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Are you fed up of dodgy old VHS and want to get into the exciting world of DVD, but you don’t know where to begin? If so we’ve put together this little guide to help newcomers to the format get off the best possible start. This guide is written for the UK region two market, but many of the points will be applicable to other regions also.

'At the higher end of the market names to watch out for are Sony, Pioneer, Toshiba and Panasonic...'

The DVD player


Of course, the first thing you need to think about is a DVD player. Now while in some cases this could be as simple as popping down to your local supermarket, it is probably worth doing some investigation first. That’s not to say that you can’t get some decent machines from those stores, but they do tend to suffer in terms of audio, video and build quality.

At the higher end of the market names to watch out for are Sony, Pioneer, Toshiba and Panasonic, while budget players from Wharfedale, Samsung and LG and have proven to offer a good balance between affordability and features.

In order to choose a player you will have to take a number of things into account. Obviously budget is the overriding factor, but you also need to give consideration to things such as multi-region compatibility, video and audio compatibility and connectivity. For advice on what player may suit you, be sure to read as many DVD newsgroups as you can, not forgetting to check out player reviews on the various DVD websites. Also, be sure to shop around for the best deal you can get.

Multi-region capability


Multi-region capability is probably the most important thing to take into consideration, unless you want to be stuck buying R2 discs forever. Owning a multi-region machine gives you the freedom to choose the best available version of a film, rather than putting up with what you’re given. There are many instances in which films from other regions are superior to R2 discs, although this is also true in reverse. The best option is to buy a machine that will afford you the choice of the widest range of material possible.

There are a number of reputable and not-so-reputable retailers, both on the high street and on the Internet, who will gladly sell you a multi-region DVD player or modify your existing machine. When looking for a player always try and go for one that allows playback of regions 1-6, handles both PAL and NTSC discs and allows you to play RCE encoded titles. RCE stands for Regional Coding Enhancement and is a new measure aimed at counteracting the sale of multi-region machines and the importing of material from different regions. It has recently been circumvented by most of the companies that provide multi-region solutions.

Audio and Video Compatibility


The second most important thing to consider is what audio and video options you require. Because some DVDs are encoded in NTSC, rather than our own PAL system, it is important to make sure that your player can output a signal format your TV can understand. The first thing to check is what video sources your TV can handle. Most modern TVs can handle PAL and NTSC. Some older TVs cannot handle NTSC, but will handle a format called PAL60, which uses NTSC's refresh rate and PAL's colour timing. The worst scenario is owning a TV that will not accept NTSC or PAL60. In this case your choice of player will be limited to machines that will output PAL50 (such as machines from LG). Perhaps it's time to buy a new TV!

'The second most important thing to consider is what audio and video options you require...'
The best thing to do when buying a player is to get one that will cover you in all eventualities. A machine that can handle both PAL and NTSC discs and outputs both these and PAL50/60 is the best bet.

Connectivity


Connectivity is another important thing to consider. Most budget players will feature a single SCART socket for connecting your player to the TV, a couple of analogue audio outs and a coaxial digital out socket. While this is fine for a lot of home users, people who want better quality or plan to expand at a later date may have difficulty with this set-up. Try to go for a player with at least the above connectors, but preferably with S-Video and optical digital out sockets and a second SCART socket for VHS pass-through.

It is also important to remember that not all SCART sockets are created equal. Most, if not all higher end players will output RGB through their SCART sockets. RGB provides the highest quality video signal from your DVD player to your TV and is the preferred method of connection. A lot of budget machines don't have RGB capability through their SCART sockets, which is severely limiting indeed.

DVD Films


When you’ve got the machine of your dreams, you’re going to want something to play on it. You can of course buy your DVDs from the usual high street retailers, but you will be missing out on some great bargains and a wealth of titles not available in this country.

For the best prices be sure to check out the many specialist DVD retail websites, such as those linked in our reviews. Ordering over the net allows you to buy discs from virtually any region, including films not yet released on DVD in the UK. For some tips on which discs to buy, why not check out our reviews section?

"For the best prices be sure to check out the many specialist DVD retail websites..."
We hope that this short guide will be of help to those of you taking your first steps in the exciting world of DVD. Welcome aboard!

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