Smart PSX aspect Ratio: Beetle PSX vs PCSX vs CRT+PS1

Hi everyone. I’ve been tweaking my Retroarch for a long time, in order to play as faithfully to console systems as possible (until I get my hand on a CRT TV). And I’m having head aches with PSX emulation.

So far, I’ve been using Beetle PSX_HW and I noticed black borders on top and bottom on NTSC games, depending on their resolution. I read many topics saying that those borders where there on original hardware, but all footages I found with Real PSX and CRT showed no borders of those games. It seems the CRT monitor automatically vertically stretched pictures that weren’t 4:3 ratio.

I tried different cores on different games, and I had different results. I can’t tell which ones are the closest to real PSX experience on CRT TV or even if the cores are doing well or upgrading things. That’s why I’m asking your help to sort this out.

The weirdest result was with PAL games. Surprisingly, PCSX-Rearmed smartly stretched all PAL Games’ screens to fit 4:3 screen.

Crash Bandicoot In-game resolution of 512x240p

NTSC version with PCSX Rearmed and Beetle PSX (both PAL and NTSC)

PAL version with PCSX Rearmed

I don’t know why PCSX automatically forced 4:3 ratio (I didn’t see any core options related to aspect). As you can see on this video, on real hardware + CRT, same result:

[https://youtu.be/W76nTwHIyKQ?t=75]( Crash 1 on PSX)

It seems to be a PAL PSX running an NTSC Crash Bandicoot. We can see that Boot screen has bottom black border but on title screen (512x240), it fits the entire screen.

Heart of Darkness This is one got me headaches.

NTSC version on Beetle PSX, with no core change regarding NTSC scanlines.

PAL version on Beetle PSX, with no core change regarding PAL scanlines. Obviously, it’s as hideous as imagined for a PAL version with huge borders, picture not even centered.

Both PAL and NTSC on PCSX Rearmed

So which core acts properly? It’s weird why PCSX Rearmed makes PAL Games fill the whole 4:3 screen. I even checked if the buttons were properly circles on the Menu Screen and they are.

Of course, I could use the Beetle PSX PAL and NTSC initial and first scanline options but that solution makes the 480i and 320x240 resolutions go off-screen.

I’ve tried many PAL games and they behave the same accross both cores. Unfortunetaly, I don’t have a CRT for now so I can’t do all the tests I want. I know PSX games have different resolution, even within the same games but:

  • did the CRT smartly scaled pictures to fit 4:3 ratio?
  • Does anyone have pictures of NTSC games with letterbox borders on CRT?

What do you think? Is Beetle PSX lacking this “smart” behaviour or actually very PSX-accurate? Is it a PCSX’s fantasy that shouldn’t normally happen?

Thanks for you help and insight!

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CRTs are shockingly simple machines that are incapable of doing any sort of scaling. However, they did have varying amounts of “overscan,” which caused 5-10% of the image to be cropped off around the edges. Many games took advantage of this to display necessary trash pixels (common on NES and SMS) or just black borders (e.g., SNES has 8 px black borders on top and bottom).

Emulators frequently crop these black borders off, though the “correct”/accurate behavior is to keep them.

I’ve found out that Heart of Darkness PAL has a 256x192 resolution. Since it’s a french game, it was made with PAL CRT, so 1/3 of 768x576. So does it mean they meant to display 1 line out of 3 in order to make it fullscreen on PAL TV? If so, then PCSX acts faithfully.

But if so, it should look weird, with double black scanlines?

I don’t know of any games that did that, no, and I don’t know of any way to tell a TV to show every third line. I suspect it was just padded out with black.

That’s weird then why they chose this kind of resolution. If they display only on odd lines, then the game “fills” 384 lines, so even more black borders than NTSC games on PAL TV which have 576 lines. It’s a 2D games, so not even very PSX’s GPU demanding

Maybe they were going for some sort of cinematic look, I believe Beyond Good & Evil did this later. Plus maybe there were really aiming at the NTSC market.

That’s weird the game’s resolution is exactly one third of PAL resolution. Besides, when fullscreen, the game has correct proportions for circles and squares.

By the way, why does PCSX Rearmed automatically stretch it fullscreen?

I have two CRTs here, both Toshiba, one a “Slim” model and other the standard model and a PSOne, and yes they have black bars on NTSC, but only if you set 4:3 on the TV menu, if you set “Expanded” the image is stretched vertically a little bit. Well, I’m not sure, but looks like the “Expanded” option was the standard of old CRTs and the 4:3 was added in the latest models.

Below: 4:3 vs Expanded

In the end is a freaking mess these aspect ratio subject in CRT era when that time was all about frequency, not resolutions and pixels. I tried to find the round circles, which gives Dino Crisis 2 for example a correct 4:3 aspect game… I’ve even try to find the right aspect ratio on the games manual which actually do not give a 4:3 aspect ratio to Dino Crisis 2… So, no conclusion…

I tried to find in the re-releases…

In the end the 4:3 DAR removing black bars if the game have any (like Squaresoft games) will be in average the most correct aspect ratio for PSX, which is exactly the PCSX ReARMed do. I would use the PCSX ReARMed if it wasn’t the dithering and sound being not as accurate as Beetle.

PS: Need to edit the original post, merge images and do it in separate posts because I m a new user.

There is no set resolution on CRT’s. The ps1 could output as low as 256x224 if it wanted to and many 2D games ran at this resolution, and the CRT just displays that resolution natively. If the games internal resolution was 256x192 it would just fill out the extra lines with black space to make up the remainder so it equals 224 which would fill the screen. So that means 16 black lines on the top and bottom each (and a couple of extra black lines on a PAL version).

From your screens it appears that beetle is displaying Heart of Darkness correctly. That’s 100% what i would expect from a game running at that resolution.

Expanded seems okay with me, aspect-wise. But yeah you’re right, answer to my questions should be this default-expanding option. Is there a way you get Heart of Darkness, to solve that final mystery?

Yeah, looks that the black bars it is a artistic view… In this case the PCSX ReARMed got it completely wrong…

HOD - NTSC - 4:3

HOD - NTSC - Expanded

The artists clearly wanted the game to have a cinematic feel.

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Thanks guys, things just got clearer now. However, that’s still weird why they picked that resolution which is exactly 1/3 of PAL format. I can imagine that the black bars give a cinematic look but when fully expanded with no black bars at all, ratio seems totally correct (as for the circles).

I guess I’ll have to get a PAL tv and a PAL version of this game to finally sort this out and rest in peace :smiley:

Good information thanks for sharing vmware