Thursday, November 08, 2007

It’s the DVD Code not the Da Vinci Code

The swiftness that DVDs have taken over the home video marketplace is nothing short of unprecedented. Not only has this format changed the way movies and TV programs are delivered, it has changed the economics of an entire industry. Prices for DVD movies and TV programs continue to drop. The prices of DVD players also continue to plummet. You can find full featured DVD players in discount stores for as little as $19.00. It looks like the prices for these machines are following in the footsteps of hand held calculators. They are commodities.

A few weeks ago someone asked me why they could not get a DVD that they received from a friend to play on his machine. After some discussion I found that the DVD in question was sent to him by a friend who lived in Japan. My friend was aware that there are different TV standards in some parts of the world, but was confused since Japan and the United States share the same VIDEO standard called NTSC.

Well, my friend was half right. It is true that the United States and Japan share the NTSC Video standard unlike the UK and some other parts of Europe that use a format called PAL. There are others video formats used in other parts of the world. That is too much info right now.

What my friend did not know is that DVDs carry with them a Regional Code or LOCK. There are six geographical codes and two specialized codes now in use. What this means is that you must have a DVD player that is set up to play the right code. For example, Region #1 DVDs can only be played in the United States and Canada. If you have a DVD manufactured for use in Mexico, it is Region # 4, and it will not play on your DVD player purchased in the United States.

While there are Region # 0 coded discs that can be played on any player in any part of the world, most distributors of movies and TV programs use the regional code to restrict the free trading of content. The idea was to make it possible to release a movie on DVD in the United States before releasing it in another part of the world or visa versa. As you might have guessed, there is a cottage industry of hackers who can remove the code or alter the software in the DVD machine to accept any code. Most of us mere mortals have to live with the restrictions.

If you look on the DVD package you will find the regional code marked so you will know if it will play on your machine. Likewise the box containing your new DVD player should have its Regional Code marked. In most case this is not a problem since only Region #1 players and DVDs are sold in the US. It is interesting to note that if you have an older model DVD player built into your computer, it may play all DVDs without a problem. The older DVD drives have older software that does not recognize these codes. This may be one of the few times when older technology is actually a good thing.

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Anonymous Silvana said...

Interesting to know.

10:11 AM  

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