How to Use NTSC Television in a PAL Region or Vice Versa


The two popular video standards used around the world are National Television System Committee (NTSC) and Phase Alternating Line (PAL). NTSC is used in most of the Americas and in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines and Myanmar. PAL is used mostly in Europe, Asia and Australia. While both have their own pros and cons, these two popular standards have created confusion for consumers who want to import television screens from other countries.

One of the first things to check while buying a television is whether it is built for NTSC or PAL standards. If you are in a PAL region and if you happen to order a television screen supporting only NTSC video signal standards, then you won’t be able to make it run out of the box. You will have trouble watching television channels distributed by your local or national distributor. The same happens if you try to use a PAL only television in regions which have adopted NTSC for example: in the US or Canada.

The fact is out there: PAL and NTSC don’t like each other. Devices that use NTSC standards take video input broadcasting at 60hz frequency. On the other hand devices that use PAL standards use 50hz video broadcasting frequency. You won’t be able to watch TV easily if your device has the wrong standards. If you buy a television screen in your country, it will work. You should only be careful while importing internationally.
Note: This same method will work for other devices such as Xbox 360 or Media Players.

Converting NTSC Television Signals to PAL

There are devices which can easily convert PAL video broadcasts to NTSC and vice versa. These devices can go from around 40 bucks to a hundred and something dollars. Price depends upon the quality of conversion, maximum resolution supported by the device and where you get it. Read about how to perform the conversion below. Also, don’t forget to read about voltage and power line frequency which must also match.

How to Convert NTSC to PAL and vice versa

In three steps, theoretically speaking:
How to Use NTSC Television in a PAL Region or Vice Versa
  1. Input: Your cable TV line goes into the converter.
  2. Processing: The converter converts the video signal in real-time.
  3. Output: You connect output cable(s) to your television.
However, when you do the actual conversion, you will have to connect a lot of wires (coaxial cable / RCA connectors / A/V Jacks), use a set-top box, use a NTSC/PAL converter and power up all your devices with individual adapters. Additionally, you also might have to convert your voltage using a step-up or step-down transformer. The steps aren’t that simple, but once you set up everything correctly, you will be able to use your incompatible television.
The Steps to Convert Video Signal Standards
  1. Get a PAL/NTSC Converter. There are a couple of those devices listed at the end of this post.
  2. The converters have Input and Output areas. Inputs can be RCA Connectors or A/V inputs (Red, White and Yellow Wires), HDMI Cables etc. Outputs are also the same cables. Know your cables before purchasing a NTSC PAL real-time converting device.
  3. If you have a cable television, then your cable line is normally supplied through a co-axial cable. You have to convert that co-axial cable (one wire) to three wires (RCA wire or A/V Jacks – the one with red, white and yellow wires). You can do this using a set-top box/TV tuner. In short: cable company’s co-axial wire goes in TV tuner and three wires (RGY) comes out of it.
  4. Insert those three red, white and yellow wires inside the input of your converter. The colors will be there and you will just have to match the colors while inserting the wires. Never forget: red, white and yellow.
  5. In the output of the converter, insert another three red, white and yellow wires. Match the colors like before.
  6. Now, take those three wires and insert them at the back of your TV. Your TV should have the input spots for these three wires. Make sure that colors are matched correctly, once again.
  7. Connect the power to all your devices. In this example: Your Set-Top Box/TV Tuner, NTSC/PAL converter and your television, all must be powered up with the correct voltage.
  8. Turn on your TV and switch through TV/AV Mode. This mode depends upon the type of your TV. It might simply be called AV (of TV/AV), Video mode, Composite Video mode etc.
  9. After all this, if everything goes according to plan, your cable TV will work on your incompatible television screen. Congratulations, you’ve just converted NTSC to PAL or PAL to NTSC and made it work.

Important Things to Note:

  • It might even be possible to skip the set top box if your cable TV provider supplies you television using three wires or HDMI.
  • It might also be possible to skip the set top box if your converter has a direct input for a co-axial cable.
  • You might also not need a converter if you are using satellite television. They can directly provide TV channels via HDMI. Their own set-top boxes / TV Tuners have NTSC/PAL switching features. Ask your satellite provider for details on this.
  • If your television has HDMI input (most televisions these days have this) and if your NTSC/PAL converter has an HDMI output, you are better off using HDMI. One high quality wire is far better than three wires.
  • Use HDMI if your television does not have those red, white and yellow inputs. Most TVs I’ve seen have these.
  • To use HDMI cable functionality, you will have to get a converter that has HDMI output, obviously. Read carefully about input and output ports available before actually buying a converter. Don’t forget to check product reviews as well.

Things to Note about TV Voltage and Frequency

  1. Televisions with NTSC standards only support 100-120 volts whereas televisions with PAL standards only support 220-240 volts. Some televisions are known to support 100 through 240 volt of mains current i.e. the electric current you get from your wall connector.
  2. You cannot plug 220 volts of current into a 110 volt television or vice versa. You should use a step-up or step-down converter to convert voltage up or down respectively. This is important. You don’t want to blow up your television by plugging in the wrong voltage.
  3. Another important thing is the utility frequency, power line frequency or mains frequency. It is either 50hz or 60hz. In short NTSC regions have 60hz power line frequency and PAL regions have 50hz. A television screen is usually 50hz – 60hz. If this is not the case then you are out of luck. You can’t convert a 50hz electric line to 60hz or achieve its opposite. It just can’t be done with a device like step up or step down converter.
  4. Conclusion: It is more than necessary to read technical specifications before making a purchase decision. You don’t want to buy a TV or other device that is impossibly incompatible.

How to Find:

Whether you are in a PAL or NTSC Region?
What voltage and electric current is supplied in your country?

NTSC/PAL Converting Devices

The Cheap One: MINI TV System Converter
Has red, white and yellow input and output as pictures above. Doesn’t convert in HD.
Mini TV System Converter
Buy from Dealextreme or DX (Ships Free Internationally) – $32.44

Advanced Ones
Multi System DV Converter
Multi-system PAL NTSC Digital Video Converter from DX (For shipping where Amazon doesn’t reach)DX Price: $97.73

Set Top Boxes
Set Top Boxes
From DX [T2-100 Set-Top Box] – $58.08

Step-Up Converter and Step-Down Converter
Few of Those From Amazon
Note: If you are ordering these devices internationally, be informed about border customs and import taxes of your country. The links to products above are affiliate URLs which provides me with a bonus for every sale made with no additional cost to you.