One question I get all the time is how to downscale from modern HDTV signals to 480i. Downscalers like the GBS-Control and RetroTINK 5x downscale 480p (or 720p) to 240p, which is the look most of us are going for. There are some use-cases for wanting to downscale to 480i though, so check out more info below the links, including why a cheap Amazon box might be a better alternative for your setup:
Extron VSC 500 (the VSC 700 is equal or better): https://ebay.us/li9BmC
HDMI Splitter: https://www.retrorgb.com/hdmi-2-0b-1×2-splitter-audio-extractor.html
HDMI Downscaling Splitter (for 4K sources): https://www.retrorgb.com/hdmi-splitter-downscalers-reviewed.html
Cheap HDMI to Composite Downscaler: https://amzn.to/3aho0wX
Cheap HDMI to S-Video Downscaler: https://amzn.to/3ysCwtQ
If your goal is to use “classic” emulation consoles, Virtual Console, or “new retro” games on a CRT TV, downscaling to 240p is almost surely the right choice, as it retains the exact same look as original consoles from the 80’s and early 90’s would have. You’ll even get scanlines that are true to the original!
That said, not everyone want the “240p retro” look. Some people just want a lag-free experience with no motion blur! If you want to play modern consoles on a CRT, 480i might be a good option, as there’s more detail on-screen (so you can see text/HUD better). Also, interlace flicker is much less noticeable on a CRT than a flat-panel, to the point that you might not even know it’s there. Also, downscaling to 480i is a much better fit for people who want to view TV shows and movies on a classic CRT.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, the devices listed here might be a great choice. I strongly recommend using an HDMI splitter, both to ensure compatibility and to possibly downscale 4K to 1080p, then send 1080p to the DAC, then downscaler. In fact, with a setup like that, you could easily leave your console/streaming box connected to both a flat panel and CRT at the same time. From there, you’d just then need to choose which downscaler you’d like:
A used Extron VSC 500 (or 700) is definitely going to be the superior choice, although they can be hard to find. You’ll need an HDMI to VGA converter, but from there you have a wide variety of options: As long as you send it an RGBHV signal to its dsub input (the HDMI to VGA converter does that), you can output RGB, S-Video and Composite video. There’s some excellent geometry controls that let you adjust the image, which is great for matching the proper aspect ratio. Feel free to mess with the geometry settings, as there’s an “auto configure” mode that will put everything back to a centered, 4:3 image when activated. Heck, there’s even a choice between PAL and NTSC outputs. And all of this can be done with a buffer of 0-16ms of lag; So, at best you’ll have just a few ms and worse case, it’s still one frame, which is much less noticeable on a CRT than a flat-panel! Basically, it’s a great device for video content and a very good device for gaming!
If your only goal is video content and not gaming, I’ve tested a few of those cheap downscalers linked above, which have between 2 and 6 frames of lag. So yeah, not for gaming, but still might save you some money for TV. They also support both NTSC and PAL, however there’s no other controls built in. That means any geometry and aspect ratio control will have to be done on your CRT. And even if you have a BVM/PVM with a “16:9 mode”, what if you’re watching 4:3 content in a 16:9 frame like many streaming services have? You might be able to just stretch the image horizontally to fit…or you might not.
I still wanted to recommend those, as they’re readily in stock, don’t require a DAC (it’s built in) and would be a much cheaper solution overall. You’ll most likely still need one of the HDMI splitters for use with streaming boxes though…especially if you’re feeding it a 4K signal and need to downscale to 1080p. And for around $20, it might be worth starting with that, just to see if you can make your CRT and streaming box work with the setup.
If you’d like more info on the VSC, as well as see it in action, check out the livestream below. We also discussed a composite PAL/NTSC converter and jumped around between the two. LOL, so strap in, this is what it’s like to test stuff with an ADHD nerd like me!