Contributing to the project and general guidelines

Contributing to the project

a (hopefully) simple and straightforward guide

 

General guidelines for submitting your recordings: – Updated on 11/11/2019

  • Only Mega Drive/Genesis soundtracks (for now)
  • Exceptions to the above rule might apply depending on the case
  • Complete soundtracks only, no single tracks. Jingles and tracks shorter than 10 seconds can be omitted. Unused/hidden/beta tracks are welcome but not required
  • The Mega Drive audio circuitry must be stock (no CCA/triple bypass/whatever, with only one notable exception – read on)
  • Pure 96Khz 24bit rips (no 192Khz or 32bit recordings dithered down to 96/24) encoded in FLAC at level 8 compression.
  • All files must have the following tags (Year = when the game was first released):
  • File names must adhere to the following convention:
    track number in double digit numbers followed by a space, dash, space and track name (example: 01 – Track name.flac)
  • Absolutely no special characters in the file name, just plain a-z and 0-9 characters. Dashes and parentheses are acceptable if really needed. This means that characters such as commas, dots, exclamation points, apostrophes or others are not allowed in the file name (but you can put whatever you want in the meta tags)
  • You must provide the album art with a resolution of 1000×1000 pixels in both PNG and JPG format which must adhere to our template (more on that later). You must not embed the album art in the files. We’ll take care of that along with converting to FLAC CD and MP3 format.
  • You must provide the following information written into a plain text file (.txt) along with your recording:
      • Your nickname
      • Exact Mega Drive/Genesis model (example: JAP Mega Drive VA0)
        • Mods you’ve done to the console, if any (example: recapped, improved power supply, etc…)
      • Playback method (example: Game’s Sound Test, 16bap VGM Player, etc…)
      • Recording Audio Interface (examples: A – Sound Blaster Audigy ZS PCI Soundcard. B – XXXXX motherboard integrated soundcard with ALC662 DAC. C – Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB)
      • [Optional] Operating System used (example: Windows 10, Windows 7, Mac OS High Sierra, Ubuntu Linux – please specify kernel used)
      • [Optional] Software used to do the recording (example: Audacity, Adobe Audition, etc…)
  • You can download the .txt file template by clicking here.

Restrictions:

Acceptable Mega Drive Genesis Models:

Only Mega Drive Model 1s are accepted (the large ones).

  • US: VA2*, VA3, VA4, VA5, VA6, VA6.5, VA6.8
  • JAP: VA0*, VA1*, VA2*, VA3, VA4, VA5, VA6, VA6.8
  • EU: none. Even if modded, PAL Mega Drives suffer from a slight difference in clock speeds, leading to wrong speeds and pitch in audio.

* = those consoles need a small modification documented here (credits to dogman91 for the clear picture). My own modification here. Make sure to use high quality parts. Once modded, those will yield the best possible sound out of a Mega Drive.

Background noise:

Insert a game/flash cartridge in your Mega Drive, turn it on and get to a part where there’s absolutely no sound or music playing. No video cable must be connected to the console.
Record 10 seconds of silence and watch how loud is the background noise.
On a 24-bit scale, if it’s -60dB or less you’re ok.
-57dB is acceptable.
At -55dB it will start getting noticeable and anything more won’t be acceptable.
You must send this 10 seconds silence file to me for inspection along with the other tracks. No exceptions. If you don’t, your contribution will get rejected.

Pro-tip: When recording, make sure to try isolating the console as much as possible from anything else. No video cables connected and try putting the console away from potential sources of interference (examples: PCs, monitors, mobile phones, etc…).
Always use shielded cables.

