The Ultimate Multi-Region DVD Player

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Robert George, Dec 8, 2001.

  1. Robert George

    Robert George Screenwriter

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    Some of the more obsessed movie collectors out there know that sometimes you just can't find what you want at the corner DVD emporium, not even the best of them. As it was with laserdisc, there are always things being released in other countries that either are not released in the US or are released in some inferior form. Our friends in Europe, Asia, and South America have had to deal with this to an even greater degree and for a longer time than we here in the Colonies. Unlike laserdisc, however, the digital "enhancements" of DVD were designed to severely curtail the ability to play video software from other countries.
    You see, in most cases, it isn't technically illegal to import legally produced video software from outside the US (or vice versa) with countries the US has trade agreements with as long as the usual import regulations are followed. So the designers of the DVD format were forced by the content providers to make it possible to physically limit the ability to play software from places they didn't want us to be getting things from. You know what I'm talking about. Region coding.
    Due to the nature of the often convoluted licensing agreements made by the various studios, and even the differences in business philosphy between the different national divisions of the same parent studio, the circumstace has arisen that Europe and Asia have seen a number of films released that have not been in the US, not to mention those that have been released in the US in inferior versions such as pan & scan in the US and widescreen in Japan or Europe.
    Because Europe and Asia have much less availability of US films, or they are released months or years later than in the US, the cottage industry of modifying DVD players to play other region software has been booming almost from the day the first players were released. Not so in the US. Multi-region mods and software are few and expensive. Most of the hardware, either kits or players, are from European sources making them more expensive to ship and all but impossible to demo. The various mainly Chinese players with multi-region capability that are being imported have an impressive feature list, even progressive scan and PAL-to-NTSC conversion for under $300. But, without exception, these are basically cheap DVD players with the shortcomings of all cheap DVD players. One used to the exceptional video performance and smooth, well designed user interface of, for instance, the Panasonic DVD-RP91 is loathe to give up that kind of performance to be able to watch Jackie Brown or Mulholland Falls (for instance) in a beautiful 16:9 transfer with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Or Pulp Fiction with an actually watchable transfer (the US version sucks by comparison). Or Timecop and Sudden Death in 2.35:1 widescreen. Or....the list goes on.
    Well, now you don't have to give up top-flight performance to be able to enjoy the best of the DVD releases outside the US. I've found a small US company that offers the latest in multi-region modification for DVD players. I have had my Panasonic retrofitted, but I don't know about other models. You will have to direct your questions about that to Snack Electronics (email [email protected]). This mod also allows PAL output, but not PAL conversion. One will need either a multi-standard monitor or some other type of format converter to play PAL discs on a standard NTSC television.
    Snack's mod offers both auto-select for the various region codes as well as manual select. The manual select is important for RCE (Region Code Enhanced) discs that use software on the disc to check for the region coding of the player. If the RCE disc does not detect the correct region before the disc boots, it will not play. For the record, of all the R2 (Japan) discs I have, only one requires the manual select to play (Sudden Death).
    I've now spent the better part of a day sampling most of the R2 amd R3 discs I have. I must say, compared to the already very good modified Panasonic DVD-A320 I was using, the RP91 mod is everything I hoped for, plus some. Discs that I have always thought of as just "average" have been elevated to something closer to "wonderful". the colors on the R2 version of Pulp Fiction have all the "snap" and depth of a major studio "A" release (the US version sucks by comparison, plain and simple). Jackie Brown and Mulholland Falls look like they are fresh off the rack at the local Best Buy. Peter Hyams wide 2.35:1 compositions in Timecop and Sudden Death are presented intact and, although not 16:9 enhanced, the scaling feature of the RP91 works its minor magic on these two as well.
    Snack charges $99 plus shipping to modify the RP91 themselves or $75 for a DIY kit. With the number of discs I have from R2, this is about the most cost-effective tweak in my system. For my money, this modified RP91 is THE ultimate DVD player.
    P.S.
    Snack also upgraded the firmware in my player to the latest version 236. Incidently, this is also the guy responsible for the updated RP91 firmware files that have been the hot topic here and on AVS for the last week.
     
  2. James D S

    James D S Screenwriter

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    Great post Robert. Looks like I'm going to have to give those guys a call. Thanks for the heads up.
     
  3. Michael D. Bunting

    Michael D. Bunting Screenwriter

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    Yes, great post indeed!

