PAL DVDs: Are They Really Better Than NTSC Region 1 Releases???... - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 47 Old 06-28-2001, 09:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Just the other night I attended a session where a new Chinese made progressive scan DVD player was being tested and displayed. The chap who brought the machine over also lugged three DVDs of Bruce Lee movies (Fists Of Fury, The Big Boss, and whatever The Chinese Connection is called outside the US) he purchased overseas. These were in the PAL color format system, and are anomorphic transfers. Though the visual quality of the image varied among the movies because of the condition of the different film source elements, they simply blew me away with their higher resolution, color depth, and overall visual quality! The crappy, artifacts ridden, non-anomorphic Bruce Lee R1 DVD box set Fox put out sometime ago look absolutely horrid by comparison. It should have never been released and at the price it commands, is highway robbery! http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/mad.gif

Anyway, my question to those of you who live in regions where PAL-formatted DVDs are the norm, are they really superior to R1 releases across the board? I am impressed enough with what I saw -and with the PAL system in particular- that if I can play them here, why...it sure is a no brainer! http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif

I've noticed that movies like El Cid are available on PAL DVD already and have been out since last October! Have any of you seen it -what is the image quality like? Then I also noticed that films like Planet of The Apes, Scar Face, and similar interesting flicks were given the anomorphic enhancement. Are all or most PAL DVDs anomorphically enhanced? http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/eek.gif I sure hope someone out there begin compiling a list of available PAL DVDs that have been anomorphically enhanced and post it in AVS!

Please share your experiences with us R1/NTSC movie collectors. Inquiring minds want to know! http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif

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post #2 of 47 Old 06-28-2001, 10:37 PM
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Frank,
All things equal (The same print used for both transfers) the Pal version, because of Pal's superior resolution will always look better.
Motion artifacts which plague NTSC Discs are not noticable on the Pal Discs.
The most noticable difference, and this is important to those viewing on Large Screens, is the almost total removal of visable scanning lines on Pal Discs.
It results in a sharper, almost Film Like image.

Now having said that, let me add a few downsides of Pal Discs.
They are sometimes taken from inferior sources.
The Pal region 4 version of The Fifth Element is from a European Print and looks abysmal in comparrison to the Excellent NTSC Region 1 disc.

You don't always get the extras that are on the Region 1 Disc.
Some Region 2 Pal discs are heavilly censored.

But in my opinion, the biggest drawback of all is the dreaded 4% speed up of Pal.
Trained Ears (Especially NTSC viewers) will notice a distinct speed increase in the sound and a difference in the sound's pitch.
At times this can be quite annoying.
But, there are those, who say they can't hear it.
I hear it, mainly on music, but certainly not on material I am unfamiliar with.

Nearly all of the Widescreen Movies released on Pal DVDs ( including Disney and Fox) are Anamorphic, and they were from Day one.

A very good site that lists and tells you how each disc from Regions 1 and 4 compare is www.michaeldvd.com.au

Give it a try, you'll find it very interesting and it might answer some of your questions.


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post #3 of 47 Old 06-28-2001, 11:31 PM
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Howdy Frank,
I have owned a number of PAL discs. It's unclear as to whether or not the 576p video of PAL DVD's is derived from 1080p HD masters or upconverted from an NTSC 480i source, that was itself downconverted from a 1080p master. If it's the former, then great. If it's the latter, (as I have suspected for a long time), then PAL is suddenly much less appealing. There are some cases where it's absolutely clear that the PAL and NTSC sources were different. But that doesn't guarantee that the PAL video was downconverted to 576p directly from the HD master. By the way, I have been asking this question pretty much since I first came to this forum. I never got a definitive answer. I do agree though, that some PAL DVD's blow away their NTSC counterparts, at least in video quality.
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post #4 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 01:42 AM
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Frank

The Bruce Lee DVDS you refer to are the Hong Kong Legends releases , and were remastered directly for the PAL market (as I believe all HKL titles are) - so there is no question of the 1080 - 480 - 576 problem on those discs.As has been mentioned, I think a large number of discs ARE affected by this.Personally, I own a svga DLP projector - so until my Panamorph arrives, I can only resolve 450 lines anyway (so I guess r1 and 2 look pretty much the same).Will be very interesting to compare, when I`m finally able to resolve the full 576 !!
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post #5 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 07:42 AM
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You can see the HKL Titles at their site: www.hongkonglegends.co.uk

You can read reviews of every HKL Title at my site: www.bulletsnbabesdvds.com

They do exceed the R1 and HK R0 releases due to their remastering process.

