Confused? What the hell is a "Vertical Total"? And why does ToastyX CRU look like an airplane cockpit? And what is this silly "VT1350" sorcery I see for BENQ Blur Reduction discussions? Is this black magic. And what does VSYNC have to do all of this confusing stuff?
Let this glossary help de-mystify this for you!
Both AMD and NVIDIA control panels have custom resolution tweaking utilities built in. Or you can use a third party tweaking utility such as ToastyX CRU. In these utilities, you see terms like "Vertical", "Horizontal", "Vertical Front Porch", "Back Porch", "Sync", etc. Let's simplify for you.
These are all simply CRU (Custom Resolution Utility) terminology, explained as:
To understand better, just imagine your computer monitor's pixel grid is a big calendar
An Earth calendar is like a low-resolution screen of 7x5 pixels, with each day as 1 pixel.
However, a 1920x1080 monitor is more like a massively giant alien calendar (Of TestUFO alien fame!) where each weeks is a huge 1920 days long and more than 1080 weeks tall! A very huge grid of millions of days in one "alien month".
- Horizontal Sync: There are hidden synchronization pixels beyond left-edge of screen (like a Sunday) & right-edge of screen (like a Saturday). The purpose is to signal a display to begin outputting the next row of pixels.
- Vertical Sync: Also known as VSYNC or Vertical Blanking. There are hidden synchronization pixels beyond top edge and after bottom edge (e.g. like 1st week and 5th week). The purpose is to signal a display to begin the next refresh cycle. Videogames use "VSYNC ON" / "VSYNC OFF" to tell the game whether or not to synchronize frames with the refresh cycles of the display, for better smoothness.
- Visible resolution: Metaphorically this is like the weekdays of 2nd through the 4th weeks of a calendar. The "pixels" (days) at the top/bottom/left/right edges of the calendar is invisible (hidden off-screen). Like only being able to view the centre of a calendar through a rectangular stencil. That's the "active resolution"
- Horizontal & Vertical Totals: More complexly, within both Horizontal Sync and Vertical Sync there can be multiple hidden dotclock/pixels (Front Porch, Sync, Back Porch). Instead of just 1 hidden pixel at the edges. There can be hundreds of hidden pixels for display synchronization purposes.
- Front & Back Porch: This is the padding (often hidden black or gray pixels) between the visible pixels & the synchronization pixels (which can be darker than black, aka "below black). Porches can be viewed as padding between the visible signal & synchronization signal.
- Refresh Cycle: One full frame worth of pixels. For a 120Hz display, that's 1/120th of a second worth of pixels.
("one refresh cycle" for an Earth calendar is one complete month)
- Dotclock: Number of pixels per second.
(The "dotclock" of an Earth calendar is 1 "pixel" per day! While a computer monitor doing 1920x1080 144Hz is doing more than 300Mhz -- over 300 million pixels per second).
- Horizontal Scanrate: Number of pixel rows per second.
(The "horizontal scanrate" of an Earth calendar is 1 week.)
- Vertical Scanrate: Same as Refresh Rate. Number of refresh cycles per second.
(The "vertical scanrate" (also "refresh rate") of an Earth calendar is 1 month.)
- Vertical Total: is the grand total of Vertical Resolution + Vertical Sync + Vertical Back Porch + Vertical Front Porch
- Horizontal Total: is the grand total of Horizontal Resolution + Horizontal Sync + Horizontal Back Porch + Horizontal Front Porch
- CRU: Custom Resolution Utility
- VT: Vertical Total
- VT1350: Vertical Total of 1350 pixels. Often mentioned along with BENQ Blur Reduction (XL2411 / XL2420 / XL2720 series)
Refresh cycles are transmitted over a video cable, 1 pixel at a time
Pixels are transmitted over a cable (VGA, DVI, DP, HDMI) from the computer to the monitor essentially one pixel at a time sequentially (even if packetized on DisplayPort). At dotclock rate (e.g. often 300-350Mhz dotclock for 1920x1080 120-144Hz).
Like days on a calendar are transmitted, left to right, top to bottom, scanned-out one "week" at a time. The hidden "days" at the edge of this metaphorical calendar are used for synchronization purposes and not visible on the screen. Porches and sync are hidden off the edges of the screen.
The sequence is BackPorch-Visible-FrontPorch-Sync. Beginning horizontally left-to-right, and then vertically top-to-bottom, pixels are much like how "days" are output on a calendar sequentially. Pixels are transmitted as one continuous stream, in sequence -- BackPorch-Visible-FrontPorch-Sync-BackPorch-Visible-FrontPorch-Sync-BackPorch-Visible-FrontPorch. Porches is padding that always separate visible pixels & sync pixels. This is a longtime carryover from an old analog video signals, which is well explained here. On analog CRT displays, the porch padding often allowed time for the electron gun to begin accelerating into a scan line (analog equivalent of a new row of pixel) before displaying image data (visible data) -- amongst holding other signals (e.g. colorburst signal, when color TVs first got introduced). The (often black) porches are hidden by the overscan of a CRT display. While the meanings of porches and sync has changed with digital signals -- and become far more flexible on modern gaming monitors -- they still continue to serve a very important display-synchronization purpose today.
Does VSYNC ON versus VSYNC OFF affect the display signal?
Generally, no. The GPU is still transmitting the vertical synchronization signal. The use of VSYNC OFF in games simply tells the game to avoid waiting for the next refresh cycle. Instead of waiting for the end of the refresh cycle (e.g. "metaphorically waiting for the end of the calendar month", creating lag) -- it simply tells the graphics card to immediately begin the next rendered frame at the current point in the display output.
