Time Warner "improves" its DVD region coding
October 9, 2000 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Time Warner "improves" its DVD region coding to crack down on region-disabled players. Sony plans to use the new encoding as well, and the rest of the industry is likely to follow along. A leaked memo explains the new plan, which Warner had been trying to keep as quiet as possible.
posted by harmful (14 comments total)
No wonder they want to keep it quiet, for those of us in Region 2 mail order from the US has always been the way to get cheaper discs with more features and often before the film is released over here.
This has more to do with differentials in pricing than anything else, Europe will bear higher prices for CDs, DVDs, Books and much else - I almost always buy from online US outlets now, even with postage it works out on average around 30% cheaper than walking into a shop here.
posted by Markb at 9:20 AM on October 9, 2000

I never did understand exactly why they wanted this capability in the first place; it never made sense to me to release at different times in different places.

But selling at a higher price in different places "makes sense" from their point of view, I suppose, or did when the standard was produced. Whatever the market will bear... There's more competition for entertainment here, so they have to price lower.

I wonder how the WTO would feel about the same product being sold for different prices in different markets. Sounds illegal to me. Anyone bothered to mention it to them? I wonder why the EU hasn't brought the matter up. It can't be justified in terms of shipping cost; it can't cost any more to ship a CD to London than it does to NY, especially since the thing was probably made in Taiwan anyway.

The US dominates the world market in entertainment; it's a major export item worth billions of dollars per year. I guess they want to maintain as much control as they can over it. Good luck to them, they'll need it.

Mark, I'm curious about something. VHS uses a different standard here in the US than it does in Europe (NTSC versus PAL/SECAM) and so US VHS tapes can't be used in Europe unless you own an American player and an American TV to go with it (and a transformer to provide 110 volts to power it all). But European DVD players will play Region 1 DVDs? How do they handle the 50 hz/60 hz problem and the 525/625 raster problem?

The raster problem could be handled just by centering it and accepting a squashed image, but how do they convert the frame rate?

Is it true that honest Region 2 DVDs contain exactly the same data as Regon 1 DVDs, or have they done frame-rate conversion as part of the mastering process (i.e. same film but different digitatization)?

posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:39 AM on October 9, 2000

I would have purchased the local Fight Club DVD but the 'merican one's got so many features, and this was just movie and trailer. Bah.

It sounds like this new scheme checks the player is set to region:0. Pfaff.

Were there any DVD players made that couldn't bypass the n chances at zone changing?
posted by holloway at 9:41 AM on October 9, 2000

SDB wrote:
>I wonder how the WTO would feel about the same
>product being sold for different prices in different
>markets. Sounds illegal to me.

What makes you think selling something for different prices in different markets is illegal?
posted by ericost at 9:58 AM on October 9, 2000

gas prices here change when you drive down the street, so it can't be TOO illegal.
posted by sugarfish at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2000

it never made sense to me to release at different times in different places

Ah, but then you haven't been assimilated by a greedy multinational media empire, have you?? Firstly, they get to re-use the prints that were used for the North American releases. Secondly [and more to the point, perhaps] it provides a cudgel to use on governments when they have the nerve to comment on issues affecting said media empires... "if you don't behave/leave us alone/do what we want, you'll lose/never get synchronous releases with the US". Seens to work a charm on the Canadian government, at any rate.

US VHS tapes can't be used in Europe unless you own an American player and an American TV to go with it

No, you just buy a VCR that is NTSC capable. For which you will pay a not inconsiderable premium.
posted by theparanoidandroid at 10:10 AM on October 9, 2000

If I read the memo correctly, it sounds like one would still be able to play non Region 1 dvds via the hacked Apex AD-600A DVD. With that player you can specifically select the region of the disc, it doesn't just bypass the region code entirely.
posted by gluechunk at 10:32 AM on October 9, 2000

Why? Arbitrage. The preservation of brand value. (Levi's are "£50 jeans" in the UK, "$40 jeans" in the US.)

I don't think they ever made it illegal to sell things at a price that people are prepared to pay for them. Whether there's a concerted effort to maintain high prices at the expense of [insert group] is another thing entirely.

But enhancement, my arse. Solution: don't buy the kit.
posted by holgate at 10:43 AM on October 9, 2000

re: VHS / NTSC / PAL
You can buy various VCRs here in Holland (and elsewhere in Europe I suppose) that play all or various flavours - at no extra cost. Mine plays PAL / NTSC without having to flip a switch or anything. The machine cost 175 dollars.
posted by prolific at 11:32 AM on October 9, 2000

[in the peace corps flop house in 'tana, madagsacar, there is a tv & vcr that play beta tapes.]
posted by palegirl at 2:00 PM on October 9, 2000

This stuff is really bad. At least Europe is a large enough market to (potentially) keep prices lower than for smaller markets.

Australia has been bundled in with Latin America which means that we can't even import from Asia next door.

The whole thing stinks. If the WTO was worth anything it would be to smash this kind of crap.

Cease or DeCSS!

posted by lagado at 4:09 PM on October 9, 2000

Steven, the scan and colour conversion stuff is not a really an issue. The VCR hardware is fairly cheap. Pretty much every anime nerd (over here) has got a VCR that plays both formats.

Also, a lot of consumer electronics have a switching power supplies which can handle both 110 and 240 volts.

posted by lagado at 4:17 PM on October 9, 2000

The chipsets in modern TVs are the same for both NTSC and PAL, therefore can display both. The NTSC image that is seen is stretched out, rather than squashed, and it is just possible to see the gaps inbetween scanlines. I'm also of the opinion that the hacks, like that on my R2 player, should continue to work, as I have to select which region it is 'pretending' to be, rather than bypassing it altogether.
posted by viama at 12:52 AM on October 10, 2000

Well, its illegal to have region-specific DVD players in New Zealand. All players sold in that country must be hacked first.
posted by Ptrin at 3:19 PM on October 10, 2000

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