Region 2 Playback on a Region 1 iMac
November 14, 2008 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to legally buy DVDs of a British television series. Unfortunately, they're only available as Region 2 discs and are encoded (I think) as PAL. Is there a convenient way to play them on my new iMac and OS X 10.5.5?

There have been a few questions along these lines, but no definitive answers as yet. I'm hoping that there's been some software innovation since those last posts that someone can point me to.

If anyone is interested, the series in question is Doc Martin. I ordered the first series on Region 1 discs, but the rest of them aren't available in the US.
posted by aladfar to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
VLC can do this. Read this.
posted by limon at 11:16 AM on November 14, 2008

More answers in this thread -- including a tip by mathowie about Region X.
posted by limon at 11:21 AM on November 14, 2008

totally, VLC plays every region
posted by matteo at 11:22 AM on November 14, 2008

I think ripping it via Handbrake will work as well.
posted by JakeWalker at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2008

Response by poster: I've heard that VLC will work, but I'm afraid that the drive itself has firmware that will prevent playback. Seems like Region X will get around that (thanks for the link - I'd missed that response when I searched for previous answers).

Is it worth taking the plunge and making the investment? If I can't get the discs to play, I'll be out $75 or so (not huge, but irritating if I can't make it all work).
posted by aladfar at 12:00 PM on November 14, 2008

The drive itself does have firmware to protect the region selection -- but -- OS X will allow you to change your region a couple times before it locks it in (I think it's 3 times -- it will tell you). Pop the DVDs in, change your region, and you can safely play them all (or Handbrake them all), then swap the region back by popping another DVD in.
posted by o2b at 12:11 PM on November 14, 2008

You don't have to change your region code to rip, only to playback. On the PC, HD DvD Decrypter is my program of choice when ripping Region 2 DVDs, as it will output an unencrypted and de-region-ified version of the disc.

It does NOT take care of the PAL vs NTSC part for you, but if you are going to watch on a computer, you don't need to fiddle with that part.
posted by nomisxid at 12:33 PM on November 14, 2008

We ordered the same Doc Martin disks used from Amazon UK after watching the first season on Netflicks. We decided to splurge $70 on a DVD player that was easily convertible to either All Regions or Region 2 so we could watch it on a big screen, recognizing that there were bound to be other disks we'd want to buy in the future, and there have been, like William&Mary, another great Martin Clunes role, and The Private Life of Plants, a David Attenboro show that's never been released on Region 1 DVD. The list of stuff you'll want will just keep growing… Be ready.
posted by dpcoffin at 12:35 PM on November 14, 2008

You get 5 region changes before it locks in, and then apparently you can send the drive back to Apple to give you 5 more changes. I'm not sure if Apple still does that, but I remember reading that Apple would do that 5 times before it's stuck forever.

But that's immaterial: you don't need to change the region at all, check the second link in limon's first response. VLC will ignore whatever settings are currently in the firmware, and will happily play anything you throw at it.
posted by ocha-no-mizu at 12:38 PM on November 14, 2008

btw, we initially watched the disks using a converter cable out of an iBook to the TV; worked OK, but they look MUCH better played on the new DVD player.
posted by dpcoffin at 1:16 PM on November 14, 2008

Region X is only helpful if you've already flashed the firmware of your DVD drive so that it allows unlimited region changes. For a while there were "X" versions of firmware for many difference Mac models but a few years ago the person or persons responsible moved on to other projects and it became a lot more difficult if not impossible to do.

I set my Mac to ignore DVDs (i.e. to not launch Apple's DVD playing application when a DVD is inserted) so I don't have to Force Quit an app I don't even want to use. Then I just use VLC to play the disc, since it ignores the setting.

Also, regarding NTSC/PAL:
[HD DVD Decrypter] does NOT take care of the PAL vs NTSC part for you, but if you are going to watch on a computer, you don't need to fiddle with that part.
You also don't have to fiddle with PAL/NTSC stuff if you use a video-out port from your Mac to an NTSC tv; your computer also takes care of that automagically, yay.
posted by bcwinters at 1:37 PM on November 14, 2008

I've used VLC in the past, but it now seems that my macbook (10.5.4 OS X 2.2GHz Intel Duo) can no longer read region 2 DVDs while set for region 1.

Just tried Mac the Ripper, DVD Backup and VLC. All apps crashed or returned errors.

This is totally unacceptable. If this the intended DVD experience, I'm going to stick to torrents.

Never liked those DVD menus anyways.
posted by kamelhoecker at 1:45 PM on November 14, 2008

Response by poster: Sounds like VLC is the way to go - hopefully it won't present any problems. I've ordered the DVDs and will report back to this thread with the results. Thanks for the advice!
posted by aladfar at 2:04 PM on November 14, 2008

I have a 15-month old Macbook running 10.4.11 and don't think you can get around this (I haven't looked into this in over a year now but I believe the old software solutions like using VLC are obsolete) - I have my macbook set to region 2 so I can watch German DVDs - it turns out that it's not that much of a hardship, because honestly, how often do I watch movies on my macbook? I also bought a multi-region Toshiba DVD player for not much money (from Amazon) that plays any DVD on my NTSC television. The PAL stuff is not an issue, surprisingly.
posted by thomas144 at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2008

VLC won't work. It can't bypass your firmware. You'd have to flash the firmware, which could brick your machine. You could rip them, incredibly slowly, but honestly, it's not worth it. Just buy the DVDs, put them on a shelf somewhere, and then download a good quality torrent. You'll have made your monetary contribution, so you can sleep at night, and the Beeb isn't going to hunt you down from another continent.
posted by Acheman at 4:04 PM on November 14, 2008

On the contrary, VLC often does work very well. Many DVD drives don't actually prevent access to out-of-region discs; they just refuse to decrypt them - but region coding involves such crappy encryption that VLC can and does break it by brute force.
posted by flabdablet at 7:01 PM on November 14, 2008

But Mac DVD drives do actually prevent access to out-of-region disks, at least ones that are less than about six years old. Much of the advice people are giving here might be fine on your average Dell, but one of the sad things about Macs is that they do everything properly, even when what they're doing isn't what you want them to do - like preventing you from watching out-of-region DVDs.
posted by Acheman at 12:28 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

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