Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5d11vmfbYE
Behind The Scenes With Neil From RMC - Atari Show & Tell!
RMC Show & Tell - Historic Atari Curiosities with ctrl-alt-rees: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmbfp09BJ4U
Join me as I spend a day filming with Neil from RMC Retro in The Cave! We had a lot of fun putting together our show and tell with some interesting items from my Atari collection, and here’s the exclusive behind the scenes of how it all came together as welll as a more general look at how Neil records his videos.
Hey everyone, Rees here and welcome back to ctrl-alt-rees.
So I just wanted to talk about something a bit different in this video as I’ve been on a bit of a road trip so to speak and my first really big collab for the channel, which is all very exciting. So I thought I’d show you behind the scenes of that whole process and talk about my day filming with Neil from RMC.
And if you haven’t seen that Show & Tell yet I highly urge you to pause this video and pop over to RMC - I’ll put a link up above and down in the description - because there will be some spoilers here of course, and well, this video will make a lot more sense if you’ve seen that.
So if you’re not familiar with Neil’s channel, basically he fixes old computers and does documentary style videos and all that good stuff, and over the past year he’s been building this huge amazing exhibition space and YouTube studio which he calls “The Cave” on the top floor of an old mill down in Gloucestershire, a couple of hours drive from me.
I first met Neil at his old cave a few years back, I’m a patron of his and a very active member of his Discord community and I just happened to be in the area and sent him a message asking if I could pop in for a bit of a tour and a chat and he was very obliging and very welcoming.
So he showed me around and we got talking, and my channel hadn’t been going very long at the time so I showed him a couple of my videos and we got chatting about my Atari collecting.
Now, one of the things his channel is known for is his long running “Show & Tell” series where he invites guests down to come and show something off and have a bit of an informal chat about it, and he asked me if I wanted to do one in the near future and of course I said yes.
And this was a pretty big deal for me at the time of course - I mean it still is now, but it was still the early days of my YouTube channel, I had less than 1000 subscribers at the time I think but more importantly I thought it would make some good content for his channel.
Unfortunately I couldn’t have timed it any worse - global events intensified and shortly after we’d had that meeting everything got locked down and of course we couldn’t go ahead with the filming, but we did talk about it and it was something that has been discussed a few times over the past couple of years.
Then finally, Christmas 2021 comes and goes and it starts to look like restrictions are going to be lifted soon so Neil got in touch with me again and asked if I was still interested and of course I was very much up for it, and to be honest I have lot more experience in front of the camera these days and some more interesting stuff to talk about so it should hopefully make for an even better video.
And so it transpired that I ended up being the first Show & Tell that he’d done in 2 years and the very first one in the new cave, which was a real honour.
So, he was very keen for me to take the Video Music and, in fact, initially it was just going to be that but I wasn’t really confident that I could sit and talk about just that for 20 minutes so we decided that I’d bring some of my more interesting bits and pieces down and we’d see what we wanted to look at and basically just ended up talking about all of it.
So I loaded up the boot of my car and took the 2 hour drive down there which, despite it being rush hour around Birmingham was surprisingly stress free and we unloaded all of the boxes and carried them up the stairs to the fourth floor - at least that’s what we want you think think, there may have been a goods lift involved…
Of course he has those really nice tables that he’s been building which are made up of old cable reels and we decided that area would be perfect to set up a bit of a mini exhibition and get all of the arty shots that he needed - and it’s a fantastic space for this kind of thing and we got some really nice panning shots - well, I say we, I wasn’t really creatively involved in that process other than setting stuff up but that’s probably for the best.
One of the aspects I hadn’t really thought about were the old beams that span the whole space - turns out they’re not only really useful for attaching lighting and things but also Neil’s big black cloth, which is perfect for deadening the sound but maybe more importantly, stopping reflections on CRTs which turned out to be a particular problem on his fancy B&O which has got quite a curve to it.
And that was pretty much our entire morning from setting up at 9, we had a quick stop for lunch - shoutout to The Lavender Bakehouse in Chalford for the most amazing Reuben sandwich I’ve ever had - and basically we were playing games and filming it right up to the point we sat down for the chat at around 3.
