Buying DVDs overseas and how access features may be affected

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Although it is possible to buy DVDs overseas and watch them on DVD players in Australia, you should be aware that the region coding system for DVDs may affect the playback of captions on DVD players locally. Audio description should not be affected.

The world has been divided into eight DVD regions, although in practice only seven are used. Region coding is a system where digital products sold in certain geographic regions are designed to be compatible only with playback devices designed for use in those regions. Regional coding is widely used on DVD discs, players and some gaming devices such as Sony PlayStations. The regions are:

  • Region 1: Canada, United States, United States Territories
  • Region 2: Japan, Europe, South Africa, Middle East (including Egypt)
  • Region 3: Southeast Asia, East Asia (including Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong)
  • Region 4: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, Mexico, South America, Caribbean Region
  • Region 5: Former Soviet Union, Indian Subcontinent, Africa, North Korea, Mongolia
  • Region 6: China
  • Region 7: Reserved
  • Region 8: Airplanes, cruise ships, etc.

The practical implication of region coding is that although you may purchase DVDs for your own personal use from another region, you may be unable to play that DVD on a player purchased in your home region. These days however, many DVD players are multi-regional, so region codes often do not affect the playback of titles.

What can still be affected though is the playback of captions. Australia is in Region 4 of this coding system, and although coding does not affect playback of audio description, the captions from a Region 1 DVD may not be available to view on a multi-regional DVD player. This is because Region 1 DVDs often include NTSC closed captions which can only be played back via a television with an NTSC caption decoder. (NTSC is the television format that is used in Region 1. Region 4 uses the PAL format for TV, as does Region 2.)

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