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I decided a year ago to stick to only Region 2 DVD's after reading the pros and cons of R1 vs R2. One difference I was unaware of until recently has made me question whether R2 is after all the best choice on technical grounds. The US and UK TV systems run at different frequencies and have different lines of resolution. As a result we benefit from a noticeably improved image quality and see a smoother picture. However our image rate (and audio) has to be speeded up. The US versions get around this and are exactly the same as the original movie - the reason why R1's Gladiator is 6 minutes longer than R2's.

I am debating whether our loss of audio fidelity, reduced running time (and fewer extras) is more important than the benefits in picture quality we enjoy. Can you please clear up this issue, as I don't know whether to replace my 30 R2 discs and chip my player before I buy any more discs e.g. Star Wars.

Matt Dunbar, Sale



Six of one and half a dozen of the other… When a movie (shot at 24 frames per second) is transferred to PAL DVD (and VHS tape) it is sped up by 4% to match the 25fps frame rate of PAL, which means you loose precisely 2 minutes and 24 seconds per hour and if uncorrected music and voices would be almost a halftone higher in pitch. In practice most people do not notice the increase in speed. Changes to the audio – also barely noticeable -- can (or should be) be corrected during the mastering process. Transferring a movie to NTSC, to match the 30 frames per second rate is much more complicated and entails juggling the times each frames of movie film is shown during the conversion process. There is also a small timing error, though since it only amounts to 3.6 seconds per hour it is of no consequence. However, the conversion does have a noticeable effect on pans and rapid movement, which can sometimes look quite jerky.


Personally I prefer PAL since as you say the picture is crisper and I'm usually more interested in watching the movie to worry about a few lost minutes, in fact I count it as a bonus on some films… I certainly wouldn't recommend that you replace 30 R2 movies on such a minor pretext, but there's no reason why you shouldn't get your player chipped or hacked if the movies you want to see are out first, or only available from the US.





I have converted my cellar into a home cinema and plan to install a front video projector, there's plenty of room for a screen up to 100-inches across and I've been looking around at what's on offer. As far as I can see there are two different types of projector but which one should I go for? Obviously price is a consideration, but I'm not averse to paying out if it means getting the best picture quality.

Henry Barrow, via email



In fact there are at least half a dozen video projector technologies but we'll confine ourselves to the three commonest systems, namely CRT, LCD and DMD. CRT has been around the longest, three high-intensity cathode ray tubes blast out red green and blue images, usually through separate lenses. Picture quality can be excellent but they're not as bright as other systems moreover they tend to be quite bulky, they need careful alignment and the tubes run very hot they have a limited life and can be expensive to replace. LCD projectors work like regular film projectors and light is shone through liquid crystal display elements, like those used on pocket TVs. There's one for each primary colour and the three images are combined using a prism and shone through a single lens. Quality can be very good, they're generally very reliable, reasonably compact and lightweight and capable of projecting very large images though avoid cheap single LCD models, as the image may look coarse, especially on larger screen sizes. The new kid on the block is DMD or digital micromirror device projectors. These use a microchip encrusted with thousands of microscopic mirrors, each representing one picture element or pixel. The mirrors can be individually tilted so a powerful beam of light shone onto the surface of the chip and focused through a series of lenses displays a bright sharp image. A colour image is usually generated by shining the light through a set of red, green and blue filters mounted on a spinning wheel, synchronised to the colour information fed to the chip. DMD pictures have a smooth 'filmic' quality that's well suited to DVD and movies. DMD projectors can be very efficient, small and lightweight – compared with LCD and CRT though currently they're fairly expensive and like LCDs, replacement bulbs can cost an arm and a leg.


Just to confuse matters there are a couple of new video projector technologies waiting in the wings, that could have a big impact on the market in the next few years, but for the moment CRT still rules the roost, as far as picture quality is concerned, but only on relatively modestly sized screens and 100-inches is pushing it. LCD gives you the biggest bangs for your bucks in terms of cost and screen size but for the best combination of picture quality and flexibility you should have a serious look at what DMD has to offer.




I buy many DVD's each year and I look after them well. But lately I have noticed faint surface scratches on my DVD's and I am starting to worry. How long is a DVD meant to last? I use everything available on the market to clean my DVD's (fluid etc). I was even considering buying a DVD-RW and copying my DVD's which would be extremely expensive, but in the end I thought I shouldn't have to do that as why pay out for the DVD and then have to back it up. Will these surface scratches affect the play of the DVD? I think for £20 they should last forever, especially my rare ones.