    I also will be giving these guys an email once I have finally gotten my RP91. It's due here on Monday from J&R.com
     
  4. Jay Blair

    Jay Blair Second Unit

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    I want to add a word of caution here. If you plan on using the RP-91 to play PAL discs using a PAL to NTSC converter you're likely to be extremely unhappy. I am not aware of any standalone converter available for less than several thousand dollars that can do proper PAL to NTSC conversion for DVDs. (One of my roommates who does film restoration says she is not aware of any unit for less than close to 6 figures.) Some of the less expensive units work OK to convert PAL VHS tapes to NTSC, but they do not work well at all for DVD. I know, I've tried a couple and read reviews on many others. Tenlabs has a new unit that I've seen selling for $1,600 that may do a good job; I say may because I have not read any reviews on it yet.

    If you really want to have all-region capability, do not rule out the Malata N996--it does perfect PAL to NTSC conversion, for about $350. The player is not up to the quality of the RP-91 (yes, you've probably read about some of the Malata's problems, but they are few and far between, fewer in fact than that of most of the players I've owned), but it still makes a good showing of itself, and for most users will be good enough to be their only player, though in an ideal world where money is not an object, I'd recommend a moded RP-91 for all NTSC discs and a Malata for all PAL discs.

    The Malata has replaced all three of the players I was previously using, a Pioneer Elite DV-37 (a fine player--Stereophile Guide to Home Theater just gave in a rave notice in the current issue--but the Malata is better, at least for video; the DV-37 only has the edge in audio and when playing some discs with a great deal of noise in the picture that the DV-37 has the capability to clean up), an Apex 600A (which I had used to play PAL discs only, and it did that poorly), and a moded Pioneer DV-525 that plays all regions and outputs PAL, but does not convert PAL to NTSC, and this is why I had tried a couple of the standalone converters before acheiving DVD nirvana with the Malata.

    Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy now available in PAL region 2 is truly a thing of beauty. And as for Timecop, the PAL version is anamorphic. Veritgo is another PAL DVD that is anamorphic and a large improvement over the region 1 disc. There are many many other discs that are available in PAL but not available at all in NTSC versions, or not available in anamorphic versions.

    I'm probably going to get the RP-91 before too long for playing my region 1 discs, but since I have the Malata, I don't see a need to get the Panasonic modified for the dozen or so non-region 1 NTSC discs that I own. I own over 70 PAL discs that only the Malata (or a home theater computer) can play properly as far as I am aware.
     
  5. Marcelo T

    Marcelo T Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I have a multiregion pioneer 343 dvd, and although it is a NTSC dvd, I played a pal dvd throgh the component output withou a problem. On the composite output, the movie was B&W. Here in Brazil we use Pal-m for tv and ntsc for vhs and dvd.

    So why could I see the pal dvd without making any conversion? My dvd is a american pioneer, reprogrammed to accept multiregion codes.
     
  6. AngelaG

    AngelaG Auditioning

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    In my experience, most PAL televisions these days can playback NTSC anyway, so there are a lot of DVDs region-coded to PAL territories that are encoded in NTSC.

    ....I have the feeling that makes no sense whatsoever....
     
  7. errol

    errol Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi ya folks,

    Something to consider also is the popular skyworth 1050p.

    * Awesome de-interlacer powered by the Sage (Faroudja) FLI2200 chip which has DCDI circuit for video source deinterlacing.

    * Plays PAL and NTSC discs.

    * Macrovision-free

    * Multiregion

    * Can play DVD, VCD, Super VCD, CD, HDCD, CD-R, CD-R/W, MP3, possibly SACD, and CD with Karaoke.

    * Dolby Digital and DTS via the Zoran Vaddis IIIC chip. It

    * Progressive VGA and Component outputs

    * Interlaced component (YCrCb) and Svideo terminals as well as VGA (RGB)

    Thanks,

    Errol
     
  8. Maza

    Maza Auditioning

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    Hi errol,

    How much is this Skyworth player and where is it available?

    Thanks
     
  9. errol

    errol Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Maza,

    It costs under $300 and available at a handful of offshore sites. A detailed review of the unit including pix at my site.

