convert PAL DVD to NTSC?

Dear Lazyweb, I've got the VIDEO_TS files from a PAL DVD, and I want to convert this to NTSC and burn it to a DVD that I can play in an American DVD player. I suspect there are some options I can feed to ffmpegX to do this, but it's not obvious to me what they are. Help?

It says the files are "mpeg-2 704x576, 9586 kbps, 25 fps; ac3 48kHz, 256kbps". 4GB of data. This thing didn't start out its life as a commercial DVD, so I assume there's no region-locking or CSS going on.

It has menus and stuff; it would be nice to preserve them.

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32 Responses:

  1. davidglover says:

    It depends whether you just want to change the region from 2 to 1 (or 0), or actually resize and change the frame rate. I'm assuming the latter.

    Drop your VIDEO_TS file into ffmpegX and select the "DVD mpeg2enc" preset. Then, on the video tab, choose a framerate of NTSC and a video size of 720 x 480. (PAL is 720 x 576).

    You'll probably also want to set audio to "passthrough" to avoid transcoding it.

    Beaware that while this will work, the end results might not look fantastic, as converting from 25 to 29.97fps isn't a very even process. You'll get much better results by using a DVD player that can output PAL discs to an NTSC television, or even betterer results with a TV that understands PAL.

    • davidglover says:

      Oh, PS:

      This won't preserve the menus. If it's possible to do so, I don't know how.

    • jwz says:

      If I change the frame rate, do I have to do something else to get it to not de-sync the audio? I know that some of my previous adventures with ffmpegX have resulted in the audio getting out of sync if I looked at it funny.

    • hermeticseal says:

      my understanding is that when american movies are converted to PAL, they don't bother with any pulldown or any other kind of framerate conversion, and just play the movie at 25fps instead of 24fps as it is shown in the theater. supposedly the pitchshift of the audio is not perceptable.

      when this 24fps movie is put on an NTSC dvd, the frame rate is actually 23.976 or (24000/1001). the player is responsible for doing 3:2 pulldown to display at 59.94 fields/sec.

      so transcoding your PAL video to 23.976fps might be the best way to handle this, and just live with the audio being slightly pitch-shifted. a surefire way to do this would be to just edit the mpeg headers to lie about the framerate, but of course the PAL video dimensions are different and so you still have to transcode the video to NTSC dimensions. i'm not sure what mencoder/ffmpeg will do to the frame rate if you just specify -ofps 24000/1001. it might just hose it all up.

      converting to 29.97 (30000/1001 in mencoder/ffmpeg) will be a mess as david says.

      • jwz says:

        I can't believe how nutty this all is.

        So if I want to just extract the video from the PAL VIDEO_TS directory in some form that I can import into iMovie (e.g., DV) so that I can then re-add chapter markers and create an NTSC DVD with iDVD... how do I get ffmpegX to give me something I can work with?

        Oh, and video and audio being in sync would be nice too.

        • ywwg says:

          My favorite DVD extraction tool is DVDxDV. It costs money, but it's worth it for how much easier it is to use than all of the crappy free apps. You just select which title you want to extract, and set up whatever quicktime codec you want. No audio drift, no weird configuration.

        • hermeticseal says:

          unfortunately i know < jack about ffmpeg. i use mencoder pretty much exclusively. i just checked and mencoder out of fink seems to be compiled with libdv support, so mencoder input.mpg -oac copy -ovc libdv is possible, but i tried it on an .avi i had laying around and i got something that was definitely wrong. mencoder is very fond of the .avi container as an output format, and i'm not sure what container format is appropriate for DV. i'll bet iDVD will not want to import an .avi container though.

          converting to NTSC dvd is a noble goal... but as many posters have pointed out a lot of NTSC DVD players can handle PAL these days. the PS2 might not be one of them, though.

          i am on vacation right now so i can't get to them, but i do have a couple of PAL DVDs i could muck around with... but it will have to wait.

          i got tired of dealing with trying to create more and more discs and so i built a home theater PC. now i dont worry about any of this stuff, i just rip the disc and use mplayer. but i know how much you hate linux and if you thought alsa was fun with icecast, try it with myth. just lock up the firearms before you start.

  2. tramp32123 says:

    Another option, assuming that there is no macrovision or that your DVD player of choice can turn it off, is to pass it through a PAL to NTSC hardware converter. Sadly, it requires investment in hardware of course. In my case we already have a video camera with a passthrough to firewire and I am getting a Samsung SV-5000 VCR. This translates between almost all video formats (PAL, NTSC, SECAM). I have a stack of PAL tapes that I want to burn to DVD and this is the route I am taking. For my commercial PAL Region4 DVDs we have a cheap region-free DVD player that converts PAL to play on an NTSC TV. It's a Cyberhome one, avail on eBay for under $50 - but stutters sometimes on the translation. There are better ones available, for more money.

  3. marmoset says:

    I know this isn't strictly speaking what you asked for (uh-oh), but the el-cheapo Cyberhome CH-300 DVD player which you can get in pretty much every big box electronics retailer in the country for $40 or less has a region-free code and can do the PAL/NTSC thing in hardware. Just a data point.

  4. remaker says:

    If you only want to play it in *YOUR* DVD player, you can usually access a hidden menu in most modern DVD players to turn on PAL->NTSC on-the-fly autoconversion, and/or easily defeat the region coding. The cheaper the player, the more likely this feature exists. If you do that, you won't have to go through the painful, arcane hassle of PAL->NTSC conversion. If you want to be sure it will play in any Region 1 NTSC player anywhere (or if you just want to experience the sublime joy of transcoding and reauthoring DVDs) heed the advice of others and I will go back under my rock now.

