Author Topic: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV  (Read 20017 times)

DLPB

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How about a little music to go with this? 

Edited 26.June.2012 to reflect new information.

This thread has been created to discuss the resolution used in Final Fantasy VII.  Starting with the Playstation through to the ported PC version, which has the same underlining issues.

When I first played FF7 back in 1997, I was surprised to find blatant black borders during game play.  A decade later, I had decoded some of the FMV to discover that they were were a very odd resolution (320*224).  At first, I took this resolution to be a side effect of the Playstation... that is was one of its standards.

Later, I had done a lot of work with video editing and I still hadn't encountered anything else that used 320*224 or a multiple of it.  In fact, the only games I know to this day that use this resolution are the square games FF7,8 and 9. 

When playing FF7, it becomes clear that the FMV are 320*224 to fit in with the game play.  The fields match up perfectly to the FMV, like the opening FMV into the District 1 (Yeah, I am not using erroneous names like Sector anymore) Station field.  The question still remains- why this resolution?

It has been said elsewhere that the "normal"  resolution of the Playstation is 320*224, but this is a nonsense.  A normal resolution for a Playstation game is the sane 320*240 or 640*480, which is 1.33 AR, or 4:3, the TV standard.  The reason for the more blatant black borders in FF7 is that to fit a 320*240 profile, the Playstation/TV has had to compensate for the choice of resolution.   320*224 (1.42857 AR)  does not conform to any known standard that I am aware of. 

I did a little digging and found out that the SNES uses 256*224 Progressive.  Could it be that in the transition from FF6 (SNES) to FF7, they simply kept the none standard 224 vertical pixels?   I have been told that FF7 had been intended for the N64 originally. Could this have been an early design choice?  The problem with my argument is that FF8 and 9 continued to use 320*224.  Why would they do that?   Because they used the same engine and didn't want to redesign? Gemini offered the view that:

Quote
Most square games do that.
 It's just an optimization matter for vram

This still doesn't explain why other games use the much more logical 320*240.  Others have surmised that the original choice of 224 vertical resolution was to avoid overscan with older TV sets.   

The problem with 320*224 is that is a totally awkward non-standard resolution.  It wasn't good for TV and it isn't good for PC, either. The PC game suffers the same black border issue that the PSX did, because it is using the same field backgrounds and FMV's. The PAL version of FF7 suffers even more because PAL has a greater vertical resolution than NTSC (576 v 525).

This moves me onto my second point.  The FMV.  Back in 1997, CD was the media available to Final Fantasy VII staff, who had ditched N64 for precisely the reason that 64MB cartridges were too limiting.  Even then, it would take 3CD's to fit the necessary number of FMV into the game. Because space was still too limited, the design team had no choice but to use a low end resolution (this goes for the game backgrounds too).  Coupled with the Mdec (using mjpeg codec), the resulting videos are unimpressive by today's standards and look even worse on the high resolution LCD monitors we now have.  Given the odd choice of 320*224 by the design team, it couldn't have gotten any worse.

The team that created the FMV worked with 3D rendering software at much higher resolutions... so it's no surprise that there exist higher resolution FMV's.  Sadly, the only release of higher resolution FMV's came on a DVD released by Toshiba, with issues which make them poor for use in modding.  These issues are:

  • The video is interlaced
  • Toshiba were given the FMV at 640*448, meaning they added borders around the entire video to make it a NTSC compliant DVD 720*480.
  • The original sound is not present
  • Editing has taken place. Sometimes the video ends too quickly, and on one, the camera is higher up.
  • A lot of the FMV are missing


The DVD does answer the question as to whether higher resolution videos were made.  The DVD versions are not upscaled from the PSX versions, they are from a higher resolution render.  I find it very likely that Square rendered at a few resolutions which could be taken at any time and used in the way they saw fit.  Final Fantasy VIII PC also comes with higher resolution 640*448 videos. 

The game backgrounds were designed at larger resolutions as well.  The only releases from the higher quality renders are background items from the International bonus disc.
 
Higher resolution renders of the backgrounds likely exist in the same way that higher resolution FMV's exist. Either way, due to limited disc space, these high quality renders were never released.

