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Converting NTSC to PAL

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : Converting NTSC to PAL
We’re based in the U.S. so naturally the majority of our work is produced and finished in the NTSC standard. But sometimes we get requests to finish and even produce projects in the PAL standard for European distribution. There are several ways to do this, with software or hardware.

A lot of folks, particularly small shops, prefer the software way of doing this for obvious reasons. It’s pretty cheap. In fact with our Apple Final Cut Pro Studio suite, the Compressor software includes this conversion as part of the deal so in effect, it’s “free” if I already own the Studio suite. Hardware conversion, on the other hand, generally involves up to $100,000 equipment to do the conversion.

So what to do? Well in my case I much prefer the hardware conversion over software, particularly for HD projects that will be broadcast or burned to BluRay disc. There’s a few reasons.

One – Picture clarity. I have yet to find a software solution that can completely retain the picture clarity of the NTSC HD original. There’s always a softening of the image. In some cases it’s subtle, in other cases it’s very noticeable. The home audience would never notice the difference, because well, they never saw the NTSC original and have nothing to compare it to. But it drives me NUTS!

Remember that when we’re converting from NTSC to PAL we are changing the frame rate from 29.97 fps to 25 fps. There has to be some interpolation of what to do with those extra frames from the NTSC frame rate. For whatever reason, software like Compressor and others I have tried, seems to soften the image as it does the conversion. Not really what I want to see.

Two – Efficiency. Hardware conversion is realtime. A 1 hour show takes 1 hour to convert. Depending on the settings and your machine, you could be talking a very long time to do the software conversion.

Three – Cost. Wait, didn’t I say that Compressor is free and the hardware is $100,000 or more? Yes I did. I don’t have to buy that hardware, there are other Post houses that already own it so all I have to do is pay their conversion fee to transfer the project. And that price is very reasonable, especially when I send along my own blank tape stock to master to.

In fact, and this is quite sad really, it’s cheaper for me to ship my masters to PostWorks in New York and have the conversion done than to use any facility here in the Atlanta area. And I have to give HUGE props to PostWorks New York as they have been a great group of folks to work with. They turn around the projects usually the same day and the quality of our converted product is awesome.

So if you really want the best quality conversion, whether you’re going NTSC to PAL or vice versa, and you don’t have the hardware to make the conversion, look for other production facilities that CAN do this for you. It will free up your machine from having to do the software conversion and ultimately you’ll end up with a better product.


Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 19, 2010 at 6:34:45 amComments (8) conversion

Comments

Re: Converting NTSC to PAL
by lee hunt
I realise this is an old thread, but I work for a company that has just released a very high quality motion compensated frame rate and format converter plug-in for Final Cut Pro, with more plugins on the pipeline.

The converter is a CPU only converter, so no need for specialist GPU's. Supports both interlaced and progressive standards from SD to HD.

For more information please see http://www.frameformer.com
Re: Converting NTSC to PAL
by Gerry Mooney
I've already posted this question on another thread, but I'm looking for a definitive asnswer re: authoring a dvd in New York that needs to play on dvd players in Singapore. Compounding my question is that the project is a music video, so although I've read that NTSC content *should* play on a PAL player, the above comment about the pacing being off is a new wrinkle. I'm looking for a definitive answer about this. Any info or links would be appreciated.

"I'm not half-insect, I'm half-human!"
Re: Converting NTSC to PAL
by Joshy Sebastian
Dear Michael,
I am in a corner in the PAL territory with a North American NTSC HD camera. It can shoot only 60i, 30p, 24p. No PAL frame rate (25P or 50i). My Camera is Panasonic AG-HMC"150P". Hence if I use premiere pro for conversion (NTSC->PAL), can you suggest me the "BEST" work flow that effects least to the quality of the output?
Re: Converting NTSC to PAL
by Angelica Carson
I create a movie with iMovie, including some Motions Pro., in NTSC. If I want to create in PAL, I could just imported the movie in Final cut and save it in PAL system?
Re: Converting NTSC to PAL
by eric pautsch
After spending several years as a Tape Op using Alchemist, TK and UFC converters, I can safely say using AVISnyth will match any one of them frame to frame. The only issue is time - realtime vs. hours

And its free open source software.

Eric

Re: Blog: Converting NTSC to PAL
by Wayne Carey
Always good advice, Walter.

I'd love to add that ANY hardware conversion, be it 29.97 to 23.98, SD to HD, HD to SD, creating a center punch for broadcast or letterboxing for broadcast or DVD. Hardware is the way to go for any of this. Quality is the name of the game. Why spend lots of hard work and time to deliver an OK end product.

_______________________________

Wayne Carey
Schazam Productions
http://web.mac.com/schazamproductions
schazamproductions@mac.com
Re: Blog: Converting NTSC to PAL
by Nick Meyers
i definitely agree with all those arguments, walter.

however, for a more affordable hardware solution,
the new Blackmagic up-down-cross convert box looks interesting:
http://www.blackmagic-design.com/products/miniconverters/

would you be thinking about getting one of those?


and just to go a little off topic, i'll copy/paste this recent tid-bit from FCP-L:

==============================================

You don't need standards conversion!

Shoot 24P. (make that 23.976)
For NTSC, add pulldown on the finished master.

For Pal, speed up to 25.

That's the whole idea behind 24P.

No render time, no quality loss, no hassle.


Bouke

VideoToolShed
van Oldenbarneveltstraat 33
6512 AS NIJMEGEN
The Netherlands
+31 24 3553311
http://www.videotoolshed.com
Re: Blog: Converting NTSC to PAL
by Michael Gissing
[Nick Meyers] "For Pal, speed up to 25.

That's the whole idea behind 24P."


Yes this is the exact workflow on a recent doco about the Forbidden City. After mixing the 23.976 version I sped up (with correct pitch), the final mix by 4.1% . When we restriped that against the 25 HDCam version, the director was absolutely horrified. Pitch was perfect and the MPEX3 software did an amazing job of the pitch correction but the pace of everything was a total shock to all of us.

The tempo of the narration, the increased music tempo all threw the drama off. It felt wrong, not just because we had seen the original. The operator at the facility where we did the playout to tape also felt the show had too much push and was fatiguing. As a creative editor Nick, I am sure you are aware of the potential for destroying the rhythm by changing small things.

So apart from the fact that the PAL version was also shorter than the NTSC, the dangers of this workflow is that a delicate balance in the content can be upset. Personally, I would prefer the odd hybrid frame in a real time conversion, rather than this workflow. The viewer won't pick the minor technical aspects, but they are more likely to be sensitive to the carefully crafted pacing being off.



Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.

 




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