- Television standards conversion
Television standards conversion is the process of changing one type of
TVsystem to another. The most common is from NTSCto PALor the other way around. This is done so TV programs in one nation may be viewed in a nation with a different standard. The TV videois fed through a Video standards converter device that changes the video to a different video system.
Converting between a different numbers of pixels and different frame rates in video pictures is a complex technical problem. However, the international exchange of TV programming makes standards conversion necessary and in many cases mandatory. Vastly different TV systems emerged for political and technical reasons -- and it is only luck that makes video programming from one nation compatible with another.
The first known case of TV systems conversion probably was in Europe a few years after
World War II-- mainly with the RTF (France) and the BBC(UK) trying to exchange their 441 line and 405 lineprogramming.
The problem got worse with the introduction of
PAL, SECAM(both 625 lines) and the French 819 lineservice.
Until the 1980s standards conversion was so difficult that 24frame/s
35mm filmwas the preferred medium of programming interchange.
Perhaps the most technical challenging conversion to make is the PAL to NTSC.
* PAL is 625 lines at 50 fields/sec
* NTSC is 525 lines at 59.94 fields/sec (60,000/1,001 fps)
The two TV standards are for all practical purposes temporally and spacially incompatible with each other.
Aside from the line count being different, it's easy to see that generating 60 fields every second from a format that has only 50 fields might pose some interesting problems.
Every second, an additional 10 fields must be generated seemingly from nothing. The converter has to create new frames (from the existing input) in real time.
Hidden signals: not always transferred
TV contains many hidden signals. One signal type that is not transferred, except on some very expensive converters is the
Closed captioningsignal. Teletextsignals don't need to be transferred, but the captioning data stream should be wherever it is technological possible to do so.
With HDTV broadcasting this is less of an issue, for the most part meaning only passing the captioning datatream on to the new source material. However
DVBand ATSC have significantly different captioning datastream types.
Role of Information Theory
Theory behind systems conversion
Information theory(and the Nyquist sampling theorem) implies that conversion from one television standard to another will be easier providing
* one is going from a higher framrate to a lower framerate (
NTSCto PALor SECAM, for example)
* one is going from a higher resolution to a lower resolution (
* one is not converting from one progressive source to another progressive source (interlaced
PALand NTSCare temporally and spacially incompatible with each other)
* interframe motion is limited, so as to reduce temporal or spacial
* signal to noise ratios in the source material are not detrimentally high
* the source material does not possess any continuous (or periodic) signal defect that inhibits translation
Sampling systems and ratios
The subsampling in a video system is usually expressed as a three part ratio. The three terms of the ratio are: the number of brightness ("luminance" "luma" or Y) samples, followed by the number of samples of the two color ("chroma") components: U/Cb then V/Cr, for each complete sample area.
For quality comparison, only the ratio between those values is important, so 4:4:4 could easily be called 1:1:1; however, traditionally the value for brightness is always 4, with the rest of the values scaled accordingly.
The sampling principles above apply to both digital and analog television.
The “3:2 pulldown” conversion process for 24frame/s film to television (telecine) creates a slight error in the video signal compared to the original film frames.
This is one reason why NTSC films viewed on typical home equipment may not appear as smooth as when viewed in a cinema. The phenomenon is particularly apparent during slow, steady camera movements which appear slightly jerky when telecined.
This process is commonly referred to as "telecine judder".
PAL material in which 2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:3 pulldown has been applied, suffers from a similar lack of smoothness, though this effect is not usually called “telecine judder”.
In effect every 12th film frame is displayed for the duration of 3 PAL fields (60 milliseconds) -- whereas the other 11 frames are all displayed for the duration of 2 PAL fields (40 milliseconds). This causes a slight “hiccup” in the video about twice a second.
Television systems converters must avoid creating telecine judder effects during the conversion process.
Avoiding this judder is of economic importance as a substantial amount of NTSC (60 Hz, technically 29.97frame/s) resolution material that originates from film -- will have this problem when convered to PAL or SECAM (both 50 Hz, 25frame/s).
