RGB Introduction

RGB Introduction

Why RGB?

Said simply, RGB is the best possible video output you can get from classic game consoles, as the video chips inside generate RGB, then break it into the options you’re probably used to.  As a result, when using RGB, the image is sharper, the colors are more defined and it’s overall a much clearer picture.  The best way I can describe RGB vs typical methods of playing classic game systems (composite, RF, etc) is this:  It’s just like looking through a clean window vs. a dirty one.  In many cases, it’s that big of a difference.

Almost every classic game console can output RGB.  Some people in Europe have always used RGB with their consoles, but most people in the US never bothered to find an RGB solution for their game consoles in their heyday, as we didn’t have RGB as inputs in our TV’s.  At that time, the only way to use RGB in the US would have been through an RGB monitor, which was very expensive.  Luckily, you can now find most of that equipment for a fraction of their original cost and there’s even new equipment available that allows you to display RGB signals on newer TV’s.  Now almost any enthusiast can afford a great RGB solution for their classic game console!  Check out what a difference switching to RGB can make (click for full-sized):

What is RGB?

RGB is simply an analog video signal that’s broken into four separate parts:  Red, Green, Blue and Sync (RGBs).  One thing to note is that in the confines of this guide, RGB does not mean high resolution; All game console RGB signals are “standard definition”.  It’s not the resolution of RGB that made it better, it’s the fact that the information for each of the three colors used to present video on a monitor was sent to the monitor separately.  Here’s how it compares to the other analog solutions:

Here’s an example of an RGB signal into an RGB monitor.  The signal is displayed the exact way the console generated it, with each of the Red, Green and Blue signals separated into their own signal, which are then blended together on your display.
Some consoles support S-Video, which separates the video signal into two parts (Chroma and Luma).  You can immediately see the difference in quality, even though S-Video is a decent quality signal.
A more common way to connect classic consoles is through composite video (the Yellow cable in the bundle of Red and White & Yellow cables).  Now you can see a serious reduction in picture quality, as all of the video information is traveling through the same cable.
Finally, the worst signal you can get, which is ironically what most children of the 80’s and 90’s would probably use:  RF.  This signal combines all the video and audio data and “broadcasts” it to your TV. most commonly channel 3 or 4.

Component Video

A common misconception is that the Component Video output from your Nintendo Wii (or your old DVD player) are RGB.  While it’s true that component video separates it’s output to red, green and blue cables, it’s actually a completely different signal that was called YPbPr.  You can get converters that allow you to use RGB on a Component-compatible device, such as a consumer-grade TV, however the quality of those converters varies greatly.


How Does Your Game Console Output RGB?

Most game consoles are able to output an RGB signal via a SCART cable without any further modification.  SCART was a European cable standard that allowed all kinds of signals to pass through it; Composite, Component, S-Video and RGB could all be passed through the same cable.  Since that was the only video cable standard in mass production that supported RGB, that was the only way video game manufacturers could make RGB cables.  As a result, unless you make your own custom cables, all the equipment you’ll need for RGB on retro consoles is SCART-related.


Now that you’re familiar with RGB, please read the section that explains sync.