Review of the VIC-II-dizer and RGBtoHDMI

Like many others, I made a cable which takes the C64's "component" video to produce S-Video. It was somewhat blurry and had jailbars and other minor but irritating artifacts. The problem is that this and other similar methods use already noisy video signals from the C64. Also, the S-Video cable hack is not technically correct.

I periodically google to see if there have been any new developments, and boy-oh-boy has there ever!

This solution is based upon something called Lumacode.

This c0pperdragon chap has created a tiny board called the VIC-II-dizer which fits between the C64's VIC-II socket and the VIC-II chip and takes the digital image information from the chip and produces a Lumacode signal which can then be decoded by an RGBtoHDMI board to produce HDMI output using a Raspberry Pi Zero.

VIC-II-dizer Top View

VIC-II-dizer Bottom View

c0pperdragon sells these on Tindie. You should also get the Lumacode cable for RGBtoHDMI.

Lumacode Cable

c0pperdragon's note: Starting with revision 2 of the board, the FPGA can auto-detect all variants of the VIC-II with the exception of the very early and rare 6567R56A. For this specific chip, you need to specifically request a specialized firmware to be programmed into the board. You can do that using the comment box of the Tindie order. Otherwise it should work out of the box, even for some exotic 50Hz NTSC variants.

My note: This post has photos from my C64 Type B, however, I have now also added a VIC-II-dizer to my Type A which has that ancient 6567R56A, and I can say the board with the special firmware worked perfectly.

Additional note: I have also added the VIC-II-dizer to my C64 Type C which uses the MOS 8562 VIC chip. The regular VIC-II-dizer works great there too.

I bought a Raspberry Pi Zero at WaveShare. I got the non-WiFi version, but you could also use that if you want.

Raspberry Pi Zero Obverse

Raspberry Pi Zero Reverse

I bought a Raspberry Pi Zero Power Supply from Amazon. It has a micro-USB connector.

Power Supply

I bought an RGBtoHDMI Adapter Board, Analog Board, and Clear Case from Retro Hack Shack. The whole thing fits together in a stack like a sandwich.

RGBtoHDMI adapter board:

RGBtoHDMI Adapter Board

Analog Board:

Analog Board

Clear Case:

Clear Case

The Raspberry Pi Zero needs a Raspberry PI 40-pin GPIO Male Header to be able to plug into the RGBtoHDMI Adapter. The Raspberry Pi Zero I bought didn't come with a GPIO header soldered on it, so I had to buy one and solder it.

GPIO Male Header

Since the HDMI jack on the Raspberry Pi Zero is mini-HDMI format, I needed to buy a Mini HDMI to female HDMI Adapter

Mini-HDMI to HDMI Adapter

You need a FAT32 formatted microSD card with the RGBtoHDMI software for the Raspberry Pi Zero to run.

The VIC-II-dizer installation is super easy. In this video a guy from the Retro Hack Shack installs it in one minute.

Here is mine installed for initial testing:

VIC-II-dizer Installed

The Raspberry Pi Zero (with GPIO header soldered on), the analog board, and RGBtoHDMI adapter board all get stacked together in a sandwich.

Stack Top View

Stack bottom View

Here is my stack of boards in operation with the cables plugged in:

Stack Operating View

You will need configure the RGBtoHDMI unit to let it know it's processing a Commodore 64 Lumacode signal.

Upon initial powerup, you will see junk. It might look like this or something quite different depending upon which signal profile it decided to default to.

Regardless of the profile, you should briefly see the initial RGBtoHDMI info splash. Here it defaulted to Apple II profile.

Initial View

The left-most button will bring up the menu and you can see the default profile.

Random Default Profile

We then use the three navigation buttons on the RGBtoHDMI adapter to select the correct profile.

Go to the bottom of the menu (using the other two navigation buttons) so you can select the profile.

Select Profile

Select the Commodore profile

Select Commodore Profile

Then select Commodore 64 Lumacode.

Select Commodore 64 Lumacode

The unit will say it's programming for about 10 seconds or so, and then restart.

Once you have done this, the profile setting is saved on the microSD card and you don't have to set it again.

The results are absolutely perfect. Crisp and noiseless. It's better than using the original commodore monitor with C64 "component" cables.

These pictures taken of the screen with my phone camera don't do it justice.

Screen Wide View

Screen Close View

Since that was so successful, I made the installation a bit more permanent. I removed the RF modulator which produced enormous amounts of heat (and thus probably loaded the power supply significantly) and soldered the Lumacode leads to the RF connector.

Final Installation

So in summary, the VIC-II-dizer used in conjunction with the RGBtoHDMI boards and Raspberry Pi Zero does a fantastic job and the installation is minimally invasive to the C64. There is nothing negative I could possibly say about it. I would like to thank all the developers for this amazing solution.

P. David Buchan