opening, but it wasn't that way for the entire thing. The outer space scenes were very clear and seemed to be done specifically with the color palette of the system in mind, but the scenes with the pilots were grainy as hell. Not sure why they didn't clean those up.
    It's not bad and I was going to mention that too, but it's not as good as Soul Star IMO, perhaps better than NovaStorm in some respects. (like NovaStorm it seems to posterize more than Dither) One interesting feature is that many frames are updated in segments, namely the left half followed by the right half of the screen, almost like intentional screen tearing but obviously more instrumental than that and less noticeable than horizontal tearing mid-screen. (it seems like it may preserve motion better in some cases too rather than waiting 2x as long to update the full screen)



    Oh, and one other thing I forgot to mention was that while I'd initially thought the odd violet/lavender tint to Road Rash's video was done due to palette limitations of the Genesis, it's clear that that's in the other versions too (and presumably the source video), and indeed it's not present in all the frames. Perhaps there's some kind of oddity with the lighting and/or one of the cameras used.
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 06-23-2010 at 04:43 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Huh, really weird how the PCE-CD version of popful mail has a completely different opening animation sequence:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhbEdscObv4
    (depiction of similar events, but different artwork entirely)

    I think I like the PCE's intro style better (it's actually got a bit more in it with that early section), but WOW was the Sega CD version upgraded in-game or what! (PCE seems like it's probably far closer to the PC8801 original)
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 06-23-2010 at 05:14 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    Joe Redifer's Avatar
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    The PCE version does not use streaming video. It's done the same way as most other PCE CDs. There's very little animation.

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    It's Mathmatics Master of Shinobi 64k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Redifer View Post
    For cartoon, probably Popful Mail
    incorrect good sir.

    Popful Mail wasn't compressed video nor video at all.

    It was tile based/in game engine, all of it.

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    Death Bringer Raging in the Streets Black_Tiger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Redifer View Post
    The PCE version does not use streaming video. It's done the same way as most other PCE CDs. There's very little animation.
    Have you tried it with the Arcade Card? Last time I checked it was very well animated and approaches TV cartoon quality.


    I don't think that Popful Mail or Chuck Rock II use fmv. Has anybody examined the disc data to prove that they do? They both appear to be fully touched up, in which case it wouldn't make any sense to stream everything and create a ton of superfluous data (streaming identical tiles over and over) that would max out the bit-rate and cause the quality to suffer... which it doesn't.

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    Joe Redifer's Avatar
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    I can believe that they don't use streaming video, but they are animated better than most PCE and other Sega CD intros.

    Black Tiger, give me ISO of Popful Mail and I will try it with the Arcade Card.

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    It's Mathmatics Master of Shinobi 64k's Avatar
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    they're proper good! the background is for sure tiles, ive dumped them from Video Ram.

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    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 64k View Post
    incorrect good sir.

    Popful Mail wasn't compressed video nor video at all.

    It was tile based/in game engine, all of it.
    Well It's all video, that's the nature of the display.

    The format doesn't matter, and depending on the perspective, using the hardware tile/sprite layer format with scrolling and repositioning to build the animation, that could be considered a form of compression too, just not frame by frame compression.

    Technically the uncompressed video could be in the standard tile format as well, but as whole frames. (they could also be 16-color bitmaps and convert it to tile format in software or using the ASIC)

    But they have to be loading tile data on the fly to build the display it may be buffered into program RAM, but I doubt they could fit all they needed in 768 kB or less.


    I'd imagine Core used a similar method for Chuck Rock 2 and BC Racers,
    Probably many PC games with similar animation too. (but using software blitting rather than tile/sprite/scrolling -Amiga would be hardware blitting)

    I think there's a game on the SNES with a rather impressive intro sequence with similar animation. (it came up before but I can't remember the title)



    Quote Originally Posted by Black_Tiger View Post
    I don't think that Popful Mail or Chuck Rock II use fmv. Has anybody examined the disc data to prove that they do? They both appear to be fully touched up, in which case it wouldn't make any sense to stream everything and create a ton of superfluous data (streaming identical tiles over and over) that would max out the bit-rate and cause the quality to suffer... which it doesn't.
    Again, it depends what you mean by FMV or Streaming video. (soem don't even consider the 2 synonymous -FMV being tied to a specific genre and sometimes live action only -I don't like that definition though)

    It's got to be using streaming data from the CD and buffering it into RAM and then updating the VDP for more animation, but not streaming frame by frame. (with or without compression)

    I'd image Popful Mail on the PCECD uses the same method. (and some of Core's SCD or Amiga games -and some other some PC games)

