Is NTSC **REALLY** necessary for USA DVD sales?

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Teeafit, Nov 11, 2006.

  1. Teeafit

    Teeafit Guest

    This is an old chestnut, I know, but I'm pretty desperate to get a
    definitive answer from those of you reading this in N.America or Japan.

    I have a PAL DVD project completed, and ready for replication. As
    potential sales are worldwide, I thought it best to offer both PAL and
    NTSC versions. I've had a standards conversion of the core material
    done by a facilities house in London, ready to be re-authored for DVD,
    but I'm not very happy with it. Viewing it back on a player/monitor
    combination that can display NTSC, not only do any crawling graphics
    'judder' something shocking (not totally unexpected, but not as bad as
    this) but any horizontal lines in the footage 'shimmer' all the time.
    I could (reluctantly) re-make the graphics sequences as part of a new
    NTSC project on Avid 7, but don't think that my clients will be able to
    stand 2+ hours of 'shimmer'.

    I'd complain about the standards conversion, and see if it could be
    improved, but it's all taking time, and I've promised distribution
    before Christmas. A colleague of mine INSISTS that he's successfully
    sold PAL DVDs to America, and no-one's ever complained about them not
    being viewable.

    Certainly only offering PAL worldwide would make my life a lot easier,
    and the project more profitable... but LESS profitable if I keep having
    to take back discs and refund money to angry customers in Vermont,
    Vancouver and Kyoto (couldn't think of anywhere in Japan beginning with
    'V'!)

    Comments welcome, please.

    GRAEME ALDOUS, Teeafit Sound & Vision, Yorkshire
     
    Teeafit, Nov 11, 2006
    #1
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  2. Sounds like you just answered your own question. There is much less
    profit with an angry customer base.

    Also, get your colleague to nail down exactly how many PAL DVDs were
    sold to customers in America.

    Bill F.
    www.billfarnsworthvideo.com
     
    Bill Farnsworth, Nov 11, 2006
    #2
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  3. Teeafit

    DanR Guest

    PAL DVDs will play on a small minority of U.S. DVD players. (Chinese Made)
    Even then the PAL to NTSC conversion is not great. Especially noticeable
    with supered graphics. Text keys can look pretty bad.
     
    DanR, Nov 11, 2006
    #3
  4. "Teeafit" wrote ...
    Likely a wide range of quality vs. cost in standards
    conversion. The kind done "on the fly" in cheap Chinese
    DVD players is most likely inferior to the kind that costs
    $100s per hour to have done at a top broadcast-quality
    vendor.
    That seems preposterous. Maybe his customers were only
    ex-pat Brits slumming it in the colonies with multi-standard
    equipment the brought with them from the UK?

    Unlike equipment available in Europe for many years, DVD
    players (and screens) in North America are overwhelmingly
    NTSC-only. An exception (and accidential at that) appears
    to be the cheap Chinese players that will play anything. But
    I suspect these have a very tiny market-share.

    Trying to sell PAL DVDs into North America seems like a
    non-starter IMHO. Unless you have a very special/unusual
    customer demographic.
     
    Richard Crowley, Nov 11, 2006
    #4
  5. Teeafit

    Phil M Guest

    I'd complain about the standards conversion, and see if it could be
    For top quality standards conversion, tell them to use a Snell & Wilcox
    Alchemist Ph.C. That machine is used everywhere when quality matters:
    Olympics, Super Bowl, network programming distribution and high end video
    production. The link is here:

    http://www.snellwilcox.com/products/conversion_restoration/products.php


    Don't forget that if you expect the DVD player to perform the conversion
    internally to NTSC, then you won't get have any quality gain over the
    conversion you already have; actually, it would be worst. De-interlace
    artifact, jitter, resolution, and many other artifacts. I have one of these
    DVD players for a quick preview of something. The conversion output is to
    be desired. Also, many DVD players sold in North America by major brands,
    won't play anything else other than NTSC. (Unless if your audience is into
    hacking their DVD machine and third party firmware mods, they won't be able
    to view it).
     
