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DVD TALK FAQ
FAQ

Do I need an expensive home theater system to enjoy DVD's?
No! It's not hard to enjoy DVD's on a budget, it's easy to get caught up in the fact that there will always be some piece of home theater equipment that is "better" than what you bought (and usually a TON more expensive). When buying a home theater system, really ask yourself what you Need.

My receiver is Dolby Pro Logic*, does this mean I can't listen to DVD's in Dolby Digital* 5.1?
While you won't get the same experience listening to Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on a Dolby Pro Logic system, you will notice a dramatic difference between listening in Dolby 5.1 and 2.0. Of course to take the fullest advantage of 5.1 you'd need a Dolby Digital receiver.

My movies seem to have a slight pause or freeze frame near the middle.
Put simply, in order to fit all the information on one side of the DVD, the technology utilizes two layers of information. That delay is the laser reaching the end of layer 1 and finding layer 2.

What does 2.35:1 and 1.85:1 mean? Why do I have Black Bars on my TV? What is Anamorphic, Widescreen or 16 x 9?
Aspect ratio refers to the width to height ratio of a film's presentation. Most home televisions are 4x3 (also expressed 4:3). Films, however, are presented in a variety of very different sizes. Armageddon, for instance, is in 2.35:1 (when you watch this film in its widescreen presentation, you will see that it is approximately 2.35 times as wide as it is tall), while As Good As It Gets is in 1.85:1.

Newer, high-definition TVs have an aspect ratio of 16:9, much closer to the size of an actual movie screen, and can therefore impressively accommodate the video output from your DVD player!

So if you don't have a 16:9 TV, does that mean you can't enjoy your DVD movies? Of course not! Your 4:3 TV will present your DVD movies in their original aspect ratios (provided that such a transfer is actually on the disc) by means of "letterboxing." Letterboxing simply means that the image on your TV is "boxed" by black bars of varying size (depending upon the aspect ratio of the movie you're watching) at the top and bottom of the screen. Though some people don't like watching letterboxed movies on their 4:3 TVs, most videophiles find it highly preferable as they get to see the movie as the filmmaker intended it to be seen.

Which brings us to Pan & Scan, the alternative to letterboxing, and Full Frame. Pan & Scan is a method of transferring a film to video in which a camera is "panned" back and forth over a film, thereby "scanning"...it so that the video transfer will contain the most important elements of the original film. What are the most important elements? Well, that's a might touchy question. The Pan & Scan version of a film will usually concentrate on the center of action, or on elements central to the plot, i.e. on the person speaking, on the killer's knife entering the edge of the screen, or on the Death Star exploding. As you might imagine, quite a bit of detail gets left out completely, sometimes as much as 50% of the originally filmed image! Sadly, most anything you rent on VHS has been panned and scanned.

Though "widescreen" and "letterbox" are usually used interchangeably, there is a big difference in "Full Frame" and "Pan & Scan." Films presented in Full Frame were originally shot that way, i.e. matted for presentation in roughly the aspect ratio of a 4:3 TV. An example of a Full Frame movie is Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.

A notable exception to all of this is Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life, the DVD release of which contains both the original widescreen presentation of the film as well as a digitally enhanced fullscreen version. Animators actually moved, shaped, and resized certain elements within the frame of the film to better accommodate the fullscreen transfer. In some cases you are actually seeing more information in the fullscreen version than you can in the widescreen.

What DVD player should I buy? How much will it cost?
What player you buy is entirely up to you. Prices currently range from just under $100 to more than $2,000. We recommend that you shop around, ask questions of other DVD player owners, and, most importantly, decide what YOU want in a DVD player. You can get a terrific entry-level player loaded with features nowadays for around $200.

What is RCE (Regional Coding Enhancement)?
It's an enhancement added to some Warner Bros, New Line, and Columbia DVDs to stop region 1 (R1) DVDs from playing on Region-free DVD players. SEE DVD Talk's RCE FAQ

Is buying online safe?
Buying online is at least as safe as making your purchases in a traditional "brick and mortar" store. In fact, probably even more so. All credit card information is encrypted and is usually transferred over a secured connection. But if you still don't feel comfortable, most online retailers will accept a check. The downside, of course, is that you will have to wait for your check to reach the online retailer before they will ship your product, thereby delaying the shipment of your order for at least a few days. Some online retailers also provide telephone numbers for you to call in your order using your credit card.

