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Hidden-Feature DVD Players Again 175

FModnar writes: "As described in this review on, another DVD player has been found that exhibits the same menus as the Apex DVD player did a few months ago. Some of the 'hidden' features include the ability to turn off region coding and Macrovision." Sounds like this is a higher-quality player, too. Since both of the Apexes I bought failed within weeks and had to be returned, I certainly hope so. If enough players are region friendly, "chipping" may never catch on much in America.
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Hidden-Feature DVD Players Again

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  • Well no we should'nt. And you know why? Because the DVD region control system is anticompetitive, hampers competition and the free market, and could certainly be considered illegal in several jurisdiction.
  • If the makers played fair and made the disks for Region 1 and Region 2 more alike, we wouldn't need to crack our players to play Region 1
    And if you didn't buy them at all, the makers would have an incentive to play fair.
    The whole /. attitude on DVDs reminds me of people who drive Suburbans with Greenpeace bumper stickers. Maybe you should fly to Norway and rough up Jon Johansen just to make the extent of your support of the DVD CCA clear.
  • by DrWiggy ( 143807 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @01:09AM (#916269)
    ... why is the US market trying to get region-free players? I can understand why in Europe, Asia, etc. there is an interest in region-free DVD players - cheap DVDs!

    All of the people I have spoken to in Europe and South Africa all claim the reason they want region-free is so that they can buy cheap DVDs early from the US market. So why is the US market interested in this?

    Is this just a matter of personal freedoms, or do US DVD-fans get cheap imports too from somewhere?

    Sorry, I'm just confused.... :-)

  • Get yourself a timebase corrector. A DPS Personal TBC for a few hundred bucks stuck in an old XT chassis will nicely clean out any copyprotection. Calum
  • The Raite is a piece of crap, just like the Apex. I had one of both, and returned them. They both had the same problem with audio that isn't synced up with the video. Go figure, they both use the same chipset. And yes, I tried the latest firmware. Anyone who tells you the Raite or the Apex doesn't have audio-sync problems either got a magic player or they're not capable of noticing it. I don't see how companies can release such utter pieces of sh*t. I mean, when you buy a DVD player, you sort of assume that it can at least make audio match up with video. I don't think that's unreasonable.
  • While not wishing to support the way the UK is currently goverened, the English govenment passed a Bill of Rights over 300 years ago. Also the English constitution is unwritten, not non-existant (but this makes little difference in practice).
  • Well... although the copyright may expire someday, a movie or any other material does not become public domain, when it does.

    Actually, this is not correct. With a published work, once copyright expires, it enters the public domain & can be reproduced freely. Original artwork, on the other hand is different & I suspect this is the source of your confusion. If I own a Picasso (for example), you must recieve my permission to publish any reproduction of it. For those rights, I can charge you whatever fees we can agree upon. This right has nothing to do with copyright. It's an ownership right-- I not only own the painting, I own it's likeness as well. This right never expires.
  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @06:47AM (#916274) Homepage

    I understand the excitement about getting rid of the region coding on the DVD system. But I wouldn't get too enthused about getting rid of Macrovision; you can do that yourself with a soldering iron and about $20 in Radio Shack parts. And no, I don't have a schematic to share, but if you're interested, I'll tell you how it works.

    Unlike most of the discussions here which revolve around digital systems and digital technology, Macrovision is analog.

    VCRs, just like cassette decks, have to have a recording level set, so that the tape is neither under-recorded or oversaturated. The appropriate recording level varies by scene and by source; all video signals should in theory have a specific level, but in practice, they don't. Therefore, there must be some compensating mechanism.

    VHS VCRs (but not Beta, 3/4" or other professional formats) set their recording level using the black level in the "vertical interval", which is the black bar that you see when your vertical hold control is set wrong. There are scan lines there, and they contain a sub-black pulse that is sent to the vertical oscillator in the TV set to reset it to the top of the frame. But, a lot of the vertical interval is just video black, and is there because early TV sets needed a couple of lines to recover from the vertical reset.

    As TV sets became more advanced and the need arose to hide more stuff into a TV picture, the vertical blanking interval has been used for lots of extra things: most notably, closed captioning, pay TV decoder controls, and setting record levels on home VCRs.

    Try rolling your picture sometime and see if you can get it to stay on the vertical interval. You'll see a couple of bars flashing around for closed-captioning, and a couple of other bars flashing around that would provide digital signals to turn on and off older addressable analog pay-TV decoders (if your cable company uses them). (Usually, this stuff is in lines 19 and 21, odd fields only, but this depends on the cable company.)

    VHS VCRs use black lines to set the record level. I can't remember the line numbers specifically, but it's line numbers in the teens.

    If you want to prevent a VHS VCR from recording properly, therefore, all you need to do is screw with the blackness that should be present. If you replace it with white bars and stripes, the VCR will set its recording level low, and the rest of the frame of video will appear dark when you play it back. If you flash it on and off, the VCR will compensate during recording and flash the image bright (normal) and dim. Macrovision also screws with the recorded color indirectly; because the chrominance information's record level is generally set by the amplitude of the colorburst pulse at the start of each scan line, it will appear that the colors get to be too intense (saturated) for the given brightness (luminance) of the picture.

    Okay, that's how it works. And, only VHS VCRs are vulnerable (and older/cheaper TV sets that don't properly deal with having crap in the vertical interval). So, how do we kill it?

    Simple. What you need to do is detect the Horizontal and Vertical sync pulses, and make sure they always get through to the TV set. That's easy, they're the only things that should be between 0 and 0.3V (out of 1 volt of video). So, selectively filter out anything above 0.3V.

    Set up a PLL or something to watch for the 60Hz pulse in that sync stream you've just found. A good chip to do this is the National Semiconductors LM1881 Sync Separator chip. Pin 3 will give you an output that you can use to reset a counter. Throw together a counter circuit using TTL or CMOS logic that will count 23 horizontal sync pulses (pin 1) after the vertical pulse from Pin 3. Once the counter has counted that many lines, you need to make it pass the video. You've now made a 23-line-long vertical pulse - your TV might or might not cope with it, your VHS VCR definately won't (but it won't hurt anything).

    Now, all you need to do is, in the time that the counter is counting those 23 lines after reset, you hold the video output to your VCR to 0.3V. Congratulations, you've just scrubbed Macrovision from your video.

    I figure about four commonly-available chips and a small power supply. I tried it myself a few years ago using just the LM1881, a counter, and about 6 transistors. I built my Macrovision scrubber not to make VHS copies of movies, but because I collect 1950s and 1960s TV sets, and many of them don't play well with Macrovision, and I still want to be able to watch rented movies on them.

    Another trick that works sometimes is to just run the video into the video in jacks on a Beta VCR, and run the recovered video out. Most VCRs, while they're just idling, rebuild the sync pulses and intervals (this is why a lot of older VCRs don't pass closed captioning info to your TV). Since Beta VCRs set their recording level a different way, they're immune to Macrovision.

  • by gnarphlager ( 62988 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:49AM (#916275) Homepage
    The flaming weasels come from deep in the bowels of the earth. They aren't born flaming weasels, no, they are made that way. First the person wishing to control the flaming weasel must go out into the wilderness and capture a weasel. Some people have been known to breed weasels for this purpose, but they cannot match the ferocity of a wild weasel. The captured weasels must be taken to a Gateway which leads to the center of the earth. They're not as uncommon as you might imagine, and usually found near large chain department stores. Give the weasel to the person at the desk on level 533 (the floors are labeled counting down. Don't worry though, there is an elevator, and it only breaks once every 3 weeks), and they'll do the rest.

    The weasels are then brought the rest of the way to the center of the earth, beneath the molton "core", which everyone knows was constructed in 1856 to draw attention away from the Masters Of The Earth. Oddly enough, the Masters Of The Earth care little for what actually goes on topside, so they'll work for pretty much anyone. The igniting of weasel warriors is only one of their many services. You might want to call for a catalogue.