    Phil M, Nov 11, 2006
    #5
  6. Teeafit

    Veggie Dave Guest

    So many places just do simple software conversions - basically
    rerendering in a standard NLE.

    If you edited the project yourself then quite honestly you may as well
    convert it yourself, too.

    Try this...

    Render your project to 23.976fps rather than 29.97fps. This will
    dramatically cut down the amount of juddering, especially if there's a
    lot of fast moving action.

    Better still, make a copy of the project and change the properties of
    the copy to 23.976fps and then go right through the whole thing making
    certain every cut is a full-frame cut on the new timeline rather than a
    cut that traverses into two different frames. Now every cut will be
    perfect rather than there being very quick cross-fades occasionally.

    As for the text, if it was created in the editor then it will work
    perfectly in your new project. If, however, you created them in
    something like After Effects, then you just do the same as you did with
    your project - make a copy, set it to 23.976fps, change the width and
    height settings and render NTSC versions of your text that you then
    insert into your new project.

    As for whether or not only having a PAL version of your DVD will affect
    your sales in the US, the answer is an absolute yes!
     
    Veggie Dave, Nov 11, 2006
    #6
  7. Teeafit

    timepixdc Guest

    Either your "colleague" is an ass or the people that bought the
    non-viewable DVDs are asses. Take your pick.
     
    timepixdc, Nov 12, 2006
    #7
  8. Teeafit

    Teeafit Guest

    Well, all I can say is that he claims to have shown his PAL DVDs on
    more than one set of friends' kit in the USA and had no problems with
    picture quality..... but as it would have been endless footage of
    'chuff-chuff trains' climbing interminable gradients, I may not need to
    say more!

    The point about in-machine standards conversion being probably inferior
    to what I already have is a very valid one. Incidentally, I SHOULD
    have said that this is not a Region Code thing - the DVDs will be 'All
    Region'. It is purely a TV standards issue. It looks like, without
    paying even MORE than I did for the standards conversion in London
    (with each field lovingly hand-painted by elves) I'm going to be stuck
    with an inferior product for the NTSC countries.

    I guess I'll have to go ahead with the PAL replication, and warn my
    NTSC customers that they'll either have to risk it, or wait a little
    longer for a better-quality product. Then I can buy a little time to
    re-make the project from scratch as an NTSC DVD.

    Thanks for your inputs.

    GRAEME ALDOUS, Teeafit Sound & Vision, Yorkshire
     
    Teeafit, Nov 12, 2006
    #8
  9. Playback on a computer should be fine though.

    -m-
    --
     
    Martin Heffels, Nov 12, 2006
    #9
  10. Teeafit

    Toby Guest

    There are no Japanese towns that begin with "V"--it isn't in the Japanese
    syllabary.

    It's too bad you are going from PAL to NTSC, since the conversion from NTSC
    to PAL is much easier. I can tell you that if you expect to sell DVDs in
    Japan they had better be NTSC. I work for a European broadcaster so I do get
    PAL->NTSC stuff sometimes, and even when it is done with high-quality
    equipment the crawling graphics look awful. You shouldn't be seeing shimmer,
    though; any decent standards conversion these days looks pretty good on most
    stuff--unless it's pans, where high quality motion interpolation at least
    makes them acceptable. Sounds to me like you need to reconvert at a
    different place.

    I just put a PAL DVD in my Sony player and it wouldn't play....you are not
    going to want a lot of that.

    Toby
     
    Toby, Nov 12, 2006
    #10
  11. Teeafit

    mv Guest


    Interesting that say converting from NTSC to PAL is best? I've always
    found it better the other way. It's always better to down convert from
    a superior format than try to add data upwards.
     
    mv, Nov 12, 2006
    #11
  12. Teeafit

    mv Guest


    Of all the answers provided so far Phil's is the most useful.

    Viewing NTSC converted DVD's that have been internally converted to view
    on a PAL TV will always be a compromised image. The NTSC playback
    provided on most PAL TV's and media players are not to be compared with
    what Americans will see on their dedicated NTSC equipment.

