First of all lots of thanks to all the readers of my articles about restoring scanlines and deinterlacing classic videogame systems.
The following article focuses on playing games in Tate mode (vertical), but with the TV in Yoko mode (horizontal), even if the games do not support this option. It's a nice little trick and surely interesting for all of us retro-shmup gamers out there.



If you've ever been to an arcade you will have noticed that not all games are made for horizontal displays. Many action games in the glorious 80s ran on vertical screens (Konami's Contra for example) and most new shoot'em up games (Cave's annual shmup extravaganza for example) use vertical displays even today.

Most arcade cabinets feature a (more or less) easy to rotate screen to adjust the display to the game connected. When we saw the first arcade conversions to home systems starting in the early 80s all the game were adjusted to be played on the usual horizontally orientated home television (think of Contra for the NES). While some games got a new screen layout (Galaga 88 on the PC Engine) to be played fullscreen at home, others showed a vertically orientated playscreen with borders on the left and right to fill up the screen.

In the mid 90s (on the Playstation and Saturn) when home systems became able to play arcade-perfect conversion of recent games, some developers introduced a TATE mode in their games. When enabled the normally vertically scrolling screen is rotated by 90 (usually clockwise). Playing games in Tate mode requires gamers either to lay down on their side (just kidding) or to rotate their TV. This can easily achieved with current LCD monitors, but "tating" a 50kg Sony Trinitron TV might be quite a bit of work.

Tate mode usually has two advantages over Yoko mode (Yoko means playing a game vertically with borders on the left and right on a horizontal screen): a) the complete screen is filled up (no more black bars) and b) more actual resolution in the game. To clarify point b) think about a classic Sega Saturn Shoot'em up like Batsugun (from Toaplan). The original resolution of the arcade cab is somewhere in the 320x240p ballpark. The Saturn is running at approx. the same resolution. If you choose Tate mode the game can actually use it's full resolution and will look pretty much arcade-perfect. If you need to play in Yoko mode, the axis' are interchanged. The actual game will run at approx 180x240p and the rest of the screen will be filled up with artwork or black bars. In other words: you're loosing 45% of your resolution.

Another problems brings the new generation of TV sets. While it was pretty much doable to tate a 17" CRT TV and debatable, but still doable to rotate a 29" Sony Trinitron CRT, you'll think twice about rotating your brandnew 50" $3000 Plasma TV panel. As a matter of fact, they are tate-able quite easy with the proper mounting device, but let's be honest: it's still a pain the ass, your girlfriend won't like the idea and hell - even in Yoko mode those games are larger than tated on your old 29" CRT.

But there are two problems to it: a) the loss of resolution (45%) as discussed before and b) your Supergun Jamma setup won't offer a Yoko mode. Those of us running a supergun setup (Jamma to TV adapter) had to have vertical screens around.


The following graphics show a vertically orientated game like ESPGaluda (Cave, PS2, Yoko and Tate mode) on a 52" LCD Sony television. As you can see, it's hard to play in Tate mode while the TV is Yoko (A), pure Tate mode (game plus display) would be nice  (B) and what most of use are dealing with is Yoko mode (C).




The next graphics show the same game on a 29" CRT television. The ratio between the LCD and CRTs pics is correct and you can see that the picture size is not really a problem on large LCDs or Plasmas (C) as the active game area is still larger than on a tated 29" CRT television (E)




(C) pretty much shows my setup. I have a 52" Sony LCD which I don't intend to tate around. Since I like to borrow arcade PCBs from time to time and was always bothererd by the terrible resolution (and scaling and filtering) in Yoko home conversion modes, I was looking for a device which would take a signal and rotate the active play area while keeping the TV in it's horizontal position. In other words: I want my games look like (C) while the games are set to Tate mode (full resolution) or while I have a Jamma Cave shmup connected to the TV.

While searching the web I found a machine from Silicon Optix called ImageAnyplace, but at a price tag of around $3000 it's a bit over the top for just playing around a bit with my videogames. So the idea was cancelled for quite some time, until I got around to try out another wonderful piece of hardware.

The whole concept also can be used to build a "next-gen" Supergun system especially for use with high end LCDs and plasma TVs.



Back in 2003 an US-based company called Immersive introduced a $1500 deinterlacing PCI card called Holo3DGraph. A year later it was succeeded by the Holo3DGraph II and another two years later Immersive went out of business. The cards featured the Faroudja FLI2200 (2300 respectively), a world-class deinterlacing chip for video signals (G) and can be found on the homecinema 2nd hand market nowadays (still not easy).



I first had the idea of using a PC-based videocapture device to rotate a Tate game into Yoko mode a few years ago, but you're usually running into problems. Either the common capture cards don't support RGBs or Component input for good picture quality or they don't support realtime playing (due to encoding delays) or the graphic overlay is just crappy. Remember that they are usually used for recording.

