Quick Thoughts on One Nice Way to Convert SCART (PAL/SECAM) in the US (and G7401/Odyssey3 comments)

Bill Loguidice's picture

As any hardcore videogame and computer collector knows, there are many intriguing classic systems out there worthy of your time that never made it to your home territory. One of the biggest challenges when importing vintage systems from foreign countries is having the necessary hardware on hand to convert either or both of the power (voltage) and video (television standard) connections.

With vintage Japanese systems in the US, it's fairly trivial to use those systems here. Generally speaking, the video signal is the same - though you may have to tune in a weird channel if you're stuck using an RF connection - and power requirements are similar, generally 100-110v to our 110-120v. While you can usually get away with just plugging a Japanese system direct into a US outlet, a simple power converter is still recommended in some situations. With vintage European systems, it's not nearly as straightforward, since they use a completely different television standard and power requirements usually run 220-240v, so you need to do double conversions. On top of that, plugs for both video and power are often unusual shapes and may require yet another adapter.

Keeping the above in mind, I thought I would provide a recent example of one such conversion process. I had acquired a super rare-for-here Philips Videopac+ G7401, which is essentially the next generation Magnavox Odyssey2, which never saw release in the US as the Odyssey3, though several working prototypes exist (and in fact, it's a nicer overall system than what the G7401 was released as). The big advantage of the Odyssey3/G7401 was that it was fully compatible with all Odyssey2/Videopac software and add-ons (though some, like The Voice, don't fit on the casing), while allowing for new software with higher-res backgrounds and sprites. In fact, it was one of the first systems to have cartridges that would play normally on the older Odyssey2/Videopac systems, but when plugged into the Odyssey3/G7401, would display high resolution backgrounds. This was of course the usual blessing/curse in that there were very few G7401-only titles (meaning games with BOTH high resolution backgrounds and sprites) released since it was better from a game sales standpoint to target users of both systems.

Anyway, to make the G7401 work here in the US, I first needed to adapt the power, using something similar to this, which I had on hand. The good news with that is that the G7401 plugged straight in with no issues. I had power. The second - and biggest - challenge was what to do about the video signal. While some G7401 consoles had whatever RF output of their respective country, some models also come with or had hacked in an RGB port (sometimes replacing the RF completely), which mine had. I was able to find a source that sold SCART cables that utilized this port to give the best possible signal. Unfortunately, SCART connections are non-existent in the US and I've found it's very, very difficult to procure any type of display with a SCART input on it, particularly these days, even from overseas. In fact, I had two failed attempts at getting what were supposedly an LCD monitor and a projector with SCART inputs, which, when they arrived, had no such connections since they were the North American models (obviously, bad sellers there). Now, the good thing is that most modern LCD and related displays have no problems displaying signals from any country correctly (and in fact, I even have one small world CRT TV, though it only has RF and composite inputs), but you still have to get them connected somehow. Since I had no devices with a SCART input, I tried an adapter like this one. Unfortunately, that adapter had only male sockets, and I couldn't take the male SCART cable from the G7400 to the male socket on the adapter, so I also needed something like this to even make the initial connection between the cable and that adapter.

Now, of course, I was starting to worry, because the more times you adapt/convert something, the more that can go wrong. Sure enough, I plugged that monstrosity in and regardless of display and connecting over S-Video or Composite, I only got a black and white signal. Clearly, the output from the G7400 was either not powerful enough to make it through all those obstacles and send over a color signal, or all those adaptions simply wouldn't allow for a color signal. After the aforementioned expensive detours with the LCD monitor and projector with the missing SCART connectors, I finally stumbled upon this, a SCART to HDMI adapter. Having had recent success with converting HDMI to component for capture purposes, I figured I'd gamble with my wallet one last time and give it a go. To my surprise, this is what I got last night:

Philips Videopac+ G7401 with color output in the US

That's right, that's my G7401 running the enhanced background homebrew, Astrododge, on an LG monitor, converting SCART to HDMI. It looks fantastic, and of course is in full color.

I also have the unusual Philips Videopac G7200 (French) and I couldn't even get any signal, color or otherwise, from the SCART to S-video/component adapter setup I tried, but it turns out that that SCART to HDMI setup worked its magic a second time:

Philips Videopac G7200 with color output in the US

Note the lack of hi-res background in that screenshot, since the G7200 is functionally the same as an Odyssey2. Otherwise, yep, full color.

While this was by no means meant as anything remotely resembling a how-to, hopefully it gives some idea of the challenges one must keep in mind when importing foreign systems. Nevertheless, it shows that if you keep at it, there's probably a solution. Enjoy!

Comments

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Congrats Bill

From a European perspective it is far easier getting things running as even a lot of old CRTs are capable of displaying a 60 us NTSC signal. Where the Europeans run into problems is the RF signal as most if not all TV tuners are Only the local variant. British sets have a different PAL sound system and the French use SECAM.

Strangely enough modern LCD TVs often are capable of tuning into NTSC RF signals at least the latest Samsungs we got can. But using a multiform VCR in both the US as elsewhere can be a good solution too

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Displays
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Strangely enough modern LCD TVs often are capable of tuning into NTSC RF signals at least the latest Samsungs we got can. But using a multiform VCR in both the US as elsewhere can be a good solution too

Yeah, I'm very impressed with how flexible modern LCD's are. They seem to handle nearly all formats very well. Once I pop them into 4:3, they even look good.

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