    It would also imply that it's not CD-DA, but lower quality PCM. (unless they somehow managed to fit all the necessary tile data -possibly compressed- into the Sega CD program RAM)
    Even if it was all in RAM, it would still be streaming, constantly updating VRAM (possibly decompressing pattern data as well), cart based games have streaming video afterall, and streaming audio in some cases. (and some Amiga games -and more ST games- have streaming audio loaded into RAM, basically very long samples -pure PCM streams- and usually reserved for intro/demo sequences -Starglider and Epic on the ST are examples)


    Keio Flying Squadron uses uncompressed frame by frame 16-color streaming video for the intro, but tile animation and what seems to be red book audio for in-game cutscenes. (considerably simpler than Popful Mail)

    Some games do that with digitized photos too, like a lot of DOS games with static or limited animated images and simple animations for the mouths. (Rebel Assault uses that in all the versions -including Sega CD- for most of the characters depicted -a few examples of streaming animation though- Return to Zork uses that too along with a fair bit of streaming video too -less on the floppy version)


    And as I already mentioned, Dragon's Lair does something like that too, with static tile backgrounds and overlaid streaming video.
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 06-24-2010 at 01:16 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    YM2612+SN76489 = eargasm! ESWAT Veteran Christuserloeser's Avatar
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    FMV is FMV, not animated bitmap graphics.
    Quote Originally Posted by Genesis Knight View Post
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    It's Mathmatics Master of Shinobi 64k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christuserloeser View Post
    FMV is FMV, not animated bitmap graphics.
    Badaboom! agree'd

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Redifer View Post
    I can believe that they don't use streaming video, but they are animated better than most PCE and other Sega CD intros.

    Black Tiger, give me ISO of Popful Mail and I will try it with the Arcade Card.
    Unfortunately, the best place I know of to download PCE isos doesn't have Popful Mail. Here's a video of the first cinema as well as the Sega-CD's-





    After comparing them directly again, I can see that they're the same quality (both animated around a 12 fps pace). The PCE version is actually more animated. It's just more drawn out in its storytelling, but is also more consistent. The Sega-CD version spams frames for key actions, but spams non-to-minor-animation for most of the rest. Judging them based on where the animation and non-animation would be used in a TV/OVA production, the PCE version is pretty much just like a TV show while the Sega-CD version overall is more like a traditional PCE/Sega-CD cinema in its inconsistency.

    Lunar EB has full quality animation with full quality detail, shading and coloring (it doesn't look like a four color silkscreen like Popful Mail). I'm surprised that more PCE and Sega-CD games didn't feature animation comparable to OVA/TV shows. Many PCE CD2 games featured cinemas with frequent loads that didn't break the great cinemas (Last Alert for example). When the Super CD format came along, more games should've kept the load times and upped the animation. There are several less mainstream PCE games that do have comparable animation without using fmv, such as 3 x 3 Eyes, Gunbusters, Linda Cubed and of course Popful Mail.



    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Well It's all video, that's the nature of the display.

    The format doesn't matter, and depending on the perspective, using the hardware tile/sprite layer format with scrolling and repositioning to build the animation, that could be considered a form of compression too, just not frame by frame compression.
    True, but then the in-game stages of games like Sonic could also be considered fmv. You'll find that most people consider fmv to be video that was digitized in frame by frame and that real-time cinemas are not the same. It's the exact same as current gen pre-rendered vs real-time cinemas.

    Whether the fmv or real-time cinemas are streaming or not is interesting, but wouldn't change the general use definition of fmv or [whatever anyone calls real-time PCE/Sega-CD cinemas].


    I think there's a game on the SNES with a rather impressive intro sequence with similar animation. (it came up before but I can't remember the title)
    You're probably thinking of Jurassic Park 2-



    It's also real-time.


    I'd image Popful Mail on the PCECD uses the same method. (and some of Core's SCD or Amiga games -and some other some PC games)
    Popful Mail PCE pauses for loading. I think that the Arcade card probably only makes the loads less frequent since the animation looks amazing either way. I once tried to do a comparison between running it in SCD and ACD modes, but it was so close that I could't tell if the Arcade card was working or not, since like most bi-compatible games there's no indication other than content.

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    Joe Redifer's Avatar
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    The Sega CD Popful Mail opening is more impressive. There is much more animation. The PCE version has a finger wiggle here, a mouth open and close there and an arm wave there. Sometimes it gets a bit more complicated with that, but there isn't much in the way of the entire image animating. The Sega CD version looks closer to a TV cartoon (especially since anime as a rule is extremely limited in animation) whereas the PCE version looks like nearly all other PCE intros. Chuck Rock II has more animation than both combined.

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