Tagged: PAL

Decoding PAL Video from a Nintendo with An Airspy SDR Part 2

Oona combines composite output for color images.
Oona combines composite output for color images.

Last week we posted about Oona Räisänen's ([Windytan] and @windyoona) project to capture live video from her 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) using an Airspy SDR. In order to avoid expensive Video Capture cards which didn't work on her Mac, she used an Airspy SDR to decode the PAL composite video output of the NES. Last week she had black and white video working.

This week she has full color working, and has on her blog posted a write up about her project with the Airspy and her experiences with trying to find a suitable capture solution. She also goes into some detail about the CPU performance considerations of this solution, noting that there are some performance bottlenecks. She's also uploaded a video showing the results in action.

MacBook decodes PAL video via Airspy R2

Decoding PAL Video from a Nintendo with an Airspy SDR

Oona (also known as [Windytan] and @windyoona) was recently looking for a way to capture PAL composite video from her old 1980’s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) without spending a bunch of money on what are often poor video capture cards. As she already owned an Airspy SDR she decided to receive the PAL signal with the Airspy and modify some software to act as a PAL decoder.

PAL decoding was handled via some modifications to her private Tempest software. Normally Tempest type programs like TempestSDR that we covered in a [previous article] are used to spy on computer/TV monitors from signals that are unintentionally emitted in the surrounding area.

Oona has made the connection from the composite output directly to the SDR antenna input so it’s not unexpected that you’d have a strong signal. However, I have to admit that’s an incredibly clear image for a video being demodulated via a software radio.

What makes this an even more amazing feat is that the latency is low enough that it’s nearly playable using a computer and SDR in place of a television set.

We note that we’ve also seen SDRs used to decode standard PAL TV broadcasts before with an SDR# plugin called TVSharp.

Transmitting Analog TV Broadcasts with a HackRF

Over on the user submitted hackaday.io community, user marble has shared his work about using a HackRF to transmit PAL analog colored TV images with his rad1o (the rad1o is a slight variation of the HackRF One) using a GNU Radio flowgraph.

In his submission he shares a tutorial that explains the theory behind the PAL analog video standard. He explains the different components of the PAL signal, including the luma (black and white part), frame rates, and modulation. He then goes on to explain how color is encoded onto the PAL by using Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM).

Finally in the files section marble also supplies us with the GNU Radio flowgraph which can be used to transmit PAL video with a HackRF.

PAL test signal transmitted with a HackRF.
PAL test signal transmitted with a HackRF.

New SDR# Plugin: PAL / SECAM TV

The SDR# plugins programmer over at rtl-sdr.ru has recently released a new plugin which allows the decoding of PAL / SECAM TV images from within SDR# (note link in Russian, use Google translate or see the download link at the bottom of the page). The author also writes that if you are using a newer software defined radio like an Airspy, you can also receive the audio channel using the SDR# multiple VFO plugin.

We note that there is also the TVSharp software by the same author which is a standalone program that can decode PAL and NTSC.

PAL / SECAM TV SDR# Plugin
PAL / SECAM TV SDR# Plugin

TVSharp Updated to Version 1.2

The PAL/NTSC analogue TV viewer TVSharp has recently been updated to version 1.2. This new version features an updated GUI as well as automatic frequency correction and automatic position correction. This may correct some of the scrolling and slanting problems seen in previous versions.

The latest TVSharp can be downloaded from here.

Word of warning: Chrome recognizes the download as malicious, however I have downloaded the file using FireFox and scanned it with Microsoft Security Essentials which found it to be clean.

TVSharp v1.2
TVSharp v1.2

Review of Various Lesser Known RTL-SDR Dongles

While the standard R820T dongles are the cheapest, most popular and best overall performing, there are other lesser known dongles variants out there which contain RTL2832 chips. Gough Lui has reviewed two lesser known dongles with Belling Lee (PAL) connectors on his blog.

One dongle uses the FC0013 tuner, and the other uses the R820T chip. Gough opens the dongles up and inspects their electronics and gives his opinions on the design.

One of the alternative R280T models with PAL antenna connectors
One of the alternative R280T models with a PAL antenna connector

Radio Signal Identification Guide

NOTE: Recent changes to WordPress seem to have broken the audio on this page. Please use the new Signal Identification Wiki which has many new signals. Anyone can edit and improve the information on the pages on the wiki.

