The reduction of a continuous-time signal to a discrete-time signal.

In signal processing, sampling is the reduction of a continuous-time signal to a discrete-time signal. A common example is a conversion of a sound wave (a continuous signal) to a sequence of samples (a discrete-time signal).

A sample is a value or set of values at a point in time and/or space. A sampler is a subsystem or operation that extracts samples from a continuous signal. A theoretical ideal sampler produces samples equivalent to the instantaneous value of the continuous signal at the desired points.

The original signal is retrievable from a sequence of samples, up to the Nyquist limit, bypassing the sequence of samples through a type of low pass filter called a reconstruction filter.

Standard-definition television (SDTV) uses either 720 by 480 pixels (US NTSC 525-line) or 720 by 576 pixels (UK PAL 625-line) for the visible picture area.

High-definition television (HDTV) uses 720p (progressive), 1080i (interlaced), and 1080p (progressive, also known as Full-HD).

In digital video, the temporal sampling rate is defined as the frame rate – or rather the field rate – rather than the notional pixel clock. The image sampling frequency is the repetition rate of the sensor integration period. Since the integration period may be significantly shorter than the time between repetitions, the sampling frequency can be different from the inverse of the sample time:

  • 50 Hz – PAL video
  • 60 / 1.001 Hz ~= 59.94 Hz – NTSC video

Video digital-to-analog converters operate in the megahertz range (from ~3 MHz for low-quality composite video scalers in early games consoles to 250 MHz or more for the highest-resolution VGA output).

When the analog video is converted to digital video, a different sampling process occurs, this time at the pixel frequency, corresponding to a spatial sampling rate along scan lines. A common pixel sampling rate is:

  • 13.5 MHz – CCIR 601, D1 video

Spatial sampling in the other direction is determined by the spacing of scan lines in the raster. The sampling rates and resolutions in both spatial directions can be measured in units of lines per picture height.

Spatial aliasing of high-frequency luma or chroma video components shows up as a moiré pattern.

Adapted from content published on
Last modified on March 21, 2020, 7:25 am is a service provided by Codecide, a company located in Chicago, IL USA.