How to enjoy media in any region
Video tips for travellers and expats
Cheap airfares and the so-called "global economy" have got us all travelling internationally like never before, both for business and pleasure.
And whatever the purpose of one's trip, two great joys for the traveller are eating and shopping in foreign places. Most of us eagerly bring home merchandise not available locally. As for me, I often bring back inexpensive items like books and music CDs, both of which travel well. So it's a real pity that DVDs and video cassettes have remained so stubbornly provincial - so much the products of place that they are useless in other regions.
If you travel frequently and shop often for media, you will soon end up with a mixed collection: that is, DVDs involving various video formats and regions, and VHS cassettes in various video formats, all differentiated according to place.
For example, perhaps you travel often to France and want to buy DVDs and cassettes there because you like to watch French movies without subtitles. Or perhaps you travel often to Japan, knowing that much Japanese entertainment is hard to locate at home, and are tempted to buy media during your trip. Depending on where you live, you might have two different obstacles to viewing the movies or TV shows on your television back at home: varying video formats, and DVD region encoding.
First, let's consider the obstacle of video formats: there are three, called PAL, NTSC, and SECAM. These are three different schemes for generating and interpreting the video signals that your TV receives, and they are used variously in different parts of the world. It wasn't a problem in the days when virtually all TV content was broadcast; there was no reason why a television in Mexico should be compatible with a signal broadcast in Switzerland. Nowadays, of course, with so much content available on portable media, format incompatibility is a major irritant.
Unfortunately, there is no standard video format for media, as there really ought to be. Media and equipment both remain unnecessarily xenophobic - a real vestige of the past. If your British television is designed to receive one type of signal (PAL), it will not display French video that was formatted in another (SECAM).
So unless your VCR or DVD player is designed to accept and deliver both types of signal - the type that the media is coded in, and the type that your TV expects to receive - the output will not display correctly. Here is a handy table of video formats by country.
Either you must stick with media, media players, and TVs that are all designed for the same video format and region (and forget about buying media that is not formatted appropriately), or you must obtain multi-format equipment. But how expensive is that going to be, you ask?
Well, it depends. The cheapest solution is to buy a multi-format DVD player, VCR, or combo unit. The multi-format player can read media in one format, and deliver it in the format your TV requires. The good news is that most European DVD players and VHS boxes of recent manufacture can handle at least NTSC and PAL. Typically, SECAM is not a popular option outside France and former French colonies, so if you're buying media in France for viewing elsewhere, you might have to search more diligently for a suitable player, and you will probably pay more for it. But remember, buying even a high-end player is still a lot cheaper than replacing your television.
That's how I approached the problem, anyway. I used to live in the USA, and I've got an assortment of Region 1 DVDs and VHS tapes that I recorded off air. They are all formatted via NTSC, which is standard throughout much of the Americas. Here in Ireland, televisions expect to receive a PAL-formatted signal, which is standard throughout much of Europe. So I needed a device to accept the NTSC signal and provide PAL output.
Region Coding is Racism
As has been said before, region coding feeds piracy by encouraging otherwise honest people to modify their equipment or rip and modify their media at which time they usually also gain the ability to copy the material as well. I work in a mixed US/UK environment and I would never have dreamed of tampering with my player if the only thing it did was to enable copying. To be able to play more than half our DVD library, however, made it worth the trouble. Don't get me started on PUOs either...
I consider region coding to be a form of racism which really has no place in a civilised society in the Internet age (I'll call it "geographical racism" unless somebody has a better term.) If I opened a store that sold DVDs and put up a big sign that said "DVDs - American Customers £9.99, Europeans £17.99, Africans and Asians come back in 6 months" I am sure I would end up in court being prosecuted on some racial discrimination charge (assuming the public hadn't lynched me before hand.) This is however exactly what the media companies are allowed to do. In fact, not only is this racism legal it is enshrined in law. This probably isn't surprising considering that my government makes no sales tax if I buy something in another country and bring it home and that my ability to do so dilutes their power to "protect" me from things they haven't censored/classified as fit for me, even though the American government thinks them fit for their citizens.
The world is growing up. People are travelling more and want to be able to buy things legitimately and watch them wherever they are. It's about time the politicians we elected and the MPAA realised that.
As for the argument that piracy funds organised crime and that I should be horrified with what may be done with the money if I buy a pirate title, I am horrified about what is done with my money when I buy a legitimate one; This money is being used to buy laws, distort democracy, impede innovation and sue 12 year old girls. I am funding a propaganda machine against my own interests.
Just my 22p...
I have my solution to this multi-format / multi-region crap.. www.oppodigital.com
I am in no way associated with them...
I just have two of their DVD players.. both excellent.. DV971H and DV981HD.. just search for all region service code on the web.. type it in. and you are all set.
Might be a little bit pricey for a DVD player.. but you also get decent DVD-Audio and SACD player (981HD only). Both have built in Faroudja chipset for upscaling to 1080i (DV971H) / 1080p (DV981HD) and by typing the simple service code you can set this player to region 0 and it will play any region.. and it can also convert the output signal to NTSC or PAL... does not matter.. and the video output is just plain excellent. It does NTSC 3:2 pull down and PAL 2:2 pull down.. so no hickups/interlacing lines on upscaled video...
Since I got this player I never looked back.. It plays everything.. and it also supports 100-240V 50/60Hz... so it will work anywhere.
and their tech support is just excellent..
Sorry for this "sales pitch" but I just love these players...
Re: I dont believe this..
In reply to Graham Lockley's advice to "Rip, Re-encode and Burn", there are two points here:
1) Technically that is illegal in most of Europe, while modifying a player to ignore such restrictions as region encoding UOP is not.
2) I would like such a 'useful' stand alone DVD player for my parents, who are not "tech savvy" and unwilling to do that sort of thing for every disk they are irritated by.
So anyone who knows of a supplier, please post a reply.