ÜberGuide for _Full_ DVD PAL to NTSC Conversion (v2)
by Doctor M
This guide is for the intermediate and advanced user. It assumes you know the basics of audio/video and how to use some of the more common programs.
If you need to catch up, www.Doom9.org and www.VideoHelp.com are a wealth of knowledge and guides.
DVDRemake Pro (optional (pay software)) http://www.dimadsoft.com/dvdremakepro/index.php
DVD Shrink (optional) http://www.videohelp.com/tools/DVD_Shrink
Citizen’s Aspect Ratio Calculator Tool http://www.haku.co.uk/ARCT.html
DGMPGDec (DGIndex/DGDecode) http://neuron2.net/dgmpgdec/dgmpgdec.html
VideoHelp's bitrate calculator http://www.videohelp.com/tools/VideoHelp_Bitrate_calculator
CCE (Cinema Craft Encoder)(pay software) http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=57023
Sonic Foundry Soft Encode (Deadware) http://www.digital-digest.com/dvd/downloads/showsoftware_softencode_67.html (Demo version)
NuMenu4u (Deadware) http://www.dvdr-digest.com/software/numenu4u.html (Free version, requires Scenarist)
Muxman (free Demo version 0.16.x does everything you'll need) http://www.mpucoder.com/Muxman/versions.shtml
Feel free to substitute with software you feel does the job better.
Depending on the DVD in question, this can be a long complicated process, but the goal is to make a near perfect conversion of all menus, video, audio and subtitles to NTSC from a PAL DVD.
You may find it helpful to strip unnecessary parts. This can include content in languages you don't speak, copyright warnings, splash screens, etc. Just remember, if you don't delete a piece of video or blank it, you will need to convert it to NTSC.
Before beginning, it's important that you understand your source. You will be asked to examine the frames. I like to use VirtualDubMod since it can load/edit avisynth scripts and even index mpeg/vob files so you can view them 1 frame at a time.
PAL can come in several flavors and what type you have will determine your conversion process.
Case 1: Film source with speed up (no pitch shift/correction). This is by far the most common. Film is 24 frames/sec. To achieve PAL's 25 fps they just crank the film faster and speed the audio up with it. The run time of the movie will be shorter and the audio will be higher pitched. Both the video and audio will need to be corrected.
To identify this type of video make sure your video is progressive (no hard interlacing) with no duplicate frames, just 25 unique progressive frames a second. You should also check Imdb and confirm that the runtime of the film is (about) 96% of the original length. (Imdb can have this wrong, so take their runtime with a grain of salt.)
Now the hard part: Is the audio pitched higher? There's no database or place to look for this. You'll have to do it by ear. If you have an NTSC version (even a VHS tape), listen side-by-side with your PAL version. If you have access to a soundtrack CD or music from the film, compare them. If you're really stuck, another movie with the same actor will let you compare the normal quality of their voice.
Most people can hear the 4% difference if they have a reference. If you can't find a reference to compare to, I find it best to assume this is the case since it's the most common. If your guess turns out to be wrong, you'll probably be able to tell that things sound slow and low pitched.
Case 2: Film source with speed up and pitch shifted/correct. There are many that claim this is common, but I've almost never seen it. I've been told by a friend in the industry that the process is time consuming and expensive, so it is avoided whenever possible.
Similar to Case 1, the audio still runs faster, but has had the pitch lowered so people don't sound like they are huffing helium. It is better to leave the speed up as it is rather than trying to re-pitch shift the audio.
Check the video just as in case 1. The difference is, when you listen to the audio it should run faster but have the same pitch as the original.
Case 3: Film source, interlaced with blended fields. This is one of the worst case scenarios and perfect restoration is NOT possible. The video is interlaced with some fields being an untouched frame and some being a blend of two different frames. There is no speed up, so the runtime and audio are unchanged. You will need a specialized avisynth filter that is mostly effective at best. I currently recommend Srestore. Expect some left over blurry frames and slightly upscaled looking video when you are finished (but to be fair the original DVD probably doesn't look much better).
Srestore can be found on the avisynth wiki (along with info on use and other filters that are required for use. http://avisynth.org/mediawiki/Srestore
To identify this type of video, you'll first notice your picture is 100% interlaced. If it is you will need to separate the fields and examine them. Avisynth’s separatefields(), bob() or whatever else you like. VDub has "deinterlace filter" (set it to "Unfold fields side-by-side"). These will allow you to examine the fields as if they were individual frames. You should now see for about every clean field, a blurry double exposure looking one.
The audio will be untouched. You will also find the runtime to be unchanged.
Case 4: PAL Video 25i. Usually shot for TV but may be found in DVD extra content. This type of video is interlaced 25 fps. Annoying, but not impossible to work with.
It can be identified by separating the fields like in Case 3, but you will find 50 clean unique frames with no blending.
You will be converting this to 29.97i. Audio will not need to be altered.
Trying to convert this type of video to progressive is possible but not recommended.
Case 5: PAL Video 25p. Like above, made for PAL countries but no interlacing this time.
Treat this just like Case 2 since the audio is at the right speed.
Case 6: NTSC Video. These are a bit of a problem. The source will have been previously 29.97 interlaced video but converted to 25i. Shot for TV in NTSC countries, it is 100% interlaced. I will admit little familiarity with this situation, but what I've seen involved them separating the video into 60 fields discarded 10 and then reinterlaced to 25fps.
Case 7: Film source, duplicate frames. Uncommon, but still possible.
In this case, for every 4 frames, there will be a fifth that is a duplicate. The video may appear jittery when played. This is most visible during motion or camera pans.
