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NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?

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Eric Ward
NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 16, 2008 at 4:54:49 am

I've read that most UK dvd players, something like 70% and up, will play NTSC dvd's. Does this go for all the other countries that use the PAL format - such as Australia and others?


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eric pautsch
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 16, 2008 at 3:34:33 pm

Yes...I would even dare to say it would be upwards of 98% of PAL players worldwide play NTSC discs.



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 16, 2008 at 8:02:58 pm

Would you say that goes for the televisions as well?



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Eric Pautsch
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 16, 2008 at 11:35:56 pm

No..thats where the problems might come up.



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David Mackenzie
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 17, 2008 at 12:39:31 pm

I have never come across a DVD player in Europe that can't play an NTSC disc (although they may exist). Even the oldest players I've seen have special modes to accomodate transcoding the NTSC colour signal for playback on select older PAL TVs.

As Eric said, getting an image to display on a TV will be a bigger issue than getting the player to play the disc. Even then, most TVs manufactured in the last 12-13 years should not have an issue displaying the 60hz scan rate. In fact, in the UK at least, it's not too uncommon to find music video DVDs in their original NTSC format.



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eric pautsch
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 17, 2008 at 4:54:49 pm

Yeah...IMO your wasting money and time if you plan to release both a PAL and NTSC disc worldwide.



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 17, 2008 at 4:54:59 pm

"it's not too uncommon to find music video DVDs in their original NTSC format."

David, do you mean to say, the companies that produce these music video dvd's decided to sell only an NTSC version in the UK stores?



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David Mackenzie
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 17, 2008 at 5:04:25 pm

Yes, in fact, the official release was just a US import, as far as I can tell.

Oddly, Warner Vision International released "Sex and the City" (The TV series) on DVD in the UK, in its original NTSC format:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sex-City-Region-NTSC-Format/dp/B00005IBA0

I'm not sure why this was the case (perhaps to save on authoring/replication fees or to meet a deadline?), but I'm sure if there was a huge compatibility issue, they wouldn't have gone ahead.

Someone once said to me something which I believe to be true: "So long as the TV's chassis isn't made of wood, it should be OK with 60hz video".



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 17, 2008 at 6:29:38 pm

And for those tv's and dvd players that will play ntsc in the uk, is the quality degraded somewhat you think? I noticed a person who reviewed the sex and the city dvd said it did not look good on their tv.



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David Mackenzie
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 17, 2008 at 7:17:05 pm

It depends how the TV is connected. Broadly speaking: no, the quality will not be degraded if a European user plays an NTSC disc.

In Europe, most DVD players are connected with the ubiquitous SCART connector. The default setting on just about every DVD player is to send Analog RGB video through the SCART terminal. The closest thing to this in America is the analogue Component Video RCA connectors, to give you an idea of what the picture quality is like (very good). Using this common method, there will be nothing wrong with the quality.

But, some users will have their player connected with a lesser quality method (Composite or S-Video). Or, they'll have it connected with SCART, but hooked up to an input on the TV which doesn't support RGB video, meaning that the TV will instead fall back to the Composite signal also sent through the SCART cable (for our purposes, this is identical to the user connecting the player with a Composite video cable).

If it's connected with Composite or S-Video, three things can happen. One, the player can output NTSC video as NTSC. On most TVs, this will give a decent quality picture. But, some old TVs will show this in black and white. And some really, really old ones will not be able to lock onto the 60hz scan-rate at all, and will display a distorted, fast scrolling picture.

Two, and this is the most common: the player will output the NTSC disc as PAL-60 (60hz video with PAL colour information). This setting is often made in the player's menus. This removes the "showing in black and white" problem, but the video is still 60hz, so again, on really old TVs, people will get the distorted, fast scrolling picture. Only now, it'll be a distorted, fast scrolling picture with bits of colour in it :)

Three, the player attempts to transcode the NTSC disc contents to real 50hz PAL, which will show on *any* TV in Europe. This only happens on a handful of newer players, and harms the quality (as such it can always be turned off). It will result in a juddery, sometimes poorly scaled (pixellated) image.

