DVD Regions

 

The main thing is . . . you want your DVD unit to be "Region Free" - so it can play any disc from any country.  That requires a hack (more on that later).

Region_free Firmware:   for Pioneer http://pioneerdvd.rpc1.org/  (no longer maintained as of Jan 2005 - but has a ton of Firmware up to that date). 
For others http://forum.rpc1.org/viewforum.php?f=2 

As a reaction to the popularity of Code-Free DVD players from Europe via the Internet, "Hollywood" has instituted another layer of coding on region1 DVDs called RCE (Regional Coding Enhancement) which prevents selected region1 DVDs from playing even on Code-Free DVD players. 

RCE (Regional Coding Enhancement) was devised to fight back against "region-free" players. The disk itself may be unregioned (region 0) but contains a script which checks the player's native region instead. This protection has been added to recent and soon to be released DVDs .

Some other players such as Sony's DVPNC80V simply refuse to play a DVD with Region =All (Region 0).  They MUST be region 1 if the Sony player was purchased in the U.S.

 

What are Regions, and why use Them ??

In order to maintain its policy of staggering film releases around the world, Hollywood studios insisted upon some form of regional coding in DVD Hardware. The idea is that DVD Software is protected so that you can't play discs sold in one region on hardware designed for another. 

Regions are for one thing only  .  .  .  anti-piracy.  Burt they hurt everyone who wants to BUY a DVD from another country and play it.  This idiotic idea split the world up into the following regions :

Region 0 :  Everywhere !!

Region 1 : USA , Canada

Region 2 : Europe, Middle East, Rep of South Africa, Japan

Region 3 : South East Asia, Taiwan

Region 4 : Central America, South America, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand

Region 5 : Russian Federation, Africa ( Except Egypt & Rep of South Africa ) India, Pakistan

Region 6 : China

Region 7 -- Reserved for Unspecified Special Use
Region 8 -- Resevered for Cruise Ships, Airlines, etc...
Region 0 -- - Discs are uncoded and can be played Worldwide, however, PAL discs must be played in a PAL-compatible unit and NTSC discs must be played in an NTSC-compatible unit.

Region ALL or No Region -- Discs are uncoded and can be played Worldwide, however, PAL discs must be played in a PAL-compatible unit and NTSC discs must be played in an NTSC-compatible unit.

 

*** Some players do not like the no-region setting, so Region 0 would be the better choice.

The encryption system for regional coding is the same on all discs, regardless of their region.  But there is a Region Identifier contained in one byte of information. Each DVD player checks that byte to see whether the inserted disc can be played on that particular regional player. Hence:

Look for the global icon with your designated code before purchasing software.  It's possible to purchase modified machines which give unrestricted access to all the regions software (Region 0 player). For older players, some vendors sell  kits with modifications to the circuit board.  Some players have combinations of key presses & cheat codes.  RCE (REGION CODING ENHANCED) is a recent protection scheme against these players.  The disk attempts to identify if the player is a "Region Zero" player; one that will play disks from ANY Region.  If it does detect a R0 player, the disk will not play back correctly.

RPC (Region Phase Code)

RPC1 - "no region protection" (RPC1 is also called multi-zone or multi-region) and RPC2 is the opposite.  Region Phase Code 2 is the new standard which was forced onto manufacturers from 1st Jan 2000.  RPC1 means the DVD-ROM drive itself does not enforce any region playback  It is all performed by your DVD software and/or hardware MPEG2 card - and when the region enforcing is software controlled with RPC1 the drive itself has no restrictions as far as regions.

RPC2 - the region code is set within the DVD-ROM drive hardware, and can only be changed 5 times. 
CAUTION:  if you change the drive to RPC2, it will not change back by moving the setting back to RPC1.

Region Counter

The region counter is a counter in your DVD drive's hardware or software that stores the number of region changes still available. Each time you change the region setting, the counter will decrease. The counter usually starts at 4. When it reaches 0, you'll no longer be able to change the region settings.

Display the RPC of your Drive

Open Device Manager, select your DVD/CDROM player, and select Properties:

*      for older systems, if the 2nd digit is an R, (1R22) It is RPC1.  If the 2nd digit is a 0 (1022) it is RPC2

*      for newer systems, there is a "Region" tab in the Properties box.  For example, on my own Pioneer DVR-105 (RPC2 player, un-hacked):

NOTE:  I am wrong in my message placed inside the image above !!  Windows XP starts out by showing just 2 changes remaining - see below.

 

Which Drives are RPC1 and which are RPC2

The 3 Region Counters . . . yes 3 !!!