Historical standards conversion techniques
Orthacon to orthacon
This method was used by Ireland to convert 625 line service to 405 line service. It is perhaps the most basic television standard conversion technique.
RTÉ used this method during the latter years of its use of the 405 line system.
:A standards converter was used to provide the 405 line service, but according to more than one former RTÉ engineering source the converter blew up and afterwards the 405 line service was provided by a 405 line camera pointing at a monitor!
This is not the best conversion technique but it can work if one is going from a higher resolution to a lower one -- at the same frame rate. Slow phosphors are required on both orthacons.
The first video standards converters were analog. That is a special
Professional video camerathat used a Video camera tubewould be pointed at a Cathode ray tube video monitor. Both the Camera and the monitor could be switched to either NTSC or PAL, to convert both ways. Robert Bosch GmbH's FernsehDivision made a large three rack analog video standards converter. These were the high end converters of the 1960s and 1970s. Image Transform in Universal City, Ca used the Fernseh converter and in the 1980s made their own custom digitalconverter. This was also a larger 3 rack device. As digital memory size became larger in smaller packages, converters became the size of a microwave oven. Today one can buy a very small consumer converter for home use.
SSTV to PAL / NTSC
The Apollo moon missions (late 1960s, early 1970s) used
SSTVas opposed to normal bandwidth television; this was mostly done to save battery power. The camera used only 7 watts of power.
SSTV was used to transmit images from inside
Apollo 7, Apollo 8, and Apollo 9, as well as the Apollo 11Lunar Module television from the Moon, see Apollo TV camera.
* The SSTV system used in
NASA's early Apollo missions transferred ten frames per second with a resolution of 320 frame lines using less bandwidth than a normal TV transmission.
* The early SSTV systems used by NASA differ significantly from the SSTV systems currently in use by amateur radio enthusiasts today.
* Standards conversion was necessary so that the missions could be seen by a worldwide audience in both PAL/SECAM (625 lines, 50 Hz) and NTSC (525 lines, 60 Hz) resolutions
Latter Apollo missions features color
field sequentialcameras, that outputted 60fps video with each frame corresponding to one of the RGB primary colors. This is compatible with black and white NTSC, but color information must be converted. The resulting color video was 20fps.
Standards conversion methods in common use
This conversion technique may become popular with manufacturers of HDTV --> NTSC and HDTV --> PAL converter boxes for the ongoing global conversion to HDTV.
* Multiple Nyquist subsampling was used by the defunct MUSE HDTV system that was used in Japan.
* MUSE chipsets that can be used for systems conversion do exist, or can be revised for the needs of HDTV --> Analog TV converter boxes.
How it works
In a typical image transmission setup, all stationary images are transmitted at full resolution. Moving pictures possess a lower resolution visually, based on complexity of interframe image content.
When one uses Nyquist subsampling as a standards conversion technique, the horizontal and vertical resolution of the material are reduced -- this is an excellent method for converting HDTV to standard definition television , but it works very poorly in reverse.
* As the horizontal and vertical content change from frame to frame, moving images will be blurred (in a manner similar to using 16 mm movie film for HDTV projection).
* In fact, whole-camera pans would result in a loss of 50% of the horizontal resolution.
The Nyquist subsampling method of systems conversion only works for HDTV to Standard Definition Television, so as a standards conversion technology it has a very limited use. Phase Correlation is usually preferred for HDTV to standard definition conversion.
There is a large difference in
frameratebetween film (24.0 frames per second) and NTSC (approximately 29.97 frames per second).
Unlike the two other most common
video formats, PALand SECAM, this difference cannot be overcome by a simple speed-up, because the required 25% speed-up would be obviously noticeable.
To convert 24frame/s film to 29.97frame/s NTSC, a complex process called "" is utilised, in which parts of some frames are duplicated and blended. This produces irregularities in the sequence of images which some people can perceive as a jitter/stutter during slow pans of the camera. See
telecinefor more details.
For viewing native PAL or SECAM material (such as European
television seriesand some European movies) on NTSC equipment, a standards conversion has to take place. There are basically two ways to accomplish this.