Some of these types you may never see, there are even types I've missed, but this should cover 99% of what you are likely to find.
What IS important is that your DVD may have the movie representing one case, a trailer another case, and a studio logo a third. You will have to check and keep track of which pgcs (program chains) need what treatment.
Appendix B has some additional info regarding issues that may come up with commentary tracks, or dubbed foreign language films.
Letterboxing – a judgment call
At this point I want to mention your friend the upscale. While most people won't even consider upscaling video, when converting PAL to NTSC it's really a different story.
If your PAL source is anamorphic or full frame you'll be doing a straight up resize job. If your disc is letterboxed, seriously consider making your NTSC conversion anamorphic.
A PAL letterboxed movie at a 1.77:1 aspect ratio has 432 lines of resolution.
Your option becomes making a letterboxed NTSC disc by shrinking the picture by 72 lines (17% less resolution), or upscaling to anamorphic by adding 48 lines (an 11% increase).
For further comparison, at 2.35:1 a PAL letterboxed movie has 324 lines, NTSC letterboxed is 270 lines (54 less lines). NTSC anamorphic is 360 lines (36 more).
To me that's a no brainer. PC upscaling is considered better than on-the-fly by hardware. You'll have higher detail, better widescreen television compatibility and little chance of artifacts from such a minor resizing. It's up to you, but I would never consider converting PAL letterbox to NTSC letterbox.
It's also not uncommon to find older PAL movies that were shot in 1.66:1. Yup, halfway between 4x3 and 16x9. When transferred to DVD they are commonly letterboxed to avoid black borders on 4 sides. Even less upscaling is necessary when converting these to anamorphic.
Part I - Ripping
0) If you have already ripped your DVD to VIDEO_TS format, you will need to build an ISO disc image to mount. ImgBurn is good for making the image. Slysoft's Virtual CloneDrive is recommended for mounting the image. It's also free (other virtual drivers may impact your real DVD drive's reading and writing speed/quality.) http://www.slysoft.com/en/virtual-clonedrive.html
Now is also a good time to wash your movie through DVD Shrink.
DO NOT(!) use any compression or blank any video. DVD Shrink should only be used to remove any audio or subtitle tracks you don't want.
For example, if you have two audio tracks, the first is French 5.1 and the second English 2.0, and you don't strip the French track, when rebuilding you will need something for stream 1. Otherwise the default track and/or language menu may not work correctly. English would be associated with your French button and your English button may not work. DVD Shrink removes and remaps audio and subpicture streams correctly without making a mess
DVDShrink also lets you output to an ISO image you can mount to work with.
Another important warning is that DVDShrink by default removes the layer break and P-UOPs. Depending on your preferences you may want to disable those preferences, especially if you plan to make a DVD9 and want the layer break to be in the same location. (These options are located under Edit (Menu)/Preferences/Output Files (Tab)).
Note: If your hard drive is format with an older filing system like FAT16 or FAT32, size limitations will prevent you from continuing. Your working drive must be NTFS or higher.
1) Start PgcDemux. Click the first 'Browse' button and select VTS_01_0.ifo on your source (or the first title set you will be converting).
Each title set can contain one or many PGC's (program chains). Think of it as 2 video's just stuck together. They need to be separated for conversion.
In my example, I previewed VTS1 in a media player and see that it's only a copyright warning. While I could convert it, it's just easier not to, and will save a little space on the final disc. You could convert it if you want.
VTS2 on the other hand has the movie in PGC #01 and the trailer in PGC #02.
You may also find trailers, and a myriad of other extras. You will need to rip every individual PGC from every VTS that you want to keep.
Menus are dealt with separately so don’t worry about text production notes, still galleries or actor’s filmographies right now (unless they are actually video in a title set/pgc and not part of the menu).
2) Once you have a good idea what the layout of your disc is, create folders in your working directory so you can keep everything sorted.
So in my example I need the following empty folders:
Make sure the 'Mode' is 'by PGC' and 'PGC Selection'/'Domain' is set to "Titles".
Select the first PGC in the title set from the drop down box.
Click the 'Browse' button and select the folder that corresponds to your input video.
In my example I've selected VTS2's PGC #01. So my output folder is:
3) Click the "Check A/V delay" button.
You will get a pop-up window that shows the Audio delay for each of the audio tracks in that program chain.
If any say something besides "None", get a pen and write down which track and what the delay is. We will need those numbers later.
4) Under 'Options' check all the boxes except "Include end time" and "Create a PGC VOB".
5) Click "Process" and wait until you get confirmation that it's done.
6) At this point, if any of your audio had a delay value shown in PgcDemux, you should rename the file.
Rename the files adding Delay ?ms at the end.
So if your first audio stream has a -8ms delay, rename like this:
AudioFile_80.ac3 => AudioFile_80 Delay -8ms.ac3
Be aware delays can be positive or negative. Always add the minus sign if it is negative.
7) Repeat for all VTSs and PGCs.
Note 1: If you notice any title sets that are 0 length (and you've checked and made sure they're blank), ignore them and blank them later.
Note 2: You may find DVDs with more complicated PGC structures that share content. This can happen with trailers, deleted scenes (with a play all button), or similar type extras.
This sort of structure may have a large PGC1 that contains all the content with each clip also in a separate cell. Consecutive PGCs (2, 3, etc.) would have one cell each (shared with PGC1).
In this case you don’t need to rip each PGC, only the one that contains all of the content (longest run time).
Sometimes you will find a titleset that has a PGC that calls a chapter from the movie (like for a karaoke extra). This works the same as above, it should self-repair when you replace the movie, so you don't have to do anything with it.
This post has been edited.