By Dan Stone

National TV Standards Committee and Phase Alternating Line are two competing analog television transmission standards used in different parts of the world. NTSC and PAL are important in determining if a standard definition analog video source will play on a particular TV set. While they don't represent deliberate regional lock techniques, NTSC and PAL prevent people from being able to import media from other countries.

Format Differences Between Standards

NTSC and PAL are formatted differently from each other, featuring different screen resolution and frame rates. The NTSC standard features 525 vertical lines of resolution (485 are visible on screen) and the PAL standard offers 625 vertical lines of resolution (575 are visible on screen). While PAL offers superior screen resolution, NTSC features a higher frame rate. NTSC video comes in at 30 frames per second, whereas PAL video comes in at 25 frames per second. The difference in frame rate causes PAL content to display about 4 percent faster when converted to NTSC.

Regional Use

The NTSC format is primarily used in the Americas and South Korea, whereas the PAL format is primarily used in Europe and Asia. The NTSC and PAL formats relate to analog TV broadcasts, VHS, DVD and older game consoles that don't support digital video output. For example, someone living in Canada or the United States could play a NTSC-formatted DVD but not a PAL-formatted one, while someone from the United Kingdom could play a PAL-formatted DVD but not one using the NTSC format.

Region Locked Media Type

Regional lockout is intended to keep people from being able to buy and import movies, games and TV shows before the content has been officially released in the buyer's country. Regional lockouts are applied to DVD and Blu-ray discs; Microsoft and Sony do not region lock their eighth generation gaming consoles, although Nintendo still does. NTSC and PAL regional compatibility pertains to the DVD standard and related regions, but Blu-ray regions do not follow the same assignment. For example, Japan and America can't play DVDs from the other country, but they can play Blu-ray discs from the other country.

Bypassing Region Lockout

There are a few ways to bypass regional lockout. Region-free DVD and Blu-ray player devices are not restricted to region codes and can run the respective media from any region. Additionally, someone in a NTSC region could simply import PAL devices and use them to watch PAL-formatted media. Computers may not come with a predetermined region code for DVD and Blu-ray, so someone could configure a computer to play for a different region.