What’s more exciting than our new website design? One thing that is definitely better is the announcement of the new OSSC Pro! That’s right, our favourite line doubler is getting an upgrade and the new Pro model is far more than just a few little tweaks and revisions.
Introducing OSSC Pro
OSSC Pro is a whole new scan converter that is currently a work in progress project. Development is now at an advanced phase and several prototype models already exist. While the first OSSC was designed to replace ageing line doublers such as the XRGB2 and XRGB3, OSSC Pro is designed to improve significantly on the original model. It brings lots of exciting new features that the community asked for. In other words, you asked for a Framemeister killer and now we’re going to deliver one! While it is important to remember that many of the features we talk about in this article aren’t implemented yet, the OSSC Pro hardware is certainly a powerful piece of kit and capable of everything we talk about here. It will be up to the community to help develop the required software to enable all of these features.
Cyclone V power
OSSC Pro will be powered by the new Cyclone V FPGA chip (the first OSSC was powered by a Cyclone 4 chip). You can think of this as the CPU of the OSSC, this more powerful chip will deliver higher performance and more resources, allowing developers to add all kinds of great new functions to the device.
Along with a beefed up CPU, the new device has 512MB of RAM and 16MB of flash. That’s 16 megabytes for firmware and 512 megabytes that can be used for all kinds of things, including a full frame buffer, but more on that later.
OSSC Pro will feature RGB SCART, D-Sub 15 (VGA) and component video inputs, just like the existing OSSC. It will also add a HDMI input and a SPDIF digital audio input.
The HDMI input can be used to scale and process video from HDMI modded consoles such as the Wiidual or GCDual, or to add scanlines or other picture processing effects to more modern consoles such as an Xbox 360 or PS3. The hardware is also capable of downscaling (converting to 240p or 480i) which would allow enthusiasts to display modern games on classic displays.
On the side of the OSSC pro is a 2×20 pin “GPIO” expansion connector. This connector has enough bandwidth for any number of expansion modules which will appear for the OSSC Pro in the future. One of the first planned expansions will be Composite and S-Video inputs (the upcoming Koryuu transcoder will also be fully compatible with both OSSC and OSSC Pro). After that, the sky is the limit. Markus Hiienkari, creator of both the OSSC and OSSC Pro, had a few ideas for modules that would be possible:-
- A secondary video output (e.g. VGA) module for connecting to CRTs
- Latency/input lag tester interface module, similar to the Time Sleuth
- A game controller port module
A game controller port module? Why would an upscaler need a controller port module? To answer that we need to look at another project that’s becoming popular in the retro gaming scene, the MISTer.
The MISTer is a repurposed DE10-Nano development board with a few add-on boards for video output, game controller connection etc. This board also contains a Cyclone 5 FPGA chip at its heart. The Cyclone 5 is so powerful it can actually be re-programmed to act exactly like the CPUs and chipsets that used to drive our favourite classic games consoles. In other words, the MISTer system is like a very accurate clone of these older machines. Think of it like an emulator you might run on your PC, but at an even lower level, resulting in a simulation that’s extremely accurate and without the problems of input lag that often (though not always) crop up with PC based emulators. An enthusiastic team of developers builds and maintains new and existing “cores”, which bring more and more classic consoles and computers to the platform.
Since the OSSC Pro is based around the same Cyclone 5 architecture, it can also be used in this way. Imagine, OSSC Pro could upscale your favourite, original consoles that you have owned since your childhood, while running highly accurate FPGA based simulations of other systems you don’t have the space for in your setup. The possibilities are nearly limitless. Given that OSSC Pro shares the same FPGA, porting over cores from MISTer should be easy.
Unprecedented scaling flexibility
OSSC was designed as a pure line multiplier. One scanline in, two or more out. Line multiplication has a huge advantage over frame buffer based scaling because there is just a nanosecond or two of input lag, compared with at least a frame (16ms) with frame-buffer based scaling.
However, only so much can be achieved with line multiplication. Deinterlacing, for instance, was often considered to be the Achilles heel of the original OSSC, with only a basic, flickery bob deinterlacing possible due to the design of the unit.
Because of this, many enthusiasts ran an OSSC in parallel with another scaler in their setup. Often an XRGB Mini, which produces excellent results with 480i material (particularly PS2 games) while only having a 20ms input lag penalty.
The OSSC Pro will feature the most flexible scaling engine yet and will feature both a line multiplication and scaling engine all in the same device. There will be three modes of operation and the user will be able to choose the most appropriate one for their situation. The three modes are as follows:-
1) Pure line multiplication – The lag free scaling that OSSC is famous for
2) Adaptive line multiplication
3) Full frame buffer
What is “Adaptive line multiplication”? In this mode, visible lines are multiplied, but the horizontal and vertical total are matched to standard timings (e.g 720p or 1080p). You can think of it as creating a standard output window or frame and then putting the line multiplied output into that. A full frame buffer is NOT necessary for this new adaptive mode and Markus promises “high compatibility with minimal latency overhead (1-30 lines typically)”.
What else is possible in adaptive mode? More than you might imagine. The older, ABT scalers such as the VP50 and DVDO Edge could do picture resizing and adjustment with just an adaptive frame buffer like this, so such things should be possible for OSSC Pro too.
How about the “Full frame buffer” mode? A full frame buffer will mean 16 milliseconds of input lag (plus whatever your display itself adds) but opens up even more possibilities. Did you hate the flickery deinterlacing that OSSC did? If so, you will be pleased to hear that OSSC Pro will have a full deinterlacer, specially designed for gaming content.
That’s not all, with a full frame buffer all kinds of processing can be done. Have an older arcade game that needs a monitor in portrait orientation? In framebuffer mode, OSSC Pro can rotate the image for you, allowing you to play such a title without having to figure out a way to rotate your giant HDTV, or lie on the floor on your side.
Frame buffer mode will also allow for input and output frame rates to be de-coupled. This should help with games that switch between 240p and 480i output modes. The trade off is loss of completely smooth, judder free scrolling, but for games rendered completely unplayable on modern TVs it’s a trade off worth making.
With plenty of processing power under the hood, we can also expect a return of the scaling filters and other effects that were introduced briefly with OSSC. Prefer a Scale 2x kind of look for your retro consoles? Why not, it’s your system, you play it how you think looks best. Effects such as deblur for SNES, composite faux transparency re-processing or effects such as those introduced by hardware such as the mCable should all be possible.
What happens to the original OSSC?
The original, classic OSSC is going nowhere for now and will still be sold and extensively supported in our store. If the current OSSC works well with your setup, then remember that OSSC Pro won’t scale things any better. You already have the best quality, zero input lag solution. For many users, the classic OSSC is all they will need.
We’ve worked closely with our suppliers to ensure the best price for OSSC. By doing away with fancy packaging and not paying overheads to Amazon we’re able to keep the quality high and the price low. In light of the OSSC Pro announcement, we’re now permanently cutting the price of the existing OSSC model by 15 euros down to 110 Euros. At this price point the device represents huge value for money.
When can I get the OSSC Pro?
At the moment we’re not taking pre-orders or starting a waiting list for OSSC Pro as there are still a lot of details to work out. As soon as we are able to take either pre-orders or start a waiting list, we will announce this on the website and on our social media channels. We will also have regular product updates on our social media, so be sure to follow us on either Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.