Re: Difference in formats(?)

Clark, Jeff (
Tue, 5 Dec 2000 22:45:16 -0800 (PST)

The discussion of DVD complications--technical, and in
marketing--is often confusing, as even John Robey's input
from the producer/distributor side attests below. Recently,
I was in an exchange on another list about this very
subject, and it prompted me to put together some thoughts
I'll include below on this issue as regards how DVDs are

I see three basic parameters affecting the marketing and
playability of DVDs. Two are technical; one is
* The region encoding system (if used: the so-called "0"
region is really the absense of any region encoding).
* The video format or standard--NTSC, PAL, SECAM.
* Licensing rights of the production/distribution
company--which may legally limit distribution even where
technical limitations can be overcome by a multi-standard
player, or where there are no technical limitations at all.

I'm not sure if all so-called "multi-standard" players will
both ignore region coding on a disc, and play in another
video standard. I own one of the Apex units, which is
supposed to disable region encoding *and* translate PAL
standard discs for an NTSC TV. (Haven't had occasion to
try it yet.) I would imagine that, say, American players
that have actually been technically modified to disable
region encoding, would not be able to do this--since
they're NTSC only, and that hurdle would still have to be
overcome. They'd be good only for other non-region 1 (North
America) countries, such as Japan, that use NTSC.

Now... Here is how *I* think (right now, anyway) that discs
ought to be manufactured and marketed. Remember, region
encoding is really a creation of the theatrical film
industry to help sequence the distribution of their films
world-wide, without conflicting with the possibility of
home video versions being marketed in foreign countries at
the same time as they're supposed to be released in the
countries' theaters. Encoding might only have *incidental*
use to non-theatrical, educational-type producers, *when* a
region corresponds with limitations on its distribution

1. Producers--of educational, rather than feature-film
programming--have two options in DVD:
(a) Distribute in a main market, but accommodate (if not
encourage) sales to other markets that want the product and
are willing to provide their users the technology to handle
it (multi-TV standard DVD players).
(b) Focus on distribution in more than one market, and
encourage them by producing DVD programming in more than
one TV standard (NTSC, PAL, SECAM).
(c) If limited by *rights* available, make every effort to
distribute only in the authorized market (knowing, of
course, that some other sales will "leak out" on occasion,
to users with the technology to take advantage as under (a)

2. For each of these distribution alternatives, using DVD
encoding technology should *logically* go like this:
(a) Do not region encode the DVD (the so-called region "O"
option). This allows any user who can overcome the TV
standard issue to use it like foreign videotapes, while
still favoring the main market.
(b) Do not encode the DVD, but also (as indicated
above) produce the program in the differing TV standards
for distribution. (Because the designated region codes do
not correspond exactly with where NTSC, PAL and SECAM are
used, it isn't practical to encode a region along with a TV
standard without creating problems for some market
locations you might be able and want to cover. E.g., the
U.S., Japan and even South Korea use the NTSC standard--but
their DVD regions are 1, 2 and 3 respectively! And since
we're not talking feature films that have a theatrical
distribution to protect, going this route of "no coding" is
easier. But doing so *may* have to be foreseen in licensing
arrangements if the producer distributes, rather than
creates and completely owns, the material. You want the
correct rights to execute this option correctly, up front.)
(c) Since licensing is limited to specific markets, encode
the DVD for the specific region(s) involved, and produce
only in the accompanying TV standard(s). *And* be more
diligent about whom you're selling to, of course! (It seems
to me unlikely, however, that a practical licensing
arrangement would involve more than one country in more
than one region and with more than one TV standard. That
would put the situation close to, if not directly in,
option (b) just above. Otherwise, a practical arrangement
for this multiple-markets situation, would involve
different distributors in different countries/markets with
different video standards, or a divided distributor
organization, like the BBC in GB and the US. And then
option (c) would simply apply without the plurals on
standard(s) and region(s).)

I think that DVD encoding--where and when it is *not*
needed due to legal restrictions--only complicates and
confuses matters on a technical level, especially for
educaitonal and other consumers. It should be left to the
Hollywood system unless necessary!

Okay, producers, vendors and the rest of us... does this
make some sense?

Jeff Clark
Media Resources (MSC 1701)
James Madison University
540-568-6770 (voice)
540-568-3405 (fax)

On Tue, 5 Dec 2000 15:55:09 -0800 (PST)

> If you don't understand the DVD variations, you are not alone. We are a DVD producer and have been struggling to obtain an answer to what will play in which country. However, not even the President of a DVD authoring house was able to give a definite answer.
> In theory, DVDs coded "1" will play on U.S. DVD players, while code 2 is for the UK. DVDs are also recorded in NTSC or PAL, the latter for the UK.
> However, we have sold hundreds of code 1 DVDs that are NTSC recorded to customers in the UK, and have not heard a single complaint.
> It's not clear to us whether DVD players, or perhaps the
> DVD discs, are effective blockers of wrong codes. We also cannot seem to get a definite answer about whether PAL vs. NTSC makes a difference to DVD playability.
> We did ascertain that older DVD players are less likely to play DVD "9s", which have dual layers. If a DVD has three hours or more of recording on it, it's probably a 9.
> This probably hasn't been a great deal of help.
> John Robey
> Questar Video