    After 14 weeks of re-programming, not dissimilar to many of the world's major religions, the weasel will no longer be able to speak anything other than your name (or your dog's name, if you wish your dog to be in control of the weasel. This is advisable for high profile Evil Overlords). An additional three weeks of combat training follow, where the weasel learns a variety of techniques and strategies to become more effective in the field. All this time, they have been bathing them in rubbing alcohol and feeding them charcoal briquettes. At the end of combat training, they are given a cigarette and a pack of matches, and after the first attept to smoke them, they become flaming weasels. The fire will last for approximately 4 years, after which, you might want to consider a new weasel anyway. During that time you will find your weasel is an infallable assasin, and nearly as good in open combat.

    I hope this was helpful.

  • This thing still has the problems of the old Apex with not being able to play branching disks correctly if at all.

    Is the jump in price worth fixing "some" audio sync problems, and minor improvements to audio/video quality? I think not.
  • Well, it ain't news to *you*. I was glad to hear about it.
  • Upon searching the VDDV website (They make the Apex DVD 600 A players for dist. in the US) I discovered that these players are for sale on the VDDV website. You can buy them from China at a price of $180 US. This does not include shipping. They say that these are for SAMPLE USE ONLY and are not to be used as retail DVD players. It may be that these do not have the regional lock-out, and VDDV is trying to cash in on the demand for this player. I might look into getting one. Anyone know if this is the revised model, or the one with the "Secret Loophole" menu. Check out and select "Buy Sample." Also check out thier other stuff. Some of thier products look kinda interesting. I am curious as to who dist. some of them in the US. 13Echo
  • Here's another site [] with DVD hacks for loads of players.
  • My first Apex blew up after 20 minutes. (Guess they dont know what burn in is...)
    My replacement doesnt seem to have macrovision, Ive been able to record to tape and video in on my computer flawlessly.

    And it plays mp3 cds. :)

    -Brook Harty
  • VHS had a maximum recording time of 8 hours with special tapes. Beta's max recording time was 6 hours. People figured that VHS must therefore be better. How many people record 8 hours on a VHS tape these days? No one I know.

    Also Sony controlled licensing on the Beta format. If you wanted Beta VCR that left you with either Sony, Sanyo, or NEC, which manufactured both. JVC had something to do with the VHS format, and there were much more players to choose for VHS, probably better prices too, but I was a youngin when the tape wars were going on.

  • This should answer your question.

    Blockquoth Ranger Rick:
    I'm sorry, I may have missed it, but did you mean "weasels on fire", or "homosexual weasels"? I would appreciate clarification.
    Blockquoth gnarphlager:
    There is one hope. There is one possible salvation, one glimmer of light in the dark night of the weasel, though not too dark, as that
    they're on fire, and fire does make a little bit of light yanno. The weasels aren't exactly subtle. You're going to know they're coming, which in a way, is much worse. We only have one chance to defeat this scourge and take back the rights that we have so willingly sacrificed.

    Your friendly neighborhood mIRC scripter.
    if (ismoderator(reader)) hidemessage(this);
  • Why is the US market trying to get region-free players?

    To me it is a matter of personal freedom. Even though I live in the US and may never purchase a non Region 1 DVD, I don't like the MPAA manipulating the market and creating an artifical demand.

  • I can understand charging a fee to, say, photograph the painting, but the rest of the ownership right seems way off-base to me. Can someone confirm or deny this?

    Think of it like a contract. I own a piece of art. It's displayed in my private gallery (i.e. not on a street corner or other public place). You want to photograph it. I can decide whether or not to allow this, as you have to come onto my turf to do so, even if it's a work on which the copyright has expired. I can even tell you that you may photograph it for your own use, but that you may not reproduce your photographs of the work for commercial (or any other) purpose. You don't have to agree to those terms, but you don't have to see the work, either.

    IANAL, YMMV, etc.


  • Hah!!! There you have it hten!!! I am obviously a crack whore, who can't even remember what I had for breakfast this morning...
    [OT]Blueyonder are allegedly coming to my area (Stoke Newington, London) at the end of the year, with a cable modem type thing. Are they any good? I'm sick of getting whupped at Unreal Tournament by the bloody europeans with 60ms pings, while I'm crawling along at 130...

    Strong data typing is for those with weak minds.

  • There are always going to be movies that aren't released in the USA or are released in a butchered version. It isn't a matter of price.
  • by Mawbid ( 3993 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @01:17AM (#916287)
    I read a very in-depth article on the VHS/Betamax thing recently. I learned something surprising: Sony's licensing policy didn't just affect price. They wanted to, I guess, protect the good name of Betamax and to that end engaged in censorship. They denied porn manufacturers the right to publish porn on Betamax tapes. I guess that would qualify as a contributor to Betamax's demise. (Well, not really demise, but relegation to the professional market)
  • by Ignis De Maligne ( 49740 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @01:19AM (#916288)
    I worked (interned, actually) for a very large DVD player producer, under the software division.

    Among the other interesting things I learned while there was that such decisions are often made out in the open by project managers and higher level group leaders.

    It also seemed that the suits were privy to the info, but the word was mum on it between the number crunchers and the code spitters.

    Obviously the regionless aspect of a DVD player is a lucrative enough feature that even the large companies choose to ignore it.

    Of course, with so much $$$$ to gain, they would.
  • Say what? If it's true that copyright expires after fifty years why can't I go out and get hold of Citizen Kane [] for free? (Go on mention beer and speech, I dare you :)

    According to that fact I should have been able to have access to it as it's been in the public domain for the last nine years.


  • Like it or not, DVD manufacuters aren't allowed to make "region-free" DVD

    Since when? Certainly in the UK, they're fairly common. Virtually all of the Samsung players, for example, can have region coding and macrovision disabled with a programmable remote. I just wish the Extiva 2000 was available over here (it's their Nuon-enabled DVD player).

  • Okay, so he got the time limit wrong (or at least a few ywears aout of date) the comment still stands.
  • damn you beat me. I was just going to post that, but i guess you already did. Love that song btw
  • VHS was more popular (not sure why, anyone care to comment?)

    The people who made betamax kept the rights to the players (maybe other equipment?) while the creators of VHS (sony?) licensed it out to everyone. costs driven down....
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @04:06AM (#916294)
    The last thing Americans need are lectures from non-Americans about how terrible our rights are. How valuable is the Kiwi Bill of Rights with a built-in escape clause?

    Section 5 [Justified Limitations]
    Subject to Section 4 of this Bill of Rights, the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights may be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified justified in a free and democratic society.

    Of course they're one step ahead of their Commonwealth Cousins in the UK who don't even HAVE a constitution or a bill of rights, but that's getting ahead of the fact that "rights" aren't a concept considered valid in the UK, but we settled that matter with them at Yorktown a couple hundred years ago.

    Look, I appreciate the fact that the US doesn't do a lot of things right, but those most often complaining need to take a cold, hard look at their own political situation before they start blaming us. If after that they don't like the US, then fine, DONT use US products or services. DONT come here. Simple solution.
  • There are also some R2 titles that are superior to the R1 version. For example, the R1 version of Eyes Wide Shut is censored, unlike all the other versions.
    As another example, the R2 release of X-Files: the movie is anamorphic, while the R1 release is plain-vanilla widescreen.
    That depends on preference. I, personally, would rather watch a plain-vanilla widescreen DVD than an anamorphic one; anamorphic DVDs have a rather stretched look to them (the movie, not the disc itself :).

    Your friendly neighborhood mIRC scripter.
    if (ismoderator(reader)) hidemessage(this);
  • This just seems so wrong.

    If somebody doesn't care enough to renew their work, what gives them the right to suddenly wake up and claim rights if someone else much later thinks of a new value?

