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Need a Multi-System Video Device for Your Home Theater?

Designing your home theater requires thought and consideration. When you're choosing home theater video equipment, you should seriously consider splurging a little to get a multi-system LCD or plasma television and DVD to expand your viewing options. Before you understand the benefits of a multi-system video device, you need to understand the various video standards and broadcasting standards in use around the world.

NTSC Standard

If you live in the U.S., you probably view most of your video in NTSC, which is the technology standard used throughout the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and several South and Central American countries. NTSC delivers audio and video via a composite video signal. It uses a 60 Hz refresh rate, and consists of 525 lines per frame. Televisions using NTSC video can only show videos, DVDS and broadcast programs encoded for NTSC.


PAL is a color encoding system used for broadcast television in the UK, some European countries, China, Indonesia, India, some countries in South America and most of Africa and the Middle East. It runs on a 50 Hz refresh rate and uses 625 alternating line to create the video images. Just as televisions using NTSC can only show video encoded under that standard, televisions and video devices using PAL can only show video encoded under one of the eight PAL encoding types.

SECAM Encoding

France and a few other European countries use SECAM technology. While it also uses the 50 Hz refresh rate and 625 lines at 25 frames per second, the PAL signal must be transformed to SECAM before it can be viewed on a SECAM television.

Just as there are incompatibilities among the various countries in electrical standards, so there are incompatibilities in video standards. Those incompatibilities mean that a video recorded using NTSC encoding can only be viewed on a television that can interpret NTSC encoding, one made using PAL can only be played on a device that can interpret PAL and so on. If you purchase a television that is only capable of displaying video in one of those standards, you'll be limiting your video and movie choices to those recorded in that standard.

The solution is in multi-system technology. With the prices of plasma TVs and LCD TVs dropping precipitously over the past few years, even multi-system TVs have come down in price to be quite affordable for the home theater. Multi-system TVs, DVDs and VCRs can play tapes, DVDs and programs in any of the major formats, which allows you to watch whatever you want, whenever you want it.

Region-Free DVD Players

The other piece of cinema equipment that you should absolutely have if you're setting up a home theater is a region free DVD player. Like VCRs and televisions, DVD players are designed to play video DVDs that use one of the major types of video and audio encoding. If you want to be able to watch a video that you bought while you were on vacation in China, you'll need a DVD player that can actually read and display the video for viewing. The best option for that is to buy a region free DVD player, which will read and play DVDs in any of the video encoding systems.

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