WHAT DVD 2001

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DR DVD -- APRIL

 

A QUESTION OF STANDARDS

I know that Region 2 uses the PAL system and Region 1 uses NTSC, and that Region 2 is of a slightly higher quality/definition as it is made up of more lines on screen. What I'm not entirely sure about is does this affect the make-up of the discs at all, or just the televisions?

Basically what I'm getting at is, if for example, you have a Region 1 and a
Region 2 Disc which have the same extras (a rare thing I know, but Gladiator for example), is the Region 2 disc going to be of a better quality and therefore make sense to purchase that, or does it make no difference, and is solely dependent on the system we use and not the DVD disc at all?
Aquil Khan, via email

 

It is not true to say that all Region 2 discs are PAL and Region one NTSC, one obvious exception is Japan, which is Region 2, but uses the NTSC colour television system. All other things being equal there is a small but just about noticeable difference between a PAL and NTSC picture. In addition to the 15% or so extra picture lines, which increase the amount of visible detail in the image, the PAL system has superior colour processing performance, colours look more natural with more subtle graduations. The downside to PAL is a slightly slower frame rate (NTSC is 60Hz, PAL is 50Hz), which for some people produces an annoying screen flicker.

 

The information on a DVD is in the form of digital data and the way it is laid out and organised is the same on all DVDs, irrespective of region, however the picture information that the data represents is configured differently for PAL and NTSC recordings. The conversion of that digital data into an analogue PAL or NTSC video signal is carried out by the player's processing circuitry. There are three basic options as far as cross-format replay is concerned: most models can replay NTSC discs – provided they're Region-free or Region 2 -- and output a raw NTSC signal. Some players also convert NTSC colour information to PAL but they leave the number of picture lines and frame rate unchanged, which most recent TVs can handle. This partial conversion process is called PAL 60 and you will usually find it listed as an option in the player's setup menu. A few models can do a full NTSC to PAL conversion.

 

DVDs always look better when shown in their 'native' format – in other words the picture information undergoes a minimum of reprocessing --- so the ideal situation, from a picture quality point of view, is a multi-region player that can output raw NTSC and a dual/multi-standard TV or display device. 

 

PREACHING TO THE CONVERTED

I was worried to read the letter in Issue 22 or What DVD about Regional Code Enhancement. I have a Sony DVP-S325; it is also a multi-region player. Is it possible to get it converted to a Region 1 player only, and if so how bearing in mind I have had the player for a year? Is it definite that these discs will play if the player is converted? If the worst comes to the worst I may have to get an American player, would it play on the TV in this country and would I be able to adapt the plug? Will American companies who sell these discs on the Internet us if the disc
we purchase is RCE coded or not?
Nick Bolton, via email

 

RCE is a relatively new phenomenon, so far only a few discs have been released and information is still a bit sketchy. However, what we do know so far is that it works and players modified for all-region playback are the most likely to be affected. Players that can be switched to a single region playback via a 'remote' hack generally seem able to play these discs, but it appears that there may be one or two models where this trick doesn't work. As far as I'm aware all recent Sony players have rock solid region locks and have to be 'chipped' – i.e. physically modified – for all or user switchable/automatic region selection. There are several different 'hardware' hacks, however, most of the one's I'm aware of will be affected by RCE; the one's that allow manual or automatic region switching may not. All you can do is contact the company that carried out the work on your player and ask them, or wait and see…

 

Buying a US player is a bad idea. To begin with unless it's one of the very small handful of machines with a multi-voltage power supply you'll have to buy a step-down transformer, and your TV will have to be able to replay a raw NTSC signal. If it goes wrong you may have trouble getting it repaired, and if you buy it from the US, it's along way back to the shop…Companies selling R1 discs on the Internet have a fairly patchy record of flagging up the type of regional coding, in fact most of the one's I've looked at recently make no mention of it. If any readers can recommend UK-friendly sites that warn about RCE I'd like to know about them, and maybe give them a mention.

