Video/DVD Formats in Europe

Archived Q&A and Reviews

How to watch DVD's we brought from England

Jan 2003

We have recently moved over from the UK and have a stash of English DVD's that are gathering dust that we would love to watch. We have a multi-regional DVD player and have tried changing it from PAL to NTSC with no luck. I can only assume that the ''Multi-regional'' means that it can be plugged in anywhere in the world but doesn't necessarily play the DVD's. However, in the instructions it does indicate that it can play DVD's from many regions. So now we are completely stumped. Does anyone have any idea of how we get to watch our DVD's. The only alternative is to get them converted somehow to the US format - anyone got any ideas on where and how much that might cost ??? Confused

To play UK DVDs here, you need to get a DVD player that can play PAL format, region 2 discs. If they have a DVD player that can play PAL format, it also needs to be region-free; in other words it can play both region one discs (US) and region 2 (Europe). This region coding on DVDs is an extra restriction that did not apply to VHS tapes.

If their DVD player is truly region-free, then it should be able to play discs from all regions. But they may have to adjust the settings on their main menu, since it is possible that it may have been set to region one by the manufacturer. If they are having difficulty changing the region setting, they could either check with the retailer, or do a search on the internet to find out how to adjust their player.

If they can't get their DVD player to play region 2 discs, then they can purchase a region-free player over the internet. Just do a search for region free DVD player on Yahoo, and they'll see a number of sites. This is probably a better option than trying to get the DVDs converted.

Courtesy of husband who spent a lot of time figuring out how to play our region 2 dvds. kb

Sending U.S. videos to our family in Europe

Does anybody know if commercial videos bought in the U.S work in european VCRs? We know that TVs and VCRs work on different systems, so the question is - are the videos different too? We would like to buy some as presents for family at home, but need to find out if it makes any sense. Thanks.
Replies: Unfortunately, videotapes bought in the US will not work on a standard European VCR. Some people in Europe have made it a point of buying a tri-standard VCR, which will play all three formats: PAL, SECAM and NTSC (this last one being the format in use here in the US). So, before you rule out videotapes as possible gifts, you may want to enquire whether your family over there owns a tri-standard machine. By the way, DVDs and DVD players have a similar problem -- ie no universal standard but several different world zones.
The videos used in Europe are on the PAL system and are not the same as the ones sold for use in the U.S. It may be possible to purchase a PAL version here on special request, but most videos are not. There are some VCRs available here and in Europe that can read both U.S. and PAL videos so ask your relatives if their machine has this dual function. Whenever we take videos of the kids for family in Europe, we have it translated at a local video production shop.
My answer: We had this same question regarding videos brought back from London to play here. The answer is that the formats are different. This web site will give you a list of each country and the format they use (look for the type of format on the video or the box).
I'm not sure where in Europe you are going but In England they us PAL format and USA is NTSC. No they are not compatable.We have had to reformat videos given to us in costs more than the original video. The only other way around this is if they have a video player which can accept either format. They sell these in Asia....not sure if they are used in Europe.
Unfortunately they probably won't work. There are two formats of VHS... Pal and NTSC VHS. They are both 1/4 formats which look the same but won't work the same. Most Western European Countries use PAL as their TV standard and as a result, their video standard. For a complete reference guide, check: (Rick Davis' Video Page) However, there are a few places on University (and one on College near the Rockridge BART station) that can transfer from one format to another. I can't recommend one over another, but I suspect they all use the same sort of equipment. If you have further questions, my partner in crime would probably be able to help you (He's a video engineer)
I know the answer to this because my parents just returned from England. I had faxed them and asked them to buy some British Teletubbies videos for my addicted son, thinking it would be interesting to see them in their original form. At the checkout stand in the video store in London, the clerk recognized my mother's accent and kindly informed her that the videos would be useless in the states, as their actual format--not just the VCR's themselves--is different from VHS that we use here. I was informed, however, by a friend who is a film editor, that you can take foreign videos to labs that will transfer them onto VHS format, but that seemed like WAY more effort than the Teletubbies deserved, and if you're thinking of gifts, it might be more trouble and expense than you want.
While VHS tapes and DVD's are physically the same worldwide a couple of things prevent you from being able to send them to friends in other countries. First and most importantly the video on either format (VHS tape or DVD disk) is encoded in a specific way. For example in the US this is called NTSC and in the UK they use PAL. The formats are completely incompatible. Another more subtle problem is that NTSC is recorded at 60 frames per second and PAL equipment generally runs at 50. This becomes a problem if you send a NTSC video to someone in the UK that has a NTSC capable VCR. They still might not be able to get a stable picture because their TV might only play at 50 frames. With DVD players a whole extra problem was added (deliberately!) DVD's come with a code on them which indicates what area (like North America) it was intended for, players will only play DVD's from one region. A whole grey market has sprung up for modify players to play any region code DVD's. A VCR that will play and record any of these formats onto VHS tapes runs about $700. We have avoided this costly option by sending videos to family in England via They ship anywhere in Europe and carry most commercial videos available in the US.