October 06, 2004

Furious George: how to destroy A&E? I really enjoyed the BBC miniseries about "Charles II: the power and the passion", called "The Last King" (inaccurate title) in North America, and so when I saw the DVD at my local store, I got it (hey, when you feel like an Exclusion Crisis, you need an Exclusion Crisis). Only when I got home, I realised that the number of minutes sounded low.

So I checked online - Amazon.com versus Amazon.co.uk. And there - (just as several reviewers have noted) the Region 1 DVD was an hour shorter! The NorthAm broadcaster, A&E, apparently decided to cut it to fit in their ads, but kept the cut version for the DVD. You'd think that they would be able to figure out that anyone willing to pay to see several hours of overblown historical drama (mostly sex and melodrama, but also the aforementioned Exclusion Crisis) would kind of like to see the other episode. But apparently not A&E - they are convinced that because three hours of wigs is enough for them that all North Americans just have smaller attention spans. And because they have a monopoly, I can't get a Region 1 DVD of the whole series (4 hours) anywhere. So, other than sending off furious emails to A&E (done), is there anything that can be done to stop this kind of butchering by NorthAm distributors? Can we bomb the A&E with crinoline until it collapses under the weight of exquisite and historically accurate reproductions? Can I appeal to the BBC to start selling Region 1? Or should I just invest in a Region 2 player and tell my continent it can take its crappy cut films and go to a hell of 24 hour infomercials. All this has inspired me though - there may be a untapped market in pirated BBC historical miniseries - this may be my big break.