So we decided to keep it simple to get the ball rolling and set up the Pong machine first which we plugged into one of Neil’s many PVMs, and we did that over in the handheld exhibition area by the main entrance which I think worked really well.
And we actually spent a very long time playing with it - it’s amazing really how much fun that game still is even after all these years - and as Neil mentions in the video we had a really ridiculously close game.
So the way the original Pong works is it counts up to 15 and the first player to 15 is the winner, and it really was neck and neck the whole way and we had some really long rallies going on, and I think we were both very conscious of the fact that we’d got all of the footage we needed but were both far too competitive to put it down and move on.
“We had three intense games”
“We certainly did yeah, including a game that unfortunately didn’t get recorded”
“I pressed record and it was the greatest game of Pong ever”
“We couldn’t have scripted it, I know, it was intense stuff”
“It went down to the wire, it went 15-14, there were intense rallies going on”
“Yeah, what you’re watching here is not the greatest game of Pong - it’s just a tribute”
So the next thing we actually filmed was the 260ST - and this is one of my absolute favourite machines in my collection so I was very keen to show it off and tell its story, and of course historically very important to the history of the ST as well.
Unfortunately the night before I was up quite late writing boot disks and wondering why the hell the thing wouldn’t boot into TOS. If you’ve seen my videos on it you’ll know that it worked perfectly fine previously.
So I found a second floppy drive and tried that and that also didn’t work and then I thought I’d try my Gotek with it and that didn’t work either so evidently a problem with the floppy controller in that machine.
So that’s something that’s going to need repairing at some point in the near future but I will repair it because I do like to have everything working even though I have plenty of other STs, and it should be a fun one to diagnose and maybe get a good video out of as well.
Of course unfortunately that means we didn’t get to spend much time actually playing with it but Neil did get some really nice shots of it and at least we got some time to explain what it was all about and tell its story.
“So not only are we making full use of the cave to show all of this stuff - we’re now in Rees’s house to see some footage of it when that disk drive was working - no doubt you’ll get it working again - and he’s got that footage because this is yet another machine that he’s made an episode on on his channel.”
Speaking of working on stuff the night before, of course there was the 2800 - which is the Japanese version of the 2600 - and that’s a machine that I’ve had boxed and proudly on display on my shelf for a couple of years now.
And I had genuinely no idea whether or not that worked, my plan was always to put a UAV mod in it - The Ultimate Atari Video mod from The Brewing Academy - I’ll put a link to that down in the description.
I have that in all of my other atari consoles and it adds really clean composite and s-video outputs to those consoles, but as far as I could see there didn’t seem to be any Atari 2800 instructions for that anywhere out in the wild, and I thought it’s going to be quite an involved install and something that I want to take my time over and make a proper video about.
Thankfully in my parts box I had a very basic composite mod which I just chucked in there - it took me all of about an hour, and thankfully when I did search for it online having looked a while back and not come across it, it just so happens that someone on the AtariAge Forum had worked it out and worked out where to actually hook the wires up for that mod on the 2800.
So big thanks to Cmherndon79 for that, I’ll put a link to that down in the description as well because that saved a huge amount of time and it meant that I could actually get it done the night before and we could actually show the machine running.
I have the Harmony flash cart for the 2600 which of course also works with the 2800 and we went through playing some of those paddle games and some of the original 2600 games and were really surprised to discover that the joysticks which also act as paddles work surprisingly well, so definitely one of the highlights of the day for me.
“I actually really love these - I think they’re really nice to hold, very ergonomically designed, and not only do they work as a normal joystick but the stick itself actually rotates so it acts as a paddle or a spinner as well.”
“Yeah and we put that to the test playing Breakout and it worked really well.”
Now the 5200 is probably the most common thing that we talked about and at the point of recording this the public release hasn’t gone out yet, so I’m not sure whether there will be lots of Americans in the comments wondering what the big deal is as the console was pretty widely available there and was still a commercial failure. But of course we didn’t get it over here and I still think that not a lot of people know the story behind it and how it was going to be the successor to the 2600 and everything else so I thought it would be a good opportunity to put that information out there.
