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DR DVD - JANUARY

 

COPY

 

AILMENT OF THE MONTH

 

WAYWARD WHARFEDALE

I read the letter from Mark Steel in the October issue of What DVD saying that he was having problems watching Jaws SE on his Wharfedale DVD-750. I also have this DVD player and have had no problems playing Jaws, but I am having trouble playing Mission to Mars (R1).

 

I ordered the DVD from the Internet and when it arrived it went straight into the player, everything went smoothly and I sat happily watching the trailer and  ‘The making of… Later in the day, when I returned to watch the full movie I was shocked to find that nothing was happening. The FBI warning appears, followed by the Touchstone logo, then a black screen. The player seems to move to title 8 then stop. What puzzles me is that it worked first time, but nothing since.

S. Taylor, via email

 

I find that strange as well. The only thing I can suggest is to reset the player to factory default, make sure it’s working properly on an R2 disc then retry the all region hack again. There are actually two for this model, depending which batch it comes from. The early batch reset is as follows: from the remote open the disc tray then press Zoom > Up > Left > Down > Right, in that order, the tray closes and the player is reset to R2. On more recent models open the disc tray, as before, and press Slow > Prev > Next, the tray closes and its done. To enable multi region playback on early models open the disc tray from the remote then press: Zoom > A-B > Up > Left > Down > Right and ‘Region Free’ appears on the TV screen. You can also set the player to a specific region thus: open disc tray, press 1 > 1 > 1> 1 then the Region number you want to set it to and this will flash up on the screen. For later models the all-region hack is: open tray, Step > Prev > Next and ‘Region Free’ flashes on the screen, to set it to a particular region it’s tray open 0 > 7 > 5 > 0 followed by the Region number.

 

REGULAR QUERIES

 

SUSPECT SAM

After reading your October issue my husband and I decided to purchase a multi-region DVD player from one of your advertisers. The machine a Samsung 709 had an error code that kept appearing on the display and it would not play any DVDs. It was sent back to the shop they couldn’t find anything wrong with it so it was sent back again to us. The long and short of this story is that we no longer have a DVD player. I read a letter sent to you about the Alba 103 not playing all regions. This is an attractively priced player and we were thinking about purchasing one, but we have to rule it out now since we want a region free player without the hassle. Any suggestions?

Julie Amos, via email

 

The absolute cheapest handset hackable all region player that I’m aware of is the Cyber Home AD-N212, which can be found selling for as little as £130 from the likes of WHSmith and online at www.jungle.com. The unlock code for this machine is: tray open, 7 > 6 > Select, choose 13 on the on-screen display for multi-region then press Setup, switch off then on again. This machine is very basic, but AV performance is okay and at that price who’s quibbling? Some other recent players with loose region locks you might want to consider are the Bush DVD-2004 at £199 (this one plays MP3 tracks and has a couple of cheesy video games built in) and the Manhattan DVD-2000, also £200 and also with MP3 playback on CD-R/RW discs.

 

HARDWARE HEAVEN?

I have used your letters page, features and reviews to great effect with regard to choosing and subsequently purchasing DVD's etc. I am about to take the next evolutionary stage to home cinema nirvana, that being the purchase of an AV Amplifier/Receiver and surround sound speakers. Due to the size of the room and their size and looks I have decided on the Sony SA-VE705 speaker system. However on the choice of amplifiers I have finally rounded it down to a choice of the Sony System TAE/TA-N9000ES amplifier and pre amplifier, or the Denon AVC-A10SE or AVC-AID, as these are within my budgeted price range.

 

As this will entail a large outlay on my part, please could you briefly advise me on the relevant merits of each system and which system you would advise?

P. Jeremy, Penygraig, Wales

 

Since I do not share your ears or sensibilities and you have given me no idea about the size, layout and contents of your living room so I can’t make any specific recommendations. What I can tell you is that there’s some very impressive kit on your shortlist that really deserves to be heard through top-quality home cinema speakers. The Sony SA-V705 package certainly looks spectacular but it has received some very mixed reviews and I’m wondering if they’re really the best things to partner those amps?  I suggest you let your ears decide. Get along to your nearest AV dealer with demo facilities – travel if you have to, you are spending a bundle -- use their expertise and actually listen to some equipment!

 

BLACK ARTS

I've just bought MiB Limited Edition. First may I say what a fantastic disc it is by far the most special features on any release so far and exactly what DVD should be like.  However the double-sided main disc says 'widescreen' for side A and 'full screen' for side B. Now this works fine on my computer - as advertised, side A plays a letterbox widescreen and side B fills the whole screen at 4:3.  However, my Sony DVP-S725 (played on a Sony Wega 32-inch widescreen TV) outputs exactly the same 4:3 picture whichever side of the disc I play. I've tried checking the DVD setup menu for the player, but the output is set correctly at 16:9 with RGB output through a SCART lead.  Is there a problem with the disc?  I don't have problems with any other DVDs I've bought to date (around 15 others which all display a widescreen picture fine - some even a slight letterbox effect on my 16:9 TV in order to give Cinemascope).

 

The other big problem is with the (lack of) Dolby Digital sound. I have a Yamaha RX-V795 receiver, which switches automatically between Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro-Logic depending on what input it receives from the DVD player (I use the coaxial digital output from the DVD player and the decoder in the amp). When I start playing the film, it starts with a short trailer for Dolby Digital, with the amp in the correct mode. However as soon as this ends and the Columbia Pictures logo appears, the amp switches to Pro-Logic and then remains on this throughout the film - a bit of a con as the packaging says Dolby Digital and specifically mentions that the picture and sound are 'digitally remastered. Then there's the aforementioned trailer at the start of the film...

