Filming in the right video standards

Thomas writes:

I am writing you because of an article you wrote and I feel you have the knowledge that I am seeking.I am wonder if there is a was to have lossless or near lossless conversion from a PAL professional camcorder to a final output to NTSC format….I have final cut pro 3 and premiere 6.0 …a dual 800 G4 and rtmac card…..

would this be possible…the camera is a Pal…aj-d200 Panasonic

I want to go pro dv and can get this camera inexpensively….I was just wondering if I should wait to go NTSC

This isn’t my area of expertise, but I’ll have a go at it anyway. 🙂

Look, if your final product is intended to be NTSC, I would strongly suggest you acquire an NTSC video camera. High quality PAL to NTSC conversion is easier than the inverse, but I suspect that really high quality gear will cost many thousands of dollars. It’s not an area I cover so you’d have to research that yourself.

Remember the differences between PAL and NTSC:

  • Colour encoding: PAL and NTSC use different systems, but the conversion either way is quite easy and of good quality
  • Resolution: PAL offers 576 visible lines, NTSC 480. Good quality gear would be required to produce high quality downsampling.
  • Field rate: PAL is 25 frames (50 fields) per second. NTSC is (roughly) 30 frames (60 fields) per second. I have never seen an NTSC DVD that originated from a source made on PAL video cameras, so I’m not sure how they do it. One way would be resample and interpolate new frames. More likely, something like 3:2 pulldown happens in much the same way as film sourced material (which is 24 frames per second). If this, then it would be relatively easy to do, although there could well be significant interlacing artefacts, the run time would be increased slightly (by a factor of 25/24) and the frequency of all audio would be reduced slightly (by a factor of 24/25).

Of course, I’m assuming that we’re talking hardware converters here. It could be that your software would support these conversions. You’ll have to check the manuals. But I think that one of the same strategies would be employed.

If you have time, perhaps you should experiment. Purchase a PAL video-sourced DVD from Europe or Australia, rip a bit of it onto your computer, convert to DV (in PAL), and then see what you can do with it. Or see if you can use the Panasonic you’re thinking of purchasing to video 5 minutes of something, get it into your computer and see what you can do with it. To check out possible interlacing include pans across a high contrast vertical fixture. To check out possible resolution conversion problems, include high contrast horizontal fixtures in your test video, perferably some fine horizontal string or something like that. Then you can see whether any of this is just lost completely in the downconversion process.

But, really, until high definition video recording and suitable down-conversion gear becomes affordable, I would recommend you stick with NTSC video recording.

I should add that, of course, those of us in PAL countries should stick with PAL video recording.

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