NTSC Format to PAL Format Oxford Oxfordshire UK

Do you know the difference between PAL and NTSC?

Are you confused about mixing PAL and NTSC components, and why they can create a problem for one system but not another?

Read on to get the answers to these questions and more...

The history of all the world's difficulty with different video color formats began in 1953 when the world started the shift from black and white television to color.

To make sure the entire world didn't have to go through a major hardware overhaul to watch television the authorities and technicians in charge of broadcasting developed systems which would effectively allow the signals which dictated which colors were shown to be transmitted in the gaps between signals being sent to black and white televisions.

  • NTSC - The analog video color format used to broadcast television signals through North America, half of South America and parts of Asia. It operates on a 60Hz power grid, displays 30 picture frames per second and 525 lines of information per picture.

  • PAL - The analog video color format used to broadcast television signals through much of Europe, Asia, Oceania, half of South America and parts of Africa. It operates on a 50Hz power grid, displays 25 picture frames per second and ties in 625 lines of information with every frame.

  • SECAM - The analog video color format used in France, parts of Africa and much of Eastern Europe (in conjunction with PAL transmissions).

  • Format - The way information is arranged to allow it to be sent to, and understood by, different devices

  • Transmitter - Device that sends out electronic signals to other devices(receivers). In this case a camera is an example of a transmitter.

NTSC, or National Television System Committee, first started as a black and white format before the Second World War. The system had no allowances for color and set standards at 525 lines of information for every frame and 30 frames per second for every picture and was used in Canada, Mexico and the US. The problems first started with the second version of NTSC code, which had signal transmissions that allowed for color but had a problem transmitting the correct hue to areas with weak transmission signals, resulting in the other definition of NTSC (Never Twice the Same Color). Another issue that broadcasters in Europe and other parts of the world faced was color NTSC signals only worked on power grids which had a power frequency of 60Hz. This caused a great deal of difficulty in Europe, where the power grid worked on a 50Hz frequency and the authorities there started working on their own color codes, the PAL (Phase Alternating Line) format in West Germany and SECAM (Séquentiel couleur avec mémoire or Sequential Color with Memory in English) in France. The new formats were not only designed to work on the European grids they were also coded to correct the color variance flaw which gave NTSC its nickname. PAL was adopted in much of Western Europe but geopolitical reasons resulted in SECAM being adopted in the mostly communist Eastern European bloc as well as in its native country of France. Most Eastern European and African countries which broadcasted the SECAM format now also send out PAL signals as well and France is now the only country which solely uses the SECAM format for television transmissions now.

map of working color formats  

Points To Remember:

  • PAL/NTSC cameras/receivers will work anywhere as long as they are paired with cameras/receivers that use the same format.
  • NTSC is common in North America and parts of South America
  • PAL is common in Europe, Oceania, Parts of South America and Parts of Africa
Talking about the history of video color formats is all well and good but what effect does it have on the electronic gadgets of today, and what things can go wrong when a PAL device is paired with an NTSC component or vice versa? When a NTSC receiver is used to pick up PAL color transmissions people might see a 'rolling screen' or a blank screen. This will happen if you have connected a PAL camera to an analog NTSC monitor or NTSC DVT recording device or you're using a NTSC car DVD player to try and watch TV stations in a country which uses the PAL color format.The 'rolling picture' and the blank screen, the potential effects of using a NTSC signal sending device with a PAL receiver
When a PAL receiver is used to pick up NTSC transmissions it can cause more problems, with the potential visual effects being a black and white picture, 'rolling' screen, a 'tearing' screen, or blank screen.This will be the effect if you try to connect a NTSC camera to an analog PAL TV or DVR.A black and white picture, 'rolling screen', a blank screen, or a tearing picture, the potential effects of using a PAL signal transmitter with a NTSC receiver

So what electronic gadgets buck the incompatibility trend?

Televisions are a great example of how there are always exceptions to the rule, even in the world of electronics and coding. If you're using an old analog TV as a monitoring device then you'd better check what color format it works in before splashing out on that top of the line camera you plan on plugging into it. If it isn't the same format then there's a very high chance that it won't work.

However, if you're using a digital TV, you probably won't have any problems as most digital TVs these days have automatic switches which will change between one format and another.

It doesn't matter if a camera is wireless or wired the same considerations come into play when you try to put an NTSC camera with a predominantly PAL system or a PAL camera with a NTSC monitor or DVR device.


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