The Relentless March of Technology
Started conversation Feb 17, 2002
If you want access to cheaper DVDs (such as those imported from North America), then it is wise to invest in a "Multi-region" DVD player. There were originally two types of machine: "Region coded" for normal consumer use, and "Region Free" for professional use, of course the latter being much more expensive.
Today, you can often get a normal player to play discs from other regions with the help of a "region hack". This is a sequence of actions (normally involving opening/closing the tray in conjunction with keys pressed on the remote control and/or front panel. Once "hacked", the machine will be able to play discs without regard to region coding. A "multi region" capable machine can today be obtained for under £100.
Why do these hacks exist? Most likely because it does not make sense for the manufacturers to make distinct types of players for different world regions. Margins can be thin in the volume, consumer electronics business, so its easier to make one player that can be coded on the production line for many different markets.
One thing to bear in mind: for best performance it is useful to have a TV that can understand both PAL (European) and NTSC (American) signals. North American disks are recorded with NTSC video encoding, where in Europe we (mainly) use PAL. Sometimes even though the DVD player can be made to play a disc from another region, the built-in NTSC to PAL conversion can be shakey. It's good if you can bypass the conversion in the player and do it directly on the TV.