I did spot on Neil’s Patreon release that there was someone in the comments defending the joysticks and I have to admit, we did spend quite a lot of time talking about them and the whole “5200 joysticks are bad” thing is a bit of a meme in the Atari world.
But the fact of the matter is that games like Pac-Man just don’t work as well with the analog sticks as they do with a digital joystick, and that’s not something that Atari ever officially offered for this console, so between that and the whole internal conflict with their home computer division that lead to some other weird choices - like the cartridges being incompatible with those machines - Atari really shot themselves in the foot with the whole thing.
There is one thing that was mentioned in the video that we didn’t really go into in much detail and that’s the trackball, and I think the official trackball controller for the 5200 is really excellent - it’s got a really nice build quality to it and it’s very close to the original arcade feel for games like Missile Command that support it and I think it’s probably one of the best first party controllers Atari ever made. So a bit of a weird one.
You can tell we had a good laugh with this one - some great hand acting with the joysticks and some dodgy crotch shots as a result of those - in fact I saw an earlier version of the video where those weren’t as zoomed in and there was a lot more crotch on show so I’m glad Neil sorted those out.
Oh and then of course the whole snack holder thing, I did say to Neil that I was going to pop into Gloucester services on the way in but the sat nav ended up taking me a slightly different way, thankfully he had some snacks in his lunchbox that we could improvise with.
And then of course the whole joke about it being the biggest console ever, and that came about pretty much by accident really - I was making a big thing about the size of the thing and we went around the cave finding stuff to compare it with, and the whole thing ended up being so funny that it actually made it into the final video.
So yeah, we had a lot of fun with this console.
“…and it’s still bigger than all three of those combined - or to put it in another way - it’s bigger than the original Xbox - which is an absolute beast in itself - and the Atari Lynx!”
The last thing that we got properly set up was the Video Music, and that’s something that Neil was very keen to take a look at.
And there’s quite an interesting story behind this - I started restoring it way back in November 2020 and made a video that was supposed to be part 1 in a series and I always fully intended to go back to it - but the Video Music basically ended up in a box in bits in my spare room for well over a year, I just got distracted waiting for some parts to arrive and never really got back into it when they did.
So when I knew this thing was definitely going ahead it was a great opportunity to make it a priority again, and I decided that rather than continuing the series, I’d redo it as a self contained video. The reasoning for that being that I think things have come on a long way since those early days, and there were a couple of things in part 1 that I wanted to revisit and correct based on some feedback, and I have to say I’m really pleased with how that came together and it’s actually probably my favourite video I’ve done so far on the channel and thankfully in the end it wasn’t the monumental task that I’d built it up to be in my mind as I could rework a lot of the stuff that I already had.
So if you haven’t seen that yet I’ll put a link up above and down in the description so you can have a look at that.
Anyway, I was a bit worried that getting it hooked up might be a problem, I tried it on Neil’s big PVM that he uses for his MultiSystem but it seems like that didn’t like s-video input over SCART so I went back to the B&O. It was getting pretty late in the day at this point and we wanted to make sure we gave a good demo of all of the various buttons and things.
We did talk about getting it hooked up to an upscaler and a projector and having a bit of a silly post-credits scene of us dancing around like a pair of idiots but thankfully that didn’t come to be.
I’ve had a few people ask me why I always use Hoffman to demo this rather than something a bit more period appropriate like some disco or some Pink Floyd or something and I have to say that - apart from the whole copyright thing which is always an issue with YouTube - the Video Music actually seems to react better to it than to anything else I’ve tried it with. In fact it doesn’t seem to work well with classic rock kind of stuff at all, maybe that’s why it never really caught on at the time. Of course Neil actually put the Hoffman record together and sells them so that works out pretty well.
“I’m glad that it exists - it’s a nice thing, it’s a nice tangent from the normal things that you see from Atari in that era and it’s nice to see that they were experimenting with things.”
