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I have a Pioneer 530 player, my first player, and for the most part it has been an excellent introduction to the world of DVD video.  Some of the more murky scenes in films like Shadow of The Vampire tend towards the grainy but having seen little sign of such graining in Se7en, I've accepted this as
half-way blameable on my player's budget status and the quality of the MPEG encoding.

The only real pain has been the layer-switching pause. Disc producers do seem to try their best to place the pauses as unobtrusively as possible, but the audio/visual editing in some (most?) films doesn't allow for this kind of interruption to be accommodated seamlessly.  The resulting effect, however slight, jars one from one's suspension of disbelief and I find myself fidgeting with irritation after about an hour in, because I know it's coming and I know it's going to hack me off.

Layer-switching pause, or the lack of it, is rarely mentioned in DVD player reviews, so my question is this: do all players do this to some extent, and if not, do I have to spend a grand to get seamless playback?
Simon Sleightholm, Ashington, Northumberland



Layer change used to be a big deal. I remember sitting in front of the screen with a stopwatch whilst doing DVD player group tests, as I recall the longest freeze was around four and a half seconds on one first generation player. Most recent players – including many budget models -- now have memory buffers that take care of the momentary break in the flow of data from the disc as the laser switches focus from one layer to the other, and as you say, disc mastering has improved. We still check for layer change during player tests and the occasional disc still proves troublesome but these days a freeze lasting longer than a quarter of a second is very unusual in fact in most instances it's a case blink and you'll miss it, if you see anything at all.




I have just been given the R2 version of The Siege as a birthday prezzie but to my surprise, after two years of DVD ownership and 50 discs, I have encountered my first disc with picture blocking and break-up. After a couple of very brief picture freezes in the earlier chapters which rectified themselves the picture deteriorated rapidly in Chapter 20 and stayed that way until the end.


I have a Mico DVD A-980 player, which was initially set at "multi-region" and then back to R2 but the problem was exactly the same. I changed the disc at Woolworth's but the replacement was also faulty in the same place. To make matters worse the disc also will not play on my PCs' DVD player. Is this a known problem with this disc and if so can I get my money back?

Adam Barr, via email



I've checked all the usual references for dodgy discs but I couldn't find any reports of any related problems with The Siege. I have two theories. The first is that you've been very unlucky and had two iffy discs on the trot, possibly from the same production batch. If so you, or whoever gave you the disc is should exchange it again and if that makes no difference, insist on a full refund. The other possibility is that it's a hardware problem. As I recall the Mico player wasn't a particularly distinguished performer and it could be that it's not happy with borderline spec pressings or it has a dusty/dirty pickup. In any event your player is over two years old and quite well used by the sound of it so it's probably long overdue for a run-through with a good quality disc cleaner. The fact that the disc won't play on the PC as well could just be a massive coincidence and that might also need cleaning.  




I have recently purchased the Disney 101/102 Dalmatians twin pack and had to take it back three times. The 101 disc plays with no problem, but on the 102 Dalmatians disc I cannot get past the first language selection menu.


I don't think it is a problem with my machine, which is a Toshiba SD-2109 and I have tried numerous discs since the problem arose and they all loaded and played; this included some Disney titles. To be fair to the shop they have been helpful and exchanged it without any hassle. Before I took the discs back for the last time somebody I work with saw somebody else in the same shop returning the same DVD, I don't know if it was the same problem though.


Are you aware of anything wrong with this disc, should I keep on exchanging or cut my losses and get my money back?

Ian. M, via email




I have just bought a copy of 102 Dalmatians on DVD. It didn't load on my Toshiba SD2109 player. I returned the copy and got a refund and bought another copy from a different store but this, too has the same problem. The language menu appears but when English is selected the player clicks and whirrs but the disk will not play. I haven't got this problem with any of my other discs (over 40 of them) or with any rental copies. Can you give me any reason for this? Is it a fault on the disc or the player?

Stephen Conroy, via email


One report about movie not working on a particular player is not unusual, but two emails about the same disc having a quarrel with the same player set the alarm bells ringing. 


Buena Vista Home Video, which distributes 102 Dalmatians in the UK, claimed not to be aware of any compatibility issues but a Toshiba spokesperson confirmed that there is a problem with this disc. This is where it all gets a bit hazy; apparently there is something wrong with the disc's layer change, which prevents the player from reading the disc's table of contents and other makes of players will also be affected, though we haven't heard of any yet.


Anyhoo, the Good news is that Toshiba players have upgradeable firmware (the software that controls how the player works), and the latest release – version 3.1 – should solve the problem. To find out which version your player has switch it on, without a disc in the tray, wait until it goes into Stop mode then press the following buttons on the handset: Zoom, 6, 0, 6 and the screen will display the version number. The upgrade is free and all you have to do is contact the dealer where it was purchased from or Toshiba's Customer Service department on 0800 281 137.




