LGR – Recording CRT Computer Monitors

[laid back jazz music] [computer buzzing] – Greetings, and welcome to an LGR thing! And today is a bit of a more laid back, unscripted, relaxed type of video while I’m working on more involved things. But this is a topic I’ve
been wanting to talk about for long time and that
is computer CRT monitors and how to record them half decently, which is something I try to do here on LGR as often as I can. I love showing these things, but they can be an absolute
pain to get on video and not look like total garbage. It’s not just eliminating flicker either, it’s all sorts of other issues that I’ve run across over the years that I’ve had to come up with workarounds and mess with my own hardware and software and other kinds of set
ups just to make it work for what I wanna show. And hopefully this will be
informative to you as well. I know I get a lot of questions about how to make these things look okay. So yeah, that’s where
we’re gonna dive into. And, yes, I know that there are
some other videos on YouTube that actually do a really good job of showing how to record
CRTs of various types, but computer CRTs are their own beast. They’re a bit different than
what you would experience on just like a consumer TV set that’s stuck at 60 or
50 hertz or whatever. And yeah this is a — ahh, it’s a
thing man, it’s a thing. Let me preface this by
saying that this will assume that you know a little bit
about how cameras and CRTs work and their relation to each other with refresh rates and shutter speeds. We’ll get into that starting
with the refresh rate, that’s the first main topic I wanna cover, then moiré patterns and the
problems that arise there, color and contrast issues, reproducing what you see in
your eyes versus the camera, reflections, dealing with
those, and audio because, yes, CRTs can be a bit loud
depending on certain situations. So, let’s dive into it. [VCR and old TV sounds] So, starting off with refresh rate. And this is pretty much
the most well-known method of reducing flicker and generally making
CRT imagery look better, and that is syncing, or
getting as close to syncing, the refresh rate of the monitor, the vertical refresh rate that is, and the shutter speed of your camera. And in this case here in NTSC-land that would 60 hertz, or really
59.94, rounded up to 60, and the shutter speed of 60 on my camera. And those more or less make it look good. And if you’re in PAL territory, it’d be of course be 50 hertz
and a shutter speed of 50. And there you go. You can also cut that in half and get some interesting results, sometimes it might be better. But that really is just
the beginning of the story when it comes to these things. If this were like a consumer television, that would pretty much be it ’cause those for the most part just stick to whatever the cycles are
if you’re a power source. But this is… Yeah computer monitors, man,
they’re all over the place. So, for instance, this right here. This is Johnny Castaway, a
screensaver going on Windows 95, and if I press the
buttons of the front here and go into the menus
and look at the status, you’ll see that it’s actually
running at 60.1 hertz. But then if we just move the
mouse and go back to Windows 95 and check that exact same
menu and status again, you’ll see that it’s slightly changed. Now we’ve got 60 hertz exactly. And that’s just one example of
the many different deviations you’re gonna be seeing on computer CRTs, depending on the software, the hardware, the operating system, any
number of other variables, the monitor itself. It’s just gonna be all over the place and that’s something to keep in mind, especially when you’re
looking for a camera or just thinking about filming
these things regardless because, yeah, it’s just
gonna be all over the place. So, sometimes it will not
be anywhere close to 60. Sometimes it’ll be like 70, 72, 75, 85, depending on what the
software demands are, what your settings are, and
all kinds of things. [laughs] Now, if we’re talking just Windows 95 and a lot of the games on there, typically they will stick to whatever your control
panel settings are. So if you have it set to
like the refresh rate of 60, they’ll try to hold to that, especially if they’re like Direct3D games. But you go into DOS and a lot of other
software-rendered things like that, and sometimes it’ll be 70 or whatever. It really helps to have
a monitor that shows you what exactly is going
on at any given time. But you can also just play around with your camera’s shutter settings and see what gets as
close as you possibly can, but a lot of cameras don’t
have that kind of fine-tuning. You can from like 60
shutter speed up to 80, or maybe there’s a 70, but not a 72, and what are you gonna do then? Well, that’s one reason that
I use the cameras that I do for many reasons. But, yeah, I’ve got these
Lumix GH5 series cameras that I use nowadays. This is a GH5S, I’m
filming with a GH5 there, and these have a feature on
there called Synchro Shutter. I believe on Canons it’s called
something like Clear Scan. But it’s on a whole bunch of
different models of cameras these days. But it’s a thing that let’s
you dial in to the 10th, or really in between that
even, the shutter speed, and you can really dial that in there to get to like 60.1 or 72 point whatever. And it’s really helpful
