Get Around That Pesky DVD Region Code Nonsense

If you’ve ever bought a DVD in another country or brought your laptop overseas and tried to watch a movie, you know the pain of the DVD Region Code. Sure you can change your player’s code to that country, but after five changes it becomes permanent. So, how do you get around this to watch your legally purchased DVD? Let’s explore the ways:

Method 1. – Watching the DVD with VLC.

VLC will play a region coded DVD that Apple’s DVD Player won’t. It just ignores the region coding. This is exceptionally easy, I recommend trying this first.

- Download and install VLC.

- Insert your foreign DVD.

- Quit DVD Player if it opens automatically.

- Open the DVD using VLC.

Note: With the newer Macs, using the Matsushita / Matshita (Panasonic) DVD drives, the DVD drive stores the region code protection inside the drive’s firware itself. What this means is that the drive won’t even mount your foreign movie onto the desktop for watching in VLC. If this is the case, you may be out of luck depending on the model of drive. Read on for more information about this.

Method 2. – Ripping with Mac the Ripper.

If you’d like to permanently rid yourself of the DVD region code nightmare, you will have to rip the DVD into your Mac and then either convert it or re-burn it onto a blank DVD.

- Download and install both Mac The Ripper and Handbrake.
Note: The latest version of Handbrake is Leopard (10.5) only.

- Insert your foreign DVD.

- Quit DVD Player if it opens automatically.

- Open Mac The Ripper and rip the movie.
(This will take about 30-60 minutes and about 5-7 GB of space)

Note: Depending on the DVD’s level of protection, Mac The Ripper may not able to rip the DVD. I’ve heard/read people say they’ve encountered this very often especially with newer DVDs. Personally, I think I’ve only had trouble with three or four. Supposedly the latest version (which is not free) will address these protection schemes. If you encounter this, try Method 3.

- After ripping, open Handbrake to convert the DVD to either iPod (.mp4) or AVI format.

- To burn in DVD format, use DVDRemaster.

Method 3. – Mounting with Fair Mount

For those DVDs that have excessive protection, use the open source Fair Mount to mount and decrypt them. Then Mac the Ripper / VLC will read them just fine. It also comes bundled with a demo of DVD Remaster which will re-author the DVDs for you.

- Go into System Preferences and choose CDs & DVDs.

- Where it says “When you insert a video DVD:”, Select “Ignore”.

- Launch Fair Mount and Insert the DVD.

- Either watch with VLC or rip with Mac the Ripper.

Note: If the Region Code is at the DVD drive’s level, (Matsushita / Matshita / Panasonic drives) you won’t be able to rip it. Unless…

Dealing with the Matsushita / Matshita / Panasonic DVD drives:

DVD drives (both read-only and DVD burning SuperDrives) made by Matsushita / Matshita / Panasonic read and store region code information at the firmware level. This means that software tools like VLC and Mac the Ripper won’t “fool” it into reading a DVD from one region if the player is set to another. This is a big deal for those of us with Macs as Apple heavily uses these drives in their MacBooks/Pros, iMacs, Desktops and iBooks/PowerBooks.

To find out which drive you have:

- Click on the Apple in the upper left hand corner.

- Choose “About this Mac”.

- Choose “More Info” and the System Profiler will open.

- On the left hand side, choose “ATA”.

- The DVD drive you have installed will show up on the right hand side.

Depending on your model of Matshita / Matsushita drive, there may be hope. However it involves downloading and installing patched firmware. I recommend this only for advanced users. If you don’t understand what is involved with this, find someone who is. If done improperly, your DVD drive could become unusable. Be forewarned.

For more information about this visit: rpc-1.org.

Using an External DVD Drive:

If flashing and patching firmware is too involved for you, or if you are like me and have a model with no firmware patch (Matshita UJ-867 here), my recommendation is to buy an external DVD drive that either is Region Free or can easily be circumvented by VLC / Fair Mount. I’d suggest the LaCie 301231 Firewire Slim DVD±RW Drive with LightScribe. While it’s not region free, it should work with VLC / Mac the Ripper. This drive is suggested only because it’s FireWire and LaCie has a good reputation for supporting the Mac. Just avoid anything from Panasonic. (or another brand that repackages a Panasonic / Matshita / Matsushita drive).

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2 Comments

  1. rockit99 says:

    I have a MacBook with the same drive as yours UJ-867, which, as you say, won’t allow you to even mount a disk without setting the pesky region. However, what I did was open Mac the Ripper, insert the disk, wait for the region code screen to come up and don’t quit but simply ignore it! I was then able to use MTR…

  2. David Balogh says:

    Awesome tip! I will have to try this one out.