The Difference Between NTSC and PAL

NTSC stands for National Television Standards Committee. PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line. NTSC is the standard broadcast format in the United States, while PAL is the standard broadcast format in Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia.

If you are an American who has tried to insert a movie from Europe into your DVD player, you will notice that the picture will be very scrambled and the sound quality will be absolutely terrible. The vast majority of DVD players that were manufactured for the United States are not backwards compatible with the PAL broadcast format.

Due to the electrical differences noted below, a PAL television would not work in the United States. The differences in resolution quality also account for why a PAL formatted DVD will not play properly play on an NTSC player. If you must play an NTSC formatted DVD on a PAL DVD player, or vice versa, there are conversion kits available. These kits can convert NTSC to PAL or PAL to NTSC. The downside to these conversion kits is that they can be very time consuming and the quality of the movies may be reduced upon completion of the conversion.

Electrical Differences

Most people will not be able to easily tell the difference between NTSC and PAL. The main difference starts with the electrical power system that runs behind the color transmissions. In the United States, electrical power is generated at 60 hertz. The signal behind the NTSC broadcast format is set to send out 60 fields per second. Most televisions use a interlaced system, so the NTSC signal sends out 30 lines of the image, followed by another 30 alternating lines. Basically, that results in 30 frames of a complete image appearing every single second.

In Europe and other countries, electrical power is generated at 50 hertz. Televisions that utilize PAL as the broadcast format only produce 25 frames of a complete image appearing every single second. This causes problems with the proper display of motion, as it makes actors move a bit faster because of the difference in frames per second that are showing movement. If you are trying to watch a PAL movie on a NTSC television, you need to add 5 frames per second, or the motion of the film will be very jerky or slow.

Resolution Quality

The other main difference between NTSC and PAL is resolution quality. While PAL produces fewer frames per second than NTSC, it produces more lines. An NTSC television will broadcast 525 lines of resolution, while a PAL television will broadcast 625 lines of resolution. As the lines of resolution increase, so does the amount of visual information. This produces better picture quality and screen resolution. If you were to try to convert an NTSC movie to PAL, black bars would most likely be added to compensate for the smaller screen aspect. The black bars would resemble what you would see in a widescreen or letterbox movie.

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