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DVD ROM FAQ
by Jason Northrup

DVD ROM FAQ
DVD Talk DVD-ROM FAQ

What is macrovision?
Can I defeat macrovision when using a DVD-ROM setup?
Can I play DVDs from other regions with my DVD-ROM drive?
What hardware supports DTS audio?
What hardware supports Dolby Digital audio?
What software supports DTS audio?
What software supports Dolby Digital audio?
Which software decoders will down-mix Dolby Digital audio to 4-speaker surround sound?
What's the difference between software and hardware decoders?
Does my video card offer hardware DVD decoding?
Is there a way to play DVDs in a CD-ROM drive?
Can I output audio to my stereo?
Can I output video to my TV?
Can I capture stills from a DVD using a DVD-ROM drive?
Can I capture video from a DVD using a DVD-ROM setup?
Can I copy DVDs using my DVD-ROM drive and CD-R/CD-RW drive?
What's the difference between a DVD-ROM setup and a stand-alone DVD player?
What is a good hardware DVD decoder card?
What is a good software DVD player?
What is the best DVD kit to purchase?
What are the requirements to play DVDs on my computer?
Where can I get the latest drivers and software for my decoder card?
How can I find out how fast my DVD-ROM drive is?
Can I get a remote control for my DVD-ROM setup?
How can I get rid of the Remote Selector nag screen?
What is the difference between DVD-ROM and DVD-RAM?
Should I replace my CD-ROM drive with a DVD-ROM drive?
I have a DVD that doesn't play correctly. What is the problem?
Why does my DVD skip at random points in the movie?
Why does my DVD skip at random points in the movie?


Q: What is macrovision?
A:Macrovision is a copy-protection method used by both DVD and VHS that prevents recording to any other menia. If the video fades from dark to light to dark, and so on, you know it's working. However, macrovision can be a big problem if the only way to connect your DVD decoder card to your TV is via your VCR.

Q: Can I defeat macrovision when using a DVD-ROM setup?
A:Yes. I use a program called Remote Selector. It works with all major hardware decoders. Many Hollywood Plus owners prefer Zone Selector because it is free. There are ways to get around macrovision with software decoders, but there are so many combinations that there is no definate way to get around macrovision without purchasing a seperate box to place between the TV and video card. If you have links to downloads or information on this topic, please email me and I will happily add it to this page.

Q: Can I play DVDs from other regions with my DVD-ROM drive?
A:Maybe. I use a program called Remote Selector, but this is only good for use with hardware decoders and doesn't address possible issues with DVD-ROM drive region locks. Remote Selector does work with many major hardware decoders. Zone Selector serves the same purpose but only works with the Hollywood Plus decoder. There is also a program called DVD Genie which works with most software decoders as well as the Hollywood Plus decoder. Even if you some drives are region locked, which means it will only allow playing of DVDs from a specific region. Sometimes you can overcome this issue by upgrading your firmware. If you have links to downloads or information on this topic, please email me and I will happily add it to this page.

Q: What hardware supports DTS audio?
A:Both the Hollywood Plus decoder and the DXR3 decoder will pass a DTS signal through the SPDIF digital output on the decoder to an audio reciever that is equipped with a DTS audio decoder.

Q: What hardware supports Dolby Digital audio?
A:All Hardware decoders will pass a Dolby Digital output on the decoder to an audio reciever that is equipped with a Dolby Digital audio decoder. In addition to this the decoder will also downmix a Dolby Digital 5.1 track to a 2 channel PCM audio track.

Q: What software supports DTS audio?
A:I have been told that PowerDVD and WinDVD can both will pass a DTS signal through the SPDIF digital output that is included on some of the newer sound cards to an audio reciever that is equipped with a DTS audio decoder. I have yet to try it as I don't have any DTS DVDs or a DTS decoder YET.

Q: What software supports Dolby Digital audio?
A:All software decoders will downmix a Dolby Digital 5.1 track to a 2 channel PCM audio track. WinDVD and PowerDVD will also pass a Dolby Digital signal through the SPDIF digital output that is included on some of the newer sound cards to an audio reciever that is equipped with a Dolby Digital audio decoder.

Q: Which software decoders will down-mix Dolby Digital audio to 4-speaker surround sound?
A:The only packages I'm aware of that make this claim are WinDVD and PowerDVD. Thare are others though that do come in special editions desined specifically for certain audio cards. In these cases the player will most likely come bundled with the audio card.

Q: What's the difference between software and hardware decoders?
A:With a hardware decoder, the audio/video stream is decoded on a seperate add-on board in your PC. These add-on boards have one or more chips on them that are like mini-CPUs designed specifically for decoding DVD streams. A software decoder relies heavily on the PC's CPU to get the stream decoded into audio and video which the sound card and video card can deal with. There is a thing call Hardware Motion Compensation that is included on some video cards to lower the amount of CPU that is required.

Q: Does my video card offer hardware DVD decoding?
A:I have yet to see a video card that offers full DVD decoding. Some video cards have Hardware Motion Compensation which takes a little bit of the load away from the CPU for the video decoding. Many of the ATI cards have motion compensation as well as the nVidia GeForce.

