Television Standards

Video formats - availability by TV system

For a number of reasons, some of them historical and some of them technical, the main video formats aren't the same for each colour system. There are actually some very dramatic differences in both the availability and maximum running times between the main TV standards. A much more detailed table of video formats including the professional ones is also available - this also includes more technical information on each format. The table below summarises them:

Format Scan Lines Speed Max Playing
/Colour Time/Tape
VHS 525/NTSC SP 160 minutes/T-160
LP 320 minutes/T-160
EP 480 minutes/T-160
625/PAL SP 300 minutes/E-300
LP 600 minutes/E-300
625/SECAM SP 300 minutes/E-300
LP 600 minutes/E-300
Super VHS 525/NTSC SP 160 minutes/ST-160
EP 480 minutes/ST-160
625/PAL SP 240 minutes/SE-240
LP 480 minutes/SE-240
D-VHS 525/NTSC N/A Varies
DVC 525/NTSC miniDV 60 minutes
DVC 180 minutes
625/PAL miniDV 60 minutes
DVC 180 minutes
Video 8 525/NTSC SP 120 minutes/P6-120
LP 240 minutes/P6-120
625/PAL SP 90 minutes/P5-90
LP 180 minutes/P5-90
625/SECAM SP 90 minutes/P5-90
LP 180 minutes/P5-90
Hi-8 525/NTSC SP 120 minutes/P6-120ME
LP 240 minutes/P6-120ME
625/PAL SP 90 minutes/P5-90ME
LP 180 minutes/P5-90ME
LaserDisc 525/NTSC CAV 30 minutes per side
CLV 60 minutes per side
625/PAL CAV 37 minutes per side
CLV 72 minutes per side
DVD 525/NTSC Single Layer Varies (4.7GB)
Dual Layer Varies (8.6GB)
625/NTSC Single Layer Varies (4.7GB)
Dual Layer Varies (8.6GB)


SECAM SuperVHS, Hi-8 and Laserdisc are all recorded on tape/disc as PAL signals and are converted to SECAM on playback by those machines sold in SECAM markets.

Comparing video tape lengths

The differences between the running speed of VCRs of the same format in different colour systems has led to some very confusing naming of video tape lengths. Beta is unique in having named the tape after the length rather than its running time thus making it free of the problems that plague other formats. In the table below is a comparison between actual lengths of some of the standard tape types.

Name TV system Actual Length Running time
Own System Other System
ST/T-120 NTSC/525 250 metres 120 minutes 175 minutes
SE/E-180 PAL/625 258 metres 180 minutes 126 minutes
Hi-8/Video 8
P6-120 NTSC/525 112 metres 120 minutes 90 minutes
P5-90 PAL/625 112 metres 90 minutes 120 minutes

Additional TV systems used solely for video

In addition to the basic TV systems, there are a number of additional hybrid formats which are to be found only in video equipment. These are usually a hybrid signal used to provide compatibility with video material of another TV format without a complete translation. Many of these signals are not symmetric in that they cannot be recorded by video recorders that can play them.

Name Frame/Field Scan Colour Sub-carrier
Rate Lines Systems Frequency
NTSC 4.43 29.97/59.94 525 NTSC 4.43MHz
Pseudo-PAL 29.97/59.94 525 PAL 4.43MHz
Pseudo-NTSC 25/50 625 NTSC 3.58MHz




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