Recording rules:

  • Do not clip
  • Do not clip
  • Do not clip
  • Did I already say “do not clip”?
  • Really, do not clip
  • Don’t you dare compress to avoid clipping
  • And don’t even try de-clipping
  • So, do not clip

So, what’s the big deal about clipping? Clipping means you’re sending a signal to the recording interface which is too strong thus overloading the circuitry and leading to bad distortion. You *MUST* avoid this at all costs and the solution is simple: lower the source volume.
You’ll be recording from the headphone jack, which means you’ll have a handy volume slider. You’ll always want this set to max volume, but if you’re clipping, slide it slowly down until it doesn’t clip anymore.
If you use Audacity, you’ll clearly see clipping because there’ll be a red bar.
Sometimes there will be a very brief spike on inaudible sounds which may clip. Those are the only exceptions and are ok.
To put it short, this is acceptable:

This is not:

And, as a good practice, always leave some headroom in your recordings. Volume knobs exist for a reason.
I’m giving this tip because when we’re downsampling 96Khz 24bit to CD quality at 44.1Khz 16bit, we’re reducing the dynamic range available and tracks which are very near the clipping point might clip at the lower sampling. Not a big deal because this is all handled by the converter during the process, but it’s always good use to leave just that tiny bit of headroom free.

Other recording rules:

  • If the track loop is longer than 2 minutes, make it loop only once
  • If the track loop is shorter than 2 minutes, make it loop twice
  • If the track loop is shorter than 30 seconds, make it loop three times
  • If the track isn’t meant to loop, do not loop it, even if it’s very short
  • If the track loops, always add fade out and add 1 second of silence after fadeout
  • Do not normalize the tracks. If there are some tracks which are very quiet and another one which is too loud (ie: it clips) then slightly lower the volume until the loudest track doesn’t clip anymore and leave the volume the same for all the other ones.
  • If you find out that all the tracks are too quiet, do not amplify them in software, record them again from scratch with the right amount of volume. Same applies if you find out that you’ve clipped.
  • In other, simpler words: find the highest volume settings you can use without clipping and stick to it for the entire game soundtrack.
  • And while we’re at it, do not clip.

Further recording instructions:

There are all kind of recording interfaces out there, but we can separate those between two big and very important categories: those which have a volume control and those which don’t.

  • Recording interfaces with recording volume control:
    Without getting too technical, those might have a simple attenuator (such as a resistive potentiometer) or an operational amplifier which will let you boost or lower the volume. In this case, you should have your Mega Drive volume slider always set to max and lower the volume on the recording interface if you’re clipping.
  • Recording interfaces without recording volume control:
    Contrary to common logic, those are the ones I’d recommend because they have less circuitry involved and your recording will be more accurate and less “colored”. In this case you have no choice but lower the Mega Drive volume slider to avoid clipping.

One final note: please be aware of the difference between hardware and software volume controls. Since this document is already pretty long (and boring) I’ll make it short:
Hardware Volume = Good (use this)
Software Volume = Bad (don’t use this)
Finding out if your recording interface has an hardware recording volume control should be pretty easy because those recording interfaces will have a physical knob or something like that.
In the case of PCI Audio cards, the situation gets way more complicated because they *might* have a hardware volume control which you can operate via software (ugh) but you should dig into the sound card specs/manual hoping to find some hints.
If I were in this situation I’d probably just set the recording level to the max on the Windows mixer/macOS Audio MIDI Setup/whatever you have and adjust the volume on the Mega Drive and call it a day.

Album art:

Here’s the template you’ll be using: just paste the cover onto it so that it blends well and you’re good to go. If you want, feel free to add your own name/nickname somewhere on the cover, just do not make it huge (look at the “Community Release” font, do not make it any bigger than that, please) and try putting it into the upper right or lower right corner.

Template

And the template for our Youtube Channel:

TemplateYT

You can find high quality covers here.

VGM Player:

This is the software we’ve been using to play back all the music natively on the Mega Drive and without video interference: VGM_Play
This is a modified version of Deadfish Shitware fantastic VGM_Play which was done exclusively for us to attain perfect timing.
The usage is pretty simple: it’s a windows software you unpack with WinRAR, start VGM_Play.exe, select Rom Builder, Add Tracks (which will open an explorer window where you can select vgm/vgz files) and then Build Rom and you’ll have a VGM_Play.bin file in the same folder which is the ROM you’ll have to put into your flashcart.
Please, use only Project2612.org VGMs as those are the most accurate ones.

If you want to rip the music straight from the game cart that’s ok as well, but you may have some extra noise due to the CPU working harder.

Phew, that should be all!
This guide will be probably updated over time so make sure to keep checking it from time to time.
Also, please note that as of 11/11/2019 we don’t have anyone checking the tracks, so make sure that you’ve done things properly.