I have to challenge your answer to Matthew Sheppard (What DVD 31, November). First, our digital standards converter uses 8Mbit memory to hold the video in full broadcast TV resolution with 4:2:2 sampling. Secondly it has been stated by reviewers to be the best one available at up to twice
the price and offers full S-Video quality. Conversion using our ACE
Converter from NTSC to PAL gives almost no loss of picture definition
compared to a direct S-Video connection. Colours are never unstable. With
comb filter colour decoder and all digital processing the results are

In fact Sharon Murie (the writer of the original letter in WDVD 29) seems only to need colour conversion since I gather her TV shows a stable and proper sized picture with NTSC, just without colour. The simple converters at £40 should do the job quite well although our unit would give even better results with its more sophisticated circuitry. If her TV can show 525-line pictures properly then she could use our very flexible converter to change only the colour standard. This would result in no jerkiness at all, but by simply switching to 625 lines she could use her DVDs on any PAL-only equipment, including her PAL VCR etc.

Our unit is priced at £299.95 so Sharon might still want to go out and buy a new TV but please don't dismiss the converter option on quality alone as this is quite unfair.

Gordon Hathaway, via email


Though I haven’t tried it I do not dispute that your company's converter does a truly wonderful job, but then it costs quite a bit more than the £40 converters mentioned in the letter. I stand by my comments regarding budget standards converters. All of the models I've seen and tested produce a noticeable reduction in picture quality. Of course people's perception of picture quality vary and 'doing the job quite well', as you put it may be good enough for some. Personally, I think that any change or reduction in the picture quality of DVD is very unwelcome; movies on DVD can look and sound spectacular – and for once you don't have to spend a fortune on kit too get excellent results  – but your favourite movies end up looking like hairy old VHS recordings, what's the point?






I have a hack for the Grundig GDV-220, which allows region free or defined region use. Turn on the player; press together, Play, Skip, Forward and Open/Close, on the player, not on the remote and the service menu is revealed. Use the remote to scroll and select Region Set, select Free or chosen region. You may need to change colour set to Auto to play NTSC on your TV's. Press Select on remote and enjoy. Mine plays all RCE without problems.

Michael Harland, via email



Thanks Michael, I haven't come across that one before and unfortunately haven't got a GDV-220 to hand to try it out, so let us know how you get on with it.




Please can you help?  I have recently acquired a Thomson DTH-4000, it was advertised as being able to play US and UK DVD's, so can you please tell me if this model can play US DVD's, or can be formatted to do so?
Karen Smith, via email



Is there any way to play other region DVD's on the Samsung DVD 511 as I
am going to the US soon and hope to buy some there?
Paul Stewart, via email



Both models can be persuaded to play American Region 1 discs and they share the same warranty-friendly handset hack. It begins with a so-called 'Cold Start', which puts the player into its virgin setup mode. To do that switch it on, make sure the disc tray is empty then press and hold the Play and Stop buttons on the front panel. After a few moments the language menu appears, choose 1 for English (using the handset keypad) then press the following buttons: Repeat, 3, 8, 7, 6, 7, then the region number (1 to 6) or 9 for all regions. Lastly press Open on the player and Standby on the remote. If you change to R1 and you want to get it back to R2 then repeat the procedure and but this time use the code: Repeat 2, 9, 3, 3, 4



BUSH 2004

Could you please be so kind as to tell me the unlock code for my Bush 2004 DVD player?

Neil Byfleet, via email



Happy to oblige. There are two possibilities, depending on the age of the machine. If it's an older model open the disc tray and press 7, 7 and Enter on the handset, then on the menu that appears change to the region number you require, or 13 for all region play. On later models the hack is disc tray open and press 2, 0, 0, 1 on the handset keypad for all region playback.




I have just purchased an Aiwa XD-DV170 HR, which is set to region 3. It was
purchased in the Middle East. I would very much appreciate the hack for
this machine in order I may unlock region three to multi region.

D.N.B., via email



All region replay on this very cute little player is quite straightforward. Switch the machine off then press and hold the Top Menu, OSD and Menu buttons on the machine until 'Factory' is shown on the LCD display. Press and hold the Power button to switch it off and it's done.




I have a Pioneer NSDV55 system, which I love very much. What I would love more than anything though is to watch Driven on it.  However, as Driven is Region 1 and my system only plays Region 2, I cannot.

I have asked and asked and asked, and I can't find anybody anywhere that
knows how to unlock the region code thingamabob that they put on these

Do you know if there is a hack that will work, or if it can be chipped at
all. If so where and how would I get this done?
Paul C, via email



Sorry, there are no handset hacks for this model so you'll either have to wait for the R2 release or get your player modified. Several companies offer an all-region  'chipping' service – you have to send your player away to get it done  -- and this typically costs around £85. Don't forget if you have it chipped you can kiss goodbye to the manufacturer's warranty. If you're still interested have a look at:





Is there a handset hack for the Sony DAV-S300?

Jeff Smith, via email



I currently own a DVD player that only plays region 1 DVDs. I want to know if it is possible to get it upgraded to play region 1-6 discs.

Adebayo, via email



Please could you tell me are there any codes using the remote for a Panasonic RV-40 DVD player?

Mr Sanderson, via email


Bad news I'm afraid for messrs Smith, Adebayo and Sanderson, the region locks on these players are all as solid as a rock and the only way you'll get them to play discs from other regions is to have them chipped.





Ó R. Maybury 2001, 0810





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