|Make a DVD that will play regardless of NTSC, PAL or SECAM|
Is it still necessary to format DVDs in NTSC, PAL or SECAM for them to be seen in each region?
If so, do these limitations extend to PCs for those regions as well?
I want to distribute a DVD video to countries mostly in NTSC and PAL regions. It will mainly be viewed on PCs, but some stand-alone DVD players can be expected as well. Is there a universal format like MPEG-4 or WMV that will work regardless of region?
bill - You've got the whole history of video packed into these questions, including known unknowns and unknown unknowns. This will be a very rushed answer, and therefore probably a little bit sloppy and overly long. It will gloss over a lot.
Let me start by asking you a few questions to narrow down the scope of the answer...
- country of origination?
- where will the primary audience probably live?
- what are the videos for? Eg, is definition of tiny detail important (as might be, say, with screen capture of an interface)? Or, are these general purpose videos?
- hi-def or standard-def?
|Is it still necessary to format DVDs in NTSC, PAL or SECAM for them to be seen in each region? |
I should note up front that these are standard definition video formats for various regions. Playable DVDs are standard-def, which in DVDs are encoded/transcoded to MPEG-2, so they do draw from the NTSC, PAL and SECAM standards.
They are not the same as Blu-ray and newer home digital video standards, natively encoded in H.264/MPEG-4, which, as I understand it, leave these formats behind.
Quick overview answer with regard to DVDs is most everything depends on what you're playing back on... but, in general, "playable DVDs" need to be NTSC, PAL, or SECAM specific when you encode/author them... and that stand-alone DVD players in PAL and SECAM regions are more likely to be able to play NTSC than the other way around.
"All-region players" have a converter chip built into them. Converting among highly compressed sources can occasionally produce odd results. I own an all-region player. Most Americans (NTSC) don't. (The Japanese variant of NTSC, which might concern you, is only very slightly different from the American version... can be adjusted with the brightness control.)
I should add, btw, that if you're producing these disks, you probably won't limit by region... that was thrown in by the studios and distribution companies... but the technical issues will still exist.
All DVD players, though, even apart from the different video standards, are different. The DVD "standard" has never been fully implemented on any one player. This usually effects menu options. Can also affect data rate they can handle.
It's easier to play all regions on a computer, and in general, because of their greater computing power, computers will handle a greater range of DVDs than stand-alone players. Duplicated disks won't always play on all players, but I think you get about 80% of them.
With digital playback, data refresh rates on monitors used to enter into it. I'm not sure how much of a factor that still is. Frame rates are 25fps for PAL, and c30 fps for NTSC. Laptops may be most immune to this issue.
I assume you're talking about duplicated disks (burned copies) rather than replicated (mass produced from glass stampers). I've been advised to stay with DVD-R disks, and Taiyo Yuden is the best brand. After the earthquake, when Taiyo Yuden disks were hard to get, I went to Falcon brand disks (Tayo Yuden engineers, company in United Arab Emirites).
Web issues are complicated by evolving standards, but they are all attempting to be compatible to a degree with the newer digital video standards.
Into the near future, I'm not sure whether web video standards for HTML5 have been fully nailed down. H.264/MPEG4 video carries a patent burden, whereas some other formats are under consideration because they do not. However, H.264 is widely used in Blu-ray, etc, as well as in some video cameras.
Getting back to MPEG-2 / MPEG-4... converting MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 is not likely to give good results, particular for fine detail. In general, if you do convert between formats, do your conversion on the least compressed sources you can find. Etc. I know I've left a bunch out. ;)
|- country of origination? |
Japan and China
|- where will the primary audience probably live? |
Very global, but almost no distribution in SECAM countries. The Chinese versions will be done in PAL and the Japanese in NTSC. It's the English disks that will be going worldwide.
|- what are the videos for? Eg, is definition of tiny detail important (as might be, say, with screen capture of an interface)? Or, are these general purpose videos? |
These are essentially mini-documentary commercials for an industrial firm. It's promotional, not instructional, so the fine detail wouldn't matter as much as the overall image.
|- hi-def or standard-def? |
I'm not sure. I'll need to inquire about that.
I'm assuming that playback will be done mostly on laptops or PCs, but there may occasionally be a dumb old DVD standalone player involved.
From what you've said and what I can glean from online, it looks like NTSC would be the most universal format I could use.
bill - Quick response for the moment, just to say that it's a weird time in history to be contemplating DVD distribution... particularly as the video will probably be shot in some sort of hi-def digital format, or combination of formats.
DVD, which probably has substantially more market penetration than Blu-ray does and is probably the logical disk format in terms of cost and hardware, is a semi-anachronism because it is standard def, which you will need to up res to play back... but, ironically, you will need to down res it to encode it for the DVD.