    The Snell & Wilcox Alchemist that Phil refers to is absolutely the only
    way to get perfect standards conversion, all other methods are a
    sandwich short of a picnic. I've sold a few titles in America, all
    originated on PAL, properly standard converted and distributed on NTSC
    DVD and VHS. Never had a complaint yet. The idea that one can sell PAL
    DVD's in America for general sales is of course utter nonsense.
     
    mv, Nov 12, 2006
    #12
  13. Spatial interpolation is significantly easier than temporal.
     
    Richard Crowley, Nov 12, 2006
    #13
  14. Teeafit

    Netmask Guest

    The problem is both technical and population base - here in Australia
    virtually every TV, DVD player is multi-format that is it will handle PAL,
    the local standard and NTSC.Technically it's a whole lot easier for a PAL
    standard countries to accommodate NTSC than visa versa. The US market is
    very much a closed local market with a population base to support it so
    there is no good economic reason to market PAL/NTSC TV's or DVD players as a
    matter of course even though the rest of the World is mostly PAL. So dual
    inventories are a necessary evil.

    I import DVD's from all over, UK, France, USA, Thailand etc without any
    thought to their standard as I know I will be able to play it and it will
    look good on my panel - but it just isn't so easy for the land of NTSC
     
    Netmask, Nov 13, 2006
    #14
  15. Teeafit

    Jukka Aho Guest

    That assumes non-interlaced 25 fps material (are we sure the OP's PAL
    original is like that?), or some sort of (automatic) deinterlacing
    process taking place.

    By deinterlacing 50 fields-per-second material to 25 frames-per-second,
    then slowing down to ~24 (23.976) fps, you will lose half of the
    original temporal resolution. (I.e., motion will be twice as juddery as
    in the original - watch out for those fast pans and zooms! - and it will
    also get the 3:2 judder from the 3:2 pulldown in the NTSC DVD player.)

    It's not a bad method _if_ the material originated as 25
    frames-per-second _non-interlaced_ ("progressive") video, but we don't
    know if the OP's material is like that or not. Also, if you muck with
    the frame rate, you will have to do something about the audio as well.
    (Time-stretch it, most likely.)

    I'd do these kind of conversions in Avisynth. Avisynth is one of the few
    video processing programs that gives easy field-level access to video
    streams, and doesn't do anything "automatic" (such as automatic
    deinterlace) behind your back. You can keep track of what you're doing
    to your video all the time. And you can't beat the price - it's free.
     
    Jukka Aho, Nov 13, 2006
    #15
  16. Teeafit

    Jukka Aho Guest

    Snell & Wilcox "Alchemist Ph.C" was already suggested to you. I have not
    seen any material processed by that device myself - or I _might_ have
    seen without knowing about it - but at least the company has managed to
    market the product as some sort of a "gold standard" of standards
    conversion.

    The stated difference between Alchemist Ph.C and the old-fashioned
    field-blending/field-dropping/field-duplication standards conversion
    methods is that Alchemist Ph.C analyzes the material for moving objects
    or overall motion, such as pans, constructs a set of motion vectors, and
    synthesizes new frames out of thin air. In these synthesized frames,
    which were never actually shot with a camera, moving objects reside in
    positions that are in-between of their positions in the original frames.
    There's no discontinuity in the motion, and there are no several frames
    blended to each other. Or so the theory goes, at least.

    The technical term for this is "motion compensation". You can read more
    about it here:

    <http://www.iki.fi/znark/video/>

    See the PDFs named "The Engineer's Guide to Standards Conversion" (page
    46 and onwards) and "The Engineer's Guide to Motion Compensation".

    If I were you, I'd at least get a quote of how much a motion-compensated
    standards conversion would cost you when compared to the old-fashioned
    (blurry and juddery) field-dropping and field-blending based standards
    conversion methods.
     
    Jukka Aho, Nov 13, 2006
    #16
  17. Teeafit

    Jukka Aho Guest

    That's true as a general statement, but does it work as an answer to the
    question? I'd argue that for a perfect PAL <=> NTSC conversion you will
    have to do temporal interpolation regardless of the direction of the
    conversion.
     