A guide to help you identify some amateur and utility digital radio signals and sounds which you may find on the frequency spectrum. Most of these have been received with an RTL-SDR software defined radio. I will be slowly adding more to this list over time. If you enable stereo mix and pass the sample audio to an appropriate decoding program the sample audio should be decodable for most samples.

If you would like to suggest a modification or contribute a sample, please send a sample, waterfall image and information about the signal to [email protected], or post in the comments. (Note I am currently backlogged with contributed signals, if I haven’t replied or added your signal yet it will be done within a month or two).

More sites with sample audio can be found at this list on dxzone.com. A very nice overview video of the HF spectrum by balint can be found here. There are also two paperback books: Technical Handbook for Radio Monitoring VHF/UHF (PDF Excerpt) & Technical Handbook for Radio Monitoring HF (PDF Excerpt) which have a very comprehensive list, description and images of many signals.

ACARS

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: 131.550 MHz

Mode: AM

Bandwidth: 5000-8000 Hz

Description: Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS). Short messages sent to and from aircraft.

Decoding Software: PlanePlotter, ACARSD

Video Examples: [1], [2]

ACARS Packets

P25 Phase 1 (C4FM Modulation) (Encrypted)

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~860 MHz, ~500 MHz + others

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 10000 Hz

Description: P25 encrypted digital voice signal with C4FM modulation.

Decoding Software: Digital Speech Decoder (DSD). Note, only unencrypted can be decoded.

Video Examples:  [1], [2][3]

P25 Waterfall Example

DMR/MotoTRBO

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~860 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 10000 Hz

Description: Motorola digital voice signal known as MotoTRBO (pronouced Moto-Turbo).

Decoding Software: Digital Speech Decoder (DSD). Note, only unencrypted can be decoded.

Video Examples: [1], [2]

DMR/MOTOTRBO Signal Waterfall

POCSAG/FLEX-A

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~151 MHz, ~900-950 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 10000 Hz

Description: Pager digital signal known as POCSAG. An acronym of Post Office Code Standardization Advisory Group.

Decoding Software: PDW

Video Examples: [1], [2]

 POCSAG/FLEX Pager Waterfall Image

Weather Balloon (Radiosonde) Vaisala RS92SGP

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~400 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: ~5500 Hz

Description: Weather balloon (Radiosonde) telemetry data. Only transmits during a weather balloon launch.

Decoding Software: SondeMonitor

Video Examples: [1], [2]

  RS92SGP Radiosonde Waterfall Image

TETRA Downlink

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: 380 – 430 MHz

Mode: –

Bandwidth: 25000 Hz

Description: Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA), also know as Trans-European Trunked Radio is a professional mobile radio and two-way transceiver (walkie-talkie) specification. Modulated with π/4 DQPSK. Audio sample recorded in NFM mode.

Thanks to Jenda for the submission.

Decoding Software: osmocomTETRA

Video Examples: [1], [2]

TETRA Downlink

Trunking Control MPT1327

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~420 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 10000 Hz

Description: Radio trunking control channel.

Decoding Software: Trunkview, UniTrunker

Video Examples: [1]

MPT1327 Waterfall Image

Trunking Control Motorola Type II Smartnet

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~860 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 8000 Hz

Description: Radio trunking control channel.

Decoding Software: UniTrunker

Video Examples:

Motoroal 2F1D Trunking Channel

Trunking Control EDACS96

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~860 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 10000 Hz

Description: Radio trunking control channel.

Decoding Software: UniTrunker

Video Examples:

EDACS96 Trunking Channel

Trunking Control APCO P25

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~860MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 12500 Hz

Description: Radio trunking control channel.

Decoding Software: UniTrunker

Video Examples:

APCO P25 Trunking Channel

AFSK1200

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~144 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 10000 Hz

Description: Audio frequency-shift keying (AFSK). Used by amateur radio hams for packet radio, Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) and telemetry.

Decoding Software: QTMM

Video Examples: [1]

AFSK1200

AIS

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency:

Marine Channel 87 – 161.975 MHz
Marine Channel 88 – 162.025 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 12500 Hz OR 25000 Hz

Description: Automatic Identification System (AIS). Used by ships to broadcast position and vessel information. Uses 9.6 kbit GMSK modulation.

Decoding Software: ShipPlotter, AISMon (In the Files Section of the Yahoo Group)

Video Examples: [1], [2]

AIS Waterfall

NOAA Weather Satellite (APT)

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency:

NOAA 15 137.620
NOAA 18 137.9125
NOAA 19 137.100

Mode: WFM

Bandwidth: 30000 Hz

Description: NOAA Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) signal. Used to by the NOAA weather satellites to transmit satellite weather photos.