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post #6 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 01:41 PM
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I haven't seen any Reg 4 Pal DVD's so I can't comment on those. The problem with Reg 2 Pal DVD's is that you can be seriously f*cked if you don't read the specs on the release.

Picturewise they are often very good but when it comes to the sound you have to watch out.
E.g. Titan A.E. Reg 2 didn't have the DD5.1 or DTS soundtracks, just a DD 2.0. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/redface.gif
Even if the soundtrack is still English with European subtitles.

I know the topic was about picture quality but if the picture is great and the sound sucks, how much fun is that ?

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post #7 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 02:20 PM
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Taking everything into consideration, I would think that a topnotch NTSC transfer and sound mix is still the preferred choice.
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post #8 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 02:26 PM
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E.g. Titan A.E. Reg 2 didn't have the DD5.1 or DTS soundtracks, just a DD 2.0.
You're talking about Titan A.E. R2 Scandinavian or something (we have that lousy release in Finland too), you should have bought UK-version because it includes DD5.1 http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif

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post #9 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 05:06 PM
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Robert,
Given an equal Picture and Sound Transfer, the PAL Version should win hands down every time over the NTSC one.

NTSC has fewer lines of resolution and repeats frames, causing a very noticable and annoying jerky movement.

I have both versions of "GLORY" and in my opinion it is a no contest,the Region 1 PAL disc looks quite a lot sharper with much more detail and the sound (even allowing for the speedup, which in this case I did not hear)is equal in quality to the region 1 NTSC Version.
On some PAL Discs the pitch of the sound is corrected, so that they sound quite normal

But I don't want to put down NTSC too much, as a top class Anamorphic Region 1 disc can look and sound very good indeed, as you are all, very well aware,
and there is a much, much bigger range of titles available in Region 1.
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post #10 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 05:08 PM
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Hi Frank

Living in Belgium, I have of course access to pal dvds. But 98% of my dvds are R1 dvds. Reasons:

1. pal speedup: being a laserdisc guy and soundtrack guy, I'm very sensitive to that though some R2 discs are less noticeable. but this is rare
2. color accuracy and original film transfers: while ntsc is often called NEVER THE SAME COLOR http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif , I still find most of R1 dvds to have a much better color rendition and naturalness. While PAL in in theory superior in terms of colors subcarrier and colors respect, the access to original prints and the encoding of R1 discs still make them much more appealing. Still many PAL dvds are transcodings from ntsc masters.
3. encoding and compression: still a problem for most PAL discs, for the reasons above and also because encoders and hardware used ( and the time to do them ) are better in the US
4. 50hz PAL: the scintillating can be bothersome on some discs
5. dates of release and the sound: but this is not to consider here

EXCEPTIONS: there are some. 2 titles come to my mind, such CHARLIES ANGELS which is bassier in R2 and no artefacts. SLEEPY HOLLOW ( though brigther, the density is inferior to the R1 dvd) because it carries a killer English dts track with barely noticeable pal speedup.
One title that is a no no to me is Gladiator R2: I had the R1, fabulous but bought the R2 too: problem is an horrible pal speedup track and colors less respectful of the film print, with a green bias.
PAL dvd on the other hand are often brighter or lass dark than their R1 homologues. But this probably has to do with the black level: R2 dvd must be read with a black level at 0IRE and R1 dvs at 7.5IRE: 0IRE with a R1 discs is much too dark.


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post #11 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 05:12 PM
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Robert,
Given an equal Picture and Sound Transfer, the PAL Version should win hands down every time over the NTSC one.

NTSC has fewer lines of resolution and repeats frames, causing a very noticable and annoying jerky movement.

I have both versions of "GLORY" and in my opinion it is a no contest,the Region 1 PAL disc looks quite a lot sharper with much more detail and the sound (even allowing for the speedup, which in this case I did not hear)is equal in quality to the region 1 NTSC Version.
On some PAL Discs the pitch of the sound is corrected, so that they sound quite normal

But I don't want to put down NTSC too much, as a top class Anamorphic Region 1 disc can look and sound very good indeed, as you are all, very well aware,
and there is a much, much bigger range of titles available in Region 1.
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post #12 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 05:52 PM
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Interesting information about sound correction, Doug. If speed anomalies really can be corrected, then yes, PAL would definitely seem to have the edge.
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post #13 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 06:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by David600:

1. pal speedup: being a laserdisc guy and soundtrack guy, I'm very sensitive to that though some R2 discs are less noticeable. but this is rare

This can be corrected to a certain extent.