   

Is this just the way the disc has been released or have I got something fundamentally wrong in the setup of my system? It seriously spoils what otherwise would be the best R2 release to date. Strange that I can get widescreen on my computer but not on my widescreen TV.

Colin Duncan, via email

 

Most peculiar! As far as I’m aware there are no particular problems with this disc, at least nothing that would explain the symptoms that you describe. That means you’ve either got a faulty copy or there’s something amiss with your system. I’m inclined towards the first possibility since, as you say, your DVD player and amp work fine with other discs. The simplest way to find out is take MiB back to the shop and get them to swap it. If the problem persists please get back in touch, in the meantime I’ll do some digging around on the net and see if anyone else has had problems with this combination of kit. 

 

OPEN AND SHUT CASE

I have recently bought a brand new Samsung 909 DVD player. My problem is with the Open Close and Stop buttons. They both work when I press them on the remote control but the buttons don't work when I press them on the player. I have tried contacting Samsung to see if they could help but its helpline number has always been busy and when I did get through to the customer service man I was cut off. So much for their customer service, Adam Salem Harrow, Middx

This sounds like a problem with the front panel controls, it’s an unusual sort of fault but not unknown. If so there’s nothing you can (or should) do about it, as this will be a lid-off, poke around inside type of job. Since the player is new and still under guarantee there is no point wasting money on phone calls to customer service departments, it’s the responsibility of the shop or dealer you bought it from, so take it back and get them to sort it out. 

 

WHARF MOD II

Please can you tell me how to 'modify' my Wharfedale DVD-750 so that it will play my zone 1 DVDs bought in the States.

Andy Collings, via email

Not to be confused with the more recent DVD-750S of course (see also Ailment of the Month), the all-region hack for the original DVD-750 is as follows: open disc tray from remote then press 0 > 1 > 2 > 3 > Play. To get it back to Region 2 playback the trick is: tray open, Zoom > Return, the player goes into standby, when you press the Power button it’ll be R2 only.

 

BONUS RIP-OFF?

With your great wisdom and knowledge could you please put my curiosity to rest and riddle me this. Why do some DVD's have an abundance of extra features while others have ... er none actually. As far as I can surmise movies that are destined to sell by the bucket load are redundant of extra features because film companies can sit back safe in the knowledge that they'll be raking in the cash regardless of whether they put hours of effort into it or not. This theory however is flawed because Jaws and The Mummy have loads of features. My argument was perhaps some smaller companies simply can't afford to take the time out to produce lots of luxurious extras, hmmm, no that doesn't work either Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Blair Witch Project, a large collection of low budget horror flicks that spent time and effort into creating those tasty extras.

 

As a true film fan the extra features option was probably the biggest attraction behind upgrading from the standard VHS but there appear to be a lot of titles released without this bonus material. The sly blighters seem content with listing scene access and multi lingual subtitles as extras for the DVD amateurs who don't know any better, which is a bit crafty. Surely a film company's primary objective is to shift as many units as possible so it must be in their best interests to give the consumer what they want. After all how expensive or time consuming can it really be to slap a few deleted scenes on a DVD? Oh, and while we're on the subject theatrical trailers are hardly worthy of valuable disc space. So if you would be so kind could you enlighten us poor technology dunces as to what is going on?

Jack Anderson, Bexleyheath, Kent

 

Great wisdom and knowledge eh, I like that and you deserve an answer! Sadly I’m not the one to give it to you but I’ll share my thoughts with you on the matter. Basically I agree; one of the key features of the DVD format is the spare capacity and interactive facilities. I have followed the format’s development and progress from the first speculative technical discussions in the early 1990s and from then until now the movie companies have always been very enthusiastic about the idea.

 

I have to say that I’m a little disappointed and surprised by the number of discs with little or no bonus material. However, since there’s no requirement for software companies to make use of these facilities there’s not much we can do about it, except vote with our wallets. For our part we’ll tell you what we think about a disc’s extra features, or lack of them. What is clear, though, is that the extras are a real selling point and when it’s done well, like Men in Black etc., there’s little doubt it generates extra sales and software companies are mad to ignore its potential and like you I know a lot of people that have been persuaded to buy a DVD player and copies of their favourite movies simply on the strength of bonus material.

 

BOX COPY – IN FOCUS

When CD was first launched it was touted as being virtually indestructible. No-one makes such rash claims any more; as we know CDs are easily damaged by scratches and they skip and pop if the surface of the disc is dirty. Given that DVDs contain even more digital data packed into even finer tracks does it follow that they are more susceptible to scratches and grubby fingers? 

 

The surprising answer is no, the error correction systems used by DVD are around ten times more efficient than those used on audio CD players and whilst a scratch or finger mark will cause a significant loss of data, you probably won’t see it or hear it. The MPEG 2 system is very efficient at masking faults in the picture, and it helps that most of us are not very good at spotting them in the first place. We’re remarkably forgiving and although we might sometimes notice a brief picture artefact or blocky patch of colour. Usually it barely registers, is quickly forgotten and our attention returns to the movie. We find picture faults far less irritating than a pop or click on the soundtrack. It also helps that the data on DVDs is heavily compressed and a lot of information, that we wouldn’t normally see or hear has already been removed from the recording.

 

Lots of large or deep scratches can still make a disc unplayable but there are a number of disc salvage and repair products on the market, originally produced for CDs but they usually work on DVDs as well. If you’ve got a damaged disc, and you can’t get it replaced they’re definitely worth trying. However, it is better to avoid problems in the first place, so always return a disc to its protective case when you finished with it, and make sure they’re properly stored, upright and well away from extremes of heat and humidity.

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2000, 1711

 

 


 

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