Whew - got all that? Most NTSC content is standards converted to 50hz timing for release in Europe, to avoid any hassle. Speaking from my videophile standpoint, this conversion does degrade the quality of the picture for all users, but not as badly as the player attempting to convert itself upon playback (what I described in the above paragraph).

For what it's worth, a lot of my non AV-geek friends have some Region 0 NTSC discs and have no problem playing them. The equipment that can't deal with them has probably been relegated to the attic by now. The decision to release NTSC content in Europe is ultimately up to the hassle involved of creating a second PAL converted disc, getting it tested replicated separately, etc...



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 17, 2008 at 7:50:21 pm

Interesting stuff - thanks.



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 18, 2008 at 5:35:28 am

"If it's connected with Composite or S-Video, three things can happen. One, the player can output NTSC video as NTSC. On most TVs, this will give a decent quality picture"

Dave, if it's outputting ntsc as ntsc, and the tv can display this, then the tv will display the original source resolution of 740x480, correct?
I think if the above is true, I would much prefer the viewer see that than view the PAL converted version, which has been changed to 740x576. The PAL version is "viewable" but frankly to me it just does not look very good. I think because the resolution had to be stretched out to be 740x576, it ends up with a "blurry" , not sharp look. And the conversion was done about as well as it can be done on software.
What I'm saying is, even if the colors are off and the PAL version is at 50hz, I would think the most change in quality is going to come from the changing of the resolution? Therefore, people overseas will get the best viewing experience by watching the NTSC version (those that do not have old tv's) as opposed to watching a PAL version which matches their color and Hz settings, but has a stretched image? Hopefully that makes sense.



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David Mackenzie
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 18, 2008 at 2:59:33 pm

"Dave, if it's outputting ntsc as ntsc, and the tv can display this, then the tv will display the original source resolution of 740x480, correct?"

Right, if the TV supports NTSC and the player is outputting NTSC, the setup is basically exactly the same as the average American viewer's.

No matter what sort of cable they have connected, one thing typically does not change: the scan-rate and timing of the signal being output. This is what causes the picture to scroll on very old TVs. It doesn't matter if they're connected using RGB SCART, Composite SCART, RCA Composite, S-Video jack... they're getting 480i video with a 60hz scan rate.

*Unless* the player is doing its own poor quality conversion to 50hz PAL, or unless you've authored a new version of the disc which is a converted PAL version anyway.

(Correction BTW: the horizontal width of DVD video resolution is 720, not 740 :) )

"I think if the above is true, I would much prefer the viewer see that than view the PAL converted version, which has been changed to 740x576. The PAL version is "viewable" but frankly to me it just does not look very good. I think because the resolution had to be stretched out to be 740x576, it ends up with a "blurry" , not sharp look. And the conversion was done about as well as it can be done on software."

I agree with you. Especially if your material contains a lot of fast motion, the NTSC-> PAL conversion can look a little shoddy. Video standards conversion is a whole different can of worms, the quality of the converters ranges hugely. Even on the very best (ultra-expensive) hardware converters like the Snell & Wilcox Alchemist, a videophile eye can spot the (slight) inferiority of the conversion. You pay a price for compatibility.

>> What I'm saying is, even if the colors are off and the PAL version is at 50hz, I would think the most change in quality is going to come from the changing of the resolution? Therefore, people overseas will get the best viewing experience by watching the NTSC version (those that do not have old tv's) as opposed to watching a PAL version which matches their color and Hz settings, but has a stretched image? Hopefully that makes sense.

Yes, that's pretty much it. NTSC video is best viewed as NTSC. PAL video is best viewed as PAL. Can I ask what software you've used for the standards conversion? I'm more of a Windows guy myself, but if you still wanted to make a PAL version, the best software converter I've come across is Grass Valley Procoder (aka Canopus Procoder).