for things like this where it is just a 10th off or
a 10th a little bit different otherwise you’ll see that
rolling line more prominently. And it’s also really useful
for systems that aren’t PCs, like that recent Macintosh
video that I did, the 6100 DOS compatible. Mac OS side of things I
think runs at 67 hertz-ish, 66.7 maybe, I don’t remember. Yeah, it’s a weird thing
and it just looked crazy if I didn’t have that going on. So Synchro Shutter is something that I can’t really do without with filming these CRTs these days, at least if it’s outside
of the norm of 60 hertz. Although you can reduce
it through software depending on your editing suite. I use Adobe Premiere Pro, and there’s some various things that kind of reduce flickering on there. But the one that I use the
most is actually a plugin. It’s a paid plugin called Flicker Free, and that does a great job
of eliminating CRT flicker. It was made for reducing
flicker in time lapse video and stuff like that, but
works great with CRTs. And also for older LCDs, especially those with older CFL or fluorescent lighting behind them, the backlighting, that can flicker regardless of what the actual refresh
rate is on the display itself. The lighting behind the panel
is just different, [laughs] so that plugin helps. So the next big area of concern, and perhaps an even bigger
one than refresh rate, at least for me, is the moiré
pattern problem, or “Mwar” I’m gonna say “moiré” ’cause
it sounds less silly. But anyway, moiré. It’s like an overlaying pattern that’s just conflicting
with the camera sensor and it’s caused by really a
couple of different things, usually like the aperture grille, or the shadow mask,
or whatever. There’s like this pattern that
overlays on top of the image and looks terrible. And if it’s ingrained in your footage, you pretty much just stuck with it. You can alleviate it a little bit in post, but for the most part it’s just in there. And I think it looks terrible. In fact, it bothers me way
more than flicker does. For whatever reason, it just
hits my brain a certain way, I’m like [groans] And unfortunately, it’s
ended up in a lot of my shots because I just wasn’t
paying enough attention and was just sort of
trusting what I saw visually or not looking close enough
on the viewfinder of my camera or the screen that was on the back of it or anything like that. And it became even more of a problem when I really upgraded to better
4K cameras a few years ago, especially the Lumix
GH5, the original GH5. It was really exacerbated on that because of how crisp
and sharp the image was. While that was great for certain shots, I mean, it made a lot
of things look amazing when I recorded it, it made the moiré
pattern effect way worse. And it was really hard to dial that in and get it correctly, I don’t
know, appearing correctly. [laughs] So, what did I do about it? Well, I tried all sorts
of different things when I had the GH5, and that was… I mean, we’ll see, really the
first most obvious thing to do is just focus the camera
a little bit differently. And that usually means getting
it slightly out of focus. So you can eliminate that by
getting that aperture grille or the shadow mask or
whatever is on your CRT slightly out of focus so
that it’s not so sharp on the image on screen. And that will usually
get rid of the effect. Another thing you can do is just mess with your aperture settings
and make it really wide so that it’s not such a
shallow depth of field. And that way you’re not
getting weird bits of moiré in the middle of your image, usually diagonally if
you’re shooting at an angle. And another thing to do is just
mess around with the angles. If you’re shooting at an angle like this, then it can really cause that pattern to emerge more obviously, and then it’s gonna be stuck
in your footage and it sucks. Shooting directly straight on will fix that problem a lot of times, but then you’re just stuck
with a boring kind of shot of just looking directly at a CRT. And a lot of times I don’t wanna do that ’cause I’m showing other bits
of hardware or me in the shot or something like that. So you have to compensate
with those other methods to get it looking half decent and try to eliminate that pattern. Even then it’s not perfect. There’s almost always gonna be that with certain cameras, and
certain angles and situations depending on how you’re focusing. Another thing that I’ve tried is actually using different
diffusion filters, like this one right here is a
Soft/FX 2 something or other. I’ve tried probably 10 of these, I don’t like how any of them look. They do eliminate the
pattern or decrease it on certain sharper cameras like the GH5, but it makes everything soft. And I’d rather just have a
portion of the image softer and you can do that in post, so I just don’t even do that. One thing that made a
huge difference though was completely stopping
using this camera anyway. And I upgraded the GH5S
for multiple reasons, but one of the biggest was because it has a built-in optical low pass
filter in the hardware. And that means effectively
that it is putting, well, a filter [chuckles] in
your footage no matter what. You can’t turn it on or off, like it’s not even on the
options of the camera. I don’t even know if they
advertise it, but it has it. And it makes your image slightly softer, but in a way that I think is pretty smart, and honestly I think the footage