I looked online at the official release high resolution "Sephiroth at Niblheim" still, hoping it would answer the question as to whether even higher resolution masters are available.  The still is 1024*768 and is obviously generated by the same team that worked on the FMV.  Sadly, the still does not appear in any of the frames of the FMV, so I have to conclude it was created solely for use as a wallpaper.  The still is an indication of how high the quality of the FMV's could be if the videos were rendered at higher resolutions.

In conclusion:

  • The FF7 Team worked in 3D for the backgrounds and movies and probably rendered at a few resolutions before ending the project.  The released video resolutions for FF7 are 320*224 game, and 640*448 Toshiba DVD.  It is likely higher quality renders exist out there, possibly ones at an even greater frame rate.
  • The FF7 Team worked at 320*224 possibly because of fear of overscan, and/or poor research on game resolution after coming from the SNES. It is also possible it was an early design choice in preparation for the N64. They then kept this design choice because they didn't want to change the engine or because they still had a fear of overscan.
« Last Edit: 2012-06-26 12:59:00 by DLPB »

PitBrat

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #1 on: 2012-06-24 14:03:30 »
Could it be that the 320x224 resolution was to compensate for TV overscan?
Also that resolution reduces image fattening by creating a more square pixel on the TV screen.

It seems the main factors for using that resolution are the legacy of the NES and what looked good on TV's at the time.

There's a lot of debate about the reasoning behind 320x224 HERE.

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #2 on: 2012-06-24 14:05:53 »
Perhaps, but how does 320*240 make a problem?  Especially when we are talking about 1997 and the playstation?  And then possibly the laziness to keep the system in place for FF8 and FF9?


Perhaps earlier sets had a problem but the overscan even in those cases would be very small (and I don't see how there would be an overscan with NTSC at 525 lines?)... did they really just keep 224 because of the possibility of slight overscan with old sets?  And for FF8 and 9 too?  Other games moved on....
« Last Edit: 2012-06-24 14:15:49 by DLPB »

Cyberman

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #3 on: 2012-06-24 15:42:06 »
Perhaps, but how does 320*240 make a problem?  Especially when we are talking about 1997 and the playstation?  And then possibly the laziness to keep the system in place for FF8 and FF9?


Perhaps earlier sets had a problem but the overscan even in those cases would be very small (and I don't see how there would be an overscan with NTSC at 525 lines?)... did they really just keep 224 because of the possibility of slight overscan with old sets?  And for FF8 and 9 too?  Other games moved on....
Remember Square was coming off writing software for the SNES. There is also a significant lack of documentation from FF7 because of some of the things Square did with the project. For example they did not archive there information and what they could find of it was not the original Playstation production release data for FF7. The PSX was written in a different language (C++ vs C) different system (PS1 vs SNES). You need to keep in mind the Human aspect of design, and the fact that C++ was a relatively NEW language for Games in 1994/5 (yes you have to GO back 1997 is the RELEASE date NOT the development date). Remember 2 or MORE years went into FF7 before it was released. So 1997 is wrong in terms of 'thinking'. In 1993-1995 Silicon Graphics was still a major player in Video editing etc thus SGI units were being used by Sony for all Ps1 media development. (SGI == Silicon Graphics Indigo really cool system for it's time).

Again 1997 is just plain wrong go earlier in your thinking. Games do not instantly get developed (despite what salesman think).

Cyb

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #4 on: 2012-06-24 16:15:50 »
I did make mention of the transition from SNES in the piece above....  but even so, using that resolution is poor design.  A company as big as that should be researching these things.  It is basic.

Bosola

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #5 on: 2012-06-24 16:38:34 »
How were the videos created? Are they 3D objects in a high-detailed render, or are they hand-managed 2D frames?

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #6 on: 2012-06-24 16:42:11 »
From what I have read, they are 2d framebyframe for FMV at classic 15fps.  Makes sense.  Imagine rendering entire areas in 3D... 

At least that's what I have been reading.  With VII, you can never tell.  It does look like normal animation to me though...

Does anyone know for sure?
« Last Edit: 2012-06-24 16:45:53 by DLPB »

syntax error

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #7 on: 2012-06-24 20:58:04 »
One of the guys at thelifestream.net found out that a different version of the unused Honeybee Inn room where you can see a TV is featured in the "Plate falling" FMV.

