DVDs, Videos & Game Consoles

If you live outside of the USA and plan on buying either DVDs, videos or console games like Playstation or X-Box games then you need to be aware of the different regions and formats used.

DVD Regions

The DVD industry in its infinite wisdom has decided to split the world into a number of separate regions (also called locales or zones) each with a single digit number. DVD players and DVD discs are often marked with their DVD region code superimposed onto a world globe.

The DVD regions are as follows:

Region codeRegion
1 USA, Canada, U.S. Territories
2 Japan, Europe, South Africa, and Middle East (including Egypt)
3 Southeast Asia and East Asia (including Hong Kong)
4 Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean
5 Eastern Europe (Former Soviet Union), Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea, and Mongolia
6 China
7 Reserved
8 Special international venues (such as aircraft, cruise ships, etc.)

In some countries (and on most PCs and game consoles that play DVDs), DVD players are locked into a single region which means they cannot play a DVD recorded with a different regional code. The theory is that the industry can then control the availability, marketing and distribution (and price of course) of films etc. by region. Because film companies often stagger the release of a film, it also stops people buying and watching import DVDs before a film has been released in their country. What it means in practice is that if you buy a cheap DVD whilst on holiday in Florida you may not be able to watch it when you get home (if you live outside of the USA).

Having said that, in some countries they consider regional lockout to constitute unfair restraint of trade and therefore all DVD players sold in those countries must be region free or 'multi-region'. A lot of other DVD players can be simply 'reprogrammed' through the remote control or physically chipped to read other regional discs.

On top of this there are different types of input signal for TV sets, NTSC, PAL and SECAM. North America, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and parts of South America use NTSC whilst the rest of the world including Europe uses PAL or SECAM in one form or another. This means that DVD discs sold in Florida are usually encoded in region 1 NTSC format.

However whilst most NTSC DVD players cannot play PAL DVDs, PAL DVD players are able to read and convert NTSC DVD discs. Before buying a DVD in Florida make sure you will be able to view region 1 DVDs when you get home.

Video Formats

As mentioned in the DVD section above, TV sets in Florida use a NTSC format rather than PAL format. This means that video cassettes for sale in Florida are usually recorded in NTSC format. Because of the large number of European visitors to Florida these days, a lot of the theme parks like SeaWorld and the NASA Kennedy Space Center sell pre-recorded videos in both NTSC and PAL format.

Quite a few of the more recent European PAL video players are able to play NTSC videos so again, check before you leave if you are thinking of buying any pre-recorded videos.

Game Consoles

With the exception of some of the hand-held game consoles, like DVD players, game consoles have regional lockout chips to prevent games sold in one region of the world being played in another. In order to play US console games on a non US console, you would need to get your game console 'chipped'. Note that installing a chip which circumvents copyright protection may be illegal in your country and will certainly invalidate your warranty.

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