Standard-definition television (SDTV, SD, often shortened to standard definition) is a television system that uses a resolution that is not considered to be an either high or enhanced definition. SDTV and high-definition television (HDTV) are the two categories of display formats for digital television (DTV) transmissions. "Standard" refers to the fact that it was the prevailing specification for broadcast (and later, cable) television in the mid- to late-20th century.
The two common SDTV signal types are 576i, with 576 interlaced lines of resolution, derived from the European-developed PAL and SECAM systems, and 480i based on the American NTSC system. Common SDTV refresh rates are 25, 29.97, and 30 frames per second. Both systems use a 4:3 aspect ratio.
Standards that support digital SDTV broadcast include DVB, ATSC, and ISDB. The last two were originally developed for HDTV, but are also used for their ability to deliver multiple SD video and audio streams via multiplexing. In North America, digital SDTV is broadcast in the same 4:3 aspect ratio as NTSC signals, with widescreen content often being center cut. However, the aspect ratio of widescreen content may be preserved in a 4:3 frame through letterboxing. In other parts of the world that used the PAL or SECAM color systems, digital standard-definition television is now usually shown with a 16:9 aspect ratio, with the transition occurring between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s depending on the region. Older programs with a 4:3 aspect ratio are broadcast with a flag that switches the display to 4:3.
Digital SDTV eliminates the ghosting and noisy images associated with analog systems. However, if the reception has interference or is poor, where the error correction cannot compensate one will encounter various other artifacts such as image freezing, stuttering, or dropouts from missing intra-frames or blockiness from missing macroblocks.