NTSC recording

Pricing (05 Dec 2006)

$20/hour (minimum fee).
Plus cost of blank discs.

From time to time we're asked if we can convert an American NTSC video recording to the Australian PAL television standard.  We don't have equipment for doing conversions, but we do have one VHS VCR that will play back some NTSC tapes, and a DVD recorder which can record in NTSC mode.

This isn't a video standards conversion, it's just a re-recording onto a different medium (disc instead of tape) without changing the video signal format.  You can then play that disc in a multi-standard player (most DVD players sold in Australia can play NTSC discs), and either have your player convert it to PAL as you watch, or watch it in the original NTSC on a television set that supports NTSC.

Of course, if you can view it directly, you wouldn't need to have us copy it onto a disc, first.  But you'll probably find that many Australian VCRs can't play back NTSC, and most Australian television sets won't show a NTSC signal, or only show it in black & white.  You have a bit more of a chance of watching American video when you use the three-cable component video signal (Y, R-Y, & B-Y) between a DVD player and a television set.  That's a connection option that you won't have on most VHS decks, hence why there's at least one reason to have a tape copied to a disc.  Using component video bypasses the colour encoding differences between the two systems.

Supported media sources for copying from

Supported recording modes


Copyrighted material cannot be reproduced without permission.  That means getting permission from the holder of the copyright (those who created the works).  It does not refer to asking your friend if they don't mind you copying some movie that they bought.  They cannot give you permission to copy it, they don't hold the copying rights.  Do not ask us to copy some copyrighted movie.  We cannot do this, even if it was one that you've bought.

What is the difference between NTSC and PAL?

There's quite a few differences between NTSC and PAL (the colour part of the signal), and American and Australian television signals (the black & white part of the signal that the colour is added to).  The American television system has a different frame rate (pictures per second), and the speed that the image is scanned across the screen is different.  Then, when you add colour to the equation (for S-Video or single-cable composite video), different encoding techniques and frequencies are used between the two systems.  Some of these differences were down to having different mains power systems in the two countries (the frame rates), the rest were down to commercial interests.

Resolution-wise (image definition), the American system is quite inferior to ours (about 10% poorer).  And transcoding between the two of them makes it even worse.  If you don't have access to high quality conversion equipment, you're better off trying to watch it in its original format.  That's one reason why we don't offer a transcoding service, just a re-recording service.  The other reason is that when I've tried computer-based transcoding, it did a worse job than most DVD players manage to do by themselves.

Playing NTSC discs on a PAL television

Find the video playback mode switch for your player, and put it into PAL mode.  This may be a switch on the back of your DVD deck.  My LG decks are like that, and you need to turn their power off before it'll change modes (it only reads the position of the video mode switch while the deck is turning on).  It may be a button on the remote, I've got decks with a “P/N” button on them, another with a “system” button, or it could be labelled “video mode” or “mode.”  If it's not obvious what to do, read your manual, or do an internet search for instructions for your DVD player (look for its model number on the back panel, and search using that as a keyword).

Playing NTSC discs on a multi-system television

If you have a television set that can view PAL and NTSC, then this (viewing signals in their original formats) is a better option than conversion.  Set your DVD player in a “multi” or “auto” video mode, or manually switch between PAL and NTSC.  Likewise, for your television set.


When you have a choice of which connections you can use, whatever you're watching, you might wonder which is best.  The following list starts with the best choice, ending with the worst (having gone through various colour, and other signal, encoding stages, by then).  This list is based on the technicalities of the signals, and does not take into account the possibility that some sets may have really poor quality signal handling on some of their connectors.

  1. Digital video connections (e.g. HDMI), if you're dealing with digital video, such as DVD or digital video tapes, but not if it's really an analogue source (you'd be adding an analogue-to-digital conversion, then another digital-to-analogue conversion in the television).
  2. RGB video (separate red, green & blue video signals, and perhaps separate sync).
  3. Component video (aka “colour difference,” “YUV,” “Y/R-Y/B-Y,” “Y/Pr/Pb,” or “Y/Cr/Cb”).
  4. S-Video (akaY/C”).
  5. Composite video.
  6. RF (through antenna or aerial connections).

Video starts out as analogue RGB video in the camera or film scanner.  It may be digitised at this stage, but it will probably be digitised after the next stage if it is going to be digitised (i.e. if it's not being left as analogue).  The RGB video's encoded into component video (panchromatic addition of red, green, and blue into a monochrome luminance signal, and two separate colour-difference signals composed of red minus the luminance and blue minus the luminance).  If it's going to be digitised, this is the most likely stage digitisation will be done at.  Then, for analogue video, the colour difference signals are encoded into PAL, NTSC, SECAM or another system, giving us separate chrominance (colour) to go along with the luminance (black & white) signals (S-Video).  Those two signals, luma and chroma, are added together to make composite video.  Finally, the composite video may be modulated onto a RF carrier for transmission, or for connection to a television set that only has antenna connections.

Each stage it goes through loses some of the original information, and can add distortions.  It's better to avoid as many processing stages as possible, and make your connections as close as you can to the top of the list.  It should go without saying that you need to use the same type of connection at both sides, i.e. component outputs on your player connect to component inputs on your television, etc, you can't connect two different types together.

In most cases, the average $5 set of cables is more than adequate.  Ignore the snakeoil salesman trying to get you to buy $50 cables, it's a con job.  Though you'll be hard pressed to buy HDMI cables at a reasonable price, the manufacturers have a captive market, and they're going to screw every penny out of their customers.  For all the other types of connections, you won't need anything special for something like one metre of cable between your player and television.  It's unusual to be able to see any difference between using proper 75Ω coax and ordinary shielded cable, for such short lengths.

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