Andrew Stockton, via email


Nothing lasts forever, ask anyone with collection of Betamax or V2000 tapes or Laserdiscs and in ten years what will you play your VHS tapes on? The point is the software -- i.e. your DVDs – should comfortably outlive the hardware, which typically has a 25-year life cycle. In fact there is evidence to suggest that properly stored audio CDs and DVDs should last for at least 50 years. Light scratches and surface scuffing is not normally a problem as DVD players have very powerful error correction. You will notice it when the scratches are big or deep enough to cause a major loss of data, the picture will pixellate (break up into coloured blocks) and in more serious cases it may also skip, freeze or jump.


If discs are handled carefully scratching shouldn't occur. It is just possible that your player is responsible; it's worth checking the surface of the loading tray that comes into contact with the disc. I have also noticed that some cheapie players have poorly designed deck mechanisms and the disc is sometimes still spinning on the tray after it is ejected; this can't do the surface of the disc any good.


The copy protection systems on DVD recorders and PCs with DVD burners will prevent you from 'backing up' your discs but in any case this would be an extremely expensive business and blank DVDs currently cost more than most movies moreover the dust has yet to settle over the different recordable DVD formats.



About a year ago I bought via an Internet order a multi-region DVD player,
which was then the recommended best buy in one of the major magazines. It
is a Mico model A980 and initially worked excellently. Now it has developed
a fault since as it gets warm an increasing number of red and green lines
show up on the screen until it is virtually obliterated.

Unusually for me, since I normally hoard paper, I have lost the receipt and
having had an e-mail problem recently I no longer have a record of where it
came from (lessons to be learnt from both of these). The instruction booklet has no manufacturers address or detail of a service agent. Can you suggest somewhere I can get it repaired, preferably in London?
David Hutchings, East Bergholt, Suffolk



The Mico A980 was sold exclusively online by Unbeatable.co.uk (http://www.unbeatable.co.uk) the player has since been discontinued but the company is still going strong and if you can't get to its web site or send an email (abc@csv.co.uk) then you can write to them at: Unbeatable.co.uk, Capital House, Link 10, Napier Way, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 9RA or telephone (01293) 543555.


However, since the machine is now over a year old and presumably out of guarantee (unless you also took out an extended warranty), Unbeatable is obviously under no obligation to repair it, however it does have its own service department, which can be contacted on 020 8687 8871. Alternatively almost any competent service engineer should be able to fix it for you since as I recall when I reviewed it last year, it used reasonably common parts. One word of caution, though, get an estimate first before you part with any money. The A980 was a budget player and not an especially memorable one at that; if the repair comes to more than £30 to £50 say, I would suggest you cut your losses, save your money and put it towards a new player. Budget models with at least the same and in some cases better performance and facilities as the A980 are now available for a little over £100.



I heard rumours that the Region 1 Finding Forrester is encoded with a virus that once played in a multi-code/region-free player will be crippled by it. Is this possible? Is this Hollywood's plan B after Region Enhancement Code to discourage exports of Region 1 discs?
Douglas Tseng, via email



Excellent! I haven't heard that one before; it's almost as good as the tales about viruses infecting mobile phones and lifts in office blocks… Even if it were possible to plant a virus in a DVD player (which it is not) I would be fascinated to see how the studio responsible handled the flood of litigation and lawsuits.




I recently purchased Sexy Beast to play on my Sony S525 and found that the disc would not start. Over the past couple of years I have had three discs with this problem Galaxy Quest, Stereophonics The Videos and Never Say Never Again (the last probably being a good thing). I am a keen fan of films on DVD and now have over 300 discs so 4 duff ones is not too bad but I felt I had to write as I read some great reviews of Sexy Beast and really wanted to see it. I was wondering if anyone else had this problem?


It would be a great shame if we couldn't enjoy this year's big titles -- The Phantom Menace, Godfather Trilogy etc – due to this problem. Why can't the manufacturers make sure all discs are of the same quality and why can't they test their discs on a range of DVD players? If they don't work they could put a 'Not compatible with…' sticker on the packaging and this would stop customers being disappointed.

Garry Morris, Sheldon, Birmingham



As you say 4 out of 300 is not bad, I've checked around and I can't find any problems with Sexy Beast on Sony players, or any other makes for that matter so I suspect it's a one-off fault and you should get the disc changed. Nevertheless if anyone has had a similar problem to Garry I'd like to hear from you.