Shademp

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #8 on: 2012-06-24 21:08:16 »
One of the guys at thelifestream.net found out that a different version of the unused Honeybee Inn room where you can see a TV is featured in the "Plate falling" FMV.
I told DLPB about it already. Don't know how many others know of the connection.
http://thelifestream.net/forums/showpost.php?p=452447&postcount=46
« Last Edit: 2012-06-24 21:12:59 by Shademp »

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #9 on: 2012-06-24 21:56:29 »
One of the guys at thelifestream.net found out that a different version of the unused Honeybee Inn room where you can see a TV is featured in the "Plate falling" FMV.

best guess they used animation everywhere except actual backgrounds.  Those were prob just shoehorned in and worked around.

SpooX

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #10 on: 2012-06-25 16:46:59 »
How were the videos created? Are they 3D objects in a high-detailed render, or are they hand-managed 2D frames?
They are certanly 3d rendered, not 2d animated.

As for the honey bee room being partly the same of the fall-plate movie, well simply put it is reuse of assets.
I've seen it all around the backgrounds, and movies.

Softimage 3d was the tool being used

click image for FFVII advert on youtube

 8-)

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #11 on: 2012-06-25 17:24:26 »
Yes but what of the niblheim fire scene?  That doesn't look anything like 3d rendering to me?  And to render all of Junon and elsewhere then throw it away?  There are so many FMV there that wouldn't make sense to be in full 3d rendering (even if the first movie does).  What of them?   I can't honestly believe that they created full 3d environments and models for every single FMV ?

Did they?
« Last Edit: 2012-06-25 17:27:02 by DLPB »

BlitzNCS

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #12 on: 2012-06-25 17:47:57 »
So basically, you're saying FMVs such as this one here were painted in by hand, frame by frame?

Not sure why you'd think that - to me, it's clearly a 3D rendering. Maybe the flames were added in as a video effect, but I think it's pretty obvious that's been done in 3D, no? Compare it to other FMVs sephiroth is in. Same exact model being used. And iI'm sure if they were painting it all in by hand, they would have made movement a little less rigid somehow.

I was under the impression that the vast majority of the game's backgrounds and movies were all done in 3D, perhaps with the odd one or two being drawn in by hand where it made sense to.

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #13 on: 2012-06-25 18:20:48 »
Well perhaps they did do that, but certainly not all 3D.  Other none 3d elements like the fire would have been added.  I am not sure which requires most work, full 3d environments which no one is actually gonna care about once the 2d fmv is finished, or animating frame by frame?

SpooX

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #14 on: 2012-06-25 20:00:40 »
it is considered quite normal to use matte paintings in the process.


consider this one for example:


that would be extremely expensive to create such a large warehouse...

The flames are layered upon the 3d animation, as making flames would be really expensive (rendering particles) using the technology of that times, but they had sgi stations to work on that. So not only windows 3.11 systems  :-P

 8-)

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #15 on: 2012-06-25 20:21:02 »
I see...

so the original quality of the fmv is limited only by how much detail they placed into the models?  And then they rendered an entire sequence by programming the camera movement?  But are you saying the sapphire weapon and so forth were full 3d models?
« Last Edit: 2012-06-25 20:24:42 by DLPB »

SpooX

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #16 on: 2012-06-25 20:36:09 »
yep.

If you look for instance at the frames of the intro movie with the sector 8 square (on which I'm currently working on) and compare the scene with MD8_3, you'll notice that the details within the animation are less than in the background, benches are missing, lanterns are missing, etc. even the flowers are missing... ;D

Which makes it logical as less details are rendered faster, and the field backgrounds are single image renderings (with the exception of the animation layers).

  But are you saying the sapphire weapon and so forth were full 3d models?

That's als a 'yep', the same goes for the Juno cannon and the cliff, etc.
 8)

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #17 on: 2012-06-25 21:14:02 »
Interesting.  So which is easier/more cost effective?  Framebyframe animation or 3d models with camera?  And why didn't they supply Toshiba with anything better than 640*448?  (or do you think they just rendered at 2 resolutions and ended the project?)

SpooX

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #18 on: 2012-06-25 21:48:31 »
let's throw in a 'what if'....

