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Understanding and Converting Between PAL and NTSC

What is the difference between PAL and NTSC? Here at Sewell Direct we get a lot of people asking this exact question. Let's briefly mention some of the technical differences and then we'll lay out why this may matter to you.

Simply put, one of the main differences is that NTSC and PAL both specify their own methods for transmitting the color information to your TV. Other differences are found in the resolution and frequency of the signal. NTSC uses 525 scan lines, of which 486 are visible. NTSC also uses 29.97 interlaced FPS or frames per second, this is done on a signal with frequency of ~60Hz. PAL on the other hand does not set exact format for these things in its specifications, although it uses a pretty standard format. PAL most commonly has 625 scan lines, of which 576 are visible. PAL generally runs 25 interlaced FPS with a signal of 50Hz.

So what does this mean for you?

This means that NTSC and PAL equipment are not directly compatible. If you have ever connected a PAL source to an NTSC display you likely ended up with an image that is in black and white. This is due to the differences in color transmission. Depending on the equipment, you may also have experienced an image that looks like it is scrolling up and down. This problem is caused by the difference in signal frequency.

If you have a need to connect PAL and NTSC equipment together it will require something to change the signal format. Let's say you want to do exactly that. For an example we'll use a PAL DVD player and an NTSC TV. One of the first things you'll need to check is what type of video connection you'll be using between the two. Generally this will be composite (the yellow RCA connection) or s-video. As long as you are using one of these connection types you can use the Atlona Multi-System PAL/NTSC video converter. This converter will correct the color transmission, the number of scan lines, and the signal frequency.

We do carry a less expensive alternative from Mayflash, but it does not convert the signal frequency to the correct format. In order for that adapter to work your TV must support displaying both 50Hz and 60Hz signals. As this is often not the case it is highly recommend that you use a converter that will handle all of the differences in the signal. The Mayflash unit also only supports the composite signal type and not s-video.

Another situation could be that you want to get PAL cable TV or over the air TV channels on the TV. To do this you'll need to first run the cable connection or the antenna into a PAL Tuner that will output composite or s-video. A cable box or VCR with a tuner in it will do the job. The composite or s-video output will then be run through the signal converter and then to the TV.

Similarly, if you want to play PAL DVDs, Video Games, or tapes you must have a compatible PAL player for those items. You must use the PAL source and then run it through a converter like this. You cannot use a converter to play PAL DVDs in an NTSC DVD player.

Hopefully this information will help you to understand what a converter can do for you. If you have any further questions about this please contact our technical support through email at or by phone at 801-356-3832.


PAL to NTSC/NTSC to PAL converters

Is there a difference?

Both NTSC and PAL are different video formats used in different countries around the world. Often people will go to another country on a vacation and purchase some media to bring home and it will not work with their entertainment system because their TV/DVD player/game console/etc does not support the format that the video is in. America and some other countries use the NTSC standard while most all of Europe and many other countries use PAL (a map showing which is used in each country can be found here.

How does it work?

pal to ntsc diagram

When would I need one of these?

Most often when a person needs to use one of these converters is because they own a TV and are moving to another country and it is cheaper for them to bring the TV with them instead of purchasing a new one when they get there. Or it may be because they brought a DVD player, a game console, or something else similar with them.

Example of which converter to buy.

If you move from America (or other country that uses the NTSC signal) to England (or other country that uses PAL signal) and bring your DVD player (or other video playing device or game console) with you and want to use it with a TV that was purchased in the UK (or whatever country you moved to using PAL) you are going to need the NTSC to PAL converter because your video source is NTSC and you need to change it to PAL.

On the other hand if you were move from England (or other country that uses PAL signal) America (or other country that uses the NTSC signal) and bring your DVD player (or other video playing device or game console) with you and want to use it with a TV that was purchased in America (or whatever country you moved to using NTSC) you are going to need the PAL to NTSC converter because your video source is NTSC and you need to change it to PAL.

These converters will change the color scheme and any resolution issues, but does not change the refresh rate. If your TV does not support BOTH 50hz and 60hz signals you will need a more advanced converter.

There is a converter that we sell and that is more advanced like what the above paragraph mentions and it can convert both signals to the other, no matter if you need to change from NTSC to PAL or PAL to NTSC it will convert it for you and you can use it with your devices. That unit can be found here.

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