Welcome to the digital age.We all knew it was coming, a day when our video was all digital. We could escape the bounds of PAL and NTSC because all video could be transcoded on the fly, rescaled, downconverted, or upconverted.
The day has arrived however we still buy DVDs that are PAL or NTSC specific. Aside from Regions for Blue Ray and DVD which for the sake of this article we will avoid, as well as country specific transmission formats. I want to discuss ONLY the video encoded onto DVDs and pose the questions as to why it has not changed?
PAL DVDs are typoically 720×576
NTSC DVDs are typically 720×480
In the NTSC world, content can be progressive or interlaced. Frame rates can be 23.97FPS (24P) or 29.97FPS (30 FPS)
In the PAL world, Content can be progressive or interlace2d. Frame rates can be 23.97FPS (24P) but are typically 25FPS
In the PAL world they almost do not bother with the “HD 720P format” because it offered so little improvement over PAL
Over 3 years ago I bought a new DVD player. Within a mattewr of hours I had it working “region free” and even played PAL DVDs. The DVD player itself had no issues with the PAL DVD and transcoded to NTSC. On that same DVD player I could select “PAL” output, or “Auto”, aside from the “NTSC” that it was set to. AT that time I had a stand alone TV tuner that connected to a VGA monitor. The VGA monitor and tuner were also “PAL compatible”. I was lucky. Recently while shopping for an LCD TV I came to realize that they were not making sets that were designed for 50/60 hz (25/30 FPS). Leaving my multi region DVD in “auto” mode would not work on a newer flat panel display! What? Why? Multisync monitors haver been around for a very long time and do not represent a substantial cost difference for such a small range of frequencies.
IN fact, My old DVD olayer would even output upscaled 24P via component or HDMI. I was then able to see a 24FPS DVD at 24FPS without pulldown. I now play all DVDs on XBMC anyway, however I still have the issue of the available frequencies on the monitor. With XBMC you can change the frame rate to match the source content , effectively replicating the “auto” mode on my old DVD and since all content is upscaled the frame size becomes a moot point.
So to make my point, why then are the DVD players not ALL capable of converting 24FPS to a 25FPS output? It would seem this is easy enough to attain as in NTSC the pulldown is often done in the DVD,. Even if a 24FPS DVD was played back at 25 FPS that coule be attained on the player itself. Why do our new digital TVs not work with 25FPS when many work with 24 FPS and 30FPS they just skip past the 25FPS. Why you might ask, foirst because it is not that complicated. Second the same master coyuld be deployed in all regions offering the benefit of the higher PAL resolutions in NTSC regions. O)f course from a manufacturer standpoint this might be counterproductive from the sales pitch of HD.
Again we are permitting manufacturers to limit our abilities. It used to be that the consumer demand drove the manufacturers. Now we have allowed the manufacturers to beat us into our respective corners of the world with no compatibility between them.
I thought HD and digital was going to give us more universal video formats so the world was more unified. Instead manufacturers and movie studios are using it against us in the name of “content protection”
and denying uis the ability to have higher resolution SD while pitching HD that is sometimes only slightly better than SD PAL.
Manufacturers listen up….
I do not hesitate to buy PAL DVDs and play them on XBMC. I currently am playing a PAL DVD of “Stargate Universe” as I write this, which never looked so good on NTSC If only I could buy retail what I have worked so hard to build!