    "It's a Wonderful Life" would be unknown today if it hadn't entered the Public Domain, and been used by cash-starved PBS channels as Christmas filler.

    But... As soon as the movie studio saw it getting ratings, they managed to yank the movie back out of the public domain - and began making a mint off it. Now you won't see it on PBS anymore, just on NBC. Gross.

    This system is fucked. It needs to change.

    -- RadVen
  • ah, but what about Macrovision. Dammit! I bought this Apex 600a peice of poo for something!

    if it ain't broke, then fix it 'till it is!
  • by vertical-limit ( 207715 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:28AM (#916298)
    Now, I agree that regional protection schemes are a poor idea, but isn't this basically cheating the DVDA? Like it or not, DVD manufacuters aren't allowed to make "region-free" DVD, and this is basically a complete reversal of the DVDA's rules. I don't think anyone on Slashdot can think of a legitimate reason for making region-encoded players (aside from getting the MPAA more $), but that doesn't mean manufacturers should go around flaunting their violations of the rules.

    If you don't want to play the DVDA's rules, don't. Make your format that isn't DVD. If it's better than DVD, and offers more features, then it will catch on, and it'll beat DVD -- remember VHS versus Betamax? VHS was more popular. It won.

    A better solution would be for all the companies and organizations with a grudge against the DVDA (like Apex) to band together and create their own, region-free format. That's the Open Source way.

    The DVDA made its rules for making DVDs -- and nobody's forcing anybody to get in line and make DVDs. As Yoda says, "Do. Or do not. Or do not try. There is no 'try.'"

  • I'm sure I knew this at one point, but have forgotten -- what good is multi-regional compatibility if the discs you get aren't compatible with your home countrie's TV spec? Specifically, I saw some cheap(ish) DVDs while in the airport in Frankfurt recently, but they were labelled "PAL." I'd always thought (apparently, wrongly) that DVDs were "specification neutral," that is, that the player converted the DVD stream to whatever local video format you were on. Am I way off base here?

    Put another way, what's out in other regions that I can't find here (in the US) cheaper? Different, out-of-print movies? Better featured discs? I can't help but notice that whenver I hear about imported DVDs (and LDs, to a lesser degree), it's usually about Anime (which is fine, I suppose, but not my personal cup of tea...)

  • other cult films like "The 10 Commandments"

    Heh. I like that. I know what you meant, but the idea of the basic tenents of Christianity being cult related ammuses me for some reason. :)
  • I think they use languages as a crude second tier of region coding. The Russian language one uses Russian though control patterns, and each African language uses its own patterns. What I find curious is that a lot of UK DVD's have English and Turkish (or somewhere miles away anyway) audio tracks. I can only assume that they both have similar psychology.

    What will cause problems is multicultural areas. I have no idea how they deal with South Africa where they have had two strongly segregated parts of society until recently.
  • Ok, I saw the unedited version when it was in theatres (yay Canada!), and I don't think you're missing anything because of the blurring or whatever they did to the scene. Other than the principle of the thing (which I agree with strongly), there's no real reason to get excited over the edit. (Although it sucks that that's the only version available on disc or vid now, even though we got the real deal onscreen.)
  • My first Apex blew up after 20 minutes. (Guess they dont know what burn in is...)

    Quality at its finest, huh?

    You know, these days, with the manufacturing and sales margins on consumer electronics (especially cheap off-brand stuff), there's no attention to quality. Save $0.05 per unit by not putting a heat sink on a transistor. If you're making 100,000 units, that adds up on the bottom line. Especially an off-brand like an Apex, which everyone is going to buy anyway just for the hidden features...

    Once the 90-day warranty is up (and even before, if you feel brave), flip off the lid and feel for anything that gets hot (be careful not to get killed; if you don't know what's live, don't do it). If you've got access to any kind of thermal imaging equipment, use it. (I use an military AMIRIS system at work to find hot spots.)

    Stuff to look for is output transistors for the spindle, since they'll be running the whole time the DVD player is on, and they're going to be running between off and full saturation, so they're dissipating electricity as heat in resistive mode. Look also for regulator ICs and switching transistors in the power supply, stuff like that. Pretend you're an overclocker, wanting to get the heat off a CPU chip - don't go so far as water cooling, I'm sure it's unnecessary - but it's exactly the same thing. Lots of black anodized aluminum heatsinks, lots of surface area, lots of non-conductive thermal transfer grease.

    Every 10c drop in temperature can double the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) of a semiconductor.

    Look also for under-rated capacitors, both thermally and voltage-wise. Electrolytic and tantalum capacitors are expensive power supply components; to save money, the manufacturers often skimp on the voltage rating. ie. 6V capacitor on the 5V bus. Not much of a tolerance. Go to Radio Shack, and replace the capacitor with one with at least double the voltage rating (but the same capacitance value). Remember to get the polarity right, and I hope your multilayer board and surface-mount soldering skills are good.

    My worst one was at work: we made the mistake of buying a Daytek (Daewoo) monitor. Three warranty replacements later, the current one came in. I'd have bought an NEC myself, but we couldn't return the Daytek by this point. First thing I did was take off the back cover, toss it in front of the AMIRIS, and find the horizontal output transistor was lit up like the sun. Pulled it out, put a huge heatsink under it ($3.95 at a local electronics parts shop), and dropped the temperature of it by 40c.

    The monitor has been fine now for 2 years. However, it did have a sibling that was bought at the same time, and lasted three weeks out of the warranty period before the Horizontal Output blew up and took the flyback transformer with it. Sadly, I never got to get into that one and retrofit it with the heatsink that it should have had.

    My replacement doesnt seem to have macrovision, Ive been able to record to tape and video in on my computer flawlessly.

    Yeah. I'm not sure how different video cards set "record levels", basically the automatic gain control for the input stage of the Analog to Digital converter.

    If I were designing one, I'd probably use one of the AGC chips readily available for VHS VCRs - they're cheap, easy to use and easy to find. However, not only are they the reason that Macrovision works only against VHS VCRs, but since computer hardware makes consumer electronics pale in its pursuit for the elusive and almighty buck, I'm sure that I'd have the software gurus do it.

    If you're using a 16 bit A/D converter to sample the incoming stream, no one would ever notice if the A/D luminance resolution was a little low: the software can easily be made to pad the data if it determines that the sync pulses or whatever are too high or too low. So, some video cards may be immune to Macrovision, and some may not. It might even be possible for drivers to be written to scrub Macrovision from the incoming video signal on those cards that leave the video level setting up to a software number-crunch.

    Keep in mind that Macrovision is entirely an analog "feature" of the outgoing signal from the DVD deck. If the vertical blanking interval is recorded on the DVD (unlikely, but I don't know, since I don't yet have a DVD player and therefore haven't played with them much), then your DVD player will send it out unless it specifically scrubs it. But it's more likely it's not in the movie, but a concession by the electronics industry to the MPAA, and the disc simply turns on or off the Macrovision circuits in the DVD player. So, it fails to turn on the Macrovision circuits sometimes....

    Has anyone ever tried running a DVD player on a computer with an ATI Xpert@Play98 or similar card equipped with a video output jack? Does Macrovision exist on those? I'm sure the video converter chip on those doesn't actually get Macrovision commands from the video card driver.

    And it plays mp3 cds. :)

    Yeah, someone at Apex really likes to ruffle feathers with intellectual property owners. :)

  • Yes, but it says more about the religious weirdos who thought pleasure was *bad*, and whose suppression of natural, appropriate sexual expression led to the obsessions we see today.

    Once again, religion pretending to have a special relationship with morality fscks it up for everyone.