2. color accuracy and original film transfers: while ntsc is often called NEVER THE SAME COLOR http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif , I still find most of R1 dvds to have a much better color rendition and naturalness. While PAL in in theory superior in terms of colors subcarrier and colors respect, the access to original prints and the encoding of R1 discs still make them much more appealing. Still many PAL dvds are transcodings from ntsc masters.

Since both PAL and NTSC DVDs store color the same way this is now irrelevant. NTSC color problems only arise when you use an inferior cable such as s-video, composite or RF (yuck).

What you're really left with is color calibration. PAL DVDs are calibrated differently than NTSC DVDs when it comes to color, so you need your display to be optimized for both in order to compare. There are potential color correction problems in the transfer itself, but that's dependent on the particular release and cannot be used as a general comment about the difference between NTSC and PAL.

Where do you get the idea the most PAL dvds are transcoded from NTSC masters? They're not. Look at most mainstream PAL releases today and there will be no resolution stretch. If you take a TV series or other material aimed for broadcast then the possibility is higher I admit.


3. encoding and compression: still a problem for most PAL discs, for the reasons above and also because encoders and hardware used ( and the time to do them ) are better in the US


You're correct in that there's a higher resolution you have to compress and so you have more data. Use dual layered discs consistently and do optimized VBR encodes and you should have no problem however. Hardware and software is mostly irrelevant btw for the encoding part. Once it's in digital there isn't much difference. Most professional hardware/software can do both PAL and NTSC encodes.
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post #14 of 47 Old 06-29-2001, 09:33 PM
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PAL's are mastered at 50 Hz versus 60 Hz for NTSC. Anyone sensitive to this and see it as a problem?
I'd think that a 20% increase in vertical resolution would be very noticeable, however (480 + 96 lines).

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post #15 of 47 Old 06-30-2001, 03:56 AM
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Apip,

I bought the Reg 1 Titan A.E. since it was released before the Reg 2.
But you realy have to read the specs on the cover, as you stated it's even differences between the countries within the same Region.
That is why I buy Reg 1 discs so I don't have to worry about PictureQ or SoundQ.

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post #16 of 47 Old 06-30-2001, 04:59 AM
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Robert,
I'm not sure that the pitch adjustment slows the speed, but dropping the pitch certainly helps make it sound correct.
Voices sound much better.
The Big Problem is that the Studios seem reluctant to spend that little bit extra and the result is that only a few releases are adjusted.
They seem to be saying that DVD Buyers in PAL Countries, don't really care or notice it.
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post #17 of 47 Old 06-30-2001, 03:09 PM
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The cost issue is just pure BS. Download CoolEdit and do a pitch adjustment there if you want to know how easy it is. I just think they can't be bothered. It's one more step that has to be done - even though it is quite simple. They had to speed up the track to match the video in the first place, so they might as well adjust the pitch while they're at it.

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post #18 of 47 Old 07-01-2001, 07:42 PM
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My Sentiments exactly Frode.
The average Pal J6P wouldn't know the difference, so why bother.
It's a sad situation for those of us who care.
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post #19 of 47 Old 07-02-2001, 02:20 AM
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NTSC wins all the way.

Most of the reasons stated above plus of course the lack of Audio choice. I know that some European countries like Germany do have more than a handfull of DTS options but British fans of DTS may as well forget PAL. UK PAL discs with DTS are as scarce as diamonds on the sidewalk.
Personaly, I feel discs like the Hong Kong masters Fists of Fury pressing is an exeption to the rule. In most case's the PAL discs I've seen are vastly inferior.

Another problem for most is that there are no test discs for PAL. Avia and V.E. are for NTSC only. If you dont want to pay for someone with the correct instrumentation to come and calibrate one of your memorys (assuming you have a multiple memory device such as CRT) for PAL, what do you do?

The lack of extra's or DTS sound does'ent really bother me. What does is the transfer. Lets face it. PAL has only one real advantage, extra lines of resolution. If the transfer is done as well as those on most NTSC discs then it should win hands down. Unfortunately, it does'ent.
Most of the time PAL transfers are plagued by artifacts and in some cases even looks muddy and dark compared to some of the lush NTSC transfers out there.
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post #20 of 47 Old 07-02-2001, 05:43 AM
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Quote:
NTSC wins all the way.
I could not disagree more.