Q: Is there a way to play DVDs in a CD-ROM drive?
A:No. This would be a lot like trying to play a BETA-Max cassette in a VHS player. DVDs use smaller data pits than a CD and require a laser with a smaller bandwidth. For a good explaination of this check out this page at the Crutchfield web site.

Q: Can I output audio to my stereo?
A:Yes. You can either do it by connecting your soundcard or DVD decoder card to your A/V reciever.

Q: Can I output video to my TV?
A:Maybe. If you have a decoder card you will probably have the choice of connecting either an S-Video cable or a composite (RCA) cable to your TV. You can also do the same thing with software decoders as long as your video card has the appropriate video outputs. If all your TV has is a coax input, you will have to send the video to your VCR. If you do this you may have to refer to the section on macrovision.

Q: Can I capture stills from a DVD using a DVD-ROM drive?
A:Yes, if you have a software decoder installed on your computer. PowerDVD has a built in capture feature. If you are using another player you will need to use a program like HyperSnap-DX to get the shots for you.

Q: Can I capture video from a DVD using a DVD-ROM setup?
A:You can do it if you have a fast enough PC and a software decoder. There are several tutorials on how to do this. The only problem is that this can be considdered to be piracy. But I don't see any problem with it as long as you're just getting a few clips for personal use. If anybody has links to such tutorials, please email them to me and I will be happy to add them to this section.

Q: Can I copy DVDs using my DVD-ROM drive and CD-R/CD-RW drive?
A:No. DVDs use smaller data pits than a CD and require a laser with a smaller bandwidth. For a good explaination of this check out this page at the Crutchfield web site.

Q: What's the difference between a DVD-ROM setup and a stand-alone DVD player?
A:For starters, a DVD-ROM setup requires a computer. A DVD-ROM setup offers more flexbility because you can always update software with ease in order to accomodate any DVD glitches. DVD-ROM also alows for easy and free (or close to it) multi-region DVD playing as well as mecrovision defeation.

Q: What is a good hardware DVD decoder card?
A:If you are only woried about outputting the video signal to your TV, any hardware decoder should do the job well. If you want a good picture on the monitor as well as the abillity to output Dolby Digital and DTS signals to an A/V reciever, the majority opinion is to get the Hollywood Plus or DXR3 (which are essentially the same thing).

Q: What is a good software DVD player?
A:This is a tough question because not all software decoders work on all combinations and variations of PC hardware. The thing to do is try the trial versions to see if those work. Of course not all software decoders have a trial version available. Some of the better decoders out there are WinDVD, PowerDVD, and Cinemaster. I personally have had the best luck with PowerDVD.

Q: What is the best DVD kit to purchase?
A:Anything that includes the Hollywood Plus decoder or the DXR3 decoder.

Q: What are the requirements to play DVDs on my computer?
A:If you are using a hardware decoder the slowest your CPU should be is 133MHz with no less than 32MB of RAM. Software decoders shouldn't be less than 366MHz (depending on the setup) and no less than 64MB of RAM. If your video card offers Hardware Motion Compensation, the CPU requirement can be reduced to 300MHz (depending on the setup). You will also need a soundcard and a video card capable of 16bit color (high color) or 32bit color (true color).

Q: Where can I get the latest drivers and software for my decoder card?
A:You can almost always get them from the card manufacturer's website under the support section.

Q: How can I find out how fast my DVD-ROM drive is?
A:If you can't find it anywhere in you product manual, you cna use a benchmarking tool like DVD Speed to give you a rough idea of how fast your drive is rated. The problem with these benchmarking tools is that they aren't always accurate.

Q: Can I get a remote control for my DVD-ROM setup?
A:If you are using a hardware decoder, Remote Selector and a supported remote control should do the trick. Among the remotes supported are the Mouse Remote and the Sigma Designs REALmagic Remote Control. I have not yet discovered how to use a remote control with a software DVD Decoder.

Q: How can I get rid of the Remote Selector nag screen?
A:Probably the best way to do this is to register the program. If you can't do that, you can use a program like AutoAct (available at hotfiles.com) that runs in the background and will automatically click buttons for you.

Q: What is the difference between DVD-ROM and DVD-RAM?
A:DVD-ROM uses CD-like disks while DVD-RAM uses an optical cartrige. Most DVD-RAM drives will read DVD disks, but DVD-ROM drives won't read DVD-RAM disks.

Q: Should I replace my CD-ROM drive with a DVD-ROM drive?
A:If you don't have a DVD player of any sort, definately. Otherwise, you will have to make your own call on that one. DVD is the future, so it won't hurt to take the plunge. But if you have to search under the couch cushions for the money, wait.

Q: I have a DVD that doesn't play correctly. What is the problem?
A:More than likely you have a compatibility issue with your decoder and the DVD. Often times this can be fixed by downloading the latest drivers and or software.

Q: Why does my DVD skip at random points in the movie?
A:More than likely there is an application running in the background that is using up all of the CPU. in most cases it ends up being something like Microsoft's FastFind or a virus scanner. If you are sure that nothing else is running, you may have a compatibility issue with your decoder and the DVD. Often times this can be fixed by downloading the latest drivers and or software.

I have created this FAQ page beacuase so many questions keep coming back. If you find any incorrect information, if I'm missing any information, or if I left out a question, feel free to reply or email Jason Northrup

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