If you’re like me, you love playing videogames on retro consoles. Our beloved industry has come a long way since its beginnings, but there are gamers out there who occasionally bust out some old systems with obsolete audio-video formats. HDMI is the norm, but before HDMI was a thing, there were several other popular formats — Component, VGA, SCART, S-video, and composite.
But before there was composite, game systems’ native format was the then-standard RF format, which is noticeably inferior to every other AV format in existence. However, that doesn’t mean the game systems that use RF are to be ignored.
So, let’s say that you decide to bust out something like an Atari 2600, the most popular RF-only console in history. You could hard-mod it to be natively compatible with better AV formats, but you despise that kind of modding like I do.
Unfortunately, you realize that the device you’re sending your console’s signal to contains a composite input, but no RF input. And to make matters worse, you’ve looked up “RF-to-composite converters” on Google, and there are none to be found. You may think you’re out of luck, but don’t panic — There is indeed a way out of this problem!
To turn an RF signal into a composite output, there are several tools you will need. First, connect the AV cable from your game system to the RF adapter it came with, or a replacement adapter if need be.
Alternatively, you can use a tiny female-RCA-to-male-coaxial connector, which looks like this…
Now that that’s taken care of, what device with a coaxial input are you going to use that will output a composite signal? The answer comes in the form of three letters — VCR.
After you screw the aforementioned tiny connector into the VCR’s coaxial input, the next tool to use is a set of RCA composite cables.
Plug three red-white-and-yellow cables into the VCR’s composite output holes, and plug the remainder of those cables into the composite input of the device you’re feeding that signal into.
Once you boot up your screen, VCR, and game system, your work is complete! In a future edition of Preston’s Tech Tips, I’ll give my take on how to record footage of retro game systems without using external camcorders. Until next time, thank you for reading this tutorial!