How to enjoy media in any region
Video tips for travellers and expats
The solution for me was to spend a little extra on a DVD/VCR combo box that can read NTSC and PAL signals, and deliver the one that I choose. It's an exceptionally compact unit that also can run on any electrical current from 110 to 220 volts, so I can conveniently pack it along with, say, 10 of my favourite DVDs when I travel (business travellers will appreciate the savings in hotel porn that this represents, and the ease of concealing one's indulgences from those who examine their expense forms).
Have TV, will travel
Of course, this does not address the quite different problem of relocating from one video-format region to another and having a TV that's incompatible with the new broadcast and cable signal. This was not an issue for me personally, because I had an older CRT television that wasn't worth the cost of shipping (I moved overseas, not simply from, say, Germany to France, so the shipping cost would have been very high). But that's not going to be the case for everyone. So, can you solve the problem of keeping your old TV and using the broadcast or cable signal in a new region?
Yes, but it's not always going to be easy or cheap. The limitation of relying on a media player for multi-format compatibility is this: unless the player can also be used as a multi-format tuner, your TV might not accept broadcast and cable signals after you move. And it also might not be able to run on the local electrical current when you ship it across a national frontier.
Fortunately, it's possible to get multi-format, multi-voltage televisions, and this is well worth investigating if you plan to buy an expensive TV soon, but might also move internationally in the near future. If you're going to shell out $2,000 to $4,000 on a high-end widescreen unit that might last five years or more, it's a pity to sell it for pennies on the dollar a year later. In that case, you should look for a multi-format TV that can deal with the broadcast and cable signals in your current, and future, locations.
The multi-voltage option is also well worth considering. Because a TV draws a lot of power when it's switched on, you can't use an el-cheapo $25 plug-in voltage converter. You would need a heavy duty one, possibly costing in the neighbourhood of $200 or more. However, if you buy a multi-voltage TV, all you will ever need is a $2 plug adapter. Here is a handy table of voltage standards by country.
As so often happens these days, there's good news for Europeans here, and bad news for Americans. Multi-format, multi-voltage media players and televisions are widely available throughout Europe, if you know enough to look for them. But in the USA, such units are exotic, and unfortunately priced accordingly. It's virtually impossible to buy a multi-format, multi-voltage media player or television in the USA from any mainstream retailer. So this means going to specialty electronics shops where prices are typically exorbitant.
There are several online retailers that you can check out, such as DVDoverseas, 220 Electronics, World Import, Alldual, and Region Free DVD (I haven't shopped at any of them, so this is by no means an endorsement).