NTSC and PAL are two types of color encoding systems that affect the visual quality of content viewed on analog televisions and, to a much smaller degree, content viewed on HDTVs. While NTSC delivers a frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps) at an aspect ratio of 720x480, PAL uses a frame rate of 25 fps and a 720x576 aspect ratio. The PAL system offers automated color correction compared to NTSC's manual color correction. The NTSC standard is popular in places like the U.S. and Japan, while PAL is more common in countries such as the UK, Australia, and Sweden.

There is a third standard, called SECAM (Sequential Couleur Avec Memoire or Sequential Color with Memory), that is used in Eastern Europe and France.

Comparison chart

NTSC versus PAL comparison chart
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Abbreviation National Television System Committee Phase Alternation by Line
Video Bandwidth 4.2 MHz 5.0 MHz
Sound Carrier 4.5 MHz 5.5 MHz
Bandwidth 6 MHz 7 to 8 MHz
Vertical Frequency 60 Hz 50 Hz
Horizontal Frequency 15.734 kHz 15.625 kHz
Color Subcarrier Frequency 3.579545 MHz 4.433618 MHz
Lines/Field 525/60 625/50

Countries that use NTSC vs. PAL

NTSC systems are mostly limited to North America, parts of South America, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea. PAL systems are much more common around the world and can be found in Australia, most of Western Europe, China, some parts of Africa, India, and elsewhere. A third system, known as SECAM, is found in France, Russia, and parts of Africa.

TV encoding systems by country.
TV encoding systems by country.

Differences in Color Encoding in PAL and NTSC

The PAL standard manages color automatically, using phase alternation of the color signal that removes hue errors. Also, chrominance phase errors are eliminated in PAL systems. NTSC receivers have a manual tint control for color correction, so if colors are off-hue, the higher saturation of NTSC systems makes them more noticeable and an adjustment has to be made.

Another technical aspect is that the alternating color information — Hanover bars — can lead to grainy pictures if there are extreme phase errors. This can even happen in PAL systems, especially if decoder circuits are not properly aligned, or with early-generation decoders. However, extreme phase shifts of this nature are seen more often in ultra high frequency (UHF) signals (less robust than VHF), or in areas where terrain or infrastructure limit transmission paths and affect signal strengths.

A PAL decoder can be seen as a pair of NTSC decoders:

Picture Quality in NTSC vs. PAL

PAL lines go out at 50 fields per second (since Europe uses a 50 hertz power supply), i.e., 25 alternating lines. PAL televisions produce 25 frames per second that causes motion to be displayed faster. PAL may have fewer frames per second, but it also has more lines than NTSC. PAL television broadcasts have 625 lines of resolution, compared to NTSC's 525. More lines means more visual information, which equals better picture quality and resolution.

Conversion from NTSC to PAL and vice versa

If a PAL movie is converted to an NTSC tape, 5 extra frames must be added per second or the action might seem jerky. The opposite is true for an NTSC movie converted to PAL. Five frames must be removed per second or the action may seem unnaturally slow.


There is still a broad analog system in place for television, so even though digital signals and high-definition (HD) are becoming the universal standard, variations remain. The primary visual difference between NTSC and PAL systems for high definition TVs (HDTVs) is in the refresh rate. NTSC refreshes the screen 30 times a second, while PAL systems do so 25 times a second. For some types of content, especially high-resolution images (such as those generated by 3D animation), HDTVs using a PAL system may show a slight "flicker" tendency. However, the image quality is equal to that of NTSC and most people won't notice any problem.


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