Sunday, May 22, 2011

NTSC Video

NTSC is short for National Television System Committee. The NTSC is responsible for setting television and video standards in the United States. The NTSC standard for television defines a composite video signal with a refresh rate of 60 half-frames i.e. interlaced per second. Each frame contains 525 lines and can contain 16 million different colors. The NTSC standard is incompatible with most computer video standards, which generally use RGB video signals. However, you can insert special video adapters into your computer that convert NTSC signals into computer video signals and vice versa.
NTSC color encoding is used with the system M television signal, which consists of 29.97 interlaced frames of video per second, or the nearly identical system J in Japan. Each frame consists of a total of 525 scan lines, of which 486 make up the visible raster. The remainder are used for synchronization and vertical retrace. This blanking interval was originally designed to simply blank the receiver's CRT to allow for the simple analog circuits and slow vertical retrace of early TV receivers. However, some of these lines now can contain other data such as closed captioning and vertical interval time code (VITC). In the complete raster, the even-numbered or 'lower" scan lines (Every other line that would be even if counted in the video signal, e.g. {2,4,6,...,524}) are drawn in the first field, and the odd-numbered or "upper" (Every other line that would be odd if counted in the video signal, e.g. {1,3,5,...,525}) are drawn in the second field, to yield a flicker-free image at the field refresh frequency of approximately 59.94 Hertz (actually 60 Hz/1.001). For comparison, 576i systems such as PAL-B/G and SECAM uses 625 lines (576 visible), and so have a higher vertical resolution, but a lower temporal resolution of 25 frames or 50 fields per second.
The actual figure of 525 lines was chosen as a consequence of the limitations of the vacuum-tube-based technologies of the day. In early TV systems, a master voltage-controlled oscillator was run at twice the horizontal line frequency, and this frequency was divided down by the number of lines used (in this case 525) to give the field frequency (60 Hz in this case). This frequency was then compared with the 60 Hz power-line frequency and any discrepancy corrected by adjusting the frequency of the master oscillator. For interlaced scanning, an odd number of lines per frame were required in order to make the vertical retrace distance identical for the odd and even fields, which meant the master oscillator frequency had to be divided down by an odd number. At the time, the only practical method of frequency division was the use of a chain of vacuum tube multi-vibrators, the overall division ratio being the mathematical product of the division ratios of the chain. Since all the factors of an odd number also have to be odd numbers, it follows that all the dividers in the chain also had to divide by odd numbers, and these had to be relatively small due the problems of thermal drift with vacuum tube devices. The closest practical sequence to 500 that meets these criteria was 3 × 5 × 5 × 7 = 525.

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