Your assessment of PAL DVDs sounds like it was written by someone 3 years ago where many of your points considering picture quality were still valid. Today most of the R2 PAL DVDs released by a major studio look better than their NTSC R1 counterpart. Take a look at the R2 Paramount titles like the Untouchables or The Phantom.

I'm willing to trade in extras and even a DTS track for the better PAL picture the speed-up is no issue for me, call me J6P then. (btw. I received my R2 PAL 1500 kbps DTS "Drak City" DVD from France last week)

I have started to only buy PAL DVDs except if the title is not to be expected in R2 in some time or if it is a Criterion Edition which will not be available in any other region than R1.

I was never bothered by the 4% speed-up to begin with. I was amazed to learn that there are people who are seriously bothered by it. I didn't know that there are PAL DVDs out there that have the pitch corrected, which titles are these?

About the whole censorship thing: This is always made bigger than it is, I mean how many DVDs are there which are censored? The big mistake is that many people think about UK DVDs when the talk about R2. I personally have only one UK DVD (Bound, which smokes the R1 and it is uncut). I usually buy french DVDs when I buy R2, no censorship!

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post #21 of 47 Old 07-02-2001, 02:33 PM
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Roland,
I also dont care much about extra's. However, DVD's like Gladiator was not 3 years ago. There are a lot of horrible PAL disc's out there. I'm not going to play russian roulette with my money thanks all the same. Think I,m going to stick to my NTSC's for a while longer.
One other little point. R1 buyers get most release's a lot faster than PAL.
To top it all, I buy R1 for mostly 15.99 pounds, and the R2 store price is around 20.00 pounds. Its no brainer.

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post #22 of 47 Old 07-02-2001, 03:23 PM
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Does anyone know for an absolute and verifiable fact, that the movies on PAL DVD's are donwconverted to 576p DIRECTLY from the 1080p high definition masters? The fact that PAL has 576 vertical lines doesn't guarantee a superior picture. Even the quality of the mastering isn't my concern. I just want to know if anyone has proof that we can look at, that says that PAL discs are NOT upconverted from 480i? It seems to me that it would be cheaper to downconvert to 480i from the high def master and then upconvert to 576p, than to have two seperate downconversions from an HD master. I am not demonstrating hostility or trying to be confrontational, so please don't misunderstand me. I am just looking for some hard info. All I see here are opinions.
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post #23 of 47 Old 07-03-2001, 12:47 AM
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Quote:
DVD's like Gladiator was not 3 years ago.
I don't quite agree with you on that title.

Quote:
I'm not going to play russian roulette with my money thanks all the same.
You have to know your way around a little with R2 titles, otherwise it can be like russian roulette. You can find some nice title which are only available in a specific country like the french "Hard Rain" or "Hihglander Box" which are 16x9 and have good transfers.

Quote:
There are a lot of horrible PAL disc's out there
Very true, there are! Sometimes I wonder what people who buy these titles are thinking. Especially on the German market there has been a lot of crap released.

Quote:
R1 buyers get most release's a lot faster than PAL.
I have bought many R1 titles because for that, I'm just too impatient I guess. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif
But I think this will be the case the longer the lesser. I think a lot of major titles will be released simultaneously world wide (or at least R1 and R2/R4) in the future like THE PHANTOM MENACE. Than there are the more obscure titles (lets say something like Beast From Haunted Cave) which will mostlikely not be available in any other region than R1.


Quote:
I just want to know if anyone has proof that we can look at, that says that PAL discs are NOT upconverted from 480i?
Yes, I have. Take a look at the R2 "The Truman Show" or "Bound" (UK version). Not only are these real 576 PAL transfer but are also 16x9, absolutely beautiful to look at.

I owned both versions R1 and R2 of Titanic and the PAL was better.

Also compare the R2 Jurassic Park to the R1.

I never quite bought the whole "upconvertet from 480i" story. Maybe in the beginning of the DVD days (1997-1998) this might have been the case with some DVDs but not today with titles from major studios.

Quote:
Does anyone know for an absolute and verifiable fact, that the movies on PAL DVD's are donwconverted to 576p DIRECTLY from the 1080p high definition masters?
This can not be easily answered since it plays an important role who distributes a certain title in R2. There are a lot of strange lables who sell DVDs here in Europe and nobody knows where their sourcematerial and transfers originate from. Not all of these have to be bad though.

http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif

I would say however from my own experience that all titles which are released by the same studio as in the US or by another major studios (TITANIC -> Paramount in the US, FOX in Europe) are true 576 transfers.