looks way better overall. That optical low pass, man. I didn’t even know that was a thing that a lot of cameras were
going without these days, like the original GH5. So if you can find a camera
with an OLPS in there, it’s awesome. Yeah, that’s pretty much that. Again, you really just kind
of mess around with angles and placement of your camera
and lights and everything else just to make sure that it’s
all coming together properly. And also don’t rely too
much on the smaller screen on the back of your camera if
that’s normally what you use. I’ve started using an external
monitor because of this. Because sometimes it’ll look
great in that little screen on the back of your camera, and then when you get the
footage on your computer, you’re like, “Oh, well this, [laughs] “there’s a moiré pattern there and it’s just ruined the whole shot.” And that’s one of those things because of the nature of
the way that pattern works, when you scale it, scaling it down maybe
there’s no pattern at all, but when you scale it up
to like a full-sized image, then you’re gonna be
seeing it very obviously. So, yeah, there’s a lot of
things to mess around with there, but holy crap, be aware of it. I see so many people shoot CRTs and the moiré is there, and
I’m like, “What are you doing?” Is it just me? [chuckles] Does this not anyone else? Anyway, it’s a thing, look out for it. So another thing to consider with CRTs is the color and contrast settings, and brightness and things like that. Just basically making sure
that your CRT looks good in the resulting footage. And I’m gonna throw in
reflections in here as well because if you have a
reflecty, kind of glossy CRT, that can cause some issues. And lighting and things like that, like I have a light right
there and over there. So, that can all wash out
the image on the CRT itself. In fact, if you look at this one that’s behind me right here, here’s how it looks normally if I just don’t touch the footage. I don’t know, it’s not as impressive. The blacks aren’t as
black as they should be, and the whites, and the
highlights and shadows, like everything is just kind of wrong. So I do a lot of adjusting in
post just on the CRT itself, not affecting the entire image. I mean, I color correct
everything, I adjust everything. But the CRT in particular, I put like a little mask around that and feather it and whatnot. And, again, I use Adobe Premiere Pro, so I use the Lumetri Color
plugin that it comes with. And I usually do a few different things depending on the situation, like just adjusting the
contrast, the highlights, the shadows, sometimes
the white and black level, but usually not. And then I mess around with
the actual saturation values of individual colors, especially on a CRT I’ve
noticed that a lot of extremes for like red, green,
and blue, for instance, just don’t look correct,
so I bump those up. And then also lower some to
make sure they’re not too insane like the blues, especially
on a CRT, can look… I don’t know, everything
can have this kind of teal, light blue look to it. Like grays look more light
blue than they should. But, yeah, that’s all
like filters and stuff. The rest I try to get
the best possible image in camera to begin with. And that just comes down
to a lot of experimentation with lighting and angles of
the room, ambiance itself, like if you’re filming a
CRT in a room with sunlight, that’s really easy to screw up. [laughs] Right now it’s dark outside and I’m just using inside lights, so I got more control over it that way. And since we’re kind
of on this whole topic of like lighting and
making sure the colors and everything look good contrast, reflections can do a lot
to degrade the CRT’s image. So one thing that I love using are these little filters here. This is a circular polarizer. It is of course going to, being that it is darkened and such, you’re gonna lose some stops and your image is gonna be darker. But as you can see here, just sort of plopping
it on and off the lens, not only is the CRT looking darker as far as the black levels and whatnot, but everything really is, [laughs] and it eliminates some of the reflections like around the keyboard area where you can see the reflection
on the bottom of the screen or my hands or just all sorts of things. The wood on the table looks better. It’s not picking up so much of that light bouncing off of the whites
on the walls and whatnot. I just like these polarizers. I use them for absolutely every shot that I use or that I make on LGR. Yeah, I’ve got a bunch of these. This is the one in particular. This is… Yeah, I’ll put whatever it
is right along the bottom of the screen here. [laughs] It’s got kind of a long name. But, yeah, circular polarizers, very much recommend those if
you have the light for it. If you don’t, you might not wanna bother. You can make it look good
on a CRT without these, but these definitely help
in reducing reflections and glare and things like that. Now, it’s not gonna get rid
of everything of course. If you’ve got lights directly on your CRT, it’s just gonna be glare
all over the place. And you’re always gonna
see yourself in the screen if you’re filming at a certain angle. Again though, that’s just playing around with like your camera placement and trying to eliminate that in the scene and not worrying about it later on or with filters or anything like that. Although again, there’s
