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Dreamcast Beginner's Guide.

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Alright, I'm going to make an attempt to explain some basics about the Dreamcast for the folks who don't know much about it other than the super surface stuff like it's Sega last console.


First, let's talk colors and regions. We don't really note the regions in Dreamcast because we know by the art.


A black or white vertical curved bar on the left like this:



Or this:


Means NTSC - North American




A blue horizontal bar across the top like this:


Means PAL - European




An orange wedge in the upper right corner like this:


Means NTSC - Japanese



In an emulator or region-free Dreamcast the games will launch into a swirl animation. For North American the swirl is red. Europe gets a blue swirl, Japan has an orange swirl, and finally black swirls only appears if your Dreamcast is experiencing hardware failure. I don't know how to get a black swirl on an emulator but it's probably possible.

The same colors are on the systems themselves. A North American Dreamcast will have a red swirl logo on it, Europe has blue, and Japan has orange.





Okay, now let's talk about some of the terms we use.


CDI = Compact Disc Image. Most games are in CDI so that they can be burned but a Dreamcast does not have a CD-Rom. It have a GD-Rom with the ability to read CDs.

GDI = Game Disc Image. These can't be burned but often have higher quality assets and larger file sizes.

A GD or Game Disc is about a gig, maybe 2, I've forgotten. Not quite DVD sized but larger than CD.

A CD is generally about 700 megabytes.

To make a GD game fit on a CD we must compress it to fit in 700MB. It makes no difference for a lot of games because they don't actually take up 700+MB. For larger games this results in image and audio compression.

For games smaller than 700MB we add dummy files to fill the space and push the data, or game, to the outer edge of the disc. This makes the Dreamcast itself not have to work as hard.




Now let's talk about GDEmu, Dreamshell, and MODE.

These are storage device solutions to either partner with the GD-Rom or replace it.

GDEmu and MODE replace the GD-Rom with SDCards. If you're on an emulator you should download GDEmu versions of games. I will have removed the dummy file you don't need and saved you some space. GDEmu's can play GDI.

Dreamshell is an operating system for the Dreamcast that loads from a disc and once the OS is loaded stops accessing the disc and allows you to access games from the serial port of the Dreamcast. Hard drives and SD cards do most of the work on Dreamshell. Dreamshell can play GDI

Burned CDs are pretty self explanatory. Generally people use IMGBurn or DiscJuggler and burn CDIs

On an emulator you can pretty much ignore these distinctions and just download whatever you want. I release all my stuff as CDIs but generally do not add dummy files unless requested to. They're not compressed or bloated.




Let's talk about emulation on Dreamcast.

I make autoboot ports. Which means you don't need to do anything for the game to run. To this day I have a bit of an issue with calling an autobooting emulator+rom a port but that's what people call it. 

NES, SNES, NGCD, GB, GBC, SMS, GG, MD, Amiga, Atari, they're all emulation. If you're emulating a dreamcast and running one of these ports I've made you are running an emulator in an emulator. 

There are some benefits to this. Redream and Flycast's upscaling will still effect the rom. For the most part it's going to look really good without having to mess with any shaders and isn't going to be an overblown upscaling that causes the graphics to smooth or blur into new shapes.

With Amiga and Atari ST figuring out how the launch the game is done for you. These emulators can be a pain for people to set up so just downloading the Dreamcast port and running it Redream might be a better solution. You don't have to set up a UAE and your game will be upscaled.



Let's talk a bit about aftermarket games and what MIL-CD is.

Most aftermarket games are produced on MIL-CD which means they will fit on a 700mb disc. Most of them are smaller than 700MB so I delete the dummy files and release them again as a GDEmu special. I've already covered the difference between burning and storage device but again if you're just emulating save the space and grade the GDEmu version.

MIL-CD is a format for interactive music discs Sega was supporting during the life of the Dreamcast. You can find retail MIL-CD download in the Megathread.



Video talk:

The Dreamcast's GD-Rom can not read DVDs but it can play AVI, SFD, and 4XM. I produce SFD VCDs...VCD = Video Compact Disc. or I could be confusing and call them DVD for Dreamcast Video Disc :lol: Our VectorSona makes 4XM videos. These are both autobooting solutions that play the video in the best quality the creator of the VCD can make.