    (wow, I said suppression, expression and obsession in a single sentence!. I will never need to do manual labor!) :o)
  • Well, I buy Japanese imports of anime titles... and those usually run you twice or more the cost of a US DVD. Same with Japanese CDs. However, there are titles that I'd like to have that won't make it to the US soon (or ever), such as the Shoujo Kakumei Utena movie. And even though the Japanese anime discs are more expensive than their US counterparts (if one exists) a good portion of the time they are of higher quality - the aforesaid Utena movie is less than an hour and a half long but is on a dual-layered disc, and the bitrate stays in the 9s almost throughout the entire movie. What does this mean? It means that it comes out beautifully, with no artifacting, bright colors, and a picture sharpness that rivals laserdisc (or is even better). Only problem I see is that there is no English translation on all but a very few titles (I believe Gainax is going to do English subs on the DVD release of FLCL), but I don't care - I want to see it regardless.

    People in the US have been importing anime laserdiscs for a good long time now, and laserdiscs were never region coded. The region coding on DVDs is a just minor annoyance with the availability of region-free players. (FWIW, I have a region-free, and Macrovision-free, Pioneer-DV525.)

  • The net.
    Back in '94, I had my laptop when I was visiting a friend. When I let her know that I could get onto the net with it, she was like "so, can you show me some dirty pictures off the net?" [pictures.nude]

    Even way back when (before it was fully commercialized) it was one of the biggest volume newsgroups (both in terms of MB of data and numbers of subscribers) on the net. But the signal to noise ratio was MUCH higher.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Timothy says:
    Sounds like this is a higher-quality player, too.

    The article says:
    If there's an area where the unit falls extremely short, it's in its build quality. The unit is a fairly flimsy creation that I don't expect to last for terribly long. That's a problem if you're going to be using the Infinity as your one and only player. If you're using it only for multi-region stuff, it should have a longer shelf life. After all, less play means less wear and tear. For those intents, I think the Infinity is a good idea.

    Nice to know that the /. editor can't even bother to read before posting. Online journalism at its best!
    (and remember this next time you bitch about traditional journalists not taking you guys seriously).
  • by RadVen ( 213574 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:35AM (#916308) Homepage
    One thing I've not seen addressed in the whole copyright debate - what rights does a DVD owner have when the copyright on a DVD they own expires?

    For example, 50 years or so from now when The Matrix enters the public domain, will Macrovision magically turn itself off? Will the DVD decss itself? Will it magically become region free?

    If you take the long view, there is a real legitimate reason for technology (and hidden menus) that get around technological copy protection.

  • VHS is actually a poorer cousin to Betamax. Betamax was a smaller format and offered better quality but because VHS was more popular (not sure why, anyone care to comment?) it won. Therefore just by creating a better, newer format does not guarantee you market dominance.

    And even if you did create this new magical format, who is going to release films on it? All the big distributors are so tied up in DVD that they would be unlikely to enter anything vaguely resembling competition.

    Personally I don't really understand why the whole region encoding system was added to DVDs. People who *really* want to watch those grey imports will always find a way.


  • Get a modified brand name player, there are many places that sell them, CodefreeDVD [] for instance. These guys are trying to take advantage of all the controversy over DeCSS to sell a flimsy peice of equipment.
  • > I can understand why in Europe, Asia, etc.
    > there is an interest in region-free DVD
    > players - cheap DVDs!
    As a European, I'd rather tell about their availability as they often cost the same, whichever region they are.
    For example, The Alien Legacy box or the Die Hard box was out in Zone1 months before being available in Zone2.
    There are other cult films like "The 10 Commandments", etc.

    Now, if I were a Yankee, found of cult films, I think I'd look for films like Jacques Tati's, Marcel Pagnol's or other famous European film-makers.

    You might have Hollywood but there are also some pearls by here.

    I hope this could give you some clues about why people coul look after region-free solutions...
  • by The Rizz ( 1319 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @01:29AM (#916312)
    There are many DVD's that are encoded for other regions (especially the UK and Japan) that take years to reach the US - if ever.

    Don't think there are many? Try the enormous amount of anime available in Japan - anime's too much of a niche market in the US for many videos to be "profitable enough" to re-encode and sell abroad.

    Also, there have been several shows from the BBC that I've wanted, but have never been released in the US. Once again, the studios/etc. involved don't want to risk the investment in another video distribution for another country.

    Another very good reason is that there have been several movies released with different versions in different countries - scenes added or deleted according to the movie censors in each locale. For some examples, go to the IMDB and check some of the movies' running times - they will often be 2-10 minutes longer in some countries than others.

    If there were no regions, then I could order those Japanese DVD's, or those UK DVD's. Or maybe I could get those foreign copies that have the extra 15 minutes of footage that the US censors cut out.
  • Erm

    All Sony dvd players (well in the UK anyway) require a mod-chip to become multi-region. No cunning menu hacks unfortunately.

  • by deefer ( 82630 )
    I really wonder how much innovation can be ascribed to people's love of pr0n. Stuff that was made _really_ popular, because it made pr0n access easy... Just thinking quickly, here's some starting points...

    Home projectors.



    fast home dialup


    Any more?

    Strong data typing is for those with weak minds.

  • by Harri ( 100020 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @01:35AM (#916315) Homepage
    I am confused. There seem to be two issues here:

    1. The contract that DVD player manufacturers have with the Big DVD Guys, which I understand explicitly states that their players must not play DVDs from the wrong regions.
    2. The laws which there may be in the US, which theoretically may prevent one from chipping one's own DVD player, on the grounds that doing so would circumvent the copyright protection. I would be interested in what would happen if this ever went to court, since in no way does a region-defeating chip help you copy the DVD (although if the chip got rid of macrovision also, there might be a point).

    Surely the first item applies equally to DVD players sold in any country?

    I have seen lots of UK stores selling chipped players (we have one, it came with a year's guarantee from the shop for both the player and the chip), but not selling players that come with multiple regions out of the box.

    I'm also interested to know if people in the US put up with region-1-only DVD players when nobody else does, just because of this curious piece of legislation. Or is it just because nearly all films that US people might want to watch are out in Region 1 anyway?

  • Get yourself a timebase corrector. A DPS Personal TBC for a few hundred bucks stuck in an old XT chassis will nicely clean out any copyprotection.

    Actually, *any* old TBC is great to have around the house, period.

    Some TV stations have been known to sell old equipment from their "graveyards" to staff. I once picked up a complete old RCA Image-Orthicon color studio camera. (Circa 1963? 1964?) I was in high school at the time, working on the side as a cameraman for a local TV station. I used to hop onto my bike after school and head right over to the TV station down the road and do the dinnertime newscast. So, one day when one of the older techs there dropped me off after work, with my bike, schoolbag and a 400-lb studio camera in the back of his van, my mother flipped. <sigh> I wish I'd been allowed to keep that thing. It was so cool.

    Anyway, I did get to keep a couple of early digital TBCs. They were free-standing, 19" wide rack-mount, occupying three units on the rack. Made by Grass Valley, about 7 or 8 years old when they were retired off one of the mobile trucks in 1991. No computer required, but they were full of 1Kx4 static RAMs. Plug in the video, bring the level up until the SAT light flashes during bright scenes, then crank it back a bit. Run the output video to whatever you want.

    Once you have a TBC, you can run a VCR through the TBC, run the TBC's sync output into a good camera (most security cameras have sync in jacks, so that you can run dozens of them on the same display), and then do dissolves and stuff back and forth from the camera to the VCR. To say nothing of dubbing rental movies (but it's easier if you have any non-VHS VCRs kicking around).

    And TBCs are great if you like to freeze-frame video: most of them will hold a picture in static RAM if the signal is lost. (Notice sometimes on live news coverage, if the satellite feed is flaky, the announcer will appear to freeze momentarily? That's a TBC freeze, hiding a screen full of static.)

    Nowadays, of course, you can do all this on your home computer. But having a few 3/4" VTRs, an old Amiga 500, a couple of TBCs and a home-built genlock gave me a tiny little TV studio a full decade before the iMac.