Looking at the movies based upon the playstation version, as it is the most original.
There are some extra streams within the video stream.
One of them is the camera data.

Could it be as simple as limiting the display data, for needing space for other data? That could make sense.

And for going into the Toshiba DVD release, I suspect the original is rendered at a higher resolution than on the playstation. It is scaled down to the Toshiba resolution, as well as scaled down for the playstation resolution.

Desktop screens, are just like the field screens, rendered as single images and thus not limited to a TV screen resolution.

 8-)

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #19 on: 2012-06-25 22:14:08 »
Would you then say that the wallpaper released by square is an indication of how high they worked quality wise?

Could there really exist out there masters that are far ahead of 640*448?

Borde

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #20 on: 2012-06-25 22:21:55 »
I guess the cost of the resolution was pretty much linear. So it all boils down to how much time they actually could afford to spend rendering (keeping in mind the possible errors and multiple studied possibilities). I think they simply used the bare minimum resolution they found tolerable. And for the DVD versions, when everything was already final, they simply re-rendered the movies once more with a higher resolution.

As for the actual game resolution, who knows. Maybe they had some sort of technical reason for that. I can tell you , for example, early VGA games where rendered at 320x200 8bits because it was a very convenient resolution due to real mode memory mapping. Back on the day DOS programs could access the memory in 64KB chunks called segments. Since 320x200x1bytes = 64KB, one could fill the whole framebuffer without having to deal with costly bank switchings.

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #21 on: 2012-06-26 00:09:11 »
So to conclude this:

  • They worked in 3d for the backgrounds and movies and probably rendered at a few resolutions before the end of the project.  The 2 released resolutions for FF7 are 320*224 game, and 640*448 Toshiba DVD. 
  • They worked at 320*224 possibly because of fear of overscan, and/or poor research on game resolution after coming from the SNES. It is also possible it was an early design choice in preparation for the N64. They then kept this design choice because they didn't want to change the engine or because they still had a fear of overscan.


Does anyone know for certain if FF9 also keeps to the 320*224 standard (along with game play)?




ajthedj747

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #22 on: 2012-06-27 04:19:05 »
So to conclude this:

  • They worked in 3d for the backgrounds and movies and probably rendered at a few resolutions before the end of the project.  The 2 released resolutions for FF7 are 320*224 game, and 640*448 Toshiba DVD. 
  • They worked at 320*224 possibly because of fear of overscan, and/or poor research on game resolution after coming from the SNES. It is also possible it was an early design choice in preparation for the N64. They then kept this design choice because they didn't want to change the engine or because they still had a fear of overscan.


Does anyone know for certain if FF9 also keeps to the 320*224 standard (along with game play)?

Well, DLPB, I do not know anything about the screen resolution of the Full Motion Videos from Final Fantasy IX. But I did find a link that may help you:

http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/197338-final-fantasy-ix/62264361

Please look at what @MysterPixel said on this web page from GameFaqs.com when you get the chance.

If you do the math, 640 divided by 2 equals 320 and 480 divided by 2 equals 240. Hmm, not sure if this helps.

Bosola

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #23 on: 2012-06-27 12:44:59 »
Interesting.  So which is easier/more cost effective?  Framebyframe animation or 3d models with camera?

What you have to bear in mind is that it's very hard to guarantee a video won't need re-doing some time in the future. Things change; requirements alter; things get removed from video because their counterparts in game are cut from the final release etc. etc. In this sort of environment, it's far smarter to create some 3d models, use some static 2D backgrounds and keep the ability to re-render at will.

Quote
Could there really exist out there masters that are far ahead of 640*448?

Back then? Likely - in fact, there might even have been objects and models with details held as vector information rather than rasters. Today? Not so likely; as soon as FF7 shipped the team was dissolved and the assets all lost.

DLPB

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Re: FF7 - Technical Discussion on Game Resolution and FMV
« Reply #24 on: 2012-06-27 12:59:19 »
That's a real shame too....  You'd have thought they would have kept all that properly archived after such a long hard project.

It says there that the FMV on IX are 640*480... that sounds suspicious to me.  I am sure it was smaller.
« Last Edit: 2012-06-27 13:00:56 by DLPB »