Monday, January 15, 2007

Jason has some comments on code free DVD players

So recently Baceman007, aka The Minister of Common Sense, posted some comments in regard to code free DVD players. Some of the links he pointed out were:,

First, let me say that I've never used these sites and I have no knowledge of their effectiveness and/or legality, and I would never knowingly encourage you to do anything illegal. Baceman007 also made a similar disclaimer in his comments. I'd also add that some years ago I looked around for DVD region code hacks and found a number of them, many of which actually involved physically jumpering out/replacing components. So I'd only recommend this if you plan to trash your player if you fail.

Furthermore, often hacking the region code is only half the battle. For most foreign DVD's, you also have to convert PAL format to NTSC to play on an American TV.

Personally, for my time and money (especially if you need a new player anyway), I'd rather just There are any number of online stores that'll sell you one if you just search google for "code free dvd player". One I've used before and have never had a problem with is I'm not guaranteeing it's the best or cheapest or anything, just that I've used it before and it worked for me.

Finally, as for the greedy studios who imposed this system--I don't know a lot about the worldwide movie distribution business, but it seems to me that the studios have less to lose from import DVDs than do individual theater owners. Perhaps more money is made on theatrical release than DVD, but more and more I hear that that's not the case. If the studio get the $$ from a DVD sale, whether it's sold in America or in Europe, I don't see how the studio loses all that much (note that I'm talking about import of legitimate studio DVDs, not piracy--that's a different issue). Sure, import DVD sales could cannibalize theater box office, but I think that's already happening for many movies. I personally know several people who'll purposely miss several movies because they'd rather rent them on Netflix than spen $10 to see them on the big screen. People who go to the movies nowadays are people who care about the big screen experience--not just big special effects but the experience of sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers and having a shared experience. I'm not saying studios aren't greedy or that they aren't the driving force behind enforcing region codes. I'm just saying that the system protects more than just the studio interests. Primarily, it protects local distributors and theater owners, and consequently it protects theater patrons. Sure, it can be frustrating to wait for a much-hyped movie to come out in your country, but if you care that much for a few bucks the system can be circumvented anyway. In fact, my only real complaint about the system is that it's a joke--it's so easy to circumvent that why implement it in the first place? Just release movies more or less simultaneously worldwide (perhaps some smaller movies won't have enough prints), and release on DVD after it's played everywhere theatrically.

Really, I think the current system is actually a fairly comfortable balance (well, maybe not that comfortable). The people who want to see foreign movies that might never make it to the US can see them if they look hard enough and spend a few extra bucks on a code free DVD player (again, I'm not talking about piracy, that's illegal and wrong and I want nothing to do with it). Neither the studios nor the theaters have any interest in hassling me for having a code free player, since I spend so much money on their product every year. And when I buy a DVD, I'll always buy the american version if it's available at the time (or I know when it will be available) and has all the features I want (very rarely I've bought a foreign version of a DVD because it had an extra not available on the american version).

Anyway, as I said I'm not an expert in the economics of worldwide film distribution, but that's my rant. Your mileage may vary.



baceman007 said...

Good commentary. I still maintain that region codes are a bunch of crap. In fact I kind of think the whole PAL, NTSC, etc. stuff is stupid too especially in the modern age. Why not agree on a standard? It would make production cheaper, and distribution more efficient overall. In the modern age the foreign sound tracks can be recorded at the same time the movie is in post production, the script has been approved, and isn't going to change. Modern equipment makes ADR a snap in comparison with the old analog tape days. I think this system is just another sign that the corporate soft drink companies that bought major motion picture companies in the 70's still only understand one thing and that's that movies can make them money and they still believe that part of the way to make money is to control distribution. Since it's now possible to distribute films around the world at the same time it seems to me that the major studios, and the MPA, should
focus more on providing world wide releases on the same day than controlling DVD distribution. This is what happens when a bunch of people that don't get technology run companies that depend on it. These useless control measures make me think that many major studios are probably still being run by 80 year old dudes that think that crews are still editing by slicing physical tape together, the corvette stingray is still that fast new car, and slapping his secretary on the ass is a proper way to say hello. Anyway, sorry to rant, but the whole idea of region codes and controlling distribution seems outdated and I'm sure that it creates a lot of headaches for equipment manufacturers. It's kind of like the whole Metallica thing with their "music". They made their money on "And Justice for All" sure they can beat us over the head with what's right and wrong, but in the end one has to wonder if such control actually saves or costs the labels money. They same is true for movies. At any rate I can say that I find it to be annoying. I buy my movies like an honest person and if I want to watch a DVD from another region I should be able to without modding my player or having to buy a region free player. There shouldn't be region specific players. The ultimate goal would be one Video standard, no region codes, and simultaneous movie releases in all countries. When I picture the guys that push these standards I get an image of a bunch of old guys in the ocean trying to hold back the tide. I haven't done a study or anything, but as Jason points out there are easy ways to beat the system, and because of that the system probably actually costs them more money to enforce than it makes them. It also means that they loose out on selling movies from other countries easily in neighboring countries, in some cases. These are all personal opinions, but I thought they were worth sharing. Making people feel that they have to buy special equipment would probably just deter them from watching foreign films unless they intend on building a serious foreign film collection. It's actually a road block that, again, may be costing the studios, etc. money.

baceman007 said...

Oh yeah I also wanted to say that piracy is lame. Having worked on some projects myself I have to say that there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into almost any game, movie, record, etc. Yes even the Jessica Simpson albums. I would encourage you not to steal, but I would also encourage studios to try and bring their production and distribution costs down so people can afford to go to the movies again. I better stop before I start a whole other rant. I would also recommend that you do not buy Jessica Simpson albums since she sucks and supporting artists that suck only means that the companies will give you more of what you buy in the end.

puppymeat said...

You make some excellent points, baceman. Worldwide simultaneous distribution would solve a lot of these issues, and that's increasingly becoming the norm for the big blockbusters. Problem is, movies are still almost exclusively distributed on film, so your distribution is dependent on how many prints you can physically make and ship out. No problem for the blockbusters, since film is a tiny, tiny fraction of their budget. Tougher for the smaller, low-budget films, which might be lucky to print a dozen film copies. Digital distribution can (and I think eventually will) fix this, but theaters will have to buy new equipment and security will have to be addressed (again, piracy sucks!) Plus, I can imagine more totalitarian countries can have more restrictive procedures for allowing distribution. So if it takes a year and several new edits to get your film past the Elbonian censors, you wouldn't want to wait on that just to keep a worldwide release. But ya know what, fuck 'em. If they want to control content in their own country, that's their problem and the studios don't need to help them at the detriment to the rest of their customers.

As far as PAL vs. NTSC vs. SECAM, etc., it'd be great to have a single format, but that's not practical in the forseeable future, as everyone would have to replace their TV (or buy a converter). Even if it was easy, there's just no incentive for anyone to do it. As long as the vast majority of people only watch DVDs produced in their home country, no one even has to know the difference between formats.

puppymeat said...

Oh, and as far as foreign film distribution here, the two big obstacles that piss me off are:

1. Studios buying a film for the "remake rights" and shelving the original so it doesn't compete with their remake.
2. The Academy Awards rules for best foreign language film can (and often does) de-incentivize distributors from showing nominated films publicly.

But those are both topics for a later post.