  • Preach on brother...

    I don't own a dvd player or a dvd. I won't even think of buying one until something breaks for the open source side.

    I'm not a zealot by any streach of the imagination, but somethings are worth making a stand for.

  • the differentiator between the APEX 600A with the menu and the one without is that the new ones (with no secret menu) have a digital sound output too. So just ask if the player has a digital sound output - if it does, it's the new one without the secret menu.
  • Yeah, right
    Furthermore, if you go to the virgin Megastore in Paris, you won't find any DVD player that handles the region coding, they are all region free
  • The point I was trying to making in my original post [] was that I'm sick and tired of people bitching about "oppressive US laws" and how US citizens have no rights without taking the 30 fucking seconds to look at their OWN lame governments, laws, missing constitutions, lack of rights, bloody histories, etc. Make damn sure your own house is in order before you start laying into the US.

    The reason I picked on the British is that half the time this topic comes up there's some UK-ite complaining about how awful the US is. I just thought those Brits who might think about chiming in with the usual suspects (blacks, native americans, etc) might like a little reminder that the high horse from which they judge the US has trampled quite a few people.

    The Swiss? Don't get me started on the branch office of the Reichsbank, no women voting until 1973, and the general Swiss banking contribution to corrupt kleptocratic governments everywhere.
  • Well, strictly speaking, it illegal to sell or rent DVDs that have not been passed by the censor. It is still legal to import DVDs for personal use yourself (been there, done that). And that particular rule is not exactly well enforced.

    This all assumes that you are talking about the UK, how region cetric of me :)
  • no sorry mark, what's disney?


  • what rights does a DVD owner have when the copyright on a DVD they own expires?

    The copyrights will never expire. Every 20 years the Big Boys get the congresscritters to add 20 years to the copyright laws.

  • Not everyone has an HDTV, you know, considering how expensive they are. Some of us can only afford a *gasp* standard NTSC (or PAL) television set.

    Your friendly neighborhood mIRC scripter.
    if (ismoderator(reader)) hidemessage(this);
  • But the article (and, I think, Builder) was referring to players that _are_ all-region out of the box. This would seem to me to be in breach of contract whatever country they are bought in.

    Then you would be wrong, in many countries cartels are illegal and coontracts unreasonably in restraint of trade, or otherwise for an illegal purpose, are void and unenforceable.
  • by double_h ( 21284 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @04:30AM (#916326) Homepage

    Look for Afreey LD-2020 instead. It's the same player.

    According to this page [], the firmware on the latest versions of this player are no longer hackable. Caveat Emptor.

  • Sorry, a meta-comment. Why is this story under 'Toys'? I ran into it only by chance since I filter off 'Toys' stories (not Toy Story... :-) from my /. homepage.
  • If you recall Apex stated they didn't intend to disable the coding. It just happened to be part of the off the shelf menu system chip they used. In fact Apex stated that many other companies used that same chipset and that they have the same loopholes as well.

    This shouldn't be a suprise.
  • Both this player and the Apex will do automatic conversion form PAL to NTSC. I have an Apex, and it nicely plays the 3 or 4 UK DVDs I've purchased. If you're not into anime, foreign films, or finding special, uncut editions not available here in the US due to censorship or laziness-- there's probably no reason for you to care. On the other hand, i just like knowing that I can play whatever the heck I want, should I ever want to.
  • by jna ( 213645 )
    I've got a Pioneer DV-626D. It only requires a few clicks on the remote to change it's region code.
  • Different cultures have different attitudes to what they see. Some countries will see something as a joke which others see as an insult, often based on something seemingly unrelated and trivial such as timing.

    By adjusting different region versions and different language versions of the same DVD's. By carefully adjusting the films, they can implant subtle concepts, and use us for all manner of things.
  • This player might do PAL->NTSC conversion but does it go the other way round too? (It's not a major concern to me since my TV will do it anyway but not everyone has a nice glitzy 16:9 tv)

    I've been considering getting a Scan SC-2000 [] which does appar to have a very similar feature list to this player, except that it's build quality is rated as very good in any review I've found. It's meant to have very good audio sync and good picture quality - has anyone actually used one?

    The only downside to the scan player is that it cant disable macrovision (only region coding) but that doesn't really concern me since i cant think of any reason why i'd want to copy a dvd to vhs <cringe>.

    At 160 quid or thereabouts + vat it's quite a good price. ($230 + tax)
  • anime's too much of a niche market in the US for many videos to be "profitable enough" to re-encode and sell abroad.
    So why bother encoding it in the first place? (Okay, Apparently a lot of them don't).

    The point is, in the originating country (in this example, Japan) it is considered profitable - so they encode it for their region (and hteir region only).
    However, they then decide they don't want to have to pay for a re-encode for another region, creating the new master, new packaging, more paperwork for foreign distribution deals, etc.

  • by Ian Schmidt ( 6899 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @02:38PM (#916336)
    DVD is a purely digital format. The discs are not "PAL" or "NTSC", nor do they contain sync pulses or any other analog-isms. When you decode the video, you get 720x480 24 bit raw frames.

    Macrovision is "added on" by the player, according to some bits on the disc (discs can switch Macrovision on and off individually - it's not global to the player). All DVD-CCA licensed players *must* have Macrovision encoding on any composite/S-Video/component outputs. This includes PC-based decoder cards, which is why the makers of those cards refuse to give specs out to free/open source software developers. Once you have specs it would be trivial to defeat the added Macrovision even in Windows, and we can't have that.
  • Hrm. That's understandable. But what about if there's a likeness of the work already existing (a photograph, say), with no such restrictions? Do I still need to get your permission to distribute copies of that?

    Good question! I have no idea.

    I suspect that if a previous owner has allowed unfettered distribution of reproductions that any future owner wouldn't have the right to restrict them, but I'm not sure of the specifics.

    The law is a fuzzy thing, especially civil law. Terms like "legal" and "illegal" don't really apply to situations like this. If the owner advised you to cease distributing reproductions, AND he chose to sue you AND you lost in court AND no further appeals were granted AND a judge ordered you cease such distributions AND you didn't comply, then you could fairly call your continued actions "illegal", but that's only one way the process might unfold.


  • Chipping often has more benefits than simply bypassing region coding. Often, a chipped player allows for skipping all playback control encoded in the disks, such as the "forced" trailers in Disney's Tarzan DVD.

    There is one major drawback to the chip- it nearly always requires much more than a simple chip replacement, usually soldering at several points in the player, which means that your warranty is certainly voided.

  • The original specification for DVD did not include region coding or any such feature. Because of this the major publishers of video material took one look at it and said "We are not publishing material on this medium". The manufacturers then had to go back and re-engineer the DVD Video standard to include the region coding idea (so that the video publishers could maintain their segmented markets). This actually delayed its release by over a year.

    If someone were to come out with another unregioned standard then the publishers would simply refuse to publish to it and it would die. Remember until the death of DIVX a lot of companies (such as Disney) were not going to publish a lot of their material on DVD at all.

  • Well, actually, that's why I had one too-we used them with a Toaster. Didn't realize how useful they were until someone asked me to try copying a tape... :)

    You had a Toaster? <jealousy>Bastard!</jealousy>

    Not just useful with a Toaster, though. Actually, my most powerful machine at the time, my old A500, was a relatively late addition to my home TV studio. (It came about the same time as a friend of mine slipped me a copy of Broadcast Titler 2.0 that they used to use to replace the $50,000 Chyron machines for newscasts.)

    Before that, the TBCs were useful for syncing my only (at the time) 3/4" VTR with my camera's internal sync generator; once that was done, I could do crossfades between sources, and capture them onto my VHS machine.

    After a while, I scored some more derelict 1970s-vintage 3/4" decks, and started to get creative when I threw together a luminance keyer.

