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NTSC, PAL, and SECAM

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Danagasta
Member
#1 · Posted: 24 Jun 2005 18:48 · Edited by: Danagasta
Siyo nigadawu!
As those of us who either make, buy or rent videos and DVDs know, there are three standard television formats--NTSC, PAL and SECAM. These can be a real problem (!), and I decided to create a section devoted to any issues regarding regions, formats, and anything else related to the subject. This was my field of study, and I just love technical stuff like this.
I'll start with some background information on each format:
NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) format: Probably the least common worldwide, this is used in countries such as the US, Canada, Mexico, many South American countries, and Japan.
PAL(Phase Alternating Line) format: Used all over Europe, some of Africa, some of the Middle East and Australia in many types: PAL, PAL-M, PAL-B.G.,PAL-D/K and PAL-I.
PAL is the most common television system around.
SECAM (Sequentiel couleur avec memoire)format: This is the TV format used in France, parts of the Middle East such as Iraq, and most former colonies of France.Its variations are: SECAM-B.G., SECAM D/K, SECAM-K1 and SECAM-L. It has the highest resolution of all three systems because of its "sequencing."
For a complete list of countries and their television formats, go to:
http://www.tigerdirect.com/static/html/pal-ntsc-secam.html

These standards apply to VHS tapes, all camcorder tapes, and DVDs, which although they are compressed in MPEG format, still require standards because of the decompression. VCD (video compact disc) is actually a very raw form of MPEG video,much like you would find on the Internet but much higher quality, and does not require standards conversion. You can play any VCD from anywhere on ANY television, provided that you have a VCD-compatible DVD player or just a basic VCD player. These can also be played on computers.
Well, this is my standards starter. Any questions? Enjoy your Tintin videos, DVDs, VCDs and also learn how they work!

Courtney (Danagasta)
jock123
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 24 Jun 2005 19:30 · Edited by: jock123
A lot of technical know-how there, Danagasta: thanks for that!

A question (or two), to pick your brain: how does HDTV fit into the PAL/ SECAM/ NTSC scheme of things? Will there be PAL-HDTV and SECAM-HDTV etc.? I’ve read a little bit around the subject, and it seems that there are arguments about what constitutes HDTV anyway, but it didn’t make the point clear.

Also, does the standards conversion of the MPEG happen at the player end of the chain? I’ve wondered how it is that the UK and Japan are lumped together in R2, but the UK is PAL and Japan NTSC; if players convert the MPEG stream to the required standard, I can see that it doesn’t really matter (not that that makes region coding anything other than a pain…).

I look forward to your reply!
jockosjungle
Member
#3 · Posted: 24 Jun 2005 20:51
Thanks for that, to be honest I was not aware there was a french alternative I assumed they were just PAL.

I wrote an article comparing R1 and 2 Tintin DVD, might have to pick up a French one to see if I can see any difference

Rik
Danagasta
Member
#4 · Posted: 25 Jun 2005 03:02 · Edited by: Danagasta
No problem folks! I'm always glad to help. Television can be complicated, that's for sure.

To answer your question, Jocko, there's an HDTV version of all three formats right now. That may be done away with in the future,though. There are different types of HDTV as well, and that's where the argument about what is and what isn't HD comes in. There are HDTV sets with 780 progressively scanning lines (the famous 780p)and 1080i (the I stands for interlaced.)Nobody has yet agreed as to which of these is true HD, and there are many other than just two out there.
As for the MPEG encoding/decoding in DVDs, it doesn't actually affect the standards--rather the editing and uploading of ORIGINAL data does. DVDs use MPEG-2, layers 1 and 2 but that's just to make the data smaller and easier to fit on a disc. The video itself when decompressed fits the TV formats, and you're right about this decompression taking place at the player. There are chips in there with the algorithm used to decode MPEG-2.