Only transmits at certain times throughout the day when the satellite passes overhead at your location.

Decoding Software: WXtoImg

Video Examples: [1], [2], [3]

 NOAA APT Waterfall Screenshot

Stereo Wideband FM (WFM)

Sample Audio: –

Typical Frequency:

Common – 87.5 to 108.0 MHz
OIRT – 65 to 74 MHz
Japan – 76 to 90 MHz
Consumer Wireless Devices – ~860 MHz

Mode: WFM

Bandwidth: 30000 Hz

Description: Stereo Wideband FM signal. Used for typical broadcast radio, and in some wireless headsets and speakers. This particular signal is from an AKG headset.

Top signal is WFM transmitted with low amplification. Bottom signal is WFM transmitted with high amplification.

Thanks to Tobby for the submission.

Decoding Software: Unencoded

Video Examples: [1], [2]

 WFM

Amplitude Modulation (AM)

Sample Audio: –

Typical Frequency:

Long wave – 153 to 279 kHz
Medium wave – 531 to 1,611 kHz in ITU regions 1 and 3 and 540 to 1610 kHz in ITU region 2.
Short wave – 2.3 to 26.1 MHz

Aircraft – 108 to 137 MHz

Mode: AM

Bandwidth: 10000 Hz

Description: Amplitude Modulation broadcast audio radio station.

Thanks to rtlsdr_is_fun for the submission.

Decoding Software: Unencoded

Video Examples: [1], [2]

 AM Waterfall

Weatherfax (HFFAX)

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: HF ~3 to 16 KHz. Location dependant.

Mode: Upper side band (USB)

Bandwidth: ~1900 KHz

Description: HF Weatherfax. Used by boats for weather reports. Also Kyodo News, a Japanese newspaper transmits entire pages via HFFAX.

Decoding Software: FLDIGI

Video Examples: [1], [2]

 WeatherfaxWaterfall

Upper Side Band Voice (USB)

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: All HF band.

Mode: USB

Bandwidth: ~1900 Hz

Description: Single side band, specifically upper side band. Used in the HF band by amateur radio hams and aircraft weather reports. Single side band saves bandwidth.

Decoding Software: Unecoded

Video Examples: [1], [2]

 UpperSideBandWaterfall

Over the Horizon (OTH) Radar

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: All over HF Band

Mode: –

Bandwidth: 

Description: Over the horizon radar. Used by governments for very long range radar systems.

Decoding Software: Unencoded

 OTHRadar

Analogue PAL TV

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: Multiple

Mode: PAL TV

Bandwidth: 5 MHz

Description: Analogue PAL TV. Color TV signal.

Decoding Software: TVSharp

Video Examples: [1]

 Analogue PAL TV

Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB+)

Sample Audio: No Audible Sound Produced

Typical Frequency: 

Multiple channels.
Block 13F – 239.200 MHz

Mode: DAB

Bandwidth: 1,537 KHz

Description: Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB+). A type of digital broadcast radio signal, containing multiple digital radio stations in the signal.

Decoding Software: SDR-J

Video Examples: [1]

 DAB+ Digital Audio Broadcast

Baby Monitor (NFM)

Sample Audio: –

Typical Frequency: ~40 MHz, 49.5 – 50 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: < 15 KHz

Description: NFM signal from a baby monitor. Periodically bursts signal when no audio is detected. Thanks to Dean for some extra info.

Decoding Software: Unencoded

Video Examples: [1]

 BabyMonitorNFMSpikes

Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM)

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: Below 30 MHz on HF, near other shortwave radio stations.

Mode: USB

Bandwidth: 10000 Hz

Description: Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM). A form of international digital shortwave radio. Replaces AM shortwave radio.

Thanks to Will P. for the contribution.

Decoding Software: DREAM, SODIRA

Video Examples: [1], [2]

 Digital Radio Monodiale Waterfall Digital Radio Monodiale Waterfall

STANAG 4285

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: All over HF.

Mode: USB

Bandwidth: 2500 Hz

Description: Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 4285. NATO standard for HF communication.

Decoding Software: Sorcerer (Waring: Potential Virus Alert), Sigmira

Video Examples: [1]

 STANAG 4285 Waterfall Example

GSM Downlink (Non-Hopping)

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: 900 MHz and 1800 MHz Band OR 850 MHz and 1900 MHz Band

Mode: –

Bandwidth: 200 KHz

Description: GSM Cell Phone Downlink (Non Hopping Signal). Audio sample used NFM mode.