    You know what a "Chroma Key" is, right? Ya know, the blue screen background? It's entirely an analog way of superimposing one video source over another. Matched sync is critical (so I couldn't do it without either a whole bunch of synced cameras or VTRs on TBCs). All that the chroma key does is look for a specific color (commonly blue) and switches to the other video source while that special color is being sent.

    Actually building a chroma keyer is just a matter of watching each line of video for a specific amplitude and phase of chroma information being sent in the scan line. Detecting the phase is the really tough part for me with my self-taught informal electronics training, and when I did this, I was in high school and so couln't afford to dedicate $200 of parts that I'd bought in Radio Shack blister packs to being smoked off a piece of perfboard in a failed attempt. <grin>

    So, I just went the easier way: when I knew I wasn't in a horizontal or vertical blanking interval, my sync separator circuit held a line high. A high DISP line coming off my homebrew sync-sep board meant that I was in a displayable part of the video signal, and was used to turn on and off a small comparator circuit.

    Any time the source video, in the displayable area, got above a given brightness, it switched to the second video source. With that, I had very crude "blue-screen" ability.

    It was really cool, too, because if you played with the thresholds, comparator recovery times and other neat stuff like that, you could absolutely butcher a piece of video in all sorts of MTV "How did you do that?" ways.

    In fact, one of the broadcast engineers at the station, who knew that I was good with a soldering iron and had had me rebuilding VTRs with him at one point, asked me how my luminance keyer circuit was coming along. I brought it in the next day, and plugged it in on the bench, and we threw some synced video at it. It was quite unspectacular compared to some of the big-$$ chroma keys at the station, but because it was easy to mess with, we were sticking capacitors across the comparator's switching output to introduce some smear in the source switching. We got some neat effects out of it that way, and even ended up showing it to the news producer, who used it to produce a neat smeared overlay for the opening of the evening newscast. That was cool.

    Ahhh, I love NTSC video, even if it is completely inconsistant and archaic. The NTSC video signal represents what is probably the single most complicated analog waveform in general use.

  • "It's only because the American public willing surrender their rights little by little, that you're prepared to live with this."

    And just think, if there wasn't that silly assault weapon ban, we could OVERTHROW GOVERNMENT. Damn, I'm joining the NRA!

    (for those sarcasm-impaired, that was sarcasm)
  • DVD is a purely digital format. The discs are not "PAL" or "NTSC", nor do they contain sync pulses or any other analog-isms. When you decode the video, you get 720x480 24 bit raw frames.

    Okay. And the storage mechanism for the series of raw frames is MPEG, isn't it, which would roughly mean that it stores each frame once, then adjusts each one in sequence according to the change?

    I figured it was purely digital; the only question being whether or not it actually stored each complete frame as it would be stored on a videocassette or broadcast over the air. But I doubted that, since it strikes me that the overhead to actually attempt to store sync information and stuff in a digital format (rather than just create it on playback) would hamper compatibility with other future formats, as well as simply being unnecessary.

    Macrovision is "added on" by the player, according to some bits on the disc (discs can switch Macrovision on and off individually - it's not global to the player). All DVD-CCA licensed players *must* have Macrovision encoding on any composite/S-Video/component outputs.

    So, all we need to do is learn what line on one of the really big VLSI chips on the board is held high/low to keep Macrovision on/off...

    Unless the image is processed digitally into a frame, including vertical and horizontal information, before being send to the D/A converter for output... That would make things a little bit more difficult. But if you're running a DVD player with composite and S-Video outputs, I doubt that's the case, for a variety of technical reasons that stem from the nature of the way color information is modulated onto NTSC luminance information.

    Hmmm... Actually, the more I think about it, if you have separate outputs on the DVD player, I'm more convinced that the video is prepared in analog format first, then somewhere along the way a sync processor circuit gets in between, adds chroma, H+V sync, and performs the chroma modulation to the luminance signal. Somewhere along the way, there's probably an output from the DVD player's computer that turns on and off the Macrovision circuits. It's only a matter of finding that signal line somewhere in the myriad of pins connected to all those proprietary chips.

    This includes PC-based decoder cards, which is why the makers of those cards refuse to give specs out to free/open source software developers. Once you have specs it would be trivial to defeat the added Macrovision even in Windows, and we can't have that.

    Now, I understand.

    In either case, though, unless you're a complete purist and don't want to add any extra electronics between your disc and your TV set, it's probably just easier to throw together a small scrubber, rather than trying to take out the Macrovision at the source.

    Macrovision sure does make it tough for me to watch old movies on my antique TV collection: a 1954 General Electric doesn't play very well with stuff hidden in the vertical blanking interval. Nor does my 1957 GE UltraVision, nor does my 1956 Admiral Bakelite, nor does my 1960 Philco TravLer, nor does my 1954 RCA color. Only my 1955 Motorola doesn't seem to care.

    Watching Ben Hur on an ancient black and white TV with my surround-sound system running just seems so weird, but it's also a lot of fun. <grin>

  • The problem is that the distribution of movies to theaters isn't instantaneous. North America gets the first run at first run movies followed by Europe and other venues. The DVD might be available in North America before the movie is even available overseas.

    This argument might be legitimate if region coding were time-limited (and not applied at all to DVD releases of past movies); however, this is obviously not the case.

    It's a market-cartelization scheme; nothing else.

  • I don't see the point in buying DVD while the regonal codes are still in effect. (I did't buy one yet and is is very unlikely I will in near future) If no consumer ever bothered buying a DVD-player it would die of a quick death. Considering the huge amount of money put into the development of the DVD technology, I guess that the first thing they would kick out, would be the regional codes...just to save on the $$$ they spent and eventually make it popular.
    As mentioned in a previous post, it would be easy by encoding region code 0 on all DVD's: no harware changes are hardware needed ;-)
  • by philj ( 13777 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @02:28AM (#916375)
    This page [] on DVD Reviewer [] has a list of DVD players, and how to multi-region hack them! :-)
  • I'd definitely agree with you on that. some things just don't translate either -- think Cyrano de Bergerac. I have never seen an acceptable translation of it, nor a decent movie besides the Gerald Depardeu (sp) version. which (guess what!) is Region 2 encoded. I'm now looking for a set-top player that will play it as well as my Region 1 DVD's, and Japanese anime. it's entirely insane.

  • Now I'm confused as to what the significance of this is? Nearly all DVD players I've looked at have hidden menu's where you can disable region encoding. And not just on stange name models but on nearly all such as the Sony players, etc...

    Oh well... I just fail to see the point of this article...
  • > isn't this basically cheating the DVDA?

    Apparently so. But -

    1) When some court finally gets around to outlawing region codes, the makers can save themselves the cost of a massive recall by having a "hidden" menu already in place to disable RC restrictions. Now all they will have to do is mail out letters saying "follow these steps".

    2) The cheats are perceived as marketable features. This has been discussed in other branches of this thread. I will add that there is a sort of game of chicken going on between the makers and the DVD cartel. The makers know the cheats to be marketable. Knowing this, they know that someone is going to break ranks to take advantage of it. If anyone breaks ranks, then everyone else pretty much has to follow in order to maintain sales. Fortunately (from the makers' POV) there is strength in solidarity among cheaters: the DVD cartel needs them, too. If DVD revokes all the makers' licenses, how can they hope to keep selling DVDs?

    So we'll continue to discover that this and that model of player is cheat-enabled. Indeed, as I have said several times before, fact (1) virtually assures that all existing players are cheat-enabled, whether we know about it yet or not.

    Sure, there will be lots of lawsuits. In the long run, technology will almost certainly win out over syndication (though internet distribution may make the whole thing moot before all the wrinkles are ironed out).

    Meanwhile, the more squeemish makers can hide behind the claim that the "hidden" menus were intended for service diagnostics, and consumers are not supposed to be using them.

