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PAL, SECAM and NTSC

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By Shelby Burr

PAL, NTSC and SECAM. You may have seen it or even heard of it before, but you’re not entirely sure exactly what it is or how it applies to your home movies. Lucky for you, we have all the info to perfectly break down what these formats are!

You’re about to enter a well of knowledge that most people in the world don’t know…

PAL

What is PAL? Most people assume that this is a form of video tape, however, it’s actually a standardized viewing format that allows video tapes to play in specific regions. “Well, what does that mean?” you may ask. Think of it this way, it’s a foreign language that your American tapes don’t know how to speak. 

PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line and, for those that are tech savvy, it is a colour encoding system for analogue television used to broadcast television systems in most countries broadcasting at 25 frames per second. Again, it’s a foreign language (system) that our American systems don’t understand.


Here’s how it works: Most video tapes from the UK, Europe, Asia and  Australia use PAL - transmitting 25 frames per second with each frame comprised of 625 individual scan lines. 


So, who in the world invented this? Let’s introduce you to guy named Walter Bruch. Bruch developed PAL at Telefunken in West Germany. He ended up naming the system PAL and not after himself because Bruch in German means “breakage.” What a fun fact that is! 



NTSC

In the Americas, we use NTSC (National Television System Committee), transmitting 30 frames per second with each frame comprised of 525 individual scan lines. Same deal as PAL, same purpose, but different language! 


Since PAL and NTSC systems do not speak the same language, most filmed formats from Europe do not cross over and transmit in America - and vise versa.



SECAM

Lastly, there is SECAM (Séquentiel couleur à mémoire, French for "Sequential colour with memory”) that serves the same purpose as PAL and NTSC, but again, a different language! A version of SECAM for the French 819-line television standard was devised and tested, but not introduced. Following a pan-European agreement to introduce color TV only in 625 lines, France had to start the conversion by switching over to a 625-line television standard, which happened at the beginning of the 1960s.




How Does this Affect Your Memories?

Did you travel a lot overseas? Did you study abroad or live in another country back in the day? You may have taken some home videos while you were there...which means you can’t watch those home movies in the USA. If only there was a homemovie digitizing service...hmmm…

 

With our PAL to NTSC conversion service, our studio technicians can transfer your tapes, every bit of footage, without losing any quality. Our process includes going through each tape you send (using our roundtrip pre-paid postage) by hand, frame by frame until it’s all converted. In fact, it’s the same process employed by the Academy of Motion Pictures because quality is everything and that’s been a pillar of our brand and legacy for more than a century.

 

After the transfer process is complete, we’ll send you back your foreign tapes in addition to the digital thumb drive, DVD or cloud service so you can relive your memories from around the world all over again.

 

So, when you hear PAL, NTSC or SECAM, you will no longer think that it is a VHS tape or any other tape format. You’ll be one of the few that understands this standardized viewing format! On top of that, you’ll also know that Legacybox can convert these formats for you so you can relive them again and again!

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