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post #24 of 47 Old 07-03-2001, 01:37 AM
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Larry,

Upconversion from 480i to 576p would leave quite visible stretch artifacts. I've seen my share of DVDs, and it's now quite easy for me to see if a disc has been upconverted or not. I'd say 90% of PAL movie DVDs I've seen have not been upconverted from 480i. The rest are usually older DVDs, and/or TV shows.

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post #25 of 47 Old 07-04-2001, 01:03 AM - Thread Starter
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It appears the issue is not over by a long shot as there seem to exist vast gray areas. I suppose experimentation is in order...and that is exactly what I will be doing soon; to start with, the available Bruce Lee flicks will be purchased in the PAL format (all of these brand new Hong Kong transfers have 5.1 DD soundtracks too!) first, then movies like El Cid, which is not even available on NTSC at the moment (supposedly it will, but no "official" word as to when is yet available).

Btw, wouldn't a motor speed controller address PAL's 4% speed up discrepancy issue? I suppose is possible if something cost effective, easy to implement, and readily available can be found. Any comments???...

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post #26 of 47 Old 07-04-2001, 02:19 AM
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Hi,

I own about 100 NTSC DVDs and about 120 PAL DVDs. Sometimes, the NTSC version is better, sometimes the PAL version. It also heavily depends on your AV equippement.

1. Using a HTPC at 72/75 Hz, I tended towards PAL titles for the extra resolution. All the Columbia titles look better in PAL as in NTSC as they are mastered at the same facilities - only the resolution and framerate is different.
2. After I bought a Quadscan Video Scaler, I tended towards
NTSC titles because the Quadscan only offers a film mode for NTSC (which greatly improves PQ) and 60Hz (NTSC) was easier on my eyes than 50 Hz (PAL).
3. After getting the Skyworth, I´m back to PAL, because the majority of my PAL discs simply look awesome on this machine. The higher res is just what my projector (NEC XG135LC) needs to look perfect, and 50 Hz flicker is masked beautifully by this player - don´t ask me how.

Just watch 2001 SE PAL on a Skyworth connected to a CRT projector, and you know what I mean.
Or watch Gladiator NTSC on a Radeon HTPC at 72 Hz.
Both will blow you away!

Yours,

Philip
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post #27 of 47 Old 07-04-2001, 06:59 AM
 
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Philip, I agree about the Skyworth and PAL.

I am feeding the 576p PAL from the Skyworth into the Sampo SME-34WHD5 Direct View 34" monitor and the results are pretty astounding. What strikes me the most is the subtle lighting now visible on all objects which makes some scenes almost 3-dimensional, with great depth.

Poor man's HD DVD.

Well mastered NTSC titles look softer in comparison at 480p on the above setup, but still quite impressive.

In short, for me, it's a split decision in favor of a well-mastered PAL DVD over a well-mastered NTSC DVD.
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post #28 of 47 Old 07-04-2001, 10:38 AM
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Hmmm, Looks like a Skyworth will end up in my suitcase next Hong Kong trip.
Eric

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post #29 of 47 Old 07-04-2001, 03:11 PM - Thread Starter
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uncle eric,

Better order one of 'em DVD playback thingies before the powers-that-be in Hollywood get any funny ideas...like attempting to prevent their sale! That's why have already jumped at the opportunity... http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif

-THTS
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post #30 of 47 Old 07-04-2001, 08:23 PM
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Hi Roland and Frode,
I have watched the UK PAL DVD's of Blade, Starship Troopers and Fifth Element. I didn't detect any extra detail over the R1 NTSC discs. In fact, I preferred the R1 discs and sold those PAL DVD's. I have the UK PAL Shakespear In Love. That has been called better than the R1 version. I'll have to dig it up and compare both discs. I have the German Lost Highway DVD and it didn't look to me to have the extra 20% vertical detail that PAL theoretically provides over NTSC. I'm not saying it's not there, just that I don't see it. I'm going to start a new thread on PAL reference discs. By the way, I've thought about buying the UK PAL Bound. The R1 DVD has a fairly bad transfer. I'm not surprised that the anamorphic PAL disc beats it. Hopefully PAL will universally trump NTSC someday. But I will give the best of the PAL discs a try in the meantime.
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