Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guide to DVD Region Codes, or Why Won't My DVD From eBay Play?

Region Codes. Every DVD has them. Numbered 0-8. They are also in every DVD player. Normally their existence is not worth considering – until you get a DVD that originated in another country.

But before we go any further, don't confuse region codes with the three television standards NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. The television standards describe the frame rate and scan rate used by different countries to display a picture on a TV. And yes, they are incompatible too!

Now back to region codes. Here's the back story. When DVDs were being developed the movie studios were nervous. Overseas film releases could overlap with the US video release. Here was a new digital higher quality format to play movies. Remember, at the time the next best option was fuzzy VHS. Who would pay the high movie ticket price when they could watch those high quality US DVDs instead?

Their solution? Region Codes embedded into every DVD and DVD player. A number is assigned to each country. ( The US is #1 – Go USA!) In order for a DVD to play, its region code has to match the code in the DVD player. This prevents the US DVDs from playing in non-US DVD players. Unfortunately, it also could prevent a DVD you purchased online or while on vacation abroad from playing in your player.

They did throw us a bone though. There is also a region 0, or ALL setting which means the DVD can play in any machine. Most DVDs made with your home DVD burners use region 0. DVDs made by production companies can also be set to region 0.

So before buying any DVD from another country remember to check for two things:

  1. Region code is either 0, ALL, or your country's code.
  2. Make sure it is the correct TV format (NTSC, PAL, SECAM) for your country.

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