settings in Premiere that I use and adjust the color and everything else. Also, you can tend to get rid
of some of those reflections if you’re decreasing the
highlights and things like that. You just don’t want to ruin the CRT image or make it look unnatural or anything, I mean, unless you want to, but I don’t. So, the final thing I wanna touch on here, or at least for this video
about recording CRTs, is the audio side of things. And, yeah, that is something
to consider in your recordings. Even if you can’t hear it yourself, which is very much possible depending on your hearing situation. A lot of people start to not be able to hear these really high-pitched
frequencies like this, but, yeah, certain CRTs, especially like consumer
television sets and older ones, like this one right here is an IBM-154, that has a horizontal refresh
of around 15 kilohertz, it’s like 15.7 I think
is the frequency range, and that actually equates
to some audio feedback. Actually, if you listen to this, right here I’ve had it filtered out for the rest of the video, now I don’t. [high-pitched frequency] Yeah, [chuckles] let’s
get rid of that now. Typically, I just put this audio filter on every single one of
my videos that have a CRT in this kind of range of
horizontal refresh like that around 15.7 kilohertz. And that just involves lowering something in like a graphic
equalizer or a notch filter or whatever is going to get
rid of that range of audio so that you don’t hear it. Sometimes I add a couple
of passes within Premiere just to make sure that it’s really gone ’cause I don’t trust my own hearing, so I make sure to look
at the levels and stuff on the software. Yeah, another thing to
consider is that other CRTs, like for instance this one right here, makes another sound and that has to do with the components in
there actually aging. Usually it’s around the flyback area. You’ve got like ceramic capacitors and ferrite transformer cores and all sorts of weird things in there that are going bad or slightly off, or something is just making a sound. And it’s a little bit
different from that audio whine that is just inherent to
the horizontal refresh of these older ones like
this or just regular TV sets. So yeah, that’s something
to keep in mind as well. Sometimes I forget about that, and then in the recording
I’m like [yells frustratedly] that noise is overwhelming. But anyway, so those are
two different kind of sounds that I really listen out for with CRTs when I’m going through the footage. And something else to
keep in mind is that, like the other CRTs that
I was showing earlier, those have a horizontal
refresh of around 30 kilohertz. That is typically not audible. In fact, I don’t know
anybody can hear that. You don’t have to bother
with any kind of getting rid of the high-pitched whine
in the footage that way. So audio, it really is
an important aspect. Even if you can’t hear it yourself, it’s just one of those
things that absolutely sucks. You go through all this pain of getting this nice CRT footage
and you put it on YouTube and then you forget about the audio. And somebody’s inevitably like, “I can’t watch this video
because it’s killing my ears “and it hurts.” [laughs] So yeah, just something to keep in mind, as with all these other things. All righty, well that’s
about it for this topic on this video anyway. Of course with things like this there are always more ideas
and solutions to discuss, and I’m sure you’ve got some of your own, if you had any experience
with this kind of thing. If so, let me know in the comments ’cause really half the reason
I wanted to make this video is not only to inform,
but to learn myself. And maybe we can get a discussion going and come up with some new things. I mean, for instance,
like different lenses, and focal lengths, and situations that can
change on the camera itself can change the result on the CRT, especially with a moiré
pattern problem and whatnot. And there’s also things like
etchings and anti-glare filters and things on the front of certain CRTs, or that you can put on there yourself that provide interesting results, or you can even start adjusting
the options on the CRT in terms of the brightness
and contrast and color to help it look a little more
accurate to what your eyes see in the resulting video
once you’ve recorded it. Not have to mess around
with software and filters in post so much. There’s just all sorts of things. I mean, not even mentioning stuff like the whole genlock idea, and other scalers and hardware
adapters and solutions to take one frame rate, or refresh rate, and adjust it to something else. And yeah, man, it’s a
pretty endless topic, so let me know your thoughts and, again, any of your
experiences in the comments. And I hope that you enjoyed this and maybe found it a
bit informative as well. [relaxing jazz music] And if you liked what
you saw then awesome. Perhaps you’d like to check out
some of my other videos here on the channel. I’ve got new stuff going
up every week here in LGR and all kinds of topics, typically retro computer
hardware and software related. But, yeah, whatever
the case may be though, thank you very much for watching.

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