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Acoustics of Finland AE-2X
Dolby Digital
Letter to Boston Audio Society re DVDs and Regions

(in Finnish/Suomeksi)

Telarc/Decca CD's
Home Theater
DVD 5.1 Films
Nordic Press

(tämä sivu suomeksi)

Shortened version in December 2000 HiFi Lehti

The following letter was published in the newsletter of the Boston Audio Society

(For Part II/Osa II - click here)


Hollywood, USA certainly drives the DVD world -- with Japan at the remote control. As the main market for the format, Americans may not be familiar with the mess being created as movie studios try to preserve the time differential between movie releases in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

They do this by making it technically impossible (without unofficial hacking) to interchange DVD software and hardware across the arbitrary regions set up by the DVD Forum.


Region 1 is the USA and Canada. DVDs made for Region 1 can't be played in an off-the-shelf region-2 DVD unit sold in Europe, and European discs can't be played in a region1 player. There are eight regions, with two reserved for planes and ships, and China gets a region all for itself.


Why should this interest Americans? First, you can't play UK, Australian and other 'foreign' English-language productions such as BBC material. Second, the codes limit U.S. marketing from foreign producers, unless they make separate region-1 runs. Third, the coding slows the proliferation and further technical development of the DVD medium (while maintaining higher prices for players and discs) because people outside the US react verybadly to this artificial marketing. Finally, the rules force smaller companies in the U.S. who are trying to sell to the world market to release many different editions. Furthermore, when DVD recording becomes available, the regional codes will make it impossible to know whether a DVD you record yourself will play on a foreign DVD unit (see below).


A UK trade magazine recently confronted Koji Hase, chairman of the DVD Forum, with this nonsense. He dismissed the problem, saying that the VCR and laser disc markets in Europe and the North American continent have been separated since the 1980s by the PAL/NTSC schism. Mr. Hase appeared not to notice that the historical cause for this split was that different color systems were independently developed across the Atlantic; no one intentionally produced this problem. That is NOT the case with DVD - a perfectly global universal system would be possible but someone in the DVD Forum read Samuelson's 'Economics 101' course book and thought they could maximize profits by splitting up the markets.(Manufacturers of DVDs are supposed to promise the Forum as part of their licensing agreement that they will not produce DVDs that can play in more than one region.)

One could well argue that the members of the DVD Forum shot themselves in the foot with these rules as they are definitely making the purchase of a DVD less alluring for the entire non-US population.

Europeans (and Australians and New Zealanders) are anyhow exremely active in making the viewing of US disks possible. By now probably 20% of UK consumer electronic magazines are devoted to teaching readers how to hack a region-2 player so it will act like a region 1 machine. This can be done via the remote control in some models, or by hacking (chipping) the player. At the same time the DVD Forum is trying to create 'smart discs' that will foil all but the most sophisticated hacking systems.

On top of all this, there are tremendous differences between region-1 and -2 discs in content, and even in quality, with neither 1 nor 2 always being the winner. If you buy a DVD at W.H. Smith at Heathrow it will not play on your U.S. DVD, and there will be no mention of this on the cover.

The Chinese seem to be trying the hardest to force multi-regional units onto the various markets, prompting terrible controversy between the their produces and the DVD Forum. Even the big UK retailer, Tesco (akin to Wal-Mart), is putting itself forward in the UK as the sole significant provider of multi-regional units in the UK, defying the forum.

Consumers want to be able to play any DVD they may buy. No one would argue that this is an ethical pursuit. When people hack their units they generally also do away with Macrovision and in general lose whatever respect they may have had for any anti-copying propaganda.

Another set of issues is raised by the prospect of recordable DVDs. Manufacturers are presently fighting over at least three possible formats for DVD home recording, two of them approved by the DVD Forum and one (Pioneer) not. What will happen when people around the world try to make recordings (including perhaps legal snippets of movies for personal correspondence) and run into a confusion of equipment and formats? Didn't the global consumer have enough problems with PAL/NTSC incompatibility? We don't need to see that movie again!

A lot of energy and expense is now being spent on total foolishness. In the end, people will want to play any disc in any player. With factory player costs heading downward toward $100, consumers will just buy two units. Then all the DVD Forum's constraints will have been a big waste.

Mind you, I have not even considered the other six regions. The market for Russian-language material is not huge, but there are people who would like to see an original production of "The Cherry Orchard" in Russian, and why should they be prevented? The complete compatibility of LPs, compact cassettes and CDs has been a major factor in the huge success of all these formats. And even with video it wasn't against the law to make dual VCRs and TVs!

If you have any additions, suggestions, rebuttals, etc. I would be glad to hear from you.

 (For Part II/Osa II - click here)

Dr. Robert F. Woods

Sound Center Inc.

Yrjönkatu 8

00120 Helsinki




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