    Thanks,

    Errol
     
  10. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    How can your player be the Ultimate Worldwide DVD Player if it won't convert PAL to NTSC???? This is not a trivial question. Nearly ALL of my non-region 1 discs are PAL and need to be converted. I suspect many sending their players for region-coding-removal will be grossly disappointed by how little this actually gains them without PAL conversion.
    Second the vote for the Malata N996. Not only does it have impeccable PAL=>NTSC conversion for anamorphic material, but it also has a fairly fine adjustment on the scaling, allowing you to present nonanamorphic 1.66:1 properly on a widescreen set, which the Panasonic won't do. It also allows one to eliminate overscan with precision. None of this left or right shift crap from the Panny; the Malata allows you to move the picture all over the screen as well with the pan function. Considering the many video filters that can be used on the Malata to get the best picture on material that has improper or missing flags, it's a tweeker's wet dream.
    The Malata is the closest to the Ultimate Worldwide Player that I've ever seen or heard of, and it's pretty cheap too. Yeah, the remote sucks, hard, and the user interface was translated from Chinese into Martian and only then into English, and it hiccups on Phantom Menace (just hit play again, and it works fine), but these are pretty trivial compared to the results you can get on the screen. Some people report DTS dropouts in combination with certain receivers, but I've never had a single problem of this nature.
    And it handles nearly all other Region 1 discs for me just fine too. This weekend I watched Dr. Zhivago on the Malata, eliminating overscan, and I was incredibly pleased with the picture. [​IMG]
     
  11. Robert George

    Robert George Screenwriter

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  12. Will

    Will Guest

    Does the mod to the Panasonic affect Macrovision?
     
  13. Sundar Prasad

    Sundar Prasad Stunt Coordinator

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    see next post
     
  14. Sundar Prasad

    Sundar Prasad Stunt Coordinator

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    I have a Sony professional monitor (a PVM-2950Q) that handles both PAL and NTSC - it beats the new XBR Wegas handily even though it's only a 27" display. I also have the Malata 996 and have used it for PAL DVD playback in both modes, i.e. PAL->NTSC->Sony, and PAL->Sony. The Malata's PAL->NTSC conversion is just about flawless, sure there is a 4% speedup, but the picture quality is superb and every bit as good as the original PAL. I prefer the higher vertical resolution of the image displayed as PAL though. As Robert George notes, the RP-91 mod is useless if you don't have a PAL capable display, which is the case for the majority of US/Canada TV owners. IMO, the RP-91 is a good player, but there are other equally good players out there, and the Malata is one of them.
     
  15. Gideon Tam

    Gideon Tam Auditioning

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    Robert,

    "All of the R2 and R3 discs I have are from Japan and Korea. These are NTSC. No 4% speedup. No 50Hz flicker."

    This may be off topic.

    Where did you get your R2 and R3 discs?

    Do you have a list of recommended discs?

    Thank you.
     
  16. donovan_chin

    donovan_chin Stunt Coordinator

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    I would think that the modded RP91 would be the Ultimate Worldwide DVD Player for the rest of the world (besides US and Canada). The thing is that in the rest of the world, multisystem TVs are a norm and one would not want any PAL->NTSC conversion. I for one would definitely not want any conversion of the PAL signals. However, those folks in the US would require their multi-region DVD players to have conversion circuitry built in, would probably be better off looking elsewhere (like the Malata). I personally think that the RP91 is the best all round DVD player out there but I'm biased and the mod is definitely the way I want to go.
     
  17. Eric Kahn

    Eric Kahn Guest

    I have a couple of questions and this might be the wrong tread

    1. what is Macrovision and how does it effect my cheap sony DVD?

    2. what is anamorphic?

    3. do any US spec TV's have PAL capabilities or multisystem?

    standard 4 by 3 TV's not HDTV, I sent the HDTV I bought back because of crappy standard tv signal performance and I am going to stick with a standard TV for a couple of years yet
     
  18. Dzung Pham

    Dzung Pham Second Unit

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    Since people are mentioning other alternatives, I might as well mention that many PCs are also capable of being multi-region without too much effort. This requires a PC with a software dvd player and a dvd-rom drive that can be firmware upgraded to be region-free. In addition, software such as DVD Genie or DVD Region Killer is needed to disable region detection in the player software. If you have a graphics card with TV out, you can then plug your computer video directly to your NTSC TV. It's even better if you use an HDTV or projector since the scaling capabilities of a PC are quite good and it will utilize the full resolution of PAL format discs.
     
  19. Kevin Coleman

    Kevin Coleman Second Unit

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    Robert,
    I think if you read the Secrets DVD shootout (linked below) you will see they scored the Skyworth above the RP-91 and the Malata right with the RP-91. Plus the Malata and Skyworth both have RGB outputs which you will never find on any American DVD player. Unless it has been rebuilt by an outside vendor. RGB means one less conversion when the signal gets to your diplay device. Which means one less place to screw the signal up. Also the Skyworth has no macrovision. I am not sure why you felt the need to take a dig at two excellent DVD players.
    http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volum...-2-8-2001.html
    Kevin C.
     
  20. Robert George

    Robert George Screenwriter

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