*The framerate can be slowed from 25 to 23.976 frames per second (a slowdown of about 4%) to subsequently apply .
*Interpolation of the contents of adjacent frames in order to produce new intermediate frames; this introduces artifacts, and even the most modestly trained of eyes can quickly spot video that has been converted between formats.
PAL(625 lines @ 25 frame/s) to NTSC(525 lines @ 30 frame/s), about 100 lines of information must be eliminated and 5 additional frames must be created.
Less expensive converters simply drop 100 lines equally spaced throughout each frame to reduce the 625 line PAL signal down to NTSC's 525. To create the 5 additional frames, single frames are repeated 5 times per second. This simple algorithm is fast, inexpensive and works well if there is little inter-frame motion. Historically, many inexpensive consumer television system converters have employed this technique.
Since most video does feature significant inter-frame motion in practise, more modern or expensive equipment is may use more sophisticated techniques to reduce the artefacts introduced by conversion.
Interfield Interpolation is a technique in which new frames are created by blending adjacent frames, rather than repeating a single frame. This is more complex and computationally expensive than linear interpolation, because it requires the interpolator to have knowledge of the preceding and the following frames to produce an intermediate blended frame.
Deinterlacingmay also be required in order to produce images which can be interpolated smoothly.
Interpolation can also be used to reduce the number of scanlines in the image by averaging the colour and intensity of pixels on neighbouring lines, a technique similar to
Bilinear filtering, but applied to only one axis. There are simple 2-line and 4 line converters. The 2-line converter creates a new line by comparing two adjacent lines, whereas a 4-line model compares 4 lines to average the 5th. Again, the greater the complexity and resulting price tag!
Interfield interpolation "reduces" judder, but at the expense of picture smearing. The greater the blending applied to smooth out the judder, the greater the smear caused by blending.
Adaptive Motion Interpolation
Some more advanced techniques measure the nature and degree of inter-frame motion in the source, and use adaptive algorithms to blend the image based on the results. Some such techniques are known as
motion compensationalgorithms, and are computationally much more expensive than the simpler techniques, thus requiring more powerful hardware to be effective in real-time conversion.
Adaptive Motion algorithms capitalize on the way the human eye and brain process moving images - in particular, detail is perceived less clearly on moving objects that.
Adaptive interpolation requires that the converter analyzes multiple successive fields and to detect the amount and type of motion of different areas of the picture.
* Where little motion is detected, the converter can use linear interpolation.
* When greater motion is detected, the converter can switch to an inter-field technique which sacrifices detail for smoother motion.
"Adaptive Motion Interpolation has many variations and is commonly found in midrange converters". The quality and cost is dependent upon the accuracy in analyzing the type and amount of motion, and the selection of the most appropriate algorithm for processing the type of motion.
Adaptive Motion Interpolation + Block Matching
Block matching involves dividing the image into mosaic blocks - say perhaps for the sake of explanation, 8x8 pixels. The blocks are then stored in memory. The next field read out is also divided up into the same number and size of mosaic blocks. The converter's computer then goes to work and starts matching up blocks. The blocks that stayed in the same relative position (read: there was no motion in this part of the image) receive relatively little processing.
* For each block that changed, the converter searches in every direction through its memory, looking for a match to find out where the "block" went (if there's motion, the block obviously had to have gone somewhere..).
* The search starts at the immediate surrounding blocks (assuming little motion).
* If a match isn't found, then it searches further and further out until it finds a match.
* When the matching block is found, the converter then knows how far the block moved and in which direction.
* This data is then stored as a motion vector for this block.
* Since interframe motion is often predictable owing to Newton's laws of motion in the real world, the motion vector can then be used to calculate where the block will probably be in the next field.
* The Newtonian method saves a lot of search and processing time.
When panning from left to right is taking place (over say 10 fields) it is safe to assume that the 11th field will be similar or very close.
* Block matching can be seen as the "cutting and pasting" of image blocks.
