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Old 04-22-2016, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
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PAL DVD vs NTSC DVD: Which is Better

I'm always interested in getting the best available release of a movie or TV show, and sometimes that means importing PAL region DVDs. One thing that's not clear to me is the advantages/disadvantages of each format (PAL DVD vs NTSC DVD). Here is my understanding of it all, but I would love to hear from the experts of online-shashki.

PAL is higher resolution (576 vs 480), which is an advantage even in NTSC regions. When viewed on a higher definition display (e.g. HDTV, computer monitor), you have a higher resolution source to upconvert from.

Another point is 24fps sources, i.e. films. With NTSC DVDs, 3:2 pulldown is used, which effectively preserves the original frames and audio (disregarding compression of course). This can be done in one of two ways. More commonly (?) and desirably, the frames are encoded intact with instruction for the decoder on how to perform the pulldown. Alternatively, the pulldown is applied before encoding. In either case, the audio speed is unaltered, and the original frames can be obtained for playback on a 24fps capable display, either by simply ignoring the pulldown instructions, or by applying a reverse pulldown. However, the reverse pulldown process is imperfect and can introduce issues. (Side question, is there a way to tell which method a given DVD uses?)

With PAL DVDs, the original frames are intact and are simply played back at 25fps. I'm not sure if the audio speedup is applied before or after encoding. Assuming it's before encoding, I imagine a reverse speedup can be applied without introducing issues (my audio science knowledge is even more lacking than my video science knowledge, lol).

So for films, given the same master and compression quality, PAL DVDs should have equal AQ and better PQ over their NTSC counterparts, due to (slightly?) higher resolution and less chance of reverse telecine issues. Even when played on a 30/60fps display, the result from a PAL DVD should be equivalent to that of its NTSC counterpart but with improved resolution (the player would convert the PAL DVD from 24fps to 30/60fps, the same as the NTSC encoder would do). For NTSC-based TV shows, the NTSC DVD may be preferable as I'm not sure how 30fps is typically encoded on a PAL DVD. I've read that many TV shows are 24fps anyway.

Last edited by cyborgLIS; 04-22-2016 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 04-23-2016, 05:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyborgLIS View Post
So for films, given the same master and compression quality
That's the problem, they are never the same. The preparation of the material makes a greater difference than the technical limits of the formats.

I've bought a lot of PAL, but it has been to get anamorphic upgrades, proper aspect ratio, etc. Video quality: sometimes better, sometimes not.

Now: my experience may be more relevant to the distant past. I saw many dreadful PAL discs in the early years, but but with modern cameras they are have really upped their game. NTSC too, but I've noticed it more with PAL.

-Bill

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Old 04-23-2016, 06:07 AM
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Depends entirely on the disc really, and what your playback system is.
If you're using an HTPC for playback, you can easily play back both PAL and NTSC discs at 24p.
I think some DVD players may support playback of NTSC discs at 24p, but I don't know of any which can do the same for PAL discs.

In theory PAL discs have the potential to look better due to the higher resolution, in practice it depends entirely on the disc.
DVDBeaver.com is a great resource when trying to seek out the best release for a film.

For television shows it is best to buy a disc from the region that it was shot in.
With US shows, NTSC discs are almost universally better than PAL discs.
There are so many terrible standards-converted PAL releases for US shows, which is a process that cannot be reversed, that I would avoid them altogether.
If it was a show shot for PAL territories, e.g. BBC shows, then I would seek out the PAL discs.
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Old 04-23-2016, 08:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info, guys.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
That's the problem, they are never the same. The preparation of the material makes a greater difference than the technical limits of the formats.

I've bought a lot of PAL, but it has been to get anamorphic upgrades, proper aspect ratio, etc. Video quality: sometimes better, sometimes not.

Now: my experience may be more relevant to the distant past. I saw many dreadful PAL discs in the early years, but but with modern cameras they are have really upped their game. NTSC too, but I've noticed it more with PAL.

-Bill
Same as you, I wouldn't seek out a PAL DVD just for the potential PQ improvement, since it's not terribly convenient and the PQ could easily go the other way. I just wanted to make sure my assumptions weren't wrong. The frame rate/audio pitch issues especially concerned me. It's good to know I'm not compromising in that regard if I choose to import (for example, if the domestic release is out of print). Unfortunately it's not always possible to find PQ information for a given release. Though some companies tend to produce better quality DVDs than others, my assumption has been that most countries as a whole are on par with each other (though I suppose certain countries are at a disadvantage with disc space since they have to include multiple language audio tracks). Obviously your experience has been the contrary, so I'll have to be more cautious importing DVDs blindly.

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Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post
For television shows it is best to buy a disc from the region that it was shot in.
With US shows, NTSC discs are almost universally better than PAL discs.
There are so many terrible standards-converted PAL releases for US shows, which is a process that cannot be reversed, that I would avoid them altogether.
If it was a show shot for PAL territories, e.g. BBC shows, then I would seek out the PAL discs.
I figured the same for TV shows. Though the thought crossed my mind that perhaps they were stored in their native frame rate on disc, with the conversion being handled during playback (similar to films being stored at 24fps despite the target frame rate).
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Old 04-23-2016, 08:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post
Depends entirely on the disc really, and what your playback system is.
If you're using an HTPC for playback, you can easily play back both PAL and NTSC discs at 24p.
I think some DVD players may support playback of NTSC discs at 24p, but I don't know of any which can do the same for PAL discs.
Btw, why would the playback system matter? I would think even on a 30/60fps display, a PAL disc would give you the same result as an NTSC, since in both cases the film is stored at 24fps.
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Old 04-24-2016, 05:08 AM
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Perhaps I misunderstand, but I thought you could not get 24hz from PAL. At least, there is no 3:2 pulldown to reverse, so no film cadence to recover.

-Bill

Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | 1990s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
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Old 04-24-2016, 12:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Perhaps I misunderstand, but I thought you could not get 24hz from PAL. At least, there is no 3:2 pulldown to reverse, so no film cadence to recover.

-Bill
Don't they often just speed film up to 25FPS in 50Hz countries?

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Old 04-25-2016, 05:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Perhaps I misunderstand, but I thought you could not get 24hz from PAL. At least, there is no 3:2 pulldown to reverse, so no film cadence to recover.

-Bill
My assumption is that the film frames are stored essentially unaltered on disc, i.e. no split or repeated frames. The player simply plays the frames back at the target rate, 25fps or 24fps, along with the appropriate audio speed. Also, 30fps could be achieved using on-the-fly 3:2 pulldown by the player, in contrast to NTSC DVD which has the pulldown instructions for each frame built-into theencode (perhaps this has advantages over on-the-fly pulldown?).

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