The advantage of the Holo3DGraph cards is that they were made just for that: displaying real-time video input, doing a worldclass job of deinterlacing the signal and display the resulting image without heavy delays. To go on with this "Holo Xperiment" I got myself a handful of Holo3DGraph cards. The one pictured below is a Holo3DGraph II utilizing the Faroudja Genesis FLI2300 (H).




Since the Holog3DGraph (I'll call them Holo from now on) cards don't work on their own, you need a running PC system to plug them in. Since they're pretty oldschool, pratically every PC will do the job. A Pentium 3 running at 1GHz is usually named as the standard system, so any Celeron-equipped $50 mainboard will do it nowadays, even an Atom CPU is fast enough to handle our needs. An onboard graphics card can be used to output the processed video via VGA, DVI or HDMI and all you need is one empty PCI Slot to get the Holo installed.

My test PC was a three year old 3.0Ghz P4 running on a Asus P5 mainboard equipped with 1GB of ram and with a rather fresh 32-bit Windows XP SP1 installed.



The Holo card was of course invented for horizontal screens (displays and projection screens) in mind. But since all graphics cards (from onboard Intel GMA to every ATI Radeon and every Nvidia for years) offer one-click Pivot function, you easily turn your screen content by 90 clockwise or anti-clockwise. This will rotate everything incl. every video overlay, the windows taskbar and all the menus.

The installation of the Holo card is as easy as it gets: find a empty PCI slot, install the card, power up the system, install the driver and start the holo app. On the screenshot below you can see the Holo card's menu. It's easily accessable during playing by click of the mouse or via remote control.

Once done all you need to do is connect your video game systems or PCBs. The standard Holocards offer one BNC jacket (usable as SDI or composite video), one S-Video port and three RCA connectors which can be used for Component (YUV) video. By jumper configuration you can switch the ports to RGB (the SDI input is then used for sync). There's a RGB extension board available which provides a 2nd RGBs input, but the extension board is very hard to find. If you need to switch between component and RGB often you can install a simple jumper switch on the outside of your chassis.

The Holo menu offers LOTS of adjustment possibilities, sharpness controls, picture stretching, border masking and whatsoever. Depending on the graphics card installed you can choose between graphics overlay, VMR7 and VMR9 for rendering. The VMR modes are a bit faster in terms of added delay, but the overall settings (deinterlacing etc) can be tweaked a lot to achieve a delay of about 2 frames which is considerably faster than most TVs on their own.


In the section you'll find a few screenshots of the my test setup, playing a few games in Tate mode using a Holo card to rotate them into Yoko mode. You can also see the Holo cards on screen configuration interface which is pretty nice after all.

First we start with three screenshots from ESPGaluda (PS2 via component video). Note the Yoko orientation while the menu is completely set to Tate !!

On the next screenshot you see a normal (horizontal) game played in this mode (Metal Slug X, PSOne). If you want to switch between Yoko and Tate game you don't have to change your cabling, all you need to do is deactivate the Pivot function of your graphics card (one mouse click).

The next two closeups shall demonstrate the deinterlacing quality of the Holo card. The difference between the two screenshots is the DCDi function which adds diagonal interpolation adding a high-res look to the picture. It can be turned on an off and is - in the end - a matter of taste. (the upper screenshot is without DCDi, the lower one with DCDi enabled).



The chips included on the Holocard also deliver world class capture quality. The screenshots below demonstrate the sheer quality. Any yes, these are real screenshots taken from a real capture video (component connection, HuffYUV Codec befor further encoding). These are NOT emulation screenshots.




If you want to try it yourself, all you need is an old PC ($50 complete systems will easily do the job). If you're building a system from scratch, remember that you don't need anything but a single PCI slot. There are very nice Micro ATX chassis around which can take a single PCI card via a 90 riser card. This one's from Silverstone (called LC19) for example:


512mb of Ram are plenty and any old harddrive will do. In fact you can even just use a 4GB Compactflash card plugged onto the mainboard's HDD connector for a 100% silent system (the CPU can be cooled passively as well, since it won't do anything most of the time). And you need a Holo card of course... You can either watch eBay and hope a Holo card will show up within a timely manner or you can check the classified ads section of homecinema boards like AV Science.

Of course I can be reached via email as well.


And a few Links:


- my blog (in german language)

- AVS videoprocessor forum

- hardware section

- Scanlines demystified (a page of mine about the Emotia scan converters)

- Deinterlacing classic videogame system (another articel of mine and an overview of available upscaling solutions for gamers)


(C) Tobias "Fudoh" Reich, September 2008