PAL-to-NTSC on a Mac
April 21, 2005 7:11 PM   Subscribe

My Sony DVD player is being obnoxious about playing Brit DVDs. I'd like to convert my BBC DVDs from their native PAL signal to the North American NTSC signal, region code-less, all on a Mac, so that I can create working DVDs...

What tools (and commands, if CLI) would you recommend to this Mac OS X user? Thanks for all advice!
posted by AlexReynolds to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A similar question was asked yesterday that might have useful links. I use Mac The Ripper (free) and Popcorn (not free).
posted by dobbs at 7:20 PM on April 21, 2005

Response by poster: This will rip the files, dobbs, but they remain in PAL format.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:23 PM on April 21, 2005

ffmpeg can deal with your needs, but it's a damned baffling piece of software. It's free, at least. ffmpegX is a graphical front end to ffmpeg that's almost equally as baffling, and costs money.
posted by majick at 7:31 PM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: No need to bother - just buy one of these.

I know it seems too good to be true, but it's the real deal: a 40 dollar multi-region player that actually converts the PAL signal internally and outputs it as NTSC. Unbelievable!
posted by forallmankind at 7:38 PM on April 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Alex, is that so? I wasn't aware of that. (Probably because I have a region-free player). Thanks!
posted by dobbs at 8:01 PM on April 21, 2005

Another option would be that if you have a PowerBook, you can just use the video out to connect to your VCR/tv. The computer will do the translation for you automagically.

It won't help you make fresh DVDs but at least you can watch 'em on your fancy teevee. Although I suppose if you had a set-top DVD recorder you could record right onto that, if you wanted to.
posted by bcwinters at 8:05 PM on April 21, 2005

ripping and burning can be a hasle, because most movies take up more space than is on a regular blank dvd, so you would have the extra hassle of stripping extras/language tracks/reencoding at a lower quality.. ect..
Unless you used dual layer blank dvds, but they are too expensive.
posted by Iax at 8:12 PM on April 21, 2005

Round 'Casa Xenophobe, we looked into this a while back.

As near as we could figure out, the process of converting a PAL R2 dvd into an NTSC R1/R0 dvd is:

*Time consuming
*and probably involves non-free software in one step or another, or having to shift between OSes.

I mean, the instructions were downright baroque.

What we ended up doing was getting a Philips 642, which plays R2/PAL dvd's with a simple remote-control region hack, and which plays most any file you care to dump on cd -- mpg, mpeg4, divx, all them. Great for mst3k's, not-here-yet Doctor Who's, and all that stuff you slurp from the net.

It does fine with R2 dvds. Any time you end up shifting from PAL->NTSC you're going to take a slight quality hit moving from 720x576@25fps to 720x480@30fps, but it's nothing objectionable on the 642; still looks waaay better than, say, vhs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:31 PM on April 21, 2005

majick: will ffmpeg do it? From what I recall of the recipes and instructions, you had to separate out all the sound and video from the dvd into separate files, translate the PAL resolution and timing into NTSC resolution on the video side, and then use something else to retime the sound back since it was likely 4% too fast under PAL since PAL (usually) approximates 24fps movies with 25fps, and then get them back together juuust right.

Glancing, ffmpegX says not to do NTSC< ->PAL conversions.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:43 PM on April 21, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I tried doing this a while back under Windows but no luck, so I thought I would ask about Mac options. Seems really difficult and the quality of the end product will suck.

After this and a flat panel display gone bad, I think I've resolved never to buy Sony equipment again. Too much hassle.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:32 PM on April 21, 2005

I don't know if this works the other way round, but when playing NTSC on my PAL equipment I needed to set my Sony DVD player to output RGB.

I'd be surprised if you're not already set that way but I thought I'd just throw that in anyway.
posted by dodgygeezer at 12:36 AM on April 22, 2005

Dodgygeezer -- you need to do that because your TV probably doesn't understand NTSC but can sync to 60hz anyway (like my slightly ancient UK Sony). RGB bypasses PAL and NTSC colour coding, because it sends the signal as (as the name suggests) red, green, and blue, which the TV puts back together. I'd be astonished if Alex's equipment can output RGB because it probably doesn't have a SCART socket.

If I were Alex, and money was no object, I'd import a UK TV, multi-region DVD player, and a power converter, and use that to watch NTSC and PAL DVDs in their native frame-rate without any kind of degradation. It'd be ludicrously expensive, though -- $140 for a 14-inch set that can do PAL, NTSC, and SECAM. Expensive, but the only other way you'll get to see them the way they were intended is on your computer screen.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:30 AM on April 22, 2005

ArmyOfKittens: Would your UK TV work on 60 Hz AC power?
posted by grouse at 5:01 AM on April 22, 2005

Do not do as ArmyofKittens suggests. Buy a multi-region or hackable player, indeed like the Philips 642.
posted by joeclark at 6:36 AM on April 22, 2005

Grouse: no. But you can buy power converters. We use them at home to run US games consoles on UK power. I assume you can get converters that go the other way too, although I could be horribly wrong.

joeclark: I wasn't suggesting it as a cost-effective solution. IMO it would produce the best results, but not $200-worth better than a DVD player's hardware conversion.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:18 AM on April 22, 2005

ArmyOfKittens: I think you might be confusing the voltage difference with the frequency difference. You don't need to change the AC frequency to run something like a U.S. games console in the UK or vice versa. But you probably would for something like a TV. Quick experiment: take a cheap U.S. alarm clock and see how well it works on your "power converter." ;)
posted by grouse at 2:21 AM on April 23, 2005

grouse: on investigation, you are correct. The UK-US version of the step-down we use specifically states it isn't suitable for "frequency sensitive" devices. I don't know that that would affect modern TVs, though -- I'm sure I remember reading somewhere that televisions don't use the power frequency to sync themselves any more but use their own marvellous circuitry/crystals/gnomes instead.

If our TV is syncing to the mains frequency, does it use that same frequency when it switches to 60hz? Or does it use something else for 60 and the mains for 50? Or something else for both? I'm intrigued: I'm going to look this up when I get back home...
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:09 AM on April 23, 2005

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