    Jukka Aho, Nov 13, 2006
    #17
  18. Teeafit

    Veggie Dave Guest

    I've actually found that there's a lot less judder doing it this way
    than to normal interlaced 29fps, particularly with high speed images
    (which is what 90% of what I shoot and edit is). The interlaced PAL is
    auto-deinterlaced in the conversion process.

    But if your only option is a software conversion exported from an NLE
    then it's a better solution than to 29fps.

    It's not the perfect way to do it by any means, but if you don't have
    access to, or can't afford to do it the way TV broadcasters/program
    distributors do it, then it can be an acceptable solution - certainly in
    the context of the original question, anyway.

    I'm very interested in this Avisynth that you recommend, but sadly their
    site's down at the moment.
     
    Veggie Dave, Nov 14, 2006
    #18
  19. Teeafit

    Veggie Dave Guest

    I meant to add that as the original poster seems quite desperate to
    finish his project, it's certainly an option that's at least worth
    trying to see if the results are acceptable for his needs and it's a
    solution that he can do himself which would be quick and free.
     
    Veggie Dave, Nov 14, 2006
    #19
  20. Teeafit

    Jukka Aho Guest

    I'm not arguing that the motion quality would be worse than with a
    straight conversion. It may very well be better. But I'm arguing that...

    1) ...it requires deinterlacing, which will throw half of the original
    temporal resolution (smoothness of motion) in 50 Hz interlaced PAL
    pictures out of the window (of course, that doesn't matter if the
    material wasn't interlaced to begin with),

    2) that not all video processing tools will automatically deinterlace
    when doing this kind of conversion (so you will have to know the
    internal behavior of the tools you're using for this type of
    conversion),

    3) that if no frames are dropped in the 25 fps -> 23.976 (24*1000/1001)
    fps conversion (in other words, video is simply slowed down), this type
    of conversion will require time-stretching the audio,

    4) that if frames _are_ dropped in the 25 fps -> 23.976 (24*1000/1001)
    fps conversion, well, then I'm not sure what is the point of this
    exercise, since dropping frames introduces motion judder, and

    5) that some motion judder will be added, anyway, due to the 3:2
    pulldown done in the viewer's DVD player (but NTSC viewers are used to
    that, so it may not be too objectionable)
    I agree with that, even though I would probably want to keep it
    fields-based even in the 25 fps -> 29.97 (30*1000/1001) fps case (better
    granularity). Again, assuming interlaced source material.
    Their provider had a HDD failure of some sort and they're now in the
    process of recovering from that. Fortunately, an archived copy of the
    former web site is available at <http://www.archive.org/>:

    <http://web.archive.org/web/20060531222927/http://www.avisynth.org/>

    See

    <http://web.archive.org/web/20060522030557/www.avisynth.org/YourFirst
    Script>

    and

    <http://web.archive.org/web/20060525185608/www.avisynth.org/FiltersBy
    Category>

    The copy linked above is the latest. For some reason, however,
    archive.org often does not include all pages in every archived copy. If
    you find that some pages in the archived copy are missing, try an
    earlier copy of the same site from this page:

    <http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.avisynth.org/>

    * * *

    Some Avisynth script examples for standards conversion can be found here
    (near the bottom of the page):

    <http://www.geocities.com/xesdeeni2001/StandardsConversion/>

    Also at the beginning of this thread, in a scrollable subframe:

    <http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=35387>

    The above examples use the ConvertFPS filter, which is for
    frame-blending. It used to be a separate plugin filter, but has later
    been incorporated to Avisynth as a built-in filter:

    <http://members.cox.net/hansenjo1/ConvertFPS.html>
    <http://www.google.com/search?q=convertfps>
    <http://www.guthspot.se/video/AVSPorts/SmoothDeinterlacer/>

    As you can see from the above script examples, they tend to work their
    magic on the field level, not on the frame level.
     
    Jukka Aho, Nov 14, 2006
    #20
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