What did you find more annoying from the old SD NTSC/Pal system?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Kiko1974, Jan 31, 2019.

  1. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    The West
    PM Magazine, was it? I remember that show as a kid on KVIA in El Paso. Weren’t field pieces done on 3/4 U-Matic rather than Beta at the time? It was several years before the far superior Betacam would take over news production for the next 20+ years IIRC.

    I worked at a budget-starved PBS affiliate in El Paso in the late-80s and our dub reels were still going on ancient 2” quad. It took a team to build them and I’d sometimes be at the machine making all the adjustments and loading tape, etc. It was really fun actually but it’s a miracle we ever got anything on the air back then!

    dan c
  2. JohnBeas

    JohnBeas Forum Resident

    Southwest, MI, USA
    It was definitely a PITA to deal with VHS conversion issues in the US. I was an audio-visual tech in the late 80's/90's and had access to an international VCR (Panasonic AG-W1) that would convert tapes from PAL into NTSC - it was great to be able to trade VHS tapes with people from Europe who would record music shows that I would never have access to. I also occasionally would find commercial VHS tapes which were only released in PAL - one in particular was "Rickie Lee Jones - Naked Songs" - there was a common CD release but the accompanying VHS documentary was only available in Europe (and has never had a DVD release). Things got somewhat easier with the DVD format as you could at least use your computer to watch a DVD from any country or purchase a multi-format DVD player to play the discs (although there was still the issue of region coding). I have a number of PAL DVD's that I've purchased from Amazon.uk over the years - most of them I've converted into MP4's and put on a hard drive for easy playback.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
  3. townsend

    townsend Forum Resident

    Montrose, CO
    Vidiot: thanks for your correction. I defer to you on this.:righton:
  4. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    We heard that a lot from clients, but we quickly set them straight on how things really look in the room. I would agree that in the 1980s and 1990s, analog transmissions did look better and more consistent in PAL. But whenever anybody told me that NTSC was "Never Twice the Same Color," I'd shake my head and say that PAL was "Pretty Awful Looking." All these standard-def formats pretty much suck. 24p HD solved a lot of those problems... 4K even more so.
    Kiko1974, chilinvilin and townsend like this.
  5. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I hated Pal flicker. When I got my first multistandard Laser Disc player NTSC turned to be a revelation to me 'though before getting the player I thought it was an inferior system because of its lower resolution which by the way was unoticiable even on 32" TV's of the early 1990's. The stable and flicker free picture made me an NTSC advocate.
    I'll never understand why Europe continued with 25 fps/50 Hz for HD as it has the same speed-up issues like Pal. I first I thought the European standard would be 60 Hz like in the US, when I read that broadcasting HD was going to be 720p 50 Hz or 1080i 50 Hz I thought "we in Europe never learn, we have tomake things differently just for the sake of being different. The 50 Hz decission was silly and made no sense.
  6. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Well, I think they can be forgiven because most of Europe and the rest of the world uses AC power at a 50Hz line frequency. It was easier to just make a 25fps TV system in those areas to avoid having to make a conversion between 25Hz and 30Hz. After WWII, Japan had the problem of having 30Hz in the upper half of the country and 25Hz in the lower half (because of the occupation by America and Britain). But by the early 1950s, Japanese electronic engineers figured out how to create dual-voltage devices that could work anywhere in the country... and that helped pave the way towards making Japan the leading designer of electronics for the world for the next few decades. Japan generally broadcast 30fps TV as far as I know, at least in the standard-def days.

    TV standards are a peculiar thing, and sometimes they were chosen specifically for political reasons. Just recently, we survived a pretty cataclysmic change between the end of analog standard-def and the beginning of digital HD.
  7. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Japan broadcasted on NTSC back in the analog days, I had a few Japanese Laser Discs and then some early Japanese DVD's and all of them are NTSC just like in the US.
    I think the AC power frequency made sense on the early days of TV when there were not quartz oscillators, once they were invented and made affordable it was quite easy to make a multi System T.V. set. As far as I know most TV sets sold in Europe since the late 1980's were capable of displaying NTSC natively.
    budwhite likes this.
  8. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Well, they were in 525 -- it was a variant of NTSC because they used different frequencies and they had a channel 1, as I recall. A lot of the channels were on different frequencies. Again, "NTSC" only refers to the over-the-air standard; 525 29.97 (aka "30-frame") is the video standard used on Laserdisc.

    I once ran into a situation in 1985 where we had a complicated technical problem with a Japanese show we were working on in Hollywood. Halfway through diagnosing the problems, we realized that back in Tokyo, the engineers had mastered the tape at 30.00fps instead of the usual 29.97fps (American standard), which baffled everybody on our staff. So there was some weirdness with how things were done in Japan even in the 1980s.
  9. JQW

    JQW Forum Resident

    TV commercials originally filmed in NTSC, then cheaply converted to PAL, and then finally overdubbed with British accents.

