CRT Pixels FAQ
Q: "What's the purpose of this blog?"
A: To compare our modern idea of sharp, pixelated retro game visuals with the reality of how they looked on the CRT televisions they were designed for, with the purpose of raising awareness, creating interest in preserving CRTs, but mostly to have fun.
Q: "Did you know that CRTs don't actually have pixels?"
A: Yes, that's the joke. Our modern perception of how retro games look today creates a disconnect with how retro games look in our memory. That's this account.
Q: "Which is better? (blank) or (blank)?"
A: I'm really not here to make objective judgements on anything. I have my own personal preferences, but even those change week to week. Play however looks best to you, on whatever works best for you and be patient and kind to other people. There is no black and white in this space, it's all shades of grey. Stop arguing and play some damn video games.
Q: "Do you hate emulators?"
A: Absolutely not. I adore emulators and use them every day on a variety of devices. They are incredible, versatile programs that can be used and tweaked in near infinite ways and it is a miracle that they even exist. I want to always do my utmost not to downplay the hard work of the amazing people that make them.
Q: "Why don't you use filters, scanlines, and other options to enhance your emulator images?"
A: I love CRT filters! However, my interest is in comparing the sharp, "raw" image to an actual CRT. Filters can take a lot of tweaking and also differ greatly between each other. I'd rather leave the exploration of those up to the individual or the folks in my replies.
Q: "Do you have any suggestions for CRT filters?"
A: I am not incredibly knowledgeable about CRT filters, but I get this question a lot so I should probably try some more. I like what I've used of Blargg's NTSC and folks in my replies seem to like CRT Royale and CRT Hyllian. Feel free to share your own examples!
Q: "Do you think CRTs are superior to modern LCD displays?"
A: No! Both CRTs and LCDs have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. I just think the strengths of CRTs are under-represented and misunderstood, especially to the average person, so I'd like try and raise awareness.
Q: "Why do you always use crappy CRTs and only Composite inputs?" / "Why do you always use an expensive PVM and only RGB inputs?"
A: I try to cover a broad range of displays and inputs as much as I can with what I have available to me. Sometimes my own bias may leak through just because it's what I am already set up for, but I really do my best. Composite/S-Video may get a bit of an edge simply because they make for more striking comparisons on a Twitter timeline. If you feel your preferred display method is under-represented, feel free to submit your own comparison.
Q: "Do you calibrate your CRTs?"
A: To the best of my ability, but nothing here is dialed in perfectly. I am constantly adjusting and trying to get closer to perfection though. This is hard to do between several different sets that all photograph differently, so I always appreciate some patience in this regard. I also sometimes photograph friends' sets which may not be calibrated at all, so keep that in mind, though I do try to note when I do.
Q: "Why do you display emulator screenshots at (blank) aspect ratio?"
A: I originally posted my emulator screenshots at 1:1 "pixel perfect" aspect ratios to demonstrate how the original CRT displayed the game's visuals slightly stretched to 4:3. I have since decided to adjust my emulator screenshots to 4:3 to make for a more fair comparison, but at times I may still utilize a 1:1 screenshot to intentionally demonstrate how artists accounted for the 4:3 stretch.
Q: "Where do you get your games from?"
A: My shelf! I have been collecting retro games for 20+ years now and have quite an extensive personal collection. I do sometimes use emulation devices like the MiSTer FPGA to fill in the gaps though and eventually I hope to add some flash carts to my tool belt as well.
Q: "Do you take donations?"
A: YES! All donations go towards new hardware, not software, but you are also free to donate whatever items you want if you'd like me to cover them. You can find a link to our Ko-Fi for donations at the bottom of the page or just DM me if you have something you'd like to send.
Q: "Will you cover (game title)?"
A: I don't take requests, (except from donors), but hey shoot your shot. If it lines up with something I wanted to cover anyway, you never know. If you DO make a request, please search "@CRTPixels" and the title of the game you're requesting first to see if I've covered it already.
Q: "Do you have any tips for photographing CRTs?"
A: Turn off the lights. Shutter speed 1/60 or 1/30 to avoid refresh lines, white balance set to "Cloudy" or manually adjusted, ISO as low as possible without being too dark or blowing out your highlights, manually adjust focus. I usually shoot just slightly out of focus to avoid moire lines. If your TV is too bright, try bringing down the "Picture" or "Contrast" setting in the TV menu. In post you will almost always need to bring your saturation down a bit and probably warm up your white balance. Almost every CRT I've ever photographed has wound up looking more blue than it did in person. Adjust for this in camera before you get your shot if you can.
Q: "I want to get into CRT gaming, do you have any beginner tips?"
A: Don't get lost in the details. Check out your local recycling center, Facebook Marketplace, or even the curb on trash day. A 13" or 20" is perfect. Most people prefer Sony, JVC, or Toshiba, but start with what works for you, what you have access to, and what's most affordable. You can always learn more and worry about the details down the road. If you want a console to get started, I recommend the Nintendo Wii. They're cheap, easy to hack, have access to several generations of retro games, and look great on a CRT through any input!
Q: "What is the best game series in history?"
A: Kirby. Obviously.