As a lot of people don't seem to be aware, patching your drive with a region free firmware is only half the trick to be completely region free.
For there exists other region counters WITHIN the software (OS, players...) that need to be bypassed.
There are actually up to 3 region protections on a system:

When you flash your drive with a region free firmware (RPC-1), you remove the region counter from the drive itself completely, but with this counter gone, the software counters kick in to replace the one from the DVD drive. This means that you still have these other 2 to defeat!!!.
An alternate region free solution that is available for some drives is known as an "Autoreset" firmware: Instead of removing the counter from the drive completely, the counter simply resets itself to an unlocked state when the computer is restarted. This way, the drive appears as region protected (RPC-2) but the counter can be changed indefinitely. Creating autoreset patches is slightly more difficult for the patcher, but makes the life of the user easier because DVD Genie and Region Killer are not required as they are for RPC-1 firmwares.

You get 5 Region Changes with Windows in Device Manager Properties - right?  WRONG !!

By default Win2000 and WinXP will show only 2 region changes for a new drive, and will show 'no region selected'. After you put your region coded disk in the drive, windows will set the Region automatically and will decrement the number of changes left by 1, so you will only have 1 change left - according to Windows.  Then every time you flash the firmware of the drive it will reset back to 2 until you place a disk in. To windows, new firmware equals new drive.

On the other hand, it's easy for software manufacturers to detect autoreset firmwares, and if they decide to do so, you will still need a software patch in the long run. This is why RPC-1 firmwares are seen by most as the long term solution.

So, unless a program like DISCInfo or Drive Region Info (see the Utilities section on the Homepage) tells you that your drive is still protected or you used an autoreset firmware, your drive IS region free, and any region counters that you still see come from software region settings.

To bypass that, you need to use programs such as DVD Genie or DVD Region Killer (the later is highly recommanded).

Note: Currently, the only software region free solution when using WinDVD Platinum to play DVD's is WinDVD Tweaker Pro ($18.00 US)

xvi has written up an excellent article with even more information here.
 

Region-Free Hacks

Pioneer Region-Free Resource Page (for ALL drives, not just Pioneer).
http://pioneerdvd.rpc1.org - This site is a MUST !!!  make sure you scroll to the bottom also, to see all the great free utilities.

DVD Firmware FAQ

(Hacking your DVD player (RPC2 to RPC1 conversion))

Some DVD players are simply "un-hackable", so do your homework before buying one.  Older drives may be already region-free, and most are hackable.  Basically you will need to do two steps - a firmware hack for the drive, and a software hack for Windows:

 

STEP 1)  flash the firmware to RPC-1.  IMPORTANT - read the detailed steps for this step below !!  To be safe, Do not use a DOS window - make sure you boot to DOS with a Win95, 98, or ME disk.  Do NOT use a WinNT, 2000, or XP boot disk !! 

However, the DVRflash ReadMe says you "can use a DOS window" when using WinNT/2k/XP/2k3.  It says:

You don't have to install anything special. Just open a DOS Window and run a command like:
DVRFlash -vf I: R5100004.133 R5100104.133
     In this case 'I:' is the DVR drive letter.
     The command above will force flash a 105 compatible drive (in I:) with the
     Pioneer DVR-105 v1.33 firmware
     The command above also works with USB/Firewire drives
    
     NOTE:  If you don't know your drive letter, just run DVRFlash without parameters
     and write down the drive letter detected by the program. Then run the command as indicated above



 

Step 2)  update your Windows software to allow playback of all regions.  You must bypass Windows or Software Players OWN region protection, and this is where tools like DVD Region Killer or DVD Genie come handy. For more information, have a look here.

*** DVD Region Killer - FREEWARE - use this because it works fine.  It will remove the "Region" tab in Device Manager/DVD Drive/Properties.  If you then click on the "Drivers" tab and click the "Driver Details" button, you will see a file has been added to the default drivers, called "RegKill.sys" - that little file does the dirty work for you.

 

 

 

DVD Region+CSS  Free - seems to be the best, but it is NOT FREE ($39) - they do have a free version but it is just a "trial".  This utility runs on the background and enables you to watch and copy any region-coded and/or CSS-encrypted DVD movie on any DVD drive.  It fully supports region-protected (RPC2) DVD drives, and does not require any firmware modifications. It will even work if you have used up your region counter and can no longer change the DVD drive's region. DVD Region+CSS Free makes a DVD appear region code free and unprotected to any DVD player and DVD copy software. With the help of DVD Region+CSS Free, you can watch any region coded DVD movies with a software DVD player like PowerDVD, WinDVD, etc.  Also, DVD copy software is able to copy DVD's which are CSS protected.  It also allows you also to play, copy and rip protected Audio CD's

 

DVD Genie  -  FREEWARE - DVD Genie only supports region free (RPC1) DVD drives !!!   It is not clear if it will support a hacked RPC2-to-RPC1 drive !!!  DVD Genie allows you to modify the region code for popular software-based DVD Players including such players as Software Cinemaster, PowerDVD and WinDVD (among a few). It also allows you to tweak these programs with undocumented features to better fit your system.

