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Viewing German Films on DVD
or Blu-ray Disc


German Culture > DVD - Video > German Films on DVD and Blu-ray

DVD Guide for German Films:
DVD Guide | DVD Guide 2 | Region Codes | Blu-ray Codes | Films

Although some movies “made in Germany” (or Austria and Switzerland) are available in English-subtitled versions on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S. and Canada, many more are never released outside of Europe. While Oscar-winners such as The Lives of Others or popular German films like Run Lola Run are easy to buy or rent in North America, many other good German, Austrian, or Swiss films are never released on DVD or Blu-ray for the American market.

If you can buy or rent the American (Region 1 or Region A) version of a German-language film, there's no problem. But what about all those movies that never come out on DVD or Blu-ray in North America? You can buy them in Germany ( and other online sources make that easy, if not cheap), but then you face another problem: region codes. But there are several solutions to this problem. Read on...

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DVDs and Regional Codes
The digital video (DVD) revolution was supposed to make life easier for those of us who like to watch foreign-language films on video. Not only would we have a better picture than with VHS tapes, but the old NTSC/PAL analog video standard problem was history — or so we thought. But Hollywood and the video industry, with marketing concerns their top priority, threw a Regional Codes monkey wrench into the new DVD format. (For Blu-ray Discs, see Blu-ray region codes.)

Ostensibly to protect various world markets and to allow the continuation of staggered movie release dates around the globe, the digital DVD format that could have been truly universal was instead divided into six different regions (only three for Blu-ray). This means that a DVD released in Germany (Region 2) cannot be played on a DVD player in the U.S. (Region 1) or vice versa. By the same token, a DVD disc intended for Australia or New Zealand (Region 4) won’t play in any of the other five regions. Thus, a movie released in the U.S. earlier than in Europe may be available on DVD and video in Region 1 (the U.S. and Canada) prior to its release in Region 2 (Europe, Japan). So, theoretically at least, this means a German can’t buy the U.S. DVD of a movie and view it before the film even appears in German cinemas.

In addition, although this is changing with the advent of digital TV sets/monitors, DVD has the same NTSC vs. PAL problems as the older analog videotape and laserdisc systems. Although the video information is stored in MPEG digital form, European DVD players are set to play in 625-line PAL or SECAM mode (similar systems in many ways), and sometimes in a pseudo-NTSC mode, but standard U.S. DVD players function only in the 525-line NTSC video mode. DVD playback on computers avoids this problem by displaying on the computer’s monitor, but the problem of regional coding may remain.

So now, instead of only three video systems, DVD introduced an even worse hodgepodge of six regional differences around the world, in addition to the PAL vs. NTSC problems. In fact, each world region may be further divided into "subregions." For example, Region 2 DVDs (Europe, Japan) may be subcoded D1 through D4. A "D1" code identifies a UK-only release. "D2" and "D3" identify European DVDs that are not sold in the UK and Ireland. "D4" identifies DVDs that are distributed throughout Europe. (This may be because the German PAL standard is slightly different than the UK PAL format.) In some ways, the six regional codes for DVD are like the VHS vs. Beta wars of old, only three times as bad! (The Blu-ray situation is a bit better.)

But help is at hand!

NEXT > DVD Guide for German - Part 2

MORE > Films in German on Blu-ray and DVD
MORE > DVD Region Codes

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