Decoding Software: Airprobe

 GSM Non Hopping Waterfall Image

GSM Uplink

Sample Audio: No Audible Sound Produced.

Typical Frequency: ~890 MHz

Mode: –

Bandwidth: 200 KHz

Description: Initial connection GSM signal sent from a cellphone.

Decoding Software: 

 GSMUplinkFrequencyHopping

GSM Downlink (Hopping)

Sample Audio: No Audible Sound Produced

Typical Frequency: 900 MHz and 1800 MHz Band OR 850 MHz and 1900 MHz Band

Mode: –

Bandwidth: Each channel 200 KHz

Description: GSM cell phone hopping.

Decoding Software: 

 GSM Hopping Waterfall

“Japanese Slot Machine” (XSL)

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: Between 4 MHz and 9 MHz

Mode: USB?

Bandwidth:

Description: Known as the Japanese Slot Machine. Thought to be data originating from the Japanese Navy.

Decoding Software: Sigmira (But Cannot Decrypt)

Video Examples: [1], [2]

 Japanese Slot Machine Waterfall

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)

Sample Audio: No Audible Sound Produced

Typical Frequency: 1090 MHz

Mode: –

Bandwidth: 2 MHz

Description: Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). Used by aircraft to broadcast their latitude, longitude and altitude.

Decoding Software: ADSB#, Dump1090, RTL1090

Video Examples: [1], [2], [3]

 ADSBWaterfallScreenShot

Cuban Numbers Station HM01

Sample Audio: 

Typical Frequency: 11.530 MHz.

Mode: AM

Bandwidth:

Description: (Previously Unidentified Signal 5). Numbers stations are thought to transmit encoded information for various spy agencies around the world. They are recognized by a voice reading a sequence of numbers or words. This is a Cuban Numbers Station which has a data portion and a voice portion. Sound sample recorded in AM mode.

Thanks to Andrew from the comments section for the ID.

Decoding Software: Information Here

Video Examples: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]

UnknownSignalWaterfall_5

High Frequency Data Link (HFDL)

Sample Audio: 

Typical Frequency:  HF Band

Mode: USB (1440 Hz below center)

Bandwidth: ~2800 Hz

Description:  (Previously Unidentified Signal 2). An Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) data link that aircraft use to communicate short messages over long distances using HF signals.

Thanks to Andrew from the comments section for the ID.

Decoding Software: PC-HFDL

Video Examples: [1], [2], [3]

UnknownSignalWaterfall_1

Binary Phase Shift Keying (BPSK31)

Sample Audio: 

Typical Frequency:  HF Amateur Band

Mode: SSB

Bandwidth: ~31 Hz

Description:  A digital amateur radio mode based on Phase Shift Keying (PSK) modulation

Thanks to Patrick for the submission.

Decoding Software: Fldigi, MixW, HRD Digital Master 780, MultiPSK

Video Examples: [1], [2][3]

BPSK Waterfall Example

AFSK Paging Link

Sample Audio: 

Typical Frequency: 72-76 MHz

Description: (Previously unidentified signal 10). Identified in the comments section by Ronen as an Asynchronous Frequency Shift Keying (AFSK) pager link. It is easier to transmit the FSK pager signal to the transmitter site as AFSK.

unknown_10_waterfall

Pulse Code Modulated (PCM) RC Toy Signal

Sample Audio: 

Typical Frequency: 27.145 MHz, 72 MHz

Description: (Previously unidentified signal 9). Identified in the comments section by W1BMW as a Pulse-code modulated (PCM) signal used for remote control (RC) Toys. Link to IQ file http://i.nyx.cz/files/00/00/09/99/999880_c640d91142db39ee7d57.zip?name=SDRSharp_20130613_113322Z_27186kHz_IQ.zip. Sample audio recorded in USB mode.

UnknownSigna_9

Overlapping RTTY Signals

Sample Audio: 

Typical Frequency: HF band

Description: Previously unidentified signal (11). Identified in the comments by various contributors as multiple overlapping RTTY signals sent by ham radios.

Unknown CW #3

Voice Frequency Telegraph

Sample Audio: 

Typical Frequency: 7453.50 KHz USB

Description: Previously unidentified signal (13). VFT or Voice Frequency Telegraph is one of several systems for sending multiple RTTY signals over one voice-bandwidth radio channel.

