Sega Saturn and Video CD

Posted by JerryTerrifying On Thursday, October 21, 2010 3 comments

Anyone that knows me knows of my love of all things Sega Saturn. The more you look into the Saturn the more interesting features you find. I've hailed the Saturn as one of if not my most favorite consoles of all time in large part due to how innovative and ahead of its time it really was.

The Sega Saturn Netlink was the first interesting feature that I really took interest in. There's another Add On that increases the functionality of the Saturn over its two main competitors. The Sega Saturn had an MPEG add on. There are several versions with different features. I own two different versions. The JVC RG-VC20 Video CD/Photo CD Decoder and the Victor RG-VC1. The main difference between the two add ons is the RG-VC20 can play Vdeo CDs and Photo CDs and the RG-VC1 can only play Video CDs.

The Video CD add ons were only released in Japan where the VCD format was much more popular but with a little trickery will work just fine with a North American Sega Saturn. The 4 in 1 carts that enable the play of import games or a Region Switch are needed to use the Video CD add on. The 4 in 1 carts can be had relatively inexpensively in the neighborhood of $20 - $25 bucks. A regions switch is more for the do it yourselfers but won't cost more than a couple bucks in parts and some time with the good ol soldering iron.

Once you have your VCD card and console capable of playing Japanese games you can dig into the wonderful world of VCD movies. From what I understand it's super easy to burn a Video CD but I'm not sure if it'll play in a Saturn. Sure a CDR with music on it will play just fine but I'm not sure about VCDs. My particular Saturn has a mod chip in it so that may effect it or it may not. I'm not sure and haven't burnt any VCDs as of yet. I'm pretty sure that a burnt VCD will play in an unmodded Saturn though but don't quote me on it.

My first stop was ebay. I typed VCD into the search bar and started scanning the available films. Most of them were Japanese movies I'd never heard of. I was on a quest to find an inexpensive VCD from North America that wasn't a bootleg. That movie was Clueless. I looked over the FAQ for VCDs that I found on Gamefaqs and jumped right in.

The video quality wasn't terrible and was better than VHS in my opinion. Of course I was watching it on a LCD HD tv. I've seen VHS on the same set and it was pretty awful. The movie isn't very action packed so there aren't a lot of scenes that suffer from low bit rates causing digital artifacting.


The more advanced of the two VCD cards, the RG-VC20, has a few more options in the menu. I can enter a time stamp to skip to that part of the movie a lot like the Laserdisc players I've used. Video CDs have two audio tracks and it's common in the Asian market to have the dub on one channel and the English original on the other channel. So you have the option to play a movie in Stereo or if it has multiple languages you can play just the left speaker or just the right speaker to hear whichever language is on that channel. The RG-VC1 didn't allow me to change the audio channels or enter a time stamp.

Is this something you should buy for your Saturn?  Probably not.  DVDs and the process of burning DVDs has become some cheap there's really no need for the VCD now in the richer countries.  In other countries where DVDs are still expensive the VCD scene is doing fantastic.  Should you get a VCD card for your Saturn?  Sure, if you see one for the right price and have a Region Mod or Import cart.  But for the casual Saturn player there's no need.  It's just something cool for die hard Saturn fans like me to show off and make my system seem SO much cooler than the PS1 and N64.  Which it totally is.


911BONEZ said...

Damn sweet man! This format looks like the cats pajamas man, i will have to buy one of these babies some day!

Semaj said...

Great video.

Clueless, not a bad movie.

m15granger said...

Great stuff man. Looking into buying this.

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