If you imagine the display pixel grid like a calendar grid -- just imagine the first half current month (e.g. February, current frame) is attached to the second half of next month (e.g. March, next frame). The calendar keeps moving ahead at the same dotclock (1 "day" at a time) at the same position on screen. The day-of-month keeps merrily moving exactly where it is spatially in this grid (e.g. specific day on calendar) even while you've suddenly jumped exactly 1 month ahead (VSYNC OFF). The tearline occurs where the splice occurs skipping a full frame ahead (sudden one-month skip ahead). Often (for non-GSYNC monitors) the monitor doesn't even know what "happened" -- the graphics card (GPU) simply immediately switched to the next frame in real-time.
Remember the rolling picture of a 1970s TV?
Yep! When you mis-adjust the VHOLD knob of an old analog TV -- that black bar is the vertical synchronization (VSYNC) signal. The thickness of the black bar is the total resolution of the (Vertical Front Porch + Vertical Sync + Vertical Back Porch). Which means, the bigger the Vertical Total, the thicker the black bar will be, if your computer monitor was theoretically capable of losing vertical synchronization and rolled like a 1970s TV. Synchronization of modern monitors are extremely strong and nearly bulletproof, so you will never see a rolling picture on newer displays -- but if you are old enough to remember an old TV, this helps make the Custom Resolution Utility concepts easier to understand.
Closed captions were transmitted in the porch scanlines. The vertical porch scanlines are often grayer than the actual "Vertical Sync" scanlines. Special signals are sometimes hidden in these (e.g. closed captioning signals. If you misadjust the VHOLD setting of an old TV, and roll your rolling on a closed-captioned TV channel -- you will see flickering white pixels/rectangles at the edge of the black bar here! Vertical Back Porch was popular for hiding hidden digital data in an old analog TV signals.
Vertical Totals tweaking is popular with some monitors
Vertical Totals became popular on Blur Busters Forums as an enhancement to several blur-reduction modes on some monitors, most particularly BENQ/Zowie XL2411, XL2420, XL2720. Around these forums, it's often mentioned by BENQ Blur Reduction users. VT1350 is a Vertical Total of 1350 which is sometimes used by BENQ XL2720Z users to improve the quality of BENQ Blur Reduction.
Chief Blur Buster wrote:ADVANCED: How does Vertical Total tweaks improve Motion Blur Reduction?
This is an advanced explanation. This is only one of the many possible purposes of Vertical Total -- to improve the motion blur reduction feature of certain gaming monitors. Vertical Total size increases helps improves Blur Reduction on some LCD displays. Motion Blur Reduction settings on gaming monitors uses strobe backlight techniques (e.g. LightBoost, ULMB, dyAC, Turbo240, BENQ Blur Reduction, etc) where the backlight flashes briefly, once a refresh cycle.
This is seen in high speed video of strobe backlight which is simply a high speed video of http://www.testufo.com/flicker. As you can see in high speed video (non-strobed part), the display is refreshed top-to-bottom (just like the weeks of a calendar). The blurry zone is the GtG transition zone -- the faster the LCD GtG is, the thinner the blurry GtG transition zone becomes in high-speed videos of LCD refresh cycles.
A larger Vertical Total -- without modifying vertical resolution or refresh rate -- means a larger blanking interval. A longer VSYNC synchronization pause between refresh cycles means there is more time for LCD GtG transitions to finish in darkness before blur reduction strobe backlight flash on fully-refreshed LCD frames. Having too little time between refresh cycles (VSYNC intervals much shorter than GtG transitions) -- means GtG transitions aren't sufficiently complete between refresh cycles. This creates more smearing artifacts (on non-strobed displays) or more double-image strobe crosstalk (on strobed displays). Thus, this is why several of us like to manually increase Vertical Total to make motion clearer with some strobe backlights such as BENQ/Zowie Blur Reduction or others.
For Vertical Total 1350 on a 1080p BENQ display -- This means 1080 visible vertical resolution, plus 270 other (total of Vertical Sync + Vertical Back Porch + Vertical Front Porch) = 1080 + 270 = 1350. Since the Vertical Scanrate is fixed, this means 270/1350ths of the time is spent pausing between refresh cycles, in a ratio of 1080(visible):270(pause). Most gaming TN LCDs are appoximately 1ms GtG. This is much shorter than a refresh cycle (e.g. 1/120sec = 8.3ms).
By sufficiently lengthening the pause between refresh cycles -- this means most GtG transitions can become finished in the pauses between refresh cycles. In fact, the strobe backlight flash (visible part of refresh cycle) can be made briefer than GtG response (hidden in dark part of refresh cycle) otherwise known on Blur Busters as "breaking the GtG barrier". This allows faster LCDs to successfully bypass most of GtG response limitations (hidden in total darkness), and result in CRT-like motion clarity.
With the old Blur Busters LightBoost HOWTOs (of the 1st really good strobe-backlight brand, released by NVIDIA in 2012), Blur Busters helped popularize the strobe-backlight setting/option now found on several high-refresh-rate gaming monitors.
Some brands of motion-blur reduction (e.g. LightBoost/ULMB) automatically handle Vertical Total internally in the monitor (buffering part of a refresh & converting to an accelerated horizontal scan rate internally for the longer pauses between refresh cycles) which means you don't necessarily always (nor are able to) to do Vertical Total tweaks on these. While for other brands (e.g. BENQ/Zowie Blur Reduction, XL2411/XL2420/XL2720) end-user tweaking of Vertical Total in a Custom Resolution Utility makes a big difference. It improves motion clarity in reduced double-image effects (otherwise known as strobe crosstalk -- the visibility of more than one refresh cycle simultaneously, caused by LCD GtG response limitations).
New Article Coming On This
New Blur Busters article coming on main Blur Busters website within a few weeks (after the brand new site has launched), that expands CRU 101 further.