It gets rather complicated when trying to describe the differences between Broadcast systems and Video systems so let stick to those video systems found in VCRs, camcorders, DVD and Blu-Ray Disc players etc.
Those are the basic standards and none are compatible with each other. Sometimes the A/C Hertz are 50 MHz (220 volt countries) and sometimes 60Mhz (110 volt countries) and this changes the scanning results of an electron tube, LVD or Plasma etc. 60Mhz, used in the USA for example, renders the image smoother, virtually no discernible flicker. With line doubling and quad-doubling (100 and 220 MHz and then 200 and 440 MHz).
Line doubling actually interlaces the picture into a single scan that reveals the entire frame and doubling again increased the scan lines providing for an even finer resolution and there a better sense of reality to the human eye. Technically it takes the original two-field frame and creates a progressive scan (single non-interlaced frame) output. This produces a higher resolution picture both brighter and smoother.
Some 3rd party Line-quadruplers can upscale to resolutions: 1365x1024, 720P, 1080i 852x480, 1024x1024, 1024x768 and 1365x768 and even higher. When the newest technology in video images hits the world we will be seeing NHK images of more than 6000 lines, up from the maximum of 1080P today.
If they then begin to Line-quadruple an image like that who knows what the mind might achieve if plugged directly into the motherboard of the future. Perhaps an enlarging and enhancing of human vision will be needed in the order of 1,000 eyes, 360 degree views both laterally and longitudinally, 100,000,000 lines of resolution all far outpacing current human ability.
Back to PAL-NTSC for a moment.
These many video systems were created due to incompatible electrical standards such as the Hertz, due to economic exigencies and even political motivations (for example, a country didn't want its TV to be seen by another countries citizens nearby lest they get "ideas"!
With the advent of DVD disc players Hollywood producers decided to take advantage of the new electronic potential inherent in this new groundbreaking technology to better market their movies.
With movies released in VHS VCR tape versions but in 5-6 different and non-competing systems the release of movies worldwide could be staggered according to best marketing practices so rake in as much profit as possible from every country. A movie released in April in the USA didn't have to be released until the right time in South America and the idea of people in Argentina (PAL-N) wishing to buy the film from a US retailer was virtually a useless plan as the Argentine would have no VCR and no TV of the correct system to play and display the images with. PAL-N and NTSC simply do not display correctly on the wrong systems, even the speeds of recording and playback are different. This means an NTSC movie seen on a PAL or other standard would usually be in black and white, have terribly vertical scrolling problems, have a horizontal skew at the top of the picture and be in the wrong speed so even the voices were too fast or too slow. It's a mess!
Until the Japanese VCR (and at one time even Sony's BETA) makers came out with Multisystem VCRs!
Most could only play the tapes from various standards but to display them you'd also need a TV that was multisystem as well, or 2 TVs, or even 3 each being of the appropriate system you were outputting from the VCR.
To get around the need of buying a multisystem TV Panasonic came out with the incredible AG-W1 model which had a built-in digital converter which could play, record and convert to/from all of the world five current systems. It was ,000 but was a great device producing excellent results, albeit not for broadcasting purposes.
Many people got around having buy the AGW-1 (and its subsequent progeny AGW-2 and AGW-3) by buying a Planet Omni Tenlab Digital systems converter at a fraction of the cost of the AGW-1 and using it with a multisystem VCR. In this way the image quality was the same or better and the price when way down to the consumer.
Soon AIWA came out with the much cheaper MX-1 converting multisystem VCR which wasn't a digital type but used analog converting methods which are much inferior, then Samsung, GoVideo and a few others. Samsung was the actual manufacturer for the Panasonic AGW-1 and 2 and under their own brand they came out with a wide variety of models such as the SV-3000W, SV-5000S, SV-7000W (with the unique French Secam-L tuner built-in).
Planet Omni still has some of the Panasonic, Aiwa and Samsungs left for sale. None have been made for 2-3 years and with the death of the VCR they never will be made again. People worldwide with old home movies should consider having them transferred to DVD discs which can also be converter from PAL to NTSC or NTSC to PAL. All countries using any system but those two will find that their tapes can be converted to PAL and will display perfectly on their TV even if the TV isn't strictly PAL.
People in an NTSC country can utilize converting services such as Planet Omni's and convert tapes or DVDs to PAL or visa-versa to NTSC rather than buying PAL-NTSC DVD recorders (which exist) and a TENLAB converter.