Finally there was the Sparrow motherboard of course - not really much to demo there as it doesn’t actually work but still a fun thing to look at and ponder and a really interesting piece of history so, again, pleased to have the opportunity to show it to a wider audience and tell it story again.
“Yes, this was very hastily and crudely wrapped last night so we’ll see how this big reveal goes…”
A friend of mine did actually contact me about my choice of wrapping - I hastily chucked some bubble wrap on it the night before and didn’t really think about anti-static protection or anything. Of course to me it’s just a relic that hangs on the wall without much chance of any kind of restoration so I didn’t put much thought into it.
Anyway, so this is an early prototype of the board that went on to become the Falcon030, and I had a good poke around it with a USB microscope in an earlier video on my channel. I think it’s quite ironic really that this is probably a bit more interesting than the actual Falcon because of the story behind it, and it cost me a lot less than one of those would as well.
I just hope the bubble wrap thing doesn’t come back to bite me.
“I committed the cardinal sin of being wrong on the internet” “Were you quickly corrected?” “I was quickly corrected, yes.”
So once we’d got all of the b-roll shots that we needed we went on to the actual interview part of course. Now, you can probably tell that I was pretty nervous at the start.
Neil has a dedicated studio area that’s permanently set up with all the lighting and everything, so unlike me recording stuff here, where it takes me half a day just to tidy everything up and get stuff up, he just clips a lav mic on, sits down and hits record.
So even though we’d spent the whole day playing with stuff, chatting and loosening up it was still pretty intimidating and you do feel like you’re kind of thrown into it, or at least I did.
Now, the main focus for me was the fact that, unlike some of us who are just playing at this, this is Neil’s actual full time job and of course he needed a good video out of it that people wouldn’t just switch off straight away. So I did loads of research - and there are a couple of points in the video where you can see me checking my phone which I’ve hidden away behind some boxes - looking at stuff like release dates and prices, and various other interesting facts I’d uncovered.
So I think I started off a bit wooden but I did loosen up - but of course it was getting on a bit and I had work commitments the next day that meant coming back just to do that bit didn’t make sense so we just had to get on with it.
“I hope you’ve enjoyed the return of the show-and-tell, take care everyone, thanks for watching and bye-bye.” “Say bye-bye…” “Bye-bye”
Hopefully that was an interesting behind the scenes look at this particular escapade and what a day of filming looks like, obviously a first for me collaborating in person with a much bigger channel but I think the end result came out really well and it was fascinating to see how Neil goes about things and how it’s not all that different to how us little guys approach it - just on a bigger scale.
Of course he has been a big inspiration for my own content and I’ve been a supporter of his work for few years now so it was a real honour to be asked to be the first Show & Tell in his new cave and I know he’s really excited to start being able to have a lot more visitors now it’s all finished and hopefully for his sake we’re starting to get to a situation where that will actually be possible.
So big thanks to Neil for having me on as a guest.
On the subject of thanks, I’d also like to take this opportunity as always to thank my Patreon supporters and channel members, if you’d like to join them there’s a link down in the description. If you are here from that RMC video and want to see more of my vintage computing and gaming shenanigans please do consider hitting that subscribe button, there’s plenty more where this came from.
If you enjoyed the video you can give it a like if you like, it really does help the channel out, and if you have any comments, questions, suggestions or anything else, I’d love to hear them down in the comments section.
But that’s all I have for now so thanks very much for watching, and I hope to see you again next time.
Support the channel!
Become a Member: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe7aGwKsc40TYqDJfjggeKg/join
RMC Show & Tell - Historic Atari Curiosities with ctrl-alt-rees: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmbfp09BJ4U
Show & Tell Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLJ-Nv_tKpJlQHsXVQh4wLRxSU4_jH_Js
Brewing Academy UAV Mod: https://thebrewingacademy.com
AtariAge 2800 Composite Mod: https://atariage.com/forums/topic/297767-atari-2800-or-sears-video-arcade-ii-composite-mod
Lavender Bakehouse: https://www.lavenderbakehouse.co.uk
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