    These were a common sight on ITV during the late 197os - certain major multinational companies (and some others) couldn't be bothered to re-shoot new commercials for the UK market, so simply just re-edited their North American ones accordingly, overdubbing new voices and making edits to ensure they complied with UK broadcast regulations. Hence we saw a lot of washed out images with voices that didn't quite synchronise.
    Dan C likes this.
  10. Wally Swift

    Wally Swift Forum Resident

    Brooklyn New York
    I had my first multisystem VCR in 1985. I preferred the look of PAL to NTSC.
  11. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I thought Japan has/had plain NTSC system just like the US, all the Laser Disc I got from Japan stated NTSC on the back cover and were played fine just like US ones on my multi System Pioneer Laser Disc player.
    What did you do with the Japanese video that run at 30 fps? Did you slowed it down or did some kind of conversion?
  12. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    We were only set up to do 29.97 video, so the problem for us was getting the audio to sync up. It was a nightmarish problem that took hours to resolve... and that's a very funny play on words. Normally, film goes at 23.976fps in 525 59.97 video, but the Japan production company had run the film at 24.00fps and the video at 60Hz (30fps). But we eventually figured it out.

    Japan was also one of the first 525 countries I know to use "Zero Blacks," meaning they eliminated the setup for black level at 7.5 ire. That was also non-standard in the 1980s, but eventually everything began to use that when digital slipped in by the mid-1990s. HD and 4K also use black level at 0.

    In the case of Laserdisc and videotape, "NTSC" is a misnomer, an inaccurate shortcut just to say the same thing I'm saying. It's kind of like the TV sets that say "4K"... only they're not really 4K. They're 3840 x 2160, while real 4K is variations on 4096 x whatever. They discovered that the HDMI connector wasn't capable of passing content at 4K, so that was a compromise everybody felt was "close enough." Replace "NTSC" with 525 and a color subcarrier of 3.579MHz, and that's what it really is. But again: NTSC is a transmission standard, meaning it goes through the air. If it's a video signal on a wire, it's technically not NTSC (or PAL).
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  13. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    But color is encoded,not just put in a subcarrier frequency "as is". I thought the way color was "composited" from RGB to to composite or Y-CR that's what is called color system. The term Pal didn't exist in Europe until Telefunken invented Pal color system in the late 1960's, in fact Pal means Phase Alternation by Line which is something done to color compositing, just like Secam means Sequentiéle Color Avec Memoire refering about a way color is "composited". I thought that regarding to broadcasting te full term for US NTSC is NTSC M, the term for continental European Pal is Pal B/G (B for VHF, G for UHF), the UK Pal A or Argentina Pal N. Secam as used in France is called Secam L and Secam as broadcasted in the Middle East is meSecam. There's also Pal M in Brazil which broadcasts luminance at 525/60 but using Pal color encoding.
    Laser Discs or VHS video tapes contain composite video signal so for me these are/were Pal, Secam or NTSC, in fact if you played a VHS Secam tape on a Pal VHS deck picture is seen but in black and white and viceversa, or despite the UK being Pal A and continental Europe Pal B/G VHS (or Betamax, or Video 2000) a VHS tape from the UK played flawlessly on a continental Europe VHS deck. I've sent a long time ago a VHS movie bought on a local store in Spain to a relative in Argentina which is/was Pal N and it also played without a problem. As far as I know the letter besides the color system reffers to the way it's broadcasted.
  14. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Well, that's all technical gobbletygoop. The reality is: NTSC and PAL are transmission standards, and the pre-recorded consumer videotapes and videodiscs are 525 or 625 composite. Composite vs. component is not a factor here. (I would argue that the 4:0:0 chroma subsampling does a lot of damage; more at this link on Wikipedia for anybody who wants to know more.)

    I would agree that digital component recording kind of blew everything else out of the water, and digital component HD (and 4K)... even better still. I don't miss much at all about analog video.
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  15. Sevoflurane

    Sevoflurane Forum Resident

    West Yorkshire
    Where to start here...

    1. PAL speed up. It took a long time for me to hear a version of Live At Pompeii by Pink Floyd at the right speed.
    2. Conversions to PAL of US TV programmes with that awful purple colour cast.
    3. Not sure whether this was PAL related, but anything with a lot of blue in it was so disproportionately noisy.
    4. Not a specific PAL / NTSC thing, but crappy pan and scan conversions.
    Kiko1974 and Vidiot like this.
  16. nopedals

    nopedals Forum Resident

    Columbia SC
    I think that NTSC done right with filmed sources viewed on a typical CRT of the era using appropriate settings was not that bad. Most videotaped shows from the 70s looked awful, while filmed shows from the 60s looked pretty good, but that is a source issue. Back in the day if you had a new 25" color TV that was dialed in, you felt pretty good about it.
  17. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    There are ways to convert 29.97fps NTSC video to 25fps PAL without any compromise. It helps to have a Snell & Wilcox Alchemist standards converter. For audio sync, you just have to use experience, good taste, and common sense. I suspect this is a case of inept people making poor decisions with bad equipment; it's not a technology problem per se.