74535khzusb

Portable Traffic Lights

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 154.463 MHz

Description: Previously unidentified signal (17). Identified by Peter via email as being signals sent from portable traffic lights that are often used at roadworks.

unid17

X2 on iDEN

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 154.463 MHz

Description: iDEN is an acronym for Integrated Digital Enhanced Network and is a technology developed by Motorola. It is a type of trunked radio with cellular phone benefits.

Link to RR identification discussion from submission email.

Thanks to Mike (VE3HER) for the submission.

x2 on iden

Funcube-1 Satellite

Sample Audio:

Found Frequency: 145.950 – 145.970 MHz

Mode: USB

Bandwidth: ~2 kHz

Description: The Funcube-1 is a Cubesat amateur radio satellite.

Decoding Software: Funcube Telemetry Dashboard

funcube-1_waterfall

Swedish Pocsag Minicall

Sample Audio:

Typical Frequency: ~161 MHz

Mode: NFM

Bandwidth: 20 kHz

Description: A short Pocsag 1200 signal used in electric plants and remote transformer and insulation stations.

Thanks to Joni for the submission.

Decoding Software: PDW

Video Examples: [1], [2]

swedish_minicall_pocsag

Unidentified Signals

If you know what any of these signals are please write in the comments. You can also submit any unidentified signals you would like to be added to [email protected]

(1)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 171.3 MHz

Description: Recognized by DSD as a NXDN96 signal, but is disputed in the comments section. (Possibly a bug in DSD).

QPSK2

(3) – ALE?

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency:  HF Band

Description: Sound sample recorded in USB mode. Potentially some sort of 2G ALE signal. Similar signal shown in balints HF tour video. Possible a weather map transmitted from Tokyo as noted in the comments section by Syd, or 4xFSK from China as identified by K2RCN in the comments.

UnknownSignalWaterfall_2

(4)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: HF Band

Description: Periodic pulses. Sound sample recorded in USB mode. Possibly a GlobeWireless signal as identified in the comments section by K2RCN.

 UnknownSignalWaterfall_4

(6)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 152.652 MHz

Description: Continuous signal. Audio sample recorded in NFM.

UnknownSignal_6

(7)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 162.863 MHz

Description: Continuous bursts. Audio sample recorded in NFM.

UnknownSignal_7

(8)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 457.168 MHz

Description: Audio sample recorded in NFM.

UnknownSignal_8

(10)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 452.325 Mhz

Description: Sent in over email. Sounds like Motorola Type II smartnet, but Unitrunker does not recognize.

unid_10

(12)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 154.646 MHz

Description: Sent in over email. Repeats every minute.

154646

(14)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 433 MHz

Description: Sent in over email.

Hello! I was listening in the 433MHz band and saw this blip (about 1-2sec) on the waterfall on 433.873 (Millville, MA). It repeats about every 30-50 seconds, though doesn’t seem to be the same every time. Maybe a wireless instrument of some type (weather or something?). The only clear sound of it I could get was with AM, about a 4.2kHz wide filter (rtl-sdr, gqrx linux). Any ideas? Thanks!

 

(15)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 455 MHz

Description: Sent in over email.

unid15

(16)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: 173.262 MHz

Description: Sent in over email.

unid16

(18)

Sample Audio: None

Found Frequency: ~856 MHz

Description: Sent in over email.

The antenna has a Yagi pointed to West from 23.5° South latitude, 47.46° West longitude.
The signal can be local or from the sky. The signal is horizontal polarized.

uid16

(19)

Sample Audio: 

Found Frequency: ~409.6 MHz

Description: Sent in over email. Recorded in NFM mode.

screen

Analogue TV with RTL-SDR

A user on the SDR# Google Groups forum has posted a program based on ADSB# called TVSharp, which can be used to watch analogue PAL and NTSC TV using the rtl-sdr dongle. Download TVSharp directly here (Mirror 1) (Old Version Mirror 2 (with source)).

The rtl-sdr as a software defined radio actually does not have enough bandwidth to receive a PAL or NTSC signal properly. PAL and NTSC signals require more than double the 2MHz typical bandwidth of the rtl-sdr. But, a decent black and white signal can still be obtained by using some of the luminance part of the signal.  As only part of the signal is sampled, resolution will be lost. Also, as sound is broadcast on a separate frequency, a second rtl-sdr dongle will be required to receive the matching audio.

On YouTube, users Superphish and ek6rc have posted videos showing TVSharp in action.

Analogue PAL TV with RTL SDR (RTL2832) and TVSharp
TVSharp R820T SDR sound via Yaesu VX-7:)