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#31886 12/08/03 11:34 AM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 67
pwood Offline OP
the wife bought me a four tape set of the sopranos from last year(mob series on hbo).she bought it over the internet from some distributor in england.the vhs tapes all appeared scrambled and the talking was speeded up and the picture was non existent.
is there a difference in the recording of vhs tapes in the uk compared to the method here and would this cause the symptoms i had?,or did we receive some defective tapes?

#31887 12/08/03 02:12 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 717
There is a difference. I'm sure Paul knows the difference in the speeds.

Bottom line is, for those that don't know......NEVER buy videotapes from England.

#31888 12/08/03 02:46 PM
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,691

Without getting too technical.

Your wife bought tapes recorded in the PAL video format commonly used in Europe.

USA (I assume you're in the USA) is part of a group of countries that uses the American-developed NTSC format.

The formats are not compatible. However, you can still watch what is on the tapes if you take them to a video store that does PAL-NTSC conversions. They'll dub them for you and the copies will be on NTSC. Don't know what the going rate is. Quality may not be the greatest - as you may have seen if you make copies from a regular video tape or audio tape at home.

Also, you can buy a multi-standard VCR and you can watch your stuff directly on your TV.

These will run for a few hundred dollars -- you can probably buy one off the some place on the Internet.

#31889 12/08/03 02:49 PM
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 1,498
Likes: 1
C-H Offline
Yes, there is a difference: The US uses NTSC, whereas the UK uses PAL.

New VCR often have capability to playback both formats. But who buys a VCR today?

Anyway, look at the following threads for in-depth information.

#31890 12/08/03 06:30 PM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 67
pwood Offline OP
thanks for the information about the differences.i live in a technologically deprived area.i received 1 channel on the telly for 20 years before investing in a satellite ,as bruce springsteen sang"54 channels and there's nothing on"
guess we"ll try to return the videos or go to the uk and watch them.i like the second option.a tall frosty pint of watney's red ale and a good video sounds good! [Linked Image]

#31891 12/08/03 10:43 PM
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,691

I don't know about Europe, but here in the 'States, Mexico and Canada, thanks to the unversality of the NTSC system, multi-standard VCRs are a rarity and an expensive luxury.

Most people don't feel a need to have them, since everywhere you go, it's all NTSC.

An average multi-system video deck costs $200. An NTSC-only deck costs on average $50 to $80. Even less if you know where to shop. Sometimes as low as $30.

P.S.: As I wrote this, I noticed one of my VCRs just died. Time to hit the shops... [Linked Image]

[This message has been edited by SvenNYC (edited 12-08-2003).]

#31892 12/09/03 09:24 AM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Sorry for the delay -- I worked 12-hours straight yesterday, so didn't have any time to catch up on ECN!

A multi-standard VCR may help, but as Sven mentioned, they're harder to come by in the U.S. as they're regarded as something of a "boffins" item.

Here in the U.K. many domestic VCRs sold in the last 10 years or so have NTSC playback capability. The output isn't true NTSC, but a hybrid signal designed to be watchable on a normal British PAL receiver. With VHS tapes being cheaper and often available earlier in the U.S. than here, it's a natural result of people wanting to buy tapes from America.

Without getting too technical, the tape running fast is a result of the different frame rates. The U.S. system uses 525 lines at 30 frames per second; Britain uses 625 lines at 25 frames per second.

There is a control track recorded along one edge of the tape with pulses to allow proper synchronization of the frames (think of it as being similar to the sprocket holes on film).

An American VCR will try to adjust the tape speed to lock at 30 frames per second, so the British tape recorded at 25 frames per second will end up running too fast.

The universal acceptance of NTSC throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and beyond certainly makes life easier. Go from tapes to regular TV receivers in Europe, and you'll find even more compatibility issues due to different channel allocations etc.

True multi-standard tape machines can be quite expensive. If you're planning on buying foreign tapes on a regular basis, it might be worth checking out good used machines on in the "Professional video" category on eBay.

Even so, you'd still need a monitor or receiver which will accept 625/50-PAL signals, or you'd need a digital standards converter to convert to 525/60-NTSC.

Any chance that the dealer tha tapes came from over here sells an NTSC version and would exchange them for you?

[Linked Image from]

[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 12-09-2003).]

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