I'm looking for DVD coupons, where can I find them on your site?
You can find coupons in two places: On our DVD Talk Coupon Page and in the DVD Talk Forum.

How can I find the best price for the DVD I want to buy?
Start off at the DVD Talk bargain page if you don't find what you're looking for there try the DVD Talk Price Search Page.

How can I help support DVD Talk?
DVD Talk is a member of almost every affiliate program in existance for DVD You can help support DVD Talk by making your purchases through our links on our DVD Talk Store page. The money we make from our links help us cover the costs of providing one of the top DVD communities on the Internet.

"Where is xxxx DVD?"
Star Wars: The VHS and Laserdisc are available. Apparently the target date for Star Wars TPM is October 2001. No word yet on the trilogy.

Back to the Future This title holds the record at more than 25 rumored release dates but currently hasn't been officially announced

Godfather The Godfather Collection has been officially announced for 10/9/01 check GodfatherDVD.com for more info.

Indiana Jones. 2002 at the earliest.

Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, rest of Disney. Snow White is in October. Disney is spreading these titles out over the next several years.

Cocoon, Duel, Beverly Hills Cop(s), The Final Countdown, Fatal Attraction, Fame, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Trading Places, Urban Cowboy. - Some were rumored for 2001 but according to the latest Studio Day Report, nothing yet. Sometimes studios try to spread out the release of hot titles, or wait for talent participation in the extras. Other times they are caught up in legal wrangling over rights.

Can I copy DVD's to my VCR?
If you really want to badly enough, yes there are machines and hardware that defeat the macrovision which is in the DVD spec to protect from piracy. You are taking 480 lines of resolution down to 240. You're eliminating the DD 5.1 sound, chapter stops, alternate soundtracks, and extras that make DVD so cool, and you want us to believe it's for a "backup" copy? Take the dough and re-rent or buy the DVD's you want to see again.

What is Criterion?
Criterion is an independant video company that licenses movies from other movie studios and produces special editions from them. Criterion

What are the different kinds of DVD cases?
The most common and most popular is the Amaray Keepcase. Most studios including Paramount, Universal and Columbia utilize this case. It is made of solid plastic with a printed insert for the cover. The second style is a Snapper. This is utilized by WB and is made of printed cardboard with a plastic snap across the front. IMAX uses a deluxe jewel case. Much the same as a CD jewel case but taller like a DVD case.

Where can I buy replacement DVD cases?
A:Suncoast, Sam Goody, Tower Records, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video

When in doubt on any subject, utilize the search feature. It never hurts to resurrect a thread with additional input or a question.

Glossary:

Anamorphic= The process of including more lines of resolution into a presentation
AoD= Army of Darkness
Artifacting= Unusual or unwanted effects caused by the technology and processes used to display motion pictures.
B&M= Brick and Mortar Store or retail location
DS= Dolby Surround, L/R stereo, Center, Mono Rears, aka Pro-Logic
DD= Dolby Digital, 5.1 (AC-3) Above plus stereo rear channels and .1 LFE bass channel
DTS=Digital Theater Sound, also 5.1 but specially mixed to enhance sound.
EX= Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 5.1 ES(aka THX Surround EX) adds an additional channel for rear processing. You need two amplifiers and speakers for this channel despite the fact that the same signal is being send to both speakers. DTS 6.1 ES works the same, only the rear signal is discrete (means steered directly) instead of matrix (encoded from surround mix).
LSOH= Little Shop of Horrors
NOES= Nightmare on Elm Street
OAR = Original Aspect Ratio
OOP= Out of Print
Overscan The portion of the movie blocked by the edges of your TV screen
Pixelation= Little square pixels become noticeable, looks like it's melting
Progressive Scan Scans lines of resolution twice as fast as interlaced
Region Coding= A provision that players will accept DVD discs that are authored and encoded for use in one of six designated world regions. This technique was developed to enable Motion Picture companies to release movies at different times in different regions.
SOTL = Silence of the Lambs
TOS= Star Trek The Original Series
VCD= Video Compact Disc MPEG1 VHS quality format
Video Transfer primer - Open Matte, Soft Matte, 35mm, etc.
WTF= What the F***?

*Thanks to Jim Rochester for his great additions to this faq!

Also see Jim Taylor's "Official DVD FAQ" for great information about the DVD format!


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