About DVD and Blu-ray Formats and Standards

What is NTSC, PAL, and SECAM?

NTSC, PAL, and SECAM are the major worldwide video standards. The United States, Canada and Japan (and some other countries, mostly in Central and South America) use the NTSC standard. All of the DVDs RailfanDepot sells use this standard and will play in standalone DVD players sold in the countries using NTSC. Some new DVD players can handle several formats, including the NTSC standard format, and can play these DVDs.

Most of Europe (and many other countries such as Australia and India) uses the PAL video standard. France and Russia (and many countries in the former USSR) uses the SECAM standard.

Some new high-end DVD players will play any of the formats. For instance it is common to have a DVD player with NTSC/PAL compatibility. HOWEVER, if you do not have a compatible stand-alone DVD player, YOU CAN STILL WATCH our DVDs. Any NTSC, PAL, or SECAM DVD will play in a computer that has a DVD drive and software to play the DVD. The different video standards/formats do not affect playback on a computer. Everyone, everywhere, should be able to view the hobby DVDs we sell on a computer.

Except… what about region codes?

Only one hobby DVD manufacturer that we carry puts a region code on their DVDs. Sunday River Productions uses a system that will only allow their DVDs to play in certain countries. They sell region coded DVDs for the USA and Canada, for Europe and for Australia, New Zealand and Japan. If you are out of those areas, you are out of luck. In addition, you cannot buy a USA/Canada DVD and send it to a friend in New Zealand. It will not work. Why does Sunday River Productions do this? We do not know. We’ve asked, but have never received a straight answer! The good news is that all other┬áDVD producers we sell do NOT use a region code and so their DVDs will play the world over.

Glass Mastered vs Burned (DVD-R / DVD+R) formats

Because of the limited interest in these hobby subjects, many hobby producers can not afford to “glass master” their DVDs. It’s the way Hollywood does it and it is the most expensive (and most compatible) way to master a DVD. Most glass mastered products have to be ordered in quantities starting at 1,000. Many of the DVDs RailfanDepot sells are burned/recorded using the DVD-R or DVD+R format. These DVDs should play without any problems on any recent standalone DVD player. If you have an older DVD player (more than say 10 or 12 years old), you could see playback issues such as jerky/skipped video or the DVD may not play at all. If this is the case, try playing the DVD on a computer with a DVD drive. If the DVD plays without any problems on the computer, then you have an older incompatible DVD player.

DVD and Blu-ray formats

Many producers are now bringing out new products in both DVD and Blu-ray. Blu-ray offers a better picture with higher resolution. You MUST have a blu-ray player to play Blu-ray discs. Many Blu-ray discs will NOT play in a XBox or other game console. Some will, most won’t. Blu-ray discs will NOT play in a “upconverting” or “HD” DVD player.

Unfortunately, some producers (none that RailfanDepot carries) are just putting their older DVD programs on a Blu-ray disc. That will not give you any better