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:
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.