Comic books and image discs:

I create comic book discs, they're autobooting and have a zoom and scroll feature. Let's call them ICDs for Image Compact Disc.



Okay, emulators:

There's a butt-ton of Dreamcast emulators but only 3 you should be concerned with. Demul, Flycast, and Redream. Chankast is old and bitcrap. NullDC may be well loved but it's also old and bit crap. Reicast, like Null, has some real good fans despite it being old and bit crap.

Redream is the easiest to set up, has a nice upscaling feature, and a nice library GUI. Redream does not have the best compatibility but really that should only be an issue with Genesis ports. It is going to play retail and aftermarket games. It will probably play any homebrew you're interested in. Redream has a fast forward feature and of course save states. If you're downloading it grab the developer's version for WinCE support.

Flycast is your middle ground just about everywhere. It's pretty compatible, it is easy to set up and it has some really nice features. It can upscale as well, it can even texture replace, and it has a RetroArch core. It too is going to fail with a Genesis/MegaDrive port. Flycast also has fast forward and save states but it can play NAOMI, NAOMI 2, and Atomiswave games

Demul has the highest compatibility, it's going to play everything, all the retail, homebrew, aftermarket, and ports. What it doesn't have is any upscaling or even a fast forward. It has save states and it can play the full dreamcast family of hardware, NAOMI, NAOMI 2, Atomiswave, Hikaru, CV1000, and Gaelco


I use all three. Well, actually, I use the stable version and developer's version of Redream so 4. The stable Redream takes 320X240 screen shots which is literally all I use it for.




I've hit a wall. I shall finish this later, I'm sure I have more to talk about but nothing coming at the moment. I keep a link to the Dreamcast Megathread in my signature. Click it, you'll see stuff like emulators, bios, a ton of games, videos, a comic, pretty much everything I just went over.

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8 hours ago, pspjoe said:

@GatorCountry For the Video, What is the resolution of the video, is this mpg/mpeg2/mp4? 720P/1024 Full HD?

It really depends on the person who did the converting. It's not going to be HD, not even 720HD. Vector's Nausicaa is the newest uploaded video, that one is 360P but also a 30+min runtime. You might be able to hit 480P at a very short runtime, say about 10 mins. I start with 1080 mp4's and convert them to 3300 bit depth sfd's with a 20ish min runtime. I've seen Ian Michael running some very low quality avi's for his boot screens. It just depends on who did what.

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4 hours ago, pspjoe said:

@GatorCountryThanks. So is it possible to squeeze in a full movie into the disc with good quality. Speaking of quality, from your experience, what kind of expected resolution can we get with a full movie conversion?


Not in my opinion. People who try to squeeze a full film onto a single VCD sacrifice a ton of quality.

Nausicaa is a full length movie, at 360P cut into 2 discs VectorSona actually pulled off quite a feat. That's specifically why I only do episodes, serials, and shorts. I can get a nice quality in a short but anything that has a decent length to it is going to need to be chopped up or downgraded.


Here's a link to Nausicaa on a standard VCD single disk:

This is the hidden content, please

And here is Vector's Dreamcast VCD cut into 2 discs:

[4XM] Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind


As you can see just by the first link's thumbnail compared to the screenshots I took of Vector's VCD, Vector's is much higher quality. That's only possible because Sona chopped the movie in half. I believe the VCD in the first link is 240 at best.



In my opinion very old stuff that's actually being upgraded looks and plays best. Flash Gordon did not look as good as my VCDs of Flash Gordon when it aired in theaters and re-aired on television. A DVD of Flash is very, very comparable if it's been upscaled. Mine are 1080P AI upscaled then recompressed down to about 330, which is admittedly low but still higher than the tosh from the 30s and clearer than starting with a source video that's already 330 or 360. 300's is cleaner than classic broadcast TV from the tube era.





To make it super simple, we're much better than classic VCD and broadcast, a little better than VHS and Beta but not quite to DVD quality.

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