 

PASSING FAD?

Am I right in thinking that the Regional Coding Enhancement systems used by some studios may hopefully be a non-issue to the thousands of us using multi-region players? I have a Mico DVD-A980 player, which can be set to any region including region free. If as your response to the letter indicates all I need to do is change the regional settings from region free (region 13 on the Mico) to region 1 when playing U.S discs then all should be fine.

On another issue, I would like to buy a home cinema set up but I am unsure what the minimum features of any AV amp should be. My Mico has a built in Dolby Digital decoder so does this mean to make the most use of the facility the amp should also include a decoder or is it not necessary to duplicate a decoder facility for DVD playback. Would I need the amp decoder however if I wanted to feed TV broadcast audio in 5.1 through external speakers or are there simply to few programmes broadcast in 5.1 to warrant the extra cost?
Adam Barr, via email

 

RCE will become a non-issue simply because there are now more than enough Region 2 discs to satisfy most newcomers to DVD. It also helps that the gap between the US and UK release of new movies is now down to a just few weeks in a lot of cases. It is true that some players -- where the region is switchable -- can play current RCE coded discs, but don't get complacent! You can be fairly sure that the studios are working on even more effective systems for the future. Regional coding is a real pain for movie fans but I can't see it disappearing anytime soon. You have to look at the big picture. In addition to being a very useful marketing tool, giving the studios control over international distribution and release dates, it has several other important applications, including regionalising discs according to language and soundtrack, local censorship laws and TV systems.

 

You need an AV amp with at least 5, preferably six channels of amplification, however since many of them now incorporate Dolby Digital and sometimes dts decoders as well, some duplication may be inevitable. However, the cost of these decoders is negligible nowadays and having the decoders in the amp also cuts down on the wiring since you'll be able to use your player's coaxial or optical bitstream output.

 

FUZZY LOGIC

Any chance you can advise on how to get rid of a slight (but unacceptable)
fuzzy/distorted sound I get from audio CDs (through both the NICAM TV
and hi-fi speakers, when played on my Wharfedale 750. DVDs play fine, and I've tried all kinds of settings, and checked connections. The DVD player has a SCART lead into the TV and phono leads to the stereo hi-fi - an old but able NAD 3020 amp.
Brian Taylor, via email

 

Audio CD replay is not actually part of the DVD spec, though pretty well all machines do it. The trouble is unless the player is optimised for audio CDs – with a purpose designed laser pickup and processing circuitry -- the quality may not be up to much. This is often the case with budget models and I find that a lot of them have a slightly 'harsh', sound and are not very good at picking out fine detail. It may be just your player -- if it's still under warranty take it back -- but in the end I think that if you want half decent CD replay you need to set your sights a bit higher.

 

DON'T SAY IT…

I recently purchased a JMC DVD-3000, one of the cheapest players on the market. After owning it for just over a month I've encountered two problems with  "Jaws", when photo galleries is selected, the number 2 is shown next to title on the machine and the play symbol is continuously flashing; and "American Psycho", which would not play on my machine at all. I swapped Jaws and American Psycho was a rental disc and of seven people who borrowed the disk I was the only one who couldn't play it. Please don't just say you get what you pay for...
Paul Harrison, via email

 

Alright…

 

REGION TRAPP

I have a REC 3000 DVD Player which plays Region 2 DVDs with no problems and I have also played various Region 1 DVDs: Stuart Little, Scary Movie and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, which also played without any problems but for Christmas I bought my daughter The Sound of Music on Region 1. It will not play and shows the message 'This disc is not formatted to play in this region'. Surely if the machine has played some Region 1 DVDs it should play this one?

