Region Free DVD Conversion

By: Mikio Moriyasu - Revised: 2006-08-03 devin


The need to research the possibility of "Region Free" DVD playback on our DVD equipped Macs arose when a Language Department instructor asked if MMC could play DVDs that she purchased overseas. The principle obstacle to fulfilling this request is the worldwide zoning system called “regions”. Established by the DVD industry, regions are used to identify the origin of a DVD video disc and restrict its playback to that region. There are eight regions distributed across the globe as shown below:

  • Region 0: Compatible with any DVD player/region
  • Region 1: U.S.A and its territories, Canada
  • Region 2: Europe, Japan, Middle East, South Africa
  • Region 3: East and Southeast Asia
  • Region 4: Australia, New Zealand, Central America, Mexico, South America
  • Region 5: Africa, Eastern Europe, North Korea
  • Region 6: China
  • Region 7: Reserved
  • Region 8: International venues (airplanes, cruise ships, etc.)

The layout and encoding of the movie is identified by one of eight flags (one flag per region). Each flag indicates where the movie may be played, contains instructions for the player on how to play the movie, and defines interactive elements such as buttons, menus, subtitles, and soundtracks. In this instance, the foreign DVDs would be flagged as “Region 2” encoded discs and would not playback on MMC’s “Region 1” DVD players and DVD-ROM drives.

The most direct solution would be for MMC to purchase “Region Free” DVD players that are designed to ignore the Region encoding “flags”. To equip all MMC facilities with these specialty machines, however, would be quite costly and would not be justified by the relatively small number of people who would be taking advantage of their “Region Free” capabilities. While it would be possible to purchase one of these players, a single unit would severely limit the number of DVDs that could be viewed by the instructor’s students at any given time.

The second option would be to convert all MMC Mac computers equipped with DVD-ROM drives into “Region Free” DVD players and use them for hands-on DVD viewing, a function that they already serve when general computer usage in the lab is down.

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