Blu-ray would be more appropriate given current camera technology... but Blu-ray has gotten stalled; the landscape is changing rapidly; and the future of disk formats is in doubt. It's not even clear that Adobe is continuing its "Encore" disk authoring software in its new cloud-based software model.
It could be that for "mini-documentary commercials", web distribution will make the most sense. Thus, NTSC/PAL/SECAM may never enter into it. Much more to be said.
I agree with you about the DVD platform. It's not ideal, but it's included in the package we got for making these videos. It's a Japanese company that's doing this for me and DVD discs are still very much the norm here, so that's what the offer. DVD rental shops still abound in Japan. Blueray, despite being a Japanese company standard never really took off here compared to DVD.
I am going to have the online streaming as well, where I won't have to be concerned about formatting like this. It's just these DVDs that are giving me a headache now.
I can play MP4 videos on my U.S. blue-ray player, burned onto a DVD as a data format burn, not as a DVD Video ISO. Can MP4's be played on other region players and on regular DVD players? If so, that might be a way forward?
The possibility that data files might be playable was one of the "much more to be said" type items that I left not detailed.
I think it depends entirely on the player... or (when on a computer) it may depend on installed software/codecs as well. It's not something that I would count on all Blu-ray players or DVD players to be able to do. It's likely a feature on many new ones, just as some can view jpegs, but it's not part of the DVD spec, which I believe is MPEG-2 only.
As I noted above, it's going to be tough enough to get all DVD players to play duplicated DVDs.
I should mention that we're using the word "region" here in two different ways... region in the generic meaning of the word and applied to geo-regions for NTSC, PAL, and SECAM... and then the 6 worldwide distribution regions set up by studios just for DVDs. I assume that these disks will not specify those distribution regions, as you're not trying to limit compatibility here... you're wanting to be your disks as widely compatible as possible.
You're right Bob. I just checked the specs on a $44 Sony DVD player and the only alt video spec it played was mpeg 1. A $33 DVD player from LG plays mpeg 1 and a few others. A $32 Samsung played mpeg 2 & 4 but not mpeg 1.
So perhaps it might be safe to say that the formats played on DVD players aren't uniform, as you suggested. The only alternative would be to create a data disc with multiple formats but you know some fart is going to insert the disc and not know what to do next and call it a fail.
Unfortunately this won't end up well for some users regardless due to these formatting issues. I spoke to some people in Europe and they said they could usually view NTSC formatted DVDs. It wasn't always perfect though and there are always machines that won't handle the encoding. I think I'll put a link to the online stream onto the DVD case for fallback.
bill - A quick note that the problems some people in Europe report with NTSC formatted DVDs might have as much to do with the encoding and workflow of sources along the way as with NTSC by itself. NTSC appears to be by far the best choice if you go with just one release format.
Assuming you're starting with material shot in a "hi-def" digital codec, you're going to want to edit everything in an intermediate codec like Apple Pro-Res, Avid DNxHD, etc, in the highest resolution possible... and then do separate exports for the web and for each DVD format. It can get very complicated, though, if you're mixing sources.
Depending on the complexity of your DVD programming (menus, subtitles, languages, etc), you could choose to author the DVD in both NTSC and in PAL versions, or just in NTSC.
I see that you are planning PAL for the Chinese release version. Conceivably, you could add other language tracks and titles to the (Chinese) PAL version... thus creating PAL disks for Europe. I've never looked into what might be involved in that. If imagery were different for China, of course, that approach might not work.
From research online, it appears overwhelmingly likely that a well-authored NTSC DVD will play in PAL territory, but not the other way around. I didn't even look into SECAM.
I'm glad I don't have to bother with SECAM too.
We were going to split off the Chinese versions, as it's completely different video, not just dubbing. However, they just learned that they might be able to fit the entire English, Japanese and Chinese videos, along with menus and subtitles, into one DVD. It's much cheaper for us to make one DVD format, so NTSC will be it if we go that route.
Could you make a front end menu that points to the different versions?
It would have to be a low-def text menu like the sceen selections some DVD's offer.
|I can play MP4 videos on my U.S. blue-ray player, burned onto a DVD as a data format burn, not as a DVD Video ISO. Can MP4's be played on other region players and on regular DVD players? |
You need to separate DVD the the disc and DVD the spec. The spec has a specific file structure and video/audio formats with specific resolutions and bitrates that are allowed. If you want a DVD to play in the most machines it needs to authored meeting those specs.
Anything outside of that like playing different video formats like .mp4 or displaying images are extra features added by the manufacturer. Capabilties vary widely from DVD player to DVD player.