I'm not about to make any excuses for the DVD industry but you have to bear in mind that this is still a relatively new technology and the specs for both players and discs are open to a certain amount of interpretation which has led to the occasional conflict. The good news is that it's happening less frequently these days – a year or so ago these pages were filled with tales of woe about discs that wouldn't play on particular players. Most of the problems I've encountered lately were in fact due to disc manufacturing faults or careless handling or storage. Try the obvious first, change the disc and run a cleaner disc through your player before you start blaming the hardware.




I'd like to recommend this Canadian R1 DVD Site: Total Action Universe: http://www.totalactionuniverse.com. Delivery time is 4-6 Days, and postal charges are between £3 (for 1 disc) and £6 (2 or more DVDs). For example, The Mummy Returns is available on Pre-order on R1 DVD for £14.92. I used to use DV-Depot but I have found that Total Action Universe DVD's are often around £1-£4 cheaper.

James Newman, via email



Thanks for that, all recommendations, and warnings, gratefully received.






I'm new to this DVD lark, and have recently acquired a lovely Samsung DVD-M105. The manual says that I can play NTSC discs via its Quasi
PAL mode. Is this the same thing as multi region? Can I play any disc from
region one? If not, do you know of a hack for this model? Also, before you
go, just how risky are these hacks? Can you really harm your player using
one? So many questions...

Mark Storey, via email



NTSC replay is quite different from Regional Coding; this simply means it can replay a Region 2 NTSC disc on a PAL TV. However, the M105 can be handset hacked for all-region or Region 1 replay. Proceed as follows: switch on (tray empty) press and hold Play and Stop on the front panel until the language menu appears, select 1 for English the on the handset press Repeat, 3, 8, 7, 6, 7 followed by the region number (1 to 6) or 9 for all regions, then press Open on the player and Standby on the remote. If you change to R1 you will need to substitute the code 2, 9, 3, 3, 4 to get it back to R2.


We make no claims for the safety or veracity of any of the hacks we publish and you use them at your own risk but in general there's little that can go wrong if you follow the instructions as in most cases all you are doing is changing an option on a hidden 'Service Menu'.




I have recently purchased the Hitachi DVP515 and am desperate to know if
there is a way to unlock the machine to play region 1 DVD's?
Shaun Goulding, via email



It's your lucky day; try the hack for the Samsung DVD-M105 (above)




My friend reads What DVD and she says she got help, via yourselves, with a 'code' that switched regions on her DVD player? I have just purchased a Wharfedale DVD-M5, is there such a code for my machine?

Martyn Hodgson, via email



There is but I'll only divulge it on the strict understanding that you promise to become a regular reader from now on, and no pinching your friend's copy! To get to the Service Menu press Setup 6, 2, 8, 3, 6, make your change (Region 1 to 6 or 'All') and press Setup again to exit.




I've just recently made the (long-time coming) leap from Laserdisc to DVD and purchased a second-hand Aiwa XD-DV290.  The instructions claim that this is a Region 2 only machine and is not compatible with NTSC or SECAM discs. I know this isn't true because I've already played the Region 0 (NTSC) version of Robocop. Obviously I'm desperate for an all region decode so I can start buying discs from abroad. I've already tried a hack for the Aiwa 370 that brings up a version info screen, but I don't seem to be able to change any of the settings.  Trawling the net has proved fruitless... help me Doctor, you're my only hope!
T. Lane, Northamptonshire



I hate to be the bearer of bad news but like you I've searched high and low for a hack for this machine but with no luck, sorry.




I recently brought issue 28 of What DVD. I tried the code you gave for the Hitachi DV-P305 in Crack Code clinic, in fact I have tried it a dozen times and it definitely does not work. Could there be another code or does it only work on certain machines? 

Barry O'Tool, via email



The code as printed was correct and it's normally very reliable, however as with all of the hacks we publish they're not guaranteed as changing the region code on a DVD player is an unadvertised and unapproved procedure. It is quite possible that the manufacturers have changed the firmware on this machine (firmware is the software that controls how the player works), in which case it may no longer be possible, however I'm not aware of that happening and it's something that usually gets flagged up quite quickly on the various newsgroups on the Internet. I'd try it again, don't rush it and make sure you follow the instructions to the letter.




Ó R. Maybury 2001, 0609




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