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Capturing/streaming your retro consoles the right way!

If you're a visual person, I've also included the URL to my video explaining the process.

There is a lot of information (and misinformation) on the internet about how to get the best picture off your retro systems. A lot of it is extremely confusing, especially if you can't be bothered to dig in to the technical specs of broadcast video formats. I spent several days looking over every post and video I could find trying to figure it out. In this guide, I will attempt to break it down for you in an easy to understand way. First, a couple things we'll need:

This is for the latest version, which is a pain to find if you don't know Japanese. The English page still has an older version listed.
-OBS, obviously (I use MP)
-An s-video (or better) output for your system. You can get the Nintendo branded one for around $30 on eBay that'll work with SNES and N64. NES requires some modding...
-A decent capture card

Got everything? Let's dig in!

Open up Amarec. It's not going to make a lot of sense at first, but you can look around and find some other guides that at least explain the basics. What you need to do is hit the config button at the top left. That will bring up your settings. Click on the "Graph 1" tab. Why are these all called graphs? Who knows! But this is going to bring up your capture device settings. Select your capture card under video AND audio. You may also need to select which input if, like me, you have multiple input options.

Now here's the important bit. See that list of nonsense to the right? That's the resolution, frame rate, and color space. Even though the systems actually output a low definition signal (320x240 at 60fps), most capture cards will still read it as a 720x480 interlaced signal. Mine, which supposedly can read 240p signals, reads it as 720x480i at 59.97fps. Here's the thing, though: that's not what we want to select. Even on the AmarecTV web site he says to select the 240 option, but I've tried that and he is wrong. The option we want is 720x480 at 29.97 fps, NOT 59.97 fps. We'll get to why in a minute, but for now, just trust me. For the color space, YUY2 16 bit is what you want for composite or s-video output. If you're already set up for RGB, choose that instead (I'm mostly assuming you're not, so I'm not going to open that can of worms).

Now let's move on to the next tab, graph 2. Here's where our resolution selection is going to get fixed. First, select 4:3 as our ratio. That will take the NTSC 720x480 signal, which uses non-square pixels, and condense it to a 640x480 signal, which is the correct size for the square pixels of modern displays. If you don't choose an option here, it will leave it at 720x480 and look stretched. Next we're going to set our deinterlacing options. You can probably leave it on auto, but I usually set it to top field first, as that probably applies to 99% of what you'll be doing and then you don't have to worry about the software accidentally messing it up. Below that, select "retro game." I'm not totally certain what the different methods do, but that's what you're supposed to use for proper deinterlacing with retro systems and it works just fine for me, even with fast action games.

That's basically it for Amarec, but I do like to set one other option. Under the advanced tab, you can select your resizing options. I like to change the 200% option to 150% so that I get a 720p output (an even multiple of the original 240 signal).

Hit OK and check out what you've got. What you should see is smooth, interlace-free footage running at 60 fps. You may be wondering why that is when we selected the 29.97 fps option. Essentially, Amarec is taking the alternating lines of the interlaced footage, separating them, turning them into full frames, and running them consecutively, which results in double the original number of frames, giving us about 60 fps of smooth, progressive video. This is pretty great! But we haven't recorded or streamed anything yet, which is less great...

OBS to the rescue! I'm not going to dive into the specific streaming or recording settings, as there are other guides on here for that. All you need to do at this point is open up OBS, set it to your resolution of choice (you can record at 640x480 to save space, or, like me, you can record at 1280x720 to keep your videos consistent), and add a window capture source. Supposedly, on older versions of Windows, you can use game capture with Amarec, but on 10 I have to use window capture. Not a big deal, as I can just nudge it up a couple ticks until the window frame goes away. Set your recording to 60 fps so your frame rates match and you don't have problems with flickering sprites and you're good to go!

For those of you wondering, yes, there is a plugin for Amarec that lets you use it as a source. But when I've tried using it, it causes a lot of problems with Amarec, so much so that I couldn't use it at all, so I recommend window capture instead. As an additional side note, using the same settings in a preset in Amarec doesn't seem to work right for me and I'm not sure why, so keep in mind that you might have to just leave it on the "graph" setting rather than a preset to make this work. Unfortunately, Amarec is really the only option for this, so we have to live with its quirks...

Hopefully this guide helps out and clears up some of the confusing information out there. I have found all these settings to be the best options to get me the correct output with relatively sharp video. Happy gaming!
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