-=.Sega Saturn VCD Card Format Compatibility.=-  

By Blitzkrieg  (blitzkri3g@comcast.net)
ver 1.2
Revised 10/17/02


Introduction
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Many hardcore Saturn owners know about the somewhat rare peripheral known as
the Sega Saturn Video CD Card. It was used in games like Lunar to provide very
high quality FMV, something that, overall, the Saturn lacks. But more
importantly, you can use it to play Video CDs, so you can watch feature length
movies right on your Saturn!

This FAQ's purpose is to state (and test) the limitations of the wonderful VCD
Card. So read on, fellow Saturn freak... and please enjoy!



Revisions
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ver 1.2 - Over a year later, I decided to give this thing one last update.

               -Updated my email addy. *shakes fist at atari.net*
               -The unknown info about the Hitachi card has been resolved.
               -SPELLED COMPATIBILITY CORRECTLY. *puts gun to his head*
               -Useless information taken out. VCD descrpitions are now much
                more brief. This should be the final revision. :T

ver 1.1 - Just a day after the initial release, I've already gotten a comment
          which overflows with possible revisions!

               -Added information about the PhotoCD option with some VCD Cards.
               -Added info about the Sega brand PAL-only card and the RG-VC1
                card by Victor.

          All revisions pointed out by Dag B. (dagb@world-online.no)


ver 1.0 - Initial release



Contents
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. The VCD Format - What are these things?
2. XVCD Restrictions - How much can it handle?
3. PhotoCD Support - The Saturn lets you share those Kodak moments...
4. Troubleshooting - Something's wrong here...
5. Final Words



The VCD Format - What are these things?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mmmm... VCDs. It's the poor man's DVD, ladies and gentlemen. Essentially, a VCD
(Video Compact Disc) is MPEG-1 video with mp2 audio (does anyone remember mp2s?
...anyone? ;_;). At about an hour (or more) per disc, you'll see that most VCD
movies come in two discs.

-VCD is the format that the Saturn's VCD card was made for, so obviously it can
 play them just fine.

There's also things called SVCDs, or Super Video CDs. These are of much higher
quality than VCD (MPEG-2 + higher bitrate = sex). SVCDs are in VBR, or Variable
BitRate. When the action onscreen is high, it boosts up the bitrate to maintain
video quality. When action is low, the bitrate is lowered, saving space. SVCD
movies usually come in 2 to 3 discs.

-The Saturn CAN NOT play SVCDs. This is because the VCD Card is made for
 decoding MPEG-1 video... not MPEG-2, which is what an SVCD uses.

Finally, we have XVCD, which stands for eXtendedVCD. This "format" (though you
really can't call it a format, since there are no set standards) alters the VCD
standard to take advantage of faster CD drives (like on a PC, DVD player... or
your Saturn :D). Standard VCDs are made for 1X CD drives... but your Saturn has
a 2X drive. Hrmmm... what can we do here... LET'S INCREASE THE BITRATE!

-Can we do it? How far can we go? ANSWER ME, DAMN YOU! ANSWER ME!



XVCD Restrictions - How much can it handle?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Now that you know what an XVCD is, you should now realize that the format has
no set standards, so you'll need to know what settings are right for an XVCD to
play on your Saturn.

===Audio===
Stream type:         MPEG-1 Audio Layer II

Sampling Frequency:  44100 Hz

Channel Mode:        Stereo

Bitrate:             224 Kbits/sec

-Let's keep the audio the same. It was never a problem to begin with.


===Video===
Stream Type:         MPEG-1 Video

Size:                352 x 240 pixels (NTSC)
                     352 x 288 pixels (PAL)

Aspect Ratio:        4:3 525 Line (NTSC)
                     4:3 625 Line (PAL)

Frame Rate:          29.97 FPS (NTSC)
                     25.00 FPS (PAL)

Rate Control Mode:   Constant Bitrate (CBR)

Bitrate:             Between 1150 and 2300 Kbits/sec

-All of the stuff listed here should be kept the same (aside from bitrate of
 course). You MAY be able to do VBR... but I wouldn't advise it.

-About the bitrate... 2300kb/s might be a little too high (remember that your
 Saturn has to read the audio too!). I'd recommend 2000kb/s, just to be on the
 safe side. ;)



PhotoCD Support - The Saturn lets you share those Kodak moments...
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Some versions of the VCD Card could also read PhotoCDs. What is a PhotoCD, you
ask?