The technique is highly effective but it does require a tremendous amount of computing power. Consider a block of only 8x8 pixels. For each block, the computer has 64 possible directions and 64 pixels to be matched to the block in the next field. Also consider that the greater the motion, the further out the search must be conducted. Just to find an adjacent block in the next field would entail making a search of 9 blocks. 2 blocks out would require a search and match of 25 blocks - 3 blocks further distant and it grows to 49 etc etc.
The type of motion can exponentially compound the compute power required. Consider a rotating object, where a simple straight line motion vector is of little help in predicting where the next block should match. It can quickly be seen that the more inter frame motion introduced, the much greater the processing power required. This is the general concept of block matching. Block match converters can vary widely in price and performance depending on the attention to detail and complexity.
A weird artifact of block matching owes to the size of the block itself. If a moving object is smaller than the mosaic block, consider that it's the entire block that gets moved. In most cases, it's not an issue, but consider a thrown baseball. The ball itself has a high motion vector, but its background that makes up the rest of the block might not have any motion. The background gets transported in the moved block as well, based on the motion vector of the baseball, What you might see is the ball with a small amount of outfield or whatever, tagging along. As it's in motion, the block may be "soft" depending upon what additional techniques were used and barely noticeable unless your looking for it.
Block matching requires a staggering amount of processing horsepower, but today's microprocessors are making it a viable solution.
Phase Correlation is perhaps the most computationally complex of the general algorithms.
Phase Correlation's success lies in the fact that it is effective with coping with rapid motion and random motion. Phase Correlation doesn't easily get confused by rotating or twirling objects that confuse most other kinds of systems converters.
Phase Correlation is elegant as well as technically and conceptually complex. Its successful operation is derived by performing a Fourier Transform to each field of video.
Fast Fourier Transform(FFT) is an algorithm which deals with the transformation of discrete values (in this case image pixels).
When applied to a sample of finite values, a Fast Fourier Transform expresses any changes (motion) in terms of frequency components.
What is the advantage of using FFTs over simply trying to predict the motion vector on a pixel by pixel basis?
* Mathematically, it's far easier and faster to recognize and process frequency signatures from which very accurate motion vectors can then be calculated.
* "Rather than having to measure where every pixel goes from frame to frame the FFT rather results in representing just the changes from one frame to the next."
Since the result of the FFT represents only the inter-frame changes in terms of frequency distribution, there's far less data that has to be processed in order to calculate the motion vectors.
* Unlike other motion vector calculating methods, the FFT technique is not easily fooled by objects that have rotational or spiraling motions.
* What results from the FFT is a three dimensional frequency distribution represented mathematically by peaks in a three dimensional wave pattern.
* The 3rd dimension in this coordinate system represents subsequent fields of video.
In summation: Objects in motion can be mathematically correlated to their peaks in the frequency distribution. Once the FFT is performed it becomes a computationally simple matter for the computer to track just the peaks and assign them the appropriate motion vectors. This conversion technique is both elegant and computationally involved. Sophisticated software and large amounts of processor "horsepower" are required for these complex computations.
DTV to analog converters for consumers
A digital television adapter, (
CECB), or digital-to-analog converter (box), is a device that receives, by means of an antenna, a digital television(DTV) transmission, and converts that signal into an analog televisionsignal that can be received and displayed on an analog television.
These boxes cheaply convert HDTV (16:9 at 720 or 1080) to (NTSC or PAL at 4:3). Very little is known about the specific conversion technologies used by these converter boxes in the PAL and NTSC zones.
Downconversion is usually required, hence very little image quality loss is perceived by viewers at the recommended viewing distance with most TV sets.
See also (Americas)
Digital television adapter
DTV transition in the United States
A lot of cross format television conversion is done offline. There are several DVD packages that offer offline
PAL<--> NTSCconversion -- including cross conversion (technically MPEG<--> DTV) from the myriad of MPEGbased web video formats.
Cross conversion can use any and methods commonly in use for TV system format conversion, but typically (in order to reduce complexity and memory use) -- it is left up to the CODECs to do the conversion.
Most modern DVDs are converted from 525 <--> 625 lines in this way, as it is very economical for most programming that originates at
Reverse Standards Conversion
*IEEE papers on systems conversion
*AES/EBU papers on systems conversions
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