  • You are assuming there is a free market in video playback devices, there isn't. The DVD folks have everything locked up with trademarks, patents and a cartel^H^H^H^H^H^Hassociation. I would like to see the Justice Department and the EU investigate them for antitrust violations.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:42AM (#916392) Journal
    You could just buy a hacked DVD player from a place like code free DVD [] There are a LOT of places openly selling multi region players.
  • by Vanders ( 110092 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:47AM (#916398) Homepage
    In theory, it's actually in a manufacturers interests to make a DVD player crackable. Think about it. If the coders "accidently" leave in a hidden menu that can be used to crack the player and make it region free, then someone in the company "leaks" how to do it, people take notice.

    As a good example, i bought my Samsung player on the very basis that it was easy to crack so i could play the Region 1 DVD's in Region 2. Another good example is several well known UK supermarkets were selling players that could be easliy cracked, and told the buyers how do it. The players flew off of the shelves.

    The easier it is to crack the player, the more people will want one. :)
  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @05:48AM (#916400) Homepage
    remember VHS versus Betamax? VHS was more popular. It won.

    Actually, the reason VHS vs. Beta turned out the way it did wasn't because of any technical superiority on the part of the VHS format. It was purely price.

    In fact, Betamax is a direct descendant of the popular (though old) broadcast format, U-Matic (3/4"). It's the same thing; as video tape head technology moved along and the head gaps could be made smaller, the whole thing could be scaled down in size.

    To this day, Beta mechanisms, exactly the same as any old Beta VCR, are the foundation of the Betacam format, which is used in TV stations worldwide, especially for ENG work.

    Beta tape is threaded out of the cassette through a much simpler "U"-load system than VHS's "M"-loading system, which basically looks like a Rube Goldberg invention. Instead of a cumbersom system of posts and hacked-up bicycle chain, U-Load systems use a loading ring, which just powers the tape around the head drum with less than half the moving parts of VHS's M-load. The design of the ring-based U-load system is centered around leaving the tape loaded during rewind and fast forward. That way, while you're fast forwarding or rewinding a Beta or 3/4" cassette, you can just hit the REW/FF button and have the picture come up on the screen so that you can see where you are in the tape. With VHS machines, the closest you can come to this is to hit FF/REW while you're playing, and the machine will scan ahead/behind faster. You miss out on the full rewind/fast forward speed.

    Beta HiFi isn't a kludge the way VHS's high fidelity sound system is: rather than needing the separate "depth multiplex" hi-fi heads that VHS uses, the Betamax recording spectrum allocated space to FM modulate the sound and record it in between the luminance (brightness) and chrominance (color phase) parts of the signal. This means lower cost and better reliability.

    Further, Beta allocates more space on the recording spectrum to allow better encoding of chrominance information. That's why, if you compare a similar vintage VHS machine with a similar vintage Beta, the colors will appear to be more real and usually with less chroma shift (tint change).

    Beta's electronic design is such that the HQ system added to VHS playback circuits isn't required: VHS HQ doesn't have a Beta counterpart; Beta is HQ from the drawing board up.

    Beta's head drum is a clamshell design, similar to most of the better 3/4" VTRs. The top and bottom of the head drum is stationary, with a small slot that allows the heads to poke through for tape contact. VHS (and cheaper 3/4" VTRs) use a spinning upper head drum. The idea is that the tape will ride on a cushion of air above the spinning head drum, and it reduces tape wear a little bit. But the spinning head drum causes stability issues that reduce the picture quality.

    Beta was also designed so that at all recording speeds, the VCR uses the same head azimuth. VHS doesn't do that; for good picture quality (especially in EP mode), you need a four-head VCR, since a two-head VCR is optimized for SP playback/recording. When you hit pause or slow-mo, the VHS VCR turns on its tracking adjustment circuitry and inches the capstan to a complete frame, then it switches to its EP heads, which usually have a better azimuth angle for static display. This is why a 4-head VHS machine is required for a clean pause. Beta VCRs only need two heads to do it, but will only do it if they're equipped to fine-adjust the capstan position.

    Want a neat piece of trivia? VHS stands for "Video Home System", and it was designed by JVC (Japanese Victor Company) as their entry into the home VCR market. The Beta format was originally designed as a compact 3/4" professional machine, with the word "Beta" being a Japanese word for "close" - because the Beta video tracks were closer together than 3/4". Beta cassettes, initially, weren't very long: as a professional format, most videocassettes were 20 minutes to 1/2 hour.

    VHS is just a knock-off format that does the same thing as Beta, but without infringing on any of Sony's patents for helical video recording, automatic tape (as opposed to cassette) loading, signal processing, etc.

    It saddens me that VHS won. Unfortunately, it's gotten to be pretty damned hard to rent a Beta video at Blockbuster, so I run VHS at home, too.

    Actually, I've got a bunch of early VTRs, including a Sony 3600 open-reel 1/2" VTR, several of the very eariest Beta and VHS machines, and several 3/4" professional decks. Oh, and a 1967 Ampex Cross-Track open reel deck. Lemme tell you, compare the impotent little plastic noises that today's VCR's make with one of my old 3/4" editing decks, it's just incredible. Hit the play button, and there's a sound of a big motor starting up as the head drum is brought up to speed, and the a good succession of solenoids being turned on and off... "snap... snap... CLUNK!" as the machine engages the play mode.

    It's like the difference in sound between a Honda Civic's 1.5L engine, and a Chevy 454 V8.

    And man, a 1975 Sony 3/4" professional deck will produce an image that will blow the doors off the best of today's home video equipment.

  • Unless there is a way to defeat it within the VCR (they may be, but I don't know it), hooking a DVD player up to the aux video input on my family's (old, cheap) VCR results in activation of the Macrovision system -- the VCR detects a Macrovision-encoded video signal and says "uh, uh" -- the picture that leaks through is Macrovisioned splotchy / wavy / dark.

    When I turn(ed*) off Macrovision, the picture was great.

    That's why, for me anyhow :) The fuzzy logic of fighting unauthorized copying has led to some pretty silly micromanagement of home electronics when I can't take advantage of a single video input on a TV to watch more than one source without buying a distribution amp!

    And as far as movies from India (or elsewhere), well ... OK, so that doesn't interest you. To some others, it may be a big deal. We all have different tastes and priorities. Perhaps movies in their language aren't widely available in the U.S. Perhaps (and I know people with this complaint) they bought a number of movies before moving to the U.S. and some of those may never be made into Region 1 disks. Or maybe you move frequently from one country to another for work. The point to me is that it's needlessly restrictive.

    The movie industry is free to engage in the petty tyranny of region coding as far as I'm concerned, but they're breeding the same kind of "respect" that scrambled cable did -- region-coded releases I think demonstrate a fairly crass indifference to the customer who purchases a film. And so many people have no compunction about breaking their system with hardware hacks like this.


    *before I brought back the two separate P.O.S. Apex players, that is.

  • For example, 50 years or so from now when The Matrix enters the public domain, will Macrovision magically turn itself off? Will the DVD decss itself? Will it magically become region free?

    Well... although the copyright may expire someday, a movie or any other material does not become public domain, when it does. I fact, The Matrix will always belong to the people who made it. You will not have to pay for licenses then (that is why older movies can be sold on cheap video tapes), but you will still have to ask, before you distribute it. So, the DVDs' proctection mechanisms will "make sense" even then (in fact they don't make sense at all, but you know what I mean...)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you'll go back and read the article again, maybe you'll realize that the poster was referring to the superior video quality, not the construction of the hardware. The latter is a consideration, but making a personal attack by taking things out of context is inane. I have an apex myself, and the colors do run dark, just like the article says.

    Why can't people leave the Slashdot editors alone? Are you just jealous that they can make a living at this, where you can't?

  • If I make a format that's better than DVD and isn't region encoded, it won't get the backing of major motion picture studios. Therefore, no movies will be available for it.

