They're supposed to play EVERYTHING! The salesman and the catalogue
promised you that THIS machine can handle DVD's, CD's, MP3's, JPG's
VCD, CD-R's, etc etc etc.
But that DVD movie you bought on the internet from overseas
absolutely refuses to play. With or without an accompanying error
message on the TV screen , you wonder whether you have just wasted
But who to blame ? Maybe the disc itself was faulty ? Perhaps the
salesman lied about what the machine could do ?
None of the above ! The disc is not faulty and the salesman didn't
lie, though I guarantee he didn't give you the full story.
There are 2 compatibility issues to consider with DVD discs that you
obtain from overseas. Both conditions need to be satisfied for the
disc to play !
The first is REGIONS (or zones).
Your DVD manual will tell you what region your machine is. Many
machines also have a region logo at the back.
If your DVD player is multi-zone, congratulations, it will play all
discs from all countries. Multi-zone is also known as "region zero".
However, if your machine is region locked,it can ONLY play discs
with that particular region code. If the regions don't match, the
disc won't play. The most common locked regions are region 1 (USA),
region 2 (UK- Europe) and region 4 (Australia). I should emphasise
here that this issue only applies to foreign discs. The retailers
in your country will only sell DVD's in your local region
There is an important exception to this rule - some DVD discs
are released as "region zero" or "region-free"or "all-regions".
These DVD's will play fine in any region-locked machine.
BYPASSING THE REGION LOCKING
About half of all locked DVD players can be permanently unlocked via
the remote control. It depends on the brand and model. But don't go
searching for the magic button because it's not there - the models
that can be unlocked require a unique special sequence of key-
presses to be entered.
The code-sequences are one of those ridiculous pretend secrets that
consumers are not meant to be aware of - but if you ask the
salesman, or the local company distributor, or find the right
website, the information can be obtained in a short amount of time.
This is because at the DVD factory the machines earmarked for
various countries are basically the same, except for the electrical
plug and a few software settings such as the region code eg the
machines destined for Australia are software locked to 4, the
machines destined for the USA are software locked to region 1.
By discovering and entering the special sequence, you are basically
emulating what they do at the factory and altering the region
coding. So a person in the USA who has just bought a region 4 disc
from Australia can alter the region coding on their player to region
4, or more conveniently, region zero, which means all-regions are
accepted. Once made, the change is written to the machine's long-
term memory and does not need to be re-entered even if the player is
The SECOND compatibility issue with DVD's is the TV signal.
The DVD player generates a signal and send it to your TV set.
PAL and NTSC are 2 types of TV signal.
Japan and the USA use NTSC signals.
The PAL system is used by Australia, the UK and Europe. These
signals were decided upon by governments 50 years ago.
Practically all PAL and NTSC DVD's will play fine throughout
Australia, UK and Europe. This is because the DVD's and TV sets sold
throughout these countries are dual PAL and NTSC compatible.
THE PAL-NTSC issue is really only an issue for USA and Canada
Certain brands of TV set and DVD players within the USA do not
handle PAL signals at all, while others handle it badly (eg black
and white image).
Many USA customers will successfully play a PAL disc just fine, but
a significant minority will not. For example, USA customers with a
Sony TV set or a Panasonic DVD player are unlikely to be successful.
Check your manuals for both your TV set and DVD player to confirm
they mention PAL. If you don't have the manual, check the onscreen
If your player or TV set are locked to NTSC only, they cannot be
changed to PAL.
There is a school of thought that suggests all DVD players should be
able to read both PAL and NTSC media, simply because the data as
written on the disc comprises "1"'s and "0"'s, that is, digital
data. The theory goes that a DVD player is basically a computer ,
therefore it can read both PAL and NTSC datasets. While this is true
up to a point, a DVD player also needs to convert digital input into
analog output to ensure compatibility with most television sets. The
problem arises when the factory has not included the capability (eg
a modulator) to generate and send an NTSC signal from a PAL disc to
a non-digital TV set. The DVD player may be smart enough to know it
does not have the capability to generate a signal, therefore does
not attempt to play the disc.
WHAT KIND OF MACHINE WILL PLAY FOREIGN DISCS ?
Ironically, the cheaper the DVD player, the more likely it is to be
both dual PAL-NTSC compatible AND multi-region out of the box. This
is because the lesser-known and smaller manufacturers from countries
like China do not have "political" or financial allegiances to the
major American movie studios which "encourage" the region
This results in the bizarre situation where you can buy a Chinese-
made $40 DVD player which will not only play all foreign DVD's, but
has just as many functions and capabilities as a $300 big brand
machine. Of course, the big-brand machines have better warranty
support and superior build-quality and components, so I'm certainly
not saying their price is unreasonable, just be aware that paying
out top dollar for a machine does not necessarily mean it can play
A quick word on other DVD playing devices - Playstations and X-Boxes
generally will not play foreign discs and have limited capabilities.
Some earlier models won't play dual layer discs, also known as
DVD-9, even from the correct region.
Interestingly it is not commonly known that the PAL-NTSC issue
does not apply at all to computers. This is because your monitor is
not a television set and your video card sends digital signals, not
PAL or NTSC signals.
However be aware that your computer's DVD player is probably locked
to your local region. Many models will allow you to play 5 discs of
varying regions without complaint, but will then LOCK PERMANENTLY to
the region of the last disc ! There is software available to bypass
or even hack the DVD-player's internal software, though Hollywood
(via the MPAA) has made legal challenges against certain DVD
manipulation programs .
So next time you find a DVD on the internet that isn't available in
your own country, be sure to check the specifications of your DVD
player and TV set before sending away those hard-earned dollars.
Written by Darren Robinson, visit his current DVD
We sell some excellent DVD's that you probably
can't buy in your own country.
This article may be freely distributed with
this resource box included.