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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 18, 2008 at 4:53:48 pm

I use a Mac, so I used a 3rd party filter called nattress and then compressor. I'll take a look at that one you mentioned.
I'm wondering, what do the American companies that have shows that are broadcast on television and then ported to DVD do? I suppose they use a super expensive hardware encoder like the one you mentioned? Or perhaps, they film in a format that makes for a better NTSC to Pal conversion?

Ah, yes, I figured those res stats I named were slightly off.



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David Mackenzie
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 18, 2008 at 5:09:44 pm

"I'm wondering, what do the American companies that have shows that are broadcast on television and then ported to DVD do? I suppose they use a super expensive hardware encoder like the one you mentioned? Or perhaps, they film in a format that makes for a better NTSC to Pal conversion?"

They'll likely feed to it to a converter such as the Snell Alchemist PhC. That, I believe, operates in one of two modes:

The Video mode is for video camera generated material or similar, that is, when both fields in the picture are not the same. It essentially "remaps time", if that makes sense, and uses motion vector technology to make sure the results are as accurate as possible.

The film mode recognises the original source is Film, performs an Inverse 3:2 pulldown routine (to get the NTSC 60i content back to 23.976fps) and simply speeds the film up to 25fps.

The software converters we have access to are most likely the older Field Blending type. These don't use motion vector technology but result in a picture with more motion blur.



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 18, 2008 at 8:34:33 pm

Hi again. Just one more thing, Dave. As mentioned the PAL version looks blurry compared to the original. I'm wondering, if I was to watch this PAL verrsion on a PAL television and PAL dvd player, would there be a noticeable improvement, since the settings would be more closely matched?



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David Mackenzie
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 18, 2008 at 8:52:53 pm

Now that brings up an interesting point. What are you watching the PAL conversion on?

If it's a computer monitor, then no, that's a decent facsimile of what you'll see on a PAL TV.

If you're viewing the disc on a TV... I'm assuming that your American TV only supports NTSC. If so, the player is probably doing a botched conversion so the TV can display the disc. So the process then looks like:

NTSC Source files -> PAL source files -> Authored PAL DVD -> DVD player converting back to NTSC -> Display on NTSC TV

If that's the case, it'll most likely look terrible! The best way to check how it looks is to play it back on a studio monitor or TV which supports PAL (not an easy thing to find in North America, I'm told).



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 18, 2008 at 9:58:37 pm

The dvd player is an Apex ad-3201

The tv is a panasonic ct-32d12df

Right, as mentioned, it does not look very good. I was also thinking I wish I could play it on a pal tv.




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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 18, 2008 at 10:02:28 pm

On back of tv it says 60hz, so I doubt it does PAL.



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 19, 2008 at 12:36:44 am

"If it's a computer monitor, then no, that's a decent facsimile of what you'll see on a PAL TV."

I played the ntsc and the pal one back to back on my computer, I had the viewer window size at about 600x400 and at that size, the pal version was much closer to the ntsc version in image quality than when I was viewing on my tv.

"The best way to check how it looks is to play it back on a studio monitor or TV which supports PAL"

Why on a studio monitor? Thanks.






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David Mackenzie
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 19, 2008 at 12:41:34 am

"Why on a studio monitor? Thanks."

There's a million reasons why a studio monitor will look better, but I believe that a studio monitor can replay 50hz PAL natively. Again, that might not be the case over there in the US.

So what you're saying is that on your computer monitor, the NTSC and the converted PAL versions look roughly the same? If so, it sounds like the conversion will give a decent result on a real PAL TV.



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Eric Ward
Re: NTSC widely viewable across UK, AU, europe?
on Oct 19, 2008 at 1:32:13 am

"So what you're saying is that on your computer monitor, the NTSC and the converted PAL versions look roughly the same?"
I watched it a few more times on my laptop. The pal one is "blurrier" and not as sharp as the ntsc. Colors are the same, and as far as motion they are close. The biggest difference is sharpness. I would say the pal one has maybe 70% of the sharpness that the ntsc one has.
However I could be pickier than a non videophile type. I'm going to see if a non video phile type can take a look and get their opinion.



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