Since the Hollywood producers were rather OK with the incompatible VHS video standards worldwide it was a new problem with DVD disc movies.
As all SECAM countries are also PAL countries as far as their TVs being multisystem go and the same for PAL-M (Brazil) and PAL-N (Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) countries, this meant that DVD movies only had to be either NTSC or PAL and they could be seen worldwide.
This wasn't very good for Hollywood filmmakers however as too many countries could then buy discs from another country and see movies straight from their first release on disc which sometimes predated even the movies official theatrical release in theaters. This meant that a citizen of a PAL country such as Italy could buy a new movie from a New Zealand (PAL) source and see the movie (with subtitles if needed) perhaps months before the film was actually released theatrically or on DVD in Italy. This infringed on the natural markets of established theater owners and retailers in Italy.
Generally when a European country gets a movie on DVD it is also available at the same time in other Euro countries, but not always. But then an English speaking person in Australia could buy the movie from a UK source and see it in English on his PAL TV.
Again, not very good for business men and bean counters.
So a new technology was embedded into each Hollywood movie shipped out to the various countries around the world. This is called REGIONAL CODES.
They divided the world, as best as they could, into 6 regions based on film release protocols.
These regional codes are built-in to both the DVD players and the DVD movie discs as well.
6 regions, 2 video standards (PAL-NTSC) making things fairly complex.
For example, Europe is PAL and REGION 2 but Japan is NTSC and yet is REGION 2!
This means that a Japanese DVD disc would play on a Japanese DVD player fine but even though it is REGION 2 it would not play on a European PAL TV even if you took the Japanese DVD player to Europe, raised the voltage from 100V to 240V and then tried to play it. The disc would spin, the player would play it but the TV could not display it...UNLESS the TV was also an NTSC multisystem TV.
So how to get around these video standards and regional codes?
The invention of a REGION FREE DVD player (aka Codefree, code free, regionfree, all zone, universal, all region etc). But is that against the law and how can it be done? What does it mean?
By licensing agreement no manufacturer of DVD players are permitted to make a region free player. Each must be set to a specific region. They can be PAL-NTSC both but the REGIONAL CODE must be specific to a certain region. The USA is Region 1... and here are all of them:
Region codes and countries
Region code Area
0 Informal term meaning "worldwide". Region 0 is not an official setting; discs that bear the region 0 symbol either have no flag set or have region 1-6 flags set.
1 Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, United States and U.S. territories
2 European Union, Albania, Andorra, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, Faroe Islands, French Guiana, Georgia, Greenland, Guernsey, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Isle of Man, Israel, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Oman, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, Swaziland, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vatican City State, Yemen
3 Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan
4 Caribbean, Central America, Oceania, South America (except French Guiana), Mexico
5 African countries not explicitly included in other regions, Indian subcontinent, countries included in the former Soviet Union, Belarus, Mongolia, North Korea
6 People's Republic of China (except Macau and Hong Kong)
7 Reserved for future use (found in use on protected screener copies of MPAA-related DVDs and "media copies" of pre-releases in Asia)
8 International venues such as aircraft, cruise ships, etc.
ALL Region ALL discs have all 8 flags set, allowing the disc to be played in any locale on any player.
ALL Region ALL discs have all 8 flags set, allowing the disc to be played in any locale on any player.
So is it against the law to modify a DVD player and make it CODE FREE?
No, it isn't at all. Many places such as PLANET OMNI have been selling them for years. The quality of the modification rarely varies, it is generally a perfect mod so that any and all DVD movies will play but you'll need a PAL-NTSC TV or a video standards converter to see both PAL and NTSC DVD movies.
Remember that a DVD movie is NOT a DVD-R or DVD+R disc even though it may be a movie that has been recorded.
Most DVD Codefree players will play most DVD-R & DVD-RW, DVD+R & DVD+RW homemade discs.
99% also play CD discs for regular music playback and many play a wide variety of other formats such as MP3, WMA, DVD-Video, Video CD, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, audio CD-R & CD-RW, WMA, & JPEG and JPEG and Kodak JPEG.
So, a REGION FREE DVD player can play all regions and both PAL and NTSC discs, IE every known type of DVD movie on earth, but what if you don't have a PAL-NTSC TV or a video standards converter?
