PAL and NTSC are regional broadcast formats that effect how your video works on a television. The distinction is significant for TV broadcasts and DVD, but less relevant for online video.
Deriving from different electrical systems, the PAL system is used in Australasia, Europe, China and the Middle East, while the NTSC system is used in North and South America, Japan and other countries. These systems display video and audio differently to each other, so you may find that a DVD you bought in America won't work on your player/TV in Australia.
Pertaining to our digital works, it is important to appreciate that a video camera you purchase in the USA will most likely record in a standard that is different to Australia's. The difference lies in the frame rate and resolutions of the two formats. These standards were set to match the electrical refresh rate of old televisions, but the standards have carried on into the digital realm.
Here is the breakdown of each system in Standard Definition/DVD/DV:
PAL (Phase Alternating Line) - 50 hz refresh rate
Resolution: 720 x 576 pixels
Frame rate: 25 fps (frames per second)
NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) - 60 hz refresh rate
Resolution: 720 x 480 pixels
Frame rate: 30 fps
For more information on the difference between these two formats and a glimpse at the history behind the standards, go here.
Is this still relevant for HD?
While HD formats have universally standardised resolution (1024x720, 1920x1080) there still remains a difference in the frame rate/refresh rate of HD footage and cameras. PAL region HD video cameras usually record at 25fps/50hz and NTSC region record at 30fps/60hz.
A new standard of 24fps is emerging, but it is still important to check your camera and know what standard you are filming in.
Most importantly, ensure that your chosen editing software is setup for the region of your video camera. Set your project preferences or sequence settings to PAL or NTSC before you commence your project, otherwise you will begin experiencing noticeable difficulties with your footage.
I filmed a video on an NTSC camera but want to publish it as a PAL DVD. Is this possible?
Absolutely, once you have edited your footage you can then export it in different formats if you have the right software. It is best to do this step last to minimise artefacts that may occur during format conversions.
How can I check if a video file I have is NTSC or PAL?
If you are unsure what format your video file is, or just want to know what the resolution or frame rate is, its quite easy to check. By looking at the properties of a video and comparing with the information above, you can tell what format your video is.
In Windows: Right click on your video file and select "Properties". Select the "Summary" tab and click on "Advanced". Here you will see the video's frame rate and resolution (Image width and height).
In OSX: Click once on your video file, then press Command (apple) + I. This will bring up an information box with the video fille details.
In Ubuntu: Right click your video file and select "Properties". Click on the "Audio/Video" tab for video information.
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