How to watch German DVD's on an American TV
Watching foreign DVD's on an American TV

 
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This guide describes a way to watch German (Deutsch) DVD's on an US TV.

Updated November 3, 2005

There are several issues that must be addressed in order to watch German (or other non USA) Movie DVD's on an American television.  This article outlines the issues and describes one way to overcome them.

There are advantages to being able to purchase foreign DVD's to watch at home.  They make a great tool if you are learning a foreign language that is not typically on local DVD's. In the US, most movie discs contain English, French and Spanish.  It is rare to find a movie in a local store that contains another language.

If you are learning a new language, the best part is that you can set the audio portion to be in one language, such as German, while enabling subtitles and setting the subtitles to display in another language, such as English.  That means that you can hear the regular audio in German and read the "translation" in English!

Another possible reason for watching a foreign DVD could be that your native language is not one of the ones on local DVD's.  For people living in America whose native language is not English the advantage would be to stay up to date with Foreign movies or to keep familiar with that language.

Issues with watching DVD's

There are many potential issues with watching DVD's from other regions.  The following is a list of the ones that I encountered.

  • Region Codes that specify which players support which discs.
  • Video format on the DVD (NTSC, PAL, SECAM)
  • Purchasing DVD's for other regions

 

Movie DVD's are Region Specific

A DVD player will typically only play (Hollywood) Movie DVD's that are from the same region in which it was purchased.  While region codes are an optional part of the DVD standard, most movie DVD's are marked with a region code for the area of the world in which they were intended to be sold.  A DVD disc purchased in the USA was designed to only be played in a DVD Player purchased in the USA.  The world according to the DVD specification is divided into regions.  Region 1 is the US and Canada.  Region 2 covers Germany (Europe).

DVD Region Codes
1 U.S., Canada, U.S. Territories
2 Japan, Europe, South Africa, and Middle East
3 Southeast Asia and East Asia
4 Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean
5 Eastern Europe (Former Soviet Union), Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea, and Mongolia
6 China

There are exceptions to region codes, where discs are not locked to specific regions.  Personal movies that are recorded on DVD do not typically utilize a region code and will function on most players.  The DVD's that are addressed by this article are the typical Movie Studio DVD's which indicate the region they are for on the back where they specify the format, runtime, features, etc.

When playing movies on a computer, many computer DVD players require you to initially set the region for the player.  Most manufacturers allow you to change the code that is set, but there is typically a limited number of times you can set/change this code (typically 5).

Home theater DVD players are factory preset to the region code that corresponds to where the player will be sold.  They do not require you to set the region code and some will not allow you to change the code.

German DVD Video Format is Different

A typical television supports one type of video signal or video format.  The world standards for video format are NTSC, PAL and SECAM.  These standards are not compatible with each other.

The National Television System Committee (NTSC) is responsible for determining the format for video in the United States.  The NTSC format was originally implemented and most widely used for analog broadcast video for television.  Televisions in the US operate based on the NTSC signal.  Devices that display video on televisions (cable boxes, VCR's, Video Game Consoles, DVD players) output video in that same format.

European televisions utilize the PAL video signal.  German (European) DVD's contain a video signal encoded for PAL format TV's.  If you try to display a PAL signal on an NTSC TV, it will not be viewable.  The video would appear garbled showing a wavy scrolling image or possibly nothing at all.

Overcoming the Issues

With most modern DVD players it is possible to overcome some of these issues.  The region codes are typically the easiest to resolve.  Most of the newer DVD players have a way to change the region codes, with some allowing you to set them to be region free.  The best resource for determining if you can make this change with your DVD Player is http://www.videohelp.com/dvdhacks .

One question that arises at this point is the legality of making changes to your player.  Setting the region code for your video player does not affect the copyright or the copy protection of the content on the DVD and should be perfectly legal.  Changing the region code for a computer DVD drive is a legal feature supported by the software drivers and most newer operating systems.  There are other methods that can be used to overcome this issue.  There are companies that sell players that have been modified to be region free, some of which modify the firmware to accomplish that.  Modification of firmware could void the warranty and could potentially be a violation of the manufacturers copyright.  The preferred method would be to change a setting on the unit or to enter one of the codes to change the setting.  If you are concerned about the legality of the issue, I recommend that you consult with your lawyer and research the matter further.  The intent of this article is not to provide legal advise, but to offer a technical solution for viewing foreign DVD's.