 

Firmware Flash Details - Utilities

 

*** see the Utilities page

 

*** the simplest way to see if your drive is region protected (bad) or is not region protected (good) is to download and run Drive Region Info v2.2 - unlike the other utilities, this is the ONLY thing it tells you - so it is simple

 

*** for tons of drive info and other info, download and run Nero InfoTool

 

1)  identify the following:

Screenshots of DiscInfo 1.6

 - using my own Pioneer DVR-105/DVR-A05, which has been flashed to RPC-1 using v1.30 of the firmware flash.
 
Initial screen
- says "No Lock Detected", which means either:

  1. it is an RPC-2 drive but the counter in Device Manager has not reached 0
  2. or it is an RPC-1 drive (Region-Free)

Capability screen - says [1.30] which means it has been flashed with a firmware update

Summary screen - says  "RPC2 Scheme :  NO" which means it is now RPC-1 (Region-Free):

1 - initial screen
 

2 - View/Capabilities
CTRL-C

3 - Summary
CTRL-I

Initial Screen CTRL-C Capability Screen CTRL-I Summary Screen

 

2)  create a Boot Disk with the following:

3)  Primary Slave, Secondary Master: finding the IDE configuration
So you identified that you had an IDE drive. That's good.
But that's not nearly enough, because you have to find out now wether it's connected as Primary Slave, Secondary Master or Secondary Slave on the IDE bus (I've yet to hear about people using their DVD drives as Primary Master) I know that this may sound like Chinese to some people (no offense to Chinese people) but unless you don't really care about the possibility of damaging your hardware, you have to know what your current master/slave/primary/secondary configuration is.

Besides, if you REALLY read the readme file that came with your firmware, you should have seen some mention about that.

Fortunately, there is a DOS tool that gives you this information in no time.
This is the IDEDIAG tool that you should have installed on your bootdisk in [SECTION] (This tool is also included in the "Firmware Flashing Bootdisk")
To run it, simply boot in DOS mode (it won't work in a DOS window) and type IDEDIAG at the command prompt.
After the program has analysed your configuration, it will display all the IDE devices you have in you system. Simply look up for your DVD-ROM in the "MODEL" column (you should see the same model ID as the one reported by CDVDInfo or DriveInfo), and then look at the CHANNEL / DEVICE information.
Those two columns will tell you wether the IDE channel on which your drive is connected is primary or secondary, and if the drive is in master or slave configuration on this channel.

This will then allow us to indicate the proper parameter to the flashing tool.

3) Setting up the proper configuration
For this step, you have to have a look at the readme file that came with the firmware to find out the appropriate command line.
It either says something like: "Your drive must be connected as secondary master" or it gives the parameter you should enter after the flash tool command according to the IDE configuration.

- If the readme file doesn't give any parameters or says that your drive has to be connected as secondary master and if your drive is configured as "secondary master"
Then simply note the command line that you should use (eg: UPG5A 115f133.hex) and go to step 3

- If the readme file doesn't give any parameters or says that your drive has to be connected as secondary master and if your drive is NOT configured as "secondary master"
Then you have to modify your hardware configuration so that your DVD-ROM drive is secondary master. It is not the purpose of this document to explain how to do that. You usually have to modify some jumpers settings at the back of your drives and/or connect the IDE ribbon to the proper port.
You should look at the documentation that came with your drive as well as the documentation of your motherboard.

Once you have reconfigured your system so that your drive is IDE secondary master, and that you have checked it with IDEDIAG, simply write down the command line you need to use and go to step 3.

- If the readme file gives a parameter that you can use with the flash utility according to your IDE configuration
Simply write down the parameter corresponding to your configuration.
For instance, if the readme tells that the first paramater you need to give is 0 for primary master, 1 for primary slave, etc. and if your drive is secondary master, then you will feed 2 as the first parameter of the flash command.

4)  Flashing

Boot in DOS mode, using your bootdisk that you got from section [SECTION].

Go to the directory (on your harddrive) where you put firmware and the flash utility.

Check that everything is OK (the cat is not playing with the power cord of your PC for instance) and that you are ready to flash.

Type the command that you've picked up from step 2 (eg: FLASH 2 BIDE00.BIN) and pray

WAIT Flashing a firmware can take many minutes, during which nothing appears on screen, so just wait patiently until the flash program reports

WHEN the flash utility says that everything is OK and that you can reboot, then reboot.
You need to reboot for the new firmware to take over.