Navigating Video Formats and Signals

Posted on: January 19, 2021 Category: See What You've Been Missing Blog

By: Gary Manske – Executive Director, Sales & Marketing

If you’ve done some research into video cameras, you may have seen the acronyms NTSC, PAL, CVBS and AHD thrown around. But what are they, and why do they matter when choosing a camera system? We’ll dig in.

Ford vs Chevy (NTSC vs. PAL Video Formats)

Let’s look at NTSC and PAL first. NTSC and PAL are video formats. You can think of video formats as the storage container that holds all the video data. So why are there two types? Really, it comes down to how the electrical system was designed between different countries.

  1. NTSC stands for “National Television Standards Committee.” This format is primarily used in the Western Hemisphere, with a few exceptions, as well as a few Asian countries such as Korea and Japan where electrical power is generated at 60 Hz.
  2. PAL stands for “Phase Alternative Line.” The PAL format is primarily used in Europe, parts of Africa and China, where electrical power is generated at 50 Hz.

Why do these distinctions between NTSC and PAL matter? You must match apples to apples. If you’ve got an NTSC camera, then you’ll need to make sure your monitor accepts NTSC format, and vice versa.

Note: While NTSC and PAL originated in different countries based upon power requirements, today it’s more a discussion of brand preference like Ford vs. Chevy.

Real Clear Video (CVBS vs. AHD)

Similarly, analog video signals found in most of today’s operator camera systems are like comparing an older tube TV image to that of a newer flat-screen TV. The older image isn’t as clear and crisp; the newer TV image has a higher resolution and thus produces a higher-quality image. The older TV image is analogous to CVBS, whereas the clearer images on a newer TV are akin to AHD.

  1. CVBS refers to “standard analog” and stands for “Composite Video Blanking System.” CVBS allows for 480i resolution.
  2. AHD is a type of high definition and stands for “Analog High Definition.” This is newer and offers higher-resolution imaging of 720p.

Two monitors side-by-side, the left one featuring an image with CVBS camera and the right on with AHD camera

The difference between the two is in resolution, or picture clarity. This becomes important when considering the size of viewing device and clarity of picture required. The larger your viewing device, the more noticeable a change in picture quality between CVBS and AHD.

The Takeaways

Dakota Micro Caters to Both

Dakota Micro monitors accept either NTSC or PAL format to cater to customers needing either format.

Additionally, Dakota Micro’s AgCam™, EnduraCam™ and RazerCam™ cameras are offered with either CVBS or AHD video signal capabilities. While AHD offers best clarity, CVBS is still offered to retrofit with existing monitors that are only CVBS capable.

Apples to Apples

Dakota Micro monitors can accept any of these formats; however, all cameras on the system need to be matched. With this background, when selecting cameras and monitors for agricultural or construction equipment, for example, it is important to note which format and signal the monitor being used can support. If you’ve got a tractor with a third-party CVBS NTSC monitor, then you’ll want to make sure you get a CVBS NTSC camera(s), otherwise, your image won’t appear on the screen.

Helpful Third-Party Guide

Dakota Micro’s cameras can be used with a vast majority of third-party monitors used by equipment manufacturers. The Monitor Input Guide provides guidance on which formats and signals are acceptable with each monitor, and also indicates the appropriate adapter cable to be used when using Dakota Micro cameras in these camera- ready systems.


If you have any questions, never hesitate to contact us. We pride ourselves on manufacturing great products but also providing outstanding support and being available for our dealers and customers.