    If I release movies for it, I will be breaking copyright law. I will go to jail and probably become the love slave of some 400 pound guy named "Sunflower".

    If, however, I make a regionless DVD player, I have broken no laws and, were I to be taken to court over it, I could probably prove collusion in the movie industry, could probably countersue for damages, and would probably win both suits.

    (VHS, by the way, won for a reason, and its popularity was artificial at first. There was a time in which there were as many Beta movies on video store shelves as there were VHS movies. Then the MPAA decided which format it liked best, not consumers.)

    - A.P.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • by shri ( 17709 ) <shriramc@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:49AM (#916417) Homepage
    Actually you cannot BUY a player in Hong Kong which is not hacked. The Asian region selection is pretty crap and given that most of the US movies do not make it to the theaters here.. US DVD's sell like hotcakes here.
  • by Shoeboy ( 16224 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:50AM (#916418) Homepage
    One thing I've not seen addressed in the whole copyright debate - what rights does a DVD owner have when the copyright on a DVD they own expires?
    The right to decompose slowly. You, your kids and quite possibly your grandkids will die of old age before 'Steamboat Willie' enters the public domain.
  • by gnarphlager ( 62988 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:50AM (#916419) Homepage
    so there are new dvd players on the market. Okay, that's all well and good, but that doesn't solve the problem we're having with the movie industry in the first place. Hack the players all you want, the industry will always have one weapon which well could not hope to combat.

    Flaming Weasels

    Yeah. You read that right. Flaming weasels. Now, you might just dismiss this as some sort of delusion, but I ask you, have you ever been attacked by flaming weasels? If you have, you realize this is no joke. There is no hiding from flaming weasels. No escaping. Once the weasels have been sent, there is no turning back, and you may as well just disclose your proprietary closed-source sock drawer, because the weasels must be appeassed.

    And here we are talking about new players which are going to break down in a couple months, but tell me, does that make the threat of weasels any less real? And who do you think the armies of flaming weasels are going to be sent to first, Joe Compliant who buys his standards-compliant dvd player, shops at wal-mart and votes democratic? Of course not, he's part of the Master Plan(tm). The weasels are going to be sent to "take care" of the deviants, the people who watch foreign films, the people who disable life saving features in their dvd player, the people who want to remake the world in their own way, not the time-warner-dvdcca-ms-mcdisney way. And the weasels will continue to attack until you or I or SOMEONE does something about it.

    There is one hope. There is one possible salvation, one glimmer of light in the dark night of the weasel, though not too dark, as that they're on fire, and fire does make a little bit of light yanno. The weasels aren't exactly subtle. You're going to know they're coming, which in a way, is much worse. We only have one chance to defeat this scourge and take back the rights that we have so willingly sacrificed.

    It is time for RoboMow(tm) []

  • by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:53AM (#916422) Homepage
    Here in Europe even well-established and respected manufacturers such as Philips (Magnavox for you Americans) have released a region free DVD player. Not as a hidden feature, but with a big label on the box. More proof that silly and stupid ideas such as region codes do not work and are not accepted by the consumer.

    Within a few years it will probably be hard to find any players that only support a single region code.

  • by ibbey ( 27873 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:38AM (#916426) Homepage
    No, it was 75 years until the Sonny Bono Copyright Act, which extended them to 100 years. This applies to at least books too.

    Close, but no cigar... Per the US copyright office []:


    Works Originally Created On or After January 1, 1978:

    A work that is created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life plus an additional 70 years after the author's death. In the case of "a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire," the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author's death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author's identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

    Works Originally Created Before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or Registered by That Date:

    These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works will generally be computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms will apply to them as well. The law provides that in no case will the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31, 2047.

    Works Originally Created and Published or Registered Before January 1, 1978:

    Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date a work was published with a copyright notice or on the date of registration if the work was registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th) year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The Copyright Act of 1976 extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, or for pre-1978 copyrights restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), making these works eligible for a total term of protection of 75 years. Public Law 105-298, enacted on October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection of 95 years.

    Public Law 102-307, enacted on June 26, 1992, amended the 1976 Copyright Act to provide for automatic renewal of the term of copyrights secured between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977. Although the renewal term is automatically provided, the Copyright Office does not issue a renewal certificate for these works unless a renewal application and fee are received and registered in the Copyright Office.

    Public Law 102-307 makes renewal registration optional. Thus, filing for renewal registration is no longer required in order to extend the original 28-year copyright term to the full 95 years. However, some benefits accrue from making a renewal registration during the 28th year of the original term.

    For more detailed information on renewal of copyright and the copyright term, request Circular 15, "Renewal of Copyright"; Circular 15a, "Duration of Copyright"; and Circular 15t, "Extension of Copyright Terms."
  • I said, "Well, in that that case, what do you have?"

    He says, "All I got right now is this box of one dozen starving crazed weasels."

    I said, "OK, I'll take that."

    So he hands me the box, and I open up the lid, and the weasels jump out and they immediately latch onto my face and start bitin' me all over. Oh, man, they were just goin' nuts! They were tearin' me apart! You know, I think it was just about that time that a little ditty started goin' through my head. I believe it went a little somethin' like

    DOH! Get 'em off me! Get 'em off me! Ohhh! No, get 'em off, get 'em off! Oh, oh God, oh God! Oh, get 'em off me! Oh, oh God! Ah, Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh Ohhhhhhhhhh!
  • Does the dvdfile site have any integrity? The review ends saying "the Infinity is a great deal." Directly below that is a link that says "click here to purchase the Infinity DVD player."

    Any site that posts a positive "review" followed by a link to a dealer's site has no integrity - and should not be trusted!

    I think Slashdot should not be posting any such stories. I go to Slashdot looking for quality information. This reeks of marketing.

    Maybe there should be a story on paid DVD player reviews!
  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:42AM (#916429)
    Well... although the copyright may expire someday, a movie or any other material does not become public domain, when it does. I fact, The Matrix
    will always belong to the people who made it. You will not have to pay for licenses then (that is why older movies can be sold on cheap video tapes), but you will still have to ask, before you distribute it.

    I guess it's been so long since a work has entered the public domain that people have forgotten what public domain means. You'd have to work hard to be more wrong. Public domain means anyone can use/modify/publish the work in any way and for any reason. You don't have to ask Thomas Nast or James Montgomery Flagg's permission (or rather the permission of their estates, since they're both long dead) to use the image of "Uncle Sam" in your art, or even to republish them unmodified.


  • Nevermind the fact that no-one knows if the discs will even be readable anymore at that point. Could be that the media will become unreadable. Could be that it won't be affordable to buy a player on the antiques market.

    Could always happen that civilization will come crumbling down (a somewhat less likely proposition (are we really all that civilized anyhow tho???))
  • Are you really a brit?
    American of Danish descent actually, but thanks for caring.
  • by Builder ( 103701 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @12:58AM (#916438)
    I've seen some posts here saying that 'The DMCA said so, and you have to live by that.'

    Yes. If you're an American. This is not just an American forum though. There are actually countries where region locking is considered anti-competitive and hence illegal. Look at New Zealand. It's only because the American public willing surrender their rights little by little, that you're prepared to live with this.

    In other places, there is nothing remarkable about this player. In South Africa, most shops will show you the region beating features before you take the player out the door. I had three different sales people explain the region-defeating features of three different players, in one afternoon.
    /* Wayne Pascoe
  • by Alowishus ( 34824 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @01:00AM (#916439) Homepage
    I run a website which was originally dedicated to the Apex player, but have just put up a message forum for discussion of this newly-discovered player.

    You can find the forums at 13 [], and can find general region-free/loophole news and information at the main Apex site []


    (yeah yeah, shameless plug, but the site is there for the community, not my benefit... so take advantage of me while you can! :^)

The absent ones are always at fault.