NSTC to PAL conversion quality?

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    • #37195

      Hi there,

      I’m new filmmaker, looking for a little advice.

      We’re filming a three-part documentary in Asia over a long period of time and the first two parts have been filmed in PAL format where the cameras used had that standard. In China I changed cameras to a NTSC model bought through ebay that was an absolutely fantastic deal. I knew I was buying a different format, and friends and advisors helped convince me that it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

      However now I’m having second thoughts and the film’s producers aren’t happy. I’m a new camerman/director myself and since we’ve only just begun the shoot in China, I don’t want to continue down what might be a blind alley for a final edit. After looking over other forums and the great NTSC v. PAL debate, it seems that PAL may offer better quality, but since I already now own an NTSC cam, I’m more concerned about the loss of quality in the transfer from NTSC back to PAL in the final edit.

      We’re shooting on a solid Sony DSR-PD170 NTSC camera with a timeframe of two more weeks approx to solve this. I see the following options available.

      1). Sell the NTSC Camera and buy a PAL version (thus minimising future damage)
      2). Exchange for a PAL camera in Hong Kong
      3). Restrict NTSC to PAL transfer time to the final edit (thus saving costs) and push ahead with what we have.

      Of the three, Option (1) may not be possible, if I can’t sell the camera at the same rate I bought it, as my budget will be shot. Option 2 is wishful thinking at best. Option 3 seems the most sensible/logical, but will even the best transfer machines/algrothims result in a huge loss of quality?

      Eventually, I hope to sell this film to a TV network so quality is very important. The film has not been pre-sold as yet.

      I would really appreciate any thoughts or expert opinions at this stage. Option 3 seems sensible, but if the quality is a loser, then I don’t want this documentary to be.


    • #164829


      1) Oh yeah that debate does rage. Sometime back (1-2 years) there were some very informative posts on this forum on this topic, but I don’ know if they are searchable. I’ve met a couple filmmakers who swore by the PAL version of the 150/170 due to (they said) superior quality when converted to film.

      2)Really, to heck with the forumsand the yackity yack; can’t you do an a/b test? It’s video tape afterall, not film. My favorite test is see for myself.

      3) If theambitions are strictly for the TV screen and DVD media (i.e.,not 12 by 18 foot theatrical screens) will anybody really be able to see a difference.Are your producers just biased or do they actually have recent experience supporting their preference.

      4) I expect demand for an NTSB cam wouldbe low in HK, due to demand/buyer’s market. If if were a new cam, the market would be tourists, but used…

      5) Although it might present another transfer issue, your PD 170 can shoot in DVCAM (50% faster tape speed). There are gains in quality. However, ifothers are shooting their PAL 170’s in DVCAM format (as I assume they would be in order to max the quality), then this is not a decisiveargument for your NTSBmodel.

      6) Onceupon a time, I knew of a source for a PAL 150 in Phuket Thailand. He(an Austrian) and hisThai family livedon the other side of the peninsula from where the tsunami hit; they survivedbut their community was devastated. Haven’t been in contact since about 6 months after the tsunami. If you want me to check re his resources, send me a PM.

      Best of Luck!


    • #164830

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks a tonne for the quick reply. Your post was helpful. We are indeed shooting in DVCAM mode and also on bumped up RGB settings to maximise color use.I’m still curious though as to how much quality we’ll lose if we transfer from NTSC to PAL. I’ve been ringing around a few shops, and the price reflects the quality, but even the best algorithims must lose some quality. Have you had any experience in that area?

      Because the producers are based in India, I think it’s the extra hassle they have to go through to preview NTSC footage alongside previous PAL footage that’s annoying to them. I can understand that. This film does have a tight budget so extra cogs in the works aren’t appreciated – though the issue can be worked around.

      Thanks for the offer of the Sony PD150p, I’llcertainlykeep that in mind if that’s alright as good second PAL cameras can be hard to come across.

      Thanks again for your help.


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