    What is the error when you drop it into your player? If it says "wrong region" than it is protected. If it is a weird-size black and white mass, your player does not do or is not set to do autoconversion.

    Rather than point you, you can Google yourself. Or, you can feel free to tell lazyweb about your player and we will all jump in with the hack.

    • jwz says:

      I haven't actually tried burning the files to a disc yet, because I'm still not entirely clear on how to do that, either. I gather that a video DVD is just a file system with this VIDEO_TS directory on it, but I don't know how to make my iMac burn a data DVD that has a file system other than HFS+ on it, and I assume that's not what DVD players are expecting...

      My current DVD player is a PS2, but it would be nice to have a disc that plays on other things too, so that I don't have an unplayable disc when someday I get a new player.

      • davidglover says:

        Use the "img" function under the "Tools" tab of ffmpegX to turn a VIDEO_TS folder into an image you can burn with Disk Utility.

      • remaker says:

        Ah, would that it were so simple, that you just copy files to a DVD to make a video DVD. The arcana of turning files into a playable DVD requires significant enough voodoo that you want to use a program dedicated to the task (like, Toast). Perhaps the modern mac has some other software to do the task. If you just copy the files to an ISO DVD, you have what is called "Unauthored" video. Some players can play that, but most will not. Eveything has to be arranged just so for a DVD to work.

        The PS2 is pretty tightly locked down as a DVD player, as you might expect from Sony, who are first and foremost about protecting intellectual property. I'll let others chime in about what DVD player is 'best,' since that is too religous to get in to. Home video these days is too damn scary with all the various competing standarard, DRM, and audiophoolery. I like my 16 year old panasonic TV and my Fry's special $20 DVD player, thankyouverymuch.

        Good luck.

        • omni_ferret says:

          The arcana of turning files into a playable DVD requires significant enough voodoo that you want to use a program dedicated to the task...

          I can confirm that mkisofs & growisofs currently know how to make DVD-Video discs properly.

          Using DVD-RWs until you know exactly what to do is a good idea, although you might want to make sure your DVD player can play DVD-RW or DVD+RW first - the compatibility list is helpful there.

      • telecart says:

        is your PS2 "modded" with one of those fancy modchip?

        Otherwise you might encounter problems playing a burned DVD movie, even if it is regionless and NTSC.

      • strspn says:

        That, sadly, is where CSS comes in. (Unless there are nonCSS DVDs, which last I heard was an oxymoron but I could be wrong.)

        If you want to do it legally, unless you are sure of the provenance of the data and that you have permission to make a copy, you may send your data to spain for encoding, and archive your electronic version when the physical DVD arrives back from Spain.

        Or, you could break the DMCA by obtaining the necessary encoder, also from Spain (part of "the red zone") and run it yourself. However, someone merely suggesting that could be considered as trying to incite you to break the DMCA, and I would never do that.

        • grahams says:

          As <lj user="jwz" /> said, the disc he's trying to reformat isn't encrypted.

          While uncommon, unencrypted commercial discs are not unheard of. On top of that, only manufactured CDs have CSS. A home made disc doesn't have CSS on it, and AFAIK it is impossible to do so... There are two classes of blanks/drives, "General" and "Authoring". Originally both types of blankes/drives were incapable of burning CSS data, but they added support for it to DVD-R(A) later...

      • babynutcase says:

        I gather that a video DVD is just a file system with this VIDEO_TS directory on it

        In order to make a valid DVD-Video image the files in the image has to ordered in a specific physical order. Yes, it's that nutty.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, as I suspected, the PS2 just says "wrong video system" or something like that when I put the PAL DVD in.

  5. I am not sure if this will do the trick for you. But I found this utitlity to be really useful for other video projects using OS X (10.3.9). I mainly use it when I want to convert a DVD to a QuickTime MOV for use in Final Cut. It is worth checking out.

    • jwz says:

      MPEGStreamClip wants me to buy some extra shit from Apple before it will do a goddamned thing. Fuck that.

      • Let me guess it says you need QuickTime Pro ($30). I have Final Cut installed which comes with QuickTime Pro. So I missed out on the extra software message. For me I just installed it and it worked without a glitch.

        • jwz says:

          No, I have QT Pro. It was asking for some magic MPEG Component.

          • ckd says:

            The MPEG2 component, probably. Apple apparently split it out to cut the number of units subject to licensing fees, because if they included it with QuickTime (or even Pro) it'd cost 'em major bucks.

  6. rexpop says:

    While it is possible to convert from PAL to NTSC and vice versa, its a real pain never quite works right.

    Saying that, the application I've had most success with is MPEG2 Works. It costs a small amount of cash, and is basically a GUI around a bunch of common open source tools, but it makes it so much easier to do.

    You also need Quicktime Pro.

    Once you've done that then use Toast to build the DVD image and burn. Toast also supports converting between PAL and NTSC, but I've never got this to work for MPEG2 files, only DIVX and MPEG4.

    The other alternative is to just burn the PAL files to DVD and try them on your player. Most players and TVs support both PAL and NTSC (even if they don't say so on the box).

  7. katy_kate says:

    Use dvd shrink for those files. You should be able to remove the PAL encryption with that program and still be able to use most menus.

    You can burn your files to disk with nero or whatever you choose.

  8. krick says:

    I spent some time trying to convert a PAL DVD to NTSC last year. I never got it to work properly but the process goes more or less like this...

    1) split the audio and video streams
    2) re-encode the video to NTSC frame rate and video size
    3) merge the video and audio streams back together
    4) make DVD image
    5) burn to DVD