Besides the fact that you can buy those items there are also CONVERTING Region free DVD players.
Some can convert a PAL DVD movie to NTSC and some can do both that and converter a USA NTSC disc to PAL.
And some can do both but if you ever get a PAL-NTSC TV you can turn OFF the conversion and then see everything, all DVD movies from all countries in all standards on any the TV in the ORIGINAL PICTURE quality. Again, on-line shops such as Planet Omni carry this type as well.
These Codefree, Converting players can be even the most advanced units with all the latest bells and whistles certainly including things like DTS STEREO, Dolby Digital, HDMI and DVI output, 5.1 and higher stereo channel output, Progressive scan and so forth.
But now let's consider what this means as regards the Blu-Ray Disc players that are Multi-region.
As HD DVD is dead as a Hi-Def format we consider that Blu-Ray Disc players and movies on Blu-Ray discs are here to stay until the next leap into the future hits us which may happen around 2012 with the entry of the latest 6,000 Line Super-Hi Definition TVs, some 6 x more realistic and 3D appearing than Blu-Ray and 1080P technology.
As with DVD region Blu-Ray discs and players also have regions, called Region A, B and C.
These are non-compatible regions which include PAL-SECAM-NTSC and all other systems.
The beauty of a Region A or B Blu-Ray disc when played in a Multi-region Blu-Ray disc player via the HDMI output (that is a single cable combining all audio and video signals) is that the TV doesn't have to be Pal-NTSC-Secam or anything specific at all. As long as the TV has an HDMI input all Blu-Ray Disc movies from Regions A and B will play in their full glory and, depending on the maximum resolution possible of each TV, in the highest quality possible. Pal and NTSC no longer exist in the HDMI world, the problems of Hertz, government controls and so forth, Gone with the Wind!
However, there are still Regions A, B and C.
For the Hollywood production companies these 3 Regions are still important, but not as once they were.
Do know that a Blu-Ray Disc movie output through the regular component, S-Video or composite (A/V RCA cables) still requite the proper standard to view movies with, PAL for a PAL disc and NTSC for an NTSC disc. But in TVs there are no regions so any PAL-NTSC TV can display any PAL or NTSC DVD.
In the case of the Sony BDP-S300 multi-region version available now (110 volt version) you can pop in any Blu-Ray Disc movie from the A and B countries seen below and on any TV with an HDMI input you can see the entirety of any library.
The Sony BDP-S300 multi-region player has been highlyrated by many including reviews such as: "I am delighted with my Sony BDP-S300 Blu-ray Disc Player. It has excellent audio and visual definition. The crystalline clarity of 1080p Blu-ray Disc movies and DVD upscaling brings your DVDs to the highest resolution possible. Purchase this product and you will not be disappointed."
The Blu-Ray Disc Regions are as seen here:
A/North America, Central America, South America, Japan, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.
B/Europe, Greenland, French territories, Middle East, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, plus all of Oceania.
C/India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mainland China, Pakistan, Russia, Central, and South Asia.
The future of Blu-Ray Disc type technology?
In January 2007, Hitachi previewed a 100 GB Blu-ray Disc, which has four layers containing 25 GB each. Unlike TDK and Panasonic's 100 GB discs, they Hitachi claims this disc is readable on a standard Blu-ray Disc drive a firmware update is the only requirement to make it readable to current players and drives.
Many other iterations and variations of the Blu-Ray milieu are popping up including such novel notions as BD9 / BD5 Blu-ray Disc, AVCREC, Blu-ray Disc recordable, HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc hybrid discs, HD VMD/Versatile Multilayer Disc (new low-profile competitor) AVCHD, Digital Multilayer Disk - the successor technology to Fluorescent Multilayer Disc, Enhanced Versatile Disc (EVD), Forward Versatile Disc (FVD) - Taiwanese backed red laser format, Fluorescent Multilayer Disc, Holographic Versatile Disc - standards with 200 and 300 GB storage are under development 3D optical data storage - a next-generation technology expected to provide TB-capacity discs, Protein-coated disc, Tapestry Media, Ultra Density Optical LS-R - a "layer selection" technology allowing the stacking of very large numbers of DVD-like data layers in a single disc, Professional Disc for DATA (PDD or ProDATA) and much more.
Will there still be Regions? Who knows but there will always be a better genius to overcome them.