    I was part of a company that did tons of NTSC -> PAL conversions, and color should not change if you know what you're doing. Speed does not change beyond about .1% (which is very, very tiny). It is true that 23.98fps film TV series would have to be sped up 4.1% to 25fps, and those looked and sounded horrible. Whenever possible, I would use an Eventide 2400C pitch-shifter to compensate the dialogue-only track so that the people didn't sound like Donald Duck; this was particularly necessary on Magnum P.I. and Get Smart, where we had an actor who was already borderline weird-sounding. Pitch-shifted, they were fine. I felt there were too many audio artifacts to do it to the music, so that I left as-is.

    Color and video levels between standards is all fixable if you know what the hell you're doing and keep an eye on things.
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  18. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I still have to see an NTSC to Pal material converted right. We had a Mexican Televisa channel broadcasting for Spain/Europe from the late 1980's to maybe early 2000's and it looked awfull despite all the tecnical improvements on the 15/18 years it broadcasted it looked dreadful till the end. Weird Purpleish color as someone said before, soft picture,motion artifacts. CNN International in the 90's, the same as with the Televisa broadcast, I haven't seen it here in a long time, I guess they have improved.
    The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, dreadful looking when aired in Spain, I contacted the network Antena 3 to asked them what they got from the US and they told me they got videotapes converted to Pal, the same with Saved by The Bell which was aired here by the same network and it looked dreadful, weird colors, soft looking and with motion artifacts.
    Worst case I've seen? Madonna's Ciao Italia Concert video shot in Torino in September 1987. It was shot to Pal video, it was post-produced to NTSC video and for European release on VHS, Laser Disc and later DVD, it was converted back to Pal. You should see it tobelieve how this crappy looking picture made it to the market.
    Fortunately most concert videos shot on video even if they were shot on an NTSC country have been released on its native system in Europe.
  19. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Complain. It can be done correctly -- they just have to hire the right people and use the right equipment.
    seacliffe301 likes this.
  20. cathandler

    cathandler Forum Resident

    My main complaint was motion blur in those old 1970s PAL/NTSC standards conversion (I'm looking at you, Monty Python...) Having said that, I see even worse motion blur on some reruns on MeTV and there's no standards conversion involved!
  21. JQW

    JQW Forum Resident

    One other factor about these NTSC to PAL commercials that I neglected to mention - commercials were distributed to the regional ITV stations on film at the time. Commercials would be sent out with the first half second of audio muted, and with a several second still captioned portion at the end. These would then be spliced together to make a reel for a particular commercial break, and once used they were snipped out at the final still frame to be used again.
  22. seacliffe301

    seacliffe301 Forum Resident

    As someone who used to calibrate the circuitry in cameras to suppress that artifact, I don't miss it one single bit. :righton:
    Pinknik likes this.
  23. seacliffe301

    seacliffe301 Forum Resident

    In comparing image quality between PAL and NTSC, this was one aspect that PAL won out as they were zero blacks as well. In the mid to late 80's, the company I worked for purchased a standards converter, a Merlin 888. At the time we were the only resource for this service in the midwest. Part of the system were a matching pair of multi standard broadcast grade 19" Barco CRT monitors.
    They were mounted in racks, displayed side by side one for PAL, one for NTSC. Due to the lower black level, the PAL images always appeared as more contrast, with colors appearing slightly more vibrant.
    What was evident though was the flicker inherent in the 50hz display.

    As a side note, parts of Japan were in fact PAL due to the fact that line voltage was 50hz through out parts of that country. I wonder if that had anything to do with them adopting zero black usage in their NTSC system?
    Vidiot likes this.
  24. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Yeah, I'd agree with that. Throwing away 7-1/2% of the lower dynamic range in NTSC was a stupid and unnecessary idea by the time the 1980s and 1990s rolled around. The whole point of that was that the inventors of NTSC believed (with some justification) that the crappy CRTs of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s couldn't quite extend into the bottom of the signal where the black detail was located. So the 7.5ire setup was a "cheat" designed to get around that. By 1980, I think that problem was solved, but that was still a real advantage that PAL had in that era. On broadcast equipment, of course, we could hit 0 blacks with no problem. And Betacam/Beta SP recording for ENG always had that ability.
    Could very well be. I know that the early-1990s HD experiments with 1125-line analog HiVision were always done with 0 blacks, and it looked pretty spectacular. All of that came to an end once digital HD came in at the end of the decade. You can make a good argument that HDR kind of built on top of that and at least doubled or tripled the visual dynamic range: instead of going from 0 to 100, they effectively went from 0 to 500 or 600 or even higher, creating a much more vivid picture. Where we go from here in the future will be a good question.
  25. nosticker

    nosticker Forum Resident

    Ringwood, NJ
    With quality source NTSC source material and an S&W Alchemist set up properly to combat motion artifacts, there are really few complaints. You can't just walk away though, having the wrong film tools setting or interpolation(forgive, it's been a while) can make an ug-lee picture.

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