Turning a classic CRT into a Smart TV

This is not so much a guide as an experiment: will it work or not? So this is only partly serious, but fun and unusual. Let’s go!

I apologize in advance for the horrible photos of the TV. CRTs display interlaced content, making a good shot is difficult.

Initially, I wanted to set up my PC to TV connection in order to play old games. And I carefully studied the option with SDIhowever my Sony PVM does not work well with the SDI module installed. For a very long time, switching to an input without external synchronization (but with external synchronization turned on) put the unfortunate TV into “panic” mode, which turned on a sad orange light on the indicator. You could put up with this, only this happened every time you turned off the console, without first disconnecting the external synchronization OR without switching to another input … In short, under any conditions. Now everything is “fixed” by removing the SDI module from the Sony PVM-14M4A.

I feel like the longevity of a set-top box DVB tuner is nearing a bitter end as most services are moving their content to “digital” (also known as streaming) platforms and broadcasting is slowly moving to a large TV in the clouds. It’s a slow decline, but it’s still there. So here’s a way to kind of keep up with the times without buying a new TV.

To make it work, you need a few things. Here’s my shopping list:

  • 1 x Chromecast with Google TV (or Equivalent TV Box with HDMI)

  • 1 x HDMI to S-video / composite downscaler (because upscaling is trending now too)

  • 1 x CRT TV (can be found thrown in the street)

Google Chromecast with Google TV
Google Chromecast with Google TV

Step 1. Putting it all together

Here’s what I bought on eBay:

HDMI to S-video converter
HDMI to S-video converter

The downscaler I chose was inexpensive and included all the necessary cables. The S-video cable turned out to be especially good, which came as a pleasant surprise. The body of the device is metal, and overall the quality is decent, despite the fact that this converter has practically no additional options and controls.

Look at these delicious connectors ... They remind me of a bygone era
Look at these delicious connectors … they remind me of a bygone era

Step 2. Enable 16: 9 mode

(unless, of course, you like watching unnaturally drawn content)

There are several options here. If your TV has this feature, use it! Otherwise, you will be fiddling with the vertical height adjuster, which is in the regular menu or in the hidden service menu, and if not, you may need to open the case and work with the potentiometer. I warn you, there is a great terrible lethal tension inside. It was easier for me as the Sony PVM has a 16: 9 mode button on the front panel.

I prefer to fill the entire screen for a better view, but I also don’t like working in the wrong aspect ratio.

I really wanted a cheap downscaler to be able to somehow solve this for maximum flexibility. No doubt more expensive devices can do this, but I was interested in keeping this project within budget. Otherwise, it may be more appropriate to buy a new TV.

Step 3. Set up your Chromecast

Apart from waiting for delivery, this was the longest part of the process. Seriously! Too many firmware and software updates for a device that was made literally last month (dated May 2021 on the box!).

I noticed that the number of resolution options in Google TV differs depending on which device you have connected. For example, I get a lot more power when I connect to a modern LCD TV than when I connect to a converter box. However, it doesn’t matter here, because they all have the same or higher resolution than what S-video gives. Quality doesn’t seem to matter, but I settled on the 50Hz mode, which corresponds to the PAL mode on the downscaler.

Step 4. Enjoy

It actually works well. Even better than I expected. I think if you downscale a 1080p source to 576i (PAL) or 480i (NTSC) and use a decent TV, it will give you a pretty sharp picture. Moreover, the content is a video, and not some kind of site (I tried to read a couple of pages on the site, so I don’t recommend it).

As with most CRTs, it is very difficult to capture sharpness on camera (interlacing doesn’t help here, I did better with 240p).

Is the text size on Google TV too small?  No, actually quite readable
Is the text size on Google TV too small? No, actually quite readable

Now I can sit back and watch a solid amount of CRT-era content on a real CRT TV. That’s why we got confused, right?

Here is an example from one of the best car chase scenes

Other tricks and tricks

The downscaler has a switch for CVBS or S-video, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference. I mean, using S-video over composite will completely flip your world, but the physical switch doesn’t seem to affect anything: you can get an S-video signal when the switch is in CVBS mode.

There is also a downscaler switch for NTSC or PAL which works just fine. I think this is a bit of a philosophical debate about which is better: 20% higher resolution (480i versus 576i) or 20% higher frame rate (29.97 fps versus 25 fps). But maybe try both?

I have also tried using a regular HDMI source like laptop. At one time, I was a big fan of connecting a computer to a TV using any video card I had at the time – probably my first was an ATI All-in-Wonder Pro from 97/98 – and of course the text looks terrible, but in fact TV is not for that, is it?

Hmm, the sites aren't that great, but video playback is fine.
Hmm, the sites aren’t that great, but video playback is fine.

Bottom line: It is recommended that you leave your old TV in working order for something to do on the weekend.

What else is interesting in the blog Cloud4Y

→ Frequent errors in Nginx settings, due to which the web server becomes vulnerable

→ Phishing with a fake meeting invitation

→ Cloud kitchen: preparing data for monitoring using the vCloud API and a pressure cooker

→ Prepare vApp template for VMware vCenter + ESXi test environment

→ VMware warned of critical vulnerabilities in remote code execution in vCenter

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