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At a Glance

The argument between NTSC vs. PAL has been rendered largely irrelevant in the age of high definition video. However, NTSC video — developed before color video transmission was possible — offers fewer lines of resolution and is inferior to PAL when displaying standard definition video.

The VHS video format is more or less same across the world but the electronic signal that gets recorded in the cassette varies from one country to another. We all know that the most common video formats are PAL & NTSC. NTSC or National Television Standards Committee is commonly found in North America and in the majority of South America. Each second as many as 30 frames are transmitted in NTSC. One will come across PAL or Phase Alternating Line in Europe, Australia and major parts of Asia. In this standard, the rate of transmission is 25 FPS. There are some major differences between the two systems as a result of which PAL TVs would not work in the US and a NTSC formatted video will not play properly on a PAL DVD or video cassette player. Conversion kits are available but the quality is compromised greatly. Let us find out the major differences between NTSC vs. PAL.

Electrical Differences

A majority of the people will not have the technical acumen to point out the differences between NTSC vs. PAL. The main difference is in the electrical power system. In the US the electrical power gets generated at 60 hertz and the NTSC signal sends out 30 lines of the image followed by another 30 lines and so on. The even and odd horizontal lines are sent alternately making NTSC an interlaced video system.

In Europe and other countries power is generated at 50 hertz. Since there is a difference in electrical power, there is a resulting difference in the frames per second. This causes a major problem in the display of motion, resulting in jerky video if you attempt to watch PAL content on an NTSC television.

Display Resolution

The resolution quality is also different in NTSC vs. PAL. An NTSC TV will show 525 lines of resolution when displaying standard definition video while a PAL TV will broadcast 100 more lines. Although high definition video largely renders this argument moot, a standard definition broadcast in the PAL format will contain additional visual information and will look superior compared to an NTSC broadcast. If you try to convert an NTSC video to the PAL format, you will find black bars due to the smaller screen aspect of the source material.

Color Signals

Pictured at top: 1080p HDMI PAL to NTSC Video Converter

The NTSC format was first introduced in 1941, during a time in which it was not yet possible to transmit color video. Eventually, the concept of color TV was introduced and engineers had to work overtime to ensure that monochrome TV sets still received a signal. The PAL system, on the other hand, was established after the introduction of color broadcasting. This resulted in color signals which were more true to life.

Converting NTSC and PAL

There are now a number of companies which have introduced conversion kits which will help the conversion of NTSC to PAL and vice versa. However, the conversion methods are very time consuming and one may get very disappointed with the end result. When a PAL movie is converted to NTSC, 5 extra frames are added per second that reduces the viewing pleasure by a great margin. The opposite is also true when NTSC is converted to PAL. The quality of the resultant image gets a beating as five frames per second are removed and the motion becomes very slow which looks unnatural too. Nevertheless, if the content that you want to watch is only available in the wrong format for your television, a conversion box can enable you to view it.