videocassette formats- PAL vs. VHS

I can’t say that I’ve ever seen or watched a video that is in PAL format. About the only think I know about them is that I can’t stick them in my VCR and expect good things to happen. So, teeming millions:

What are the differences between VHS and PAL? Do they look any different?

Also, are there any other video formats used thoughout the world? Is the setup similar to the region system used by DVD players?

Actually all the tapes that fit in your VCR are VHS. What you are thinking of is PAL vs. NTSC. The frame rates and resoulution are different for all of the formats around the world. In The US we have NTSC 60 fields per second, and there are PAL formats that have a range of fields per second. I’ve never tried but A PAL tape might play in a NTSC VCR, just at the wrong speed, or the signal might be totally scrambled, I’ve never tried and I’ve heard both ways.

The wolf is correct. A PAL tape will not play in an NTSC VCR unless you have a convertor, and converting is a pretty complicated task. Field rates depend on the frequency of the current powering the television and recording equipment, (In the US, this is about 60Hz, in many places in Europe, where they use PAL, it’s 50Hz).

If you try to play the tape, the signal will be totally scrambed, but if they used the mono track for audio, the sound will come through. Audio on the hifi track will not come through, since it’s synched with the video frames.

One more thing: Regarding wolf’s comment about playing at the wrong speed: That won’t happen, because PAL and NTSC are totally different methods for transmitting color TV signals, and are not at all compatable. You could theoretically have a PAL signal at 29.97fps (like NTSC uses) but it still wouldn’t work.

A rough analogy would be playing 33 1/3rpm record on 78rpm player. The casettes will fit, but you’ll see only B&W lines and “snow”. For &15/50 per casette, you may have them converted.

The reason I mentioned it is because I knew a guy who swore he had put PAL tapes in his VCR and they played, just at a faster speed. It sounded very fishy to me, but since I never actually tested it I didn’t want to say its impossible because I have seen manufacturers put some really weird stuff in their machines.

You might want to check out the “PAL & NTSC” thread that ran on this board a few weeks ago.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=45141

As always, I am impressed. Thanks, guys.

There is a third type of television standard in use around the world, mostly used in areas of the old Soviet Union and the nation of France called SECAM that is also based on 50Hz like PAL but with some signals inverted to make one incompatable with the other.
Peace
LIONsob

Most PAL countries sell VCRs that play both PAL and NTSC tapes just fine, but America doesn’t do that. All they have is NTSC players.

Actually, buy.com has a pal&ntsc american vcr for about $700.00

You could probably get a Pal video changed to NTSC at a local college.

You can actually buy a multisystem VCR cheap. I found a low end Hitachi (VTM748E) for $180, a low end Panasonic (NV-SD230PANJ) for $200, a low end Toshiba (VCP-C7) for $160 and a low end Sharp (VCS50) for $180. All these are bare bones. They will play NTSC tapes into multisystem or NTSC TVs and PAL tapes into multisystem or PAL TVs but they are generally mono and without tuners. The cheapest converting VCRs I found (that is, VCRs that will play PAL, NTSC, and SECAM into PAL or NTSC or SECAM TVs are an AIWA (HVMX100) for $580 and a Samsung (SV5000W) for $490.