PhotoCD is a special format of CD for storing high-quality digital photos. It
isn't just a CD with jpegs on it either... so please don't confuse the two.

Here's a rundown on what VCD Cards support the PhotoCD option:
(All information courtesy of Dag B)
 ____________________
|VCD Card | PhotoCD? |
|---------+----------|
|Sega     |    NO    |
|HSS-0119 |          |
|---------+----------|
|Sega     |    NO    |
|PAL Card |          |
|---------+----------|
|Victor   |    NO    |
|RG-VC1   |          |
|---------+----------|
|Victor   |    YES   |
|RG-VC2   |          |
|---------+----------|
|Victor   |    YES   |
|RG-VC20  |          |
|---------+----------|
|Victor   |    YES   |
|RG-VC3   |          |
|---------+----------|
|Hitachi  |    NO    |
|VCD Card |          |
 --------------------


Troubleshooting - Something's wrong here...
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Depending on what kind of VCD Card you use, you may run into some problems...

===Problem #1===
Sometimes when I watch a VCD, the audio gets out of sync with the video!

-Disable the 'PBC' option on the main screen of the VCD interface. I don't know
 why, but when you are watching movies in this mode, the audio and video get
 out of sync very easily. All PBC does is allow you to take advantage of VCD
 2.0 features like menus, chapters, etc. Most VCDs don't even use those anyway.


===Problem #2===
There are green (or sometimes pink) blocks jumping around at the bottom of my
screen!

-This common problem is due to NTSC/PAL inconsistencies. If you try to watch a
 PAL VCD with an NTSC card, or vice versa, you'll find that the video is filled
 with green or pink motion artifacts around the bottom of the screen. Some
 cards support both PAL and NTSC, however. I even listed em below for ya. ;)
 ____________________
|VCD Card | Support  |
|---------+----------|
|Sega     |   NTSC   |
|HSS-0119 |          |
|---------+----------|
|Sega     |    PAL   |
|PAL Card |          |
|---------+----------|
|Victor   |   NTSC   |
|RG-VC1   |          |
|---------+----------|
|Victor   |   NTSC   |
|RG-VC2   |          |
|---------+----------|
|Victor   | NTSC/PAL |
|RG-VC20  |          |
|---------+----------|
|Victor   | NTSC/PAL |
|RG-VC3   |          |
|---------+----------|
|Hitachi  |   NTSC   |
|VCD Card |          |
 --------------------


===Problem #3===
I burned a video file as a VCD, but when I try to play it, all I get is a black
screen and the Saturn freezes!

-The video file that you used wasn't VCD compliant! The file must have not
 conformed to the statistics shown above in the section "XVCD Restrictions".
 You can get various programs that will convert videos so they are VCD
 compliant at one of my favorite sites, http://www.vcdhelp.com.


===Problem #4===
I have an XVCD, but the video skips and the sound is distorted when I play it
on my Saturn!

-The bitrate of the video is apparently too much for your Saturn to handle.


===Problem #5===
I have a VCD card in my American Saturn, but when I try to play a VCD, it just
takes me to the CD Player and I get an error!

-Sorry. You'll need a territorial switch, Japanese Saturn or Pro Action Replay
 cart in order for your Saturn to recognize the VCD card.


===Problem #6===
When I have my Pro Action Replay (PAR) cart in, and I try to play a VCD, I
can't get past the "loading" screen!

-When you are using a PAR cart, go to "Start Game" then use the C button to
 exit to the CD Player. Then it should start playing.


===Problem #7===
I have a PAR cart in an American Saturn, but I still get an error when I try to
play a VCD!

-Yeah, there's a little trick to this one. First, load up a Japanese game.
 After the game has successfully loaded, open the CD door. You should have gone
 back to the CD Player... and your Saturn still thinks it's in Japanese mode!
 Pop that VCD in, and happy viewing! :D


Final Words
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I hope you have enjoyed my FAQ! If you'd like to add something, just email me
at blitzkri3g@comcast.net and I'll add whatever you have to share (with credit
to you of course!).

If you are going to post this FAQ on your website, or if you would like to
borrow information from it, please email me and I'll say yes! Simple as that!

But keep in mind that this document is COPYRIGHT 2002! Any unauthorized use
and/or modification is strictly forbidden! GRAAAAAAAAAAR!

 -Blitz