What's the easiest way to watch Blu-Rays from multiple regions?
May 12, 2017 7:54 PM   Subscribe

I would like to start building up a personal collection of films on Blu-Ray. I anticipate buying discs from regions A/1 and C/3. I currently have a laptop with no optical drive. How do I make this work with the smallest amount of new equipment?

Should I buy an external Blu-Ray drive for my laptop? I remember hearing that, at least in the past, DVD drive software would allow the drive to switch regions a few times before "locking" on a single region. Is this (still) true of Blu-Ray drives? Alternatively (and strictly in terms of finding the simplest way to do this, considerations of image quality, etc. aside ), would this be easier if I purchased a Blu-Ray player and a TV? I've seen products claiming to be region-free Blu-Ray players (for example), but the reviews seem to indicate that these devices have had some after-market modifications performed on them, which makes me a bit wary. Do you have any personal experience solving this (seemingly not unusual) problem? Thanks in advance!
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
I used to have a region free DVD player years ago. It was a Phillips branded player and it worked great. I think the "modding" was simply flipping some dip switches on the board so it's not like some complicated process involving hacking the physical hardware.
posted by cazoo at 8:59 PM on May 12, 2017

Best answer: Region-free Blu-Ray set-top (like for use with a TV) players are widely available online and work very well. Yes, they're modded. But I've owned a few and never had any problems with them.

Blu-Ray movie playback on computers is a mess. You have to buy the drive and also Blu-Ray player software, because no OS out there natively supports Blu-Ray playback like you find with DVDs. This is a result of the copy protection scheme Blu-Ray uses. The legitimate software players are expensive, buggy, and frequently have problems playing new releases. VLC can sort of play some Blu-Ray discs, sometimes, after much fiddling around.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 11:12 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding lefty lucky cat about the situation for BluRay playback on PC--and yes, PC BluRay drives are generally region-locked. Theoretically, you should be able to have two BD-ROM drives with one set to one region and the other set to a different one and that should work, but I haven't heard of any region-free drives out there. AnyDVD HD is (non-free) software that should theoretically allow for all-region playback from a single drive, as it removes all of the copy protection features, but I haven't tested it and I have no idea how well it works for playback vs. ripping.

I've found that it's often more reliable for me to rip the movie (that I own, of course) with MakeMKV and watch that file than it is to try to cajole PowerDVD or VLC into working well. Or at all. From what I can tell MakeMKV also allows ripping discs from regions other than the one coded on the drive, but this isn't something I've tested myself. Unfortunately, the major downsides with this is that you have to wait for it to rip the disk (which usually takes about an hour-ish?) and you now have a typically 15-30 GB MKV video file that you'll have to store somewhere if you don't want to rerip it from the disc. You can re-encode it using something like Handbrake to get the filesize down to ~3-6 GB, but that takes another couple of hours. I have a NAS with lots of storage so this works well for me, but it isn't a solution for everyone.
posted by Aleyn at 3:02 AM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm in the industry, and we use modded Blu-ray players with standalone monitors. Blu-ray playback on computers used to be merely cumbersome in the ways described above, but is now terrible.

The new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format is region-free; however, every UHD player has to incorporate the Blu-ray spec and DVD spec as well, which means they still implement region locks for those older formats.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:10 AM on May 13, 2017

Buy the discs. Hire a VPN provider. Torrent a pirated copy of the BRRip / 1080p version of the content on the disc you own.

Play back with (free) VLC on your platform of choice. (Unlike playback of the physical disk, this will be hassle-free and lack unskippable previews and other anti-consumer embuggerances.)

If you need to transcode (due to storage or playback device limitations), Handbrake (also free) is quite useful.
posted by sourcequench at 8:34 AM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Not sure about playing on a computer, but I have a region-free Blu-ray player from this site that works really well. I'm not home now, so I'm not sure which one - I think it's a Samsung. It's region-free for DVDs out of the box, and you have to enter a code to switch Blu regions, but I've never had a problem with it.
posted by Awkward Philip at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2017

Just buy a region free Blu Ray player from Amazon for $129 or so. I have unlocked many a DVD player in years gone by, but unlocking a stock Blu Ray player yourself is a pain in the ass these days.

(The last Blu Ray machine I unlocked involved inputting a special sequence of IR codes with an obsolete but multi hundred dollar device called a "Pronto" that I had to program via a borrowed PC running Windows XP).
posted by w0mbat at 1:23 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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