PAL-60 is good?

Aaron writes:

I’m an avid reader on consumer electronics especially DVD-related standards and to say that your feature on PAL-Progressive Scan and Analog to digital DVD-conversion and their fallacies was an eye-opener would be to put it modestly. Fantastically well-written and documented, this teaches a layman not to get swung by general opinions on new DVD-standards just because they seem to look so cool!

Also Stephen it would be great if you could shed light on PAL-60 that is touted as a holy grail of sorts by purists for the console manufacturers. I mean I have seen PAL-60 on both, PS2 and the XBox and they are definitely stunnning. But how is PAL-60 enabled? Is it from the game-software developers end? And if it is, how exactly does it influence a Multi-region picture tube. For example, I played a demo DVD of Transformers on the PS2 which didn’t have PAL-60 as video option and the picture trully sucked. In the sense that the screen wasn’t aligned properly and also the view-area was far smaller than the full-screen picture that I got in the retail title of the same game that boasted of PAL-60. Would be of mighty interest to console afficonados who have to worry abt a lot of things apart from the console to get a plesant gaming experience so to speak!

My response:

Thanks for the kind comments.

I don’t know why people would rave about PAL-60. It is really just an interchange format, a hybrid love-child of PAL and NTSC.

Technically PAL just stands for the colour coding scheme, although it has also come to mean the 625 lines per frame/25 frames per minute TV system widely used here and in Europe.

PAL-60 is NTSC (525 lines per frame/30 frames per second — which means 60 fields per second, thus the ’60’) with the NTSC colour encoding scheme replaced with the PAL colour encoding scheme. It exists because:

  • it used to require equipment worth many tens of thousands of dollars to covert the resolution and frame rate of NTSC to PAL
  • it’s fairly easy to convert the colour schemes from one format to the other
  • many older PAL TVs could support the NTSC resolution and frame rate, but not the colour coding scheme.

Consequently it made sense for VCR makers in PAL countries to include a circuit to change the colour scheme on NTSC tapes to the PAL colour scheme. And that’s what PAL 60 is: NTSC with the slightly superior PAL colour.So why would anyone create PS2 games in PAL-60 from scratch? My guess is as a form of region coding. Most modern Australian and European TVs can play both NTSC and PAL-60 material okay. Few US TVs can play either PAL or PAL-60. The direction of video and DVD sales has been from the US to the rest of the world, not the reverse.

Now the advantage of PAL-60 to a games vendor is that he doesn’t have to change anything in the game. The frame rates and resolution remain the same as the US NTSC version. All that changes is the colour encoding, and it is the player that determines how the colour is actually wrapped around the analogue luminence signal. So if a player wraps a PAL colour signal around an NTSC luminence signal, you have PAL-60. So the discs work fine for most Australian users, don’t work for most US users, and require very little extra work from the games developer.

PAL-60 could possibly be better in one respect than regular PAL for games: it is less susceptible to flicker. But the cost is somewhat lower resolution than regular PAL.

Aaron seems pretty emphatic about the quality of PAL-60, though, so am I missing something?

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