One thing you should be aware of is that even if you can make your DVD Player region free, you will need the ability to display the German DVD's video on a PAL capable TV.  One method for dealing with PAL signals are video converters.  These are a separate electronic converter box can be purchased to convert the signal from PAL to NTSC.  Typically a converter would cost as much or more than the DVD Player itself.

The best solution is to purchase an inexpensive DVD Player that has the capability to convert video signals.  Many of the more modern players are designed to convert video signals internally.

The Philips DivX DVD Player DVP642/37 is one of the best solutions (street price is less than $60.00).  It is possible to easily set it to be region free and it will convert PAL to NTSC so that you can watch PAL (German) video on your existing NTSC (American) TV.  Currently this model of DVD player is available at most common retail stores such as Wal Mart, Best Buy and Circuit City.  There are many online places to purchase one as well, such as the Philips Electronics Store.

Buying German DVD's

When purchasing a German DVD, it would be best to use a retailer that you trust.  I purchased my first foreign DVD from Amazon.  I had used Amazon in the USA in the past and already had an account with them.  I went to the German Amazon web site http://www.amazon.de to purchase a German version of a movie that I have already on an American DVD.

There is a trick to finding movies from a German retailer.  Typically the movie title has been translated to German.  It took me a while to find the movie that I was looking for.  I thought it would be best to watch something that would not have a very complicated dialog, so I chose a kids movie - Monsters, Inc.  I searched the site for some time before I realized that the German title for the movie is Monsters AG.  It makes sense, but I wasn't expecting the name to change because not all of them do.

The purpose of using Amazon was that I could use the same account that I use on the US site.  This saved me from having to create an account in German, which I am still learning.  I had to use a translator to figure out what some of the buttons and text meant, but it was relatively straight forward.  The price of the DVD will be more than what you pay for the American version, given that there is a currency conversion to Euro as well as International shipping.

If you are trying to determine how much it will cost to purchase something that is listed in Euros, one good resource is Google.  Open a browser window and go to the main Google web search page and enter the following to convert Euros to US dollars:

19.99 euro in USD

Google will do a quick conversion for you, giving you an approximate cost for the item.  Note that when you purchase the item, the currency conversion will be handled by the bank of your credit card at the time the transaction is posted along with any fees.  The amounts are not exact and are intended for reference only.

You can also add in the cost of other items:

19.99 euro + 8.99 euro in USD

Watching Movies

After purchasing the Philips DVD player and a German movie, start out by connecting the player to your TV according to the instructions included with the unit.  The next step is to configure the player to support region 2 DVD's.  Note that there are two choices for changing the region code.  The first is to change the player to be region free, allowing you to play movies from both region 1 and region 2.

The second option is to set the region code to region 2.  The advantage here is that if you are playing one of the newer DVD's that checks the players region, the DVD will work just as it should.  If you set your player to be region free, the DVD would not play.  Fortunately, there are very few DVD's that are doing this.

To set your DVD player to be region free, perform the following steps:

  1. Turn on the player.
  2. Open the tray. (press and hold the stop button on the remote)
  3. Press the following sequence on the remote: 7 8 9 OK 0
  4. The number 0 will appear on the lower left side of your screen.

The number 0 that you enter at the end of step 3 is the region code.  If you want to set it for region 2, then you would enter the number 2 instead of 0.  If these steps do not work on your player, check the dvdhelp.com region code hack page for alternate methods.  Depending on the firmware version running on the player there may be another method that applies.

At this point, you should be ready to watch your first movie.  Just insert the move in the tray and play it as you would any US movie.  The menu for the movie will allow you to set options for the language and subtitles.

One thing to note about German DVD's is the audio.  The audio portion that is German is a new recording typically performed by German actors.  If you are watching a movie and you have already seen the American version, expect the voices of your favorite actors/characters to have changed.  The re-dub of the audio to a "foreign" language is something that is usually done by a native speaker and not typically by the original actor.  It takes a little time to get used to seeing an actor that you have seen many times with a different voice, especially if it's one that does not reflect the personality that you are used to.

References and Further Reading

The DVD FAQ
http://www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html

DVD Region Code Hacks
http://www.videohelp.com/dvdhacks

 
 

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