Rob Williams, via email

You would think so… None of our sources list The Sound of Music has having Region Code Enhancement, which would give the message that you describe. However we do know that several studios have been running discrete trials with RCE to assess its impact and it may be that you've got hold of one of those test discs. Your REC player is a bit of an obscure model. I believe it's made in China and that some models are based on Panasonic bits, others – including yours I suspect – are made using locally sourced parts. Unfortunately I can find no details about the region code firmware otherwise I would have suggested that you change it to Region 1, which may have overridden the problem. I do have one suggestion though, and that's to play an R1 disc, press Stop and insert Sound of Music. Apparently this trick works on some players with automatic region switching.

 

 

FLUFFY BUFFY

I just got the Buffy Series One box set. Unfortunately I can't watch it on my PC. A message pops up saying, that the PC Friendly software is not running.  It is obviously not on the DVD as I have changed them in the shop, but the message still pops up. My question now is, if you know of a Web page, from which I can download the program?
Sascha, via email

 

I haven't looked at the PC content on this DVD yet, nor am I in any particular hurry to do so as by all accounts it not that interesting, just a screen saver and some web links.  It should work though – there's nothing more to download, read the installation instructions again – however, the name 'PC Friendly' is a bit of a misnomer since quite a few people have reported problems with it. Don't forget that you'll need a DVD-ROM drive on your PC to access it.

 

CRACK CORNER

I've got a JVC XV-523, and was wondering if there is a hacking code that will allow it to play Region 1 DVDs? 

Nathan Dunstan, via emai

 

Do you know of a hack for my JVC SV-522 DVD player?

Fabian, via email

 

Have you got the Region code for the Sony DAV-S300? I got it just before
Christmas and have been trying to play the Region 6 version of Mission
Impossible 2 and Gone in 60 seconds.

Chris Hall, via email

 

Being an impatient S.O.B. I recently bought a Sony DAV-S300, which I have to say I am over the moon with. However, now that I have bought my home cinema kit and purchased every DVD title available that I was interested in, I find myself drooling over the ads for Region 1 discs. As my player is Region 2 compatible only, I was wondering (praying!) that there might be a code for "firmware switching" or "hacking". Can you advise if there is a code for the Sony DAV-S300, or am I going to have to wait ages for X-Men et al.
Jonathan Scarlett, via email

 

Can you tell me if I can modify my Sharp DV-620H player, as I want to purchase DVDs from the US?

Shaun Hawrth, Blackburn, Lancs

 

Sorry you lot, all of the above-mentioned players are hard coded and can only be unlocked by having them 'chipped'. Most hard upgrades will result in the player's guarantee being invalidated, however, you might like to have a look at the Excel Sprinter 'external' mod, which at least once company claims does not infringe the manufacturer's warranty. You can find more details at: http://www.upgradeheaven.co.uk/shop.htm

 

 

I have an American Pioneer Laser/DVD player- Pioneer DVL-700.  The problem is, is it possible to get it to play Region 2 disks?  I know this is the
reverse of what everybody else wants, but please help me.
Ted, via email

I've searched high and low for multi-region mod or hack for this machine but no luck. I've got a feeling that one exists somewhere but it seems to have vanished, if anyone has any information please let me know.

 

 

I own a Samsung DVD-709 could you please tell me if there is a hack code for it?
J. Newton, via email

 

We do have information on this player but I'll only tell you on the strict understanding that it's not guaranteed, nor do I or What DVD assume any responsibility for it if the player explodes… By the way, this hack also works on the Samsung 511:

Unload disc/re-boot player by holding down Play & Stop for 3 seconds/select language/press Repeat, 3, 8, 7, 6, 7 on handset/press 1 for R1 or 9 for auto-select/press open/close/press Standby

 

I have been advised by a friend to ask you how to remote-hack a Wharfedale DVD-750 player.

I. Khan, via email

 

There are two 'All Region' cracks for this mode, usual disclaimers apply:

On the 750 open tray/insert R1 disc/press 0,1,2,3 on remote/press play.

On the 750S open drawer/press Step > Previous > Next.

 

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2001, 0502

 


 

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