Regions are usually used to identify more of when a DVD is to be released than what format they use, but a lot of people use them interchangeably (I do sometimes, just as shorthand.) There's a lock-out system for this on region 1 and 2 DVD players so people can't get stuff early ^_^ It's marketing, but it also tends to be hand-in-hand with formats. That's why the two are used interchangeably so often, because regions most normally coincide with TV formats, although not always.
Now as for VCDs, they're different altogether. They use MPEG-1, which requires about twice the space of MPEG-2. You'll find that most things on DVD that use one disc will use two on VCD, depending on the amount of data. Consider them to be like the UMD video for Play Station Personal or a regular CD with perks. VCDs also only store data on one side of the disc, while DVDs store it on both and can hold a LOT more.

For more on the DVD: http://www.howstuffworks.com/dvd.htm
Courtney (Danagasta)
jock123
Moderator
#5 · Posted: 26 Jun 2005 00:43
Thanks for that, Courtney - although I ask you to run a bit by me again…

a) If VCDs use MPEG-1, which occupies twice the space as MPEG-2, I can see that they would need twice the number of disks if

b) the VCD and DVD disks were comparable in capacity, but

c) DVDs are upwards of 4Gb of data compared to c.750Mb of data on a CD.

If I read you right, a VCD’s data fits onto only two CDs, but a DVD movie wouldn’t without heavy compression - so where does the space go? I realise that there may be multiple audio tracks, extras etc. on a DVD, but isn’t there a bit of a discrepancy in there somewhere?

Also, are you saying that a DVD uses both sides of a disc by default, because I only have one disc that I actively have to turn over (the rather disappointing Warner release of “Superman - the Movie”), and I always assumed that it was a cheapskate way of not having to supply a second disk, and is a pain to use as it means that you can’t lay it down on the label side to protect the disk…

I know that they use layers, read by different light frequencies, but does that equate to sides?
Danagasta
Member
#6 · Posted: 26 Jun 2005 03:04 · Edited by: Danagasta
Nope, you're right. Very, very rarely does a DVD have to be flipped because DVDs use heavy compression. VCDs aren't as compressed, and they also can't store data on both sides. Generally speaking, something that fills up a DVD's available space would require two VCDs. It's a good way to remember which one holds more and how.
As for layers, that's just a good way to have some extra space. That's another thing the VCD doesn't have--neither do audio CDs. Complex little buggers, the DVDs.
jockosjungle
Member
#7 · Posted: 26 Jun 2005 21:19
Most modern DVD's are around 8.7 GB and can easily fit a movie on them and hence do not need to be flipped. Only older DVD are really flippers, I believe Face Off is an example on R2 where you have to turn a movie over half way. This is because in the early days dual layer DVD (8.7mb) were a lot more expensive and it was cheaper to have a double sided single layer disk.

However a lot of double sided DVD are coming back now but these are known as DVD18 which is actually a full lengh DVD on each side.

These are common, a lot of R1 TV sets come like this now, Quantum Leap and King of the Hill being examples. But yes it is a cheapskate way of not providing a second disk, but if you have a lot of DVD like me and nowhere to put them, double sided disks can be a godsend!

The difference between a VCD and a DVD is the quality of the image, although not as compressed the image quality on VCD is woeful compared to DVD.

Rik
Danagasta
Member
#8 · Posted: 27 Jun 2005 00:37
The difference between a VCD and a DVD is the quality of the image, although not as compressed the image quality on VCD is woeful compared to DVD.
That's true---but a good thing about the VCD is that it's uncontrolled by region lockouts and so forth. Those get to be so annoying after a while.
The general rule is that more compression leads to more data being able to fit. DVDs use better compression with more space and a much better decoder.
GurraJG
Member
#9 · Posted: 27 Jun 2005 10:32
A quick question: will a PAL TV game system (PS2, Xbox, GC) work on a SECAM TV with modifying the system or the TV? Not that I really need that info, but I'm just curious. Thanks.

-Gustav
jockosjungle
Member
#10 · Posted: 27 Jun 2005 16:17
I bought a French copy of Destination Adventure from France and it played perfectly in the UK, maybe games do not have the same problem.

Rik

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