  • Well, maybe you could pay a visit to the A&E headquarters. *cough*anarchist's cookbook*cough*
  • Invest in a cheap Amazon player that allows you to convert it to Region Free through an easily found 'secret' code. These cheap players often seem to get better reviews than the major brands, too, but I'm not much into electronics, personally.
  • I know it's not as fun as Robotnik's solution, but you could always just hack your dvd player to show region 2 and buy the region 2 dvd.
  • Hack the Region 2 discs to make a no-region DVD and sell 'em on eBay. For historical research, of course.
  • If you're not comfortable hacking the DVD player to show 0 (= region-free operation, play *any* DVD, yay!), there are plenty of people who'll do it for you. Like those guys who do Playstation modchips, for example, who are really not difficult to find.
  • That's the while purpose of region coding. Other markets expect more, and will pay less, while the saps living in region 1 will naively pay more for a disc with much less on it. Dig up another TV series released in both the UK and the US, like Farscape. A US (Region 1) volume costs $35.98 for 130 minutes on 2 discs. The UK Region 2 has 225 minutes on two discs, for a price of £11.97 ($21.34). This is why every film geek you know hates the MPAA. You can buy a regionless player online. For your computer, you can use DVD Genie. It can unluck region coding in many players, but cannot unlock many newer drives without damaging them. You have to check the manual to see if your's is supported. If not, this player can bypass region coding, regardless of what drive you have. But it costs money, so...
  • Mr. K: That's funny - I generally find that most films are cheaper in Region 1 than Region 2. But then, most I looked at were American releases - on older films, they can go on sale for $12-$15. I had a friend who could buy whole seasons of Buffy for about $40 - but he did get it from half.com. I guess I'm just sticking with Region 1 because I'm not technically adept enought to go playing about with my computer's DVD player, and since most of what I buy is in North America, I was just taking the path of least resistence. The great irony is that far from regions stopping piracy, they are inspiring me to call up British friends for favours. If I ever buy a stand alone player (which would require a TV), I would buy a regionless one.
  • How are those you in region 1 playing region 2 disks through a DVD player? Region 2 disks are usually PAL and region 1 are usually NTSC. Do you have multi-system TVs? Just wondering how common they are, as the only ones I know about are pretty expensive pro video monitors.
  • Maybe they're holding back so they can release a Director's Cut. Or,'the Last King: the Lost episode' with sixteen hours of interviews with the cast and crew...oh, no wait. that's the 'Collecter's Edition'
  • Collector's.
  • most dvd players will automatically convert from pal to ntsc (and the other way as well, I assume) the menus look a bit weird sometimes, but other than that, I haven't had any problems. If you want a region free dvd player, the way to do it is to see the cheapest dvd players walmart has (i went to walmart.com) and then head over to VideoHelp.com and search for the models untill you find one that can be hacked. Google for the model number to make sure. The one I bought 2 years ago had to have a serial number within a specific range for example.
  • The region free player I bought converteds NTSC and PAL. At the time I bought mine, most region free players still needed stand alone converters. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
  • Might also be a good time to call your Congressweenie and mention that intellectual controls like that are stiffling the free market. And donate to the EFF. (And burn as many copies of this one as you can, giving them to anyone who asks for them, making the Region 1 worthless for A&E)...
  • Well, you should have thought of this before chucking all that tea in harbour and all the rest, old chap... (Tee hee, only joking, God Bless America and all the rest,,,)
  • kitfisto: note that this is jb, UEL decendent and proud citizen of the Dominion of Canada. Not that her allegience to the Queen gets her through the non-EU-or-Swiss line at Heathrow any faster... jb: rather than paying for a fancy program to decode other-region DVDs, it would be much cheaper to simply get a second DVD player for your desktop for, say 20 bucks. Also, I hear that there are some DVDs that can't be played on true regionless players (ie. ones that have been hacked). Apparently none of this is an issue in New Zealand, as the govt there past a law saying that you had to be able to play any DVD on a DVD player sold in that country. Not sure if I'm getting the details exactly right there, but I was told this by a technologically savvy Kiwi. Good for them, I say.
  • No shit Dreadnaught? Can any Kiwis pony up the details? I new NZ was awesome, but I cannot describe how impressed I'll be if it's true that the whole country is region free.
  • come on tracicle, dish. are you gonna start selling us monkeys your region-free KiwiDVD™ players or not?
  • Also, I hear that there are some DVDs that can't be played on true regionless players from genial's link:
    Some discs from Fox, Buena Vista/Touchstone/Miramax, MGM/Universal, Polygram, and Columbia TriStar contain program code that checks for the proper region setting in the player. (There's Something About Mary and Psycho are examples.) In late 2000, Warner Bros. began using the same active region code checking that other studios had been using for over a year. They called it "region code enhancement" (RCE, also known as REA), and it received much publicity. RCE was first added to discs such as The Patriot and Charlie's Angels. "Smart discs" with active region checking won't play on code-free players that are set for all regions (FFh), but they can be played on manual code-switchable players that allow you to use the remote control to change the player's region to match the disc. They may not work on auto-switching players that recognize and match the disc region. (It depends on the default region setting of the player. An RCE disc has all its region flags set so that the player doesn't know which one to switch to. The disc queries the player for the region setting and aborts playback if it's the wrong one. A default player setting of region 1 will fool RCE discs from region 1. Playing a region 1 disc for a few seconds sets most auto-switching players to region 1 and thus enables them to play an RCE disc.) When an RCE disc detects the wrong region or an all-region player, it will usually put up a message saying that the player may have been altered and that the disc is not compatible with the player. A serious side effect is that some legitimate players fail the test, such as the Fisher DVDS-1000.
    It goes on to explain that (of course) nothing can't be hacked, and there are mod chips etc that can get around this.
  • Grrr. They're messin with me Farscape! And has anyone considered delivering a cockpunch to A&E?
  • (Yes, I know A&E has nothing to do with Farscape, I just wanted to give them a cockpunch to show them we cared)
  • I don't know what the law is, but pretty much any DVD player here is region-free. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that they seem to hard to come by in North America, but when we lived in California we had to buy a DVD player and find the secret code on the web to unlock region-free play. The one we had was by Apex, btw. Cheap and sometimes crappy, but at least it played all regions. Bought it at Circuit City for about $140, four-ish years ago. Have a look on eBay too, you'll probably find a player there.
  • Thanks to this post, I now have a region-free dvd player. I don't care what anyone says, MoFi still kicks ass.
  • So, are all your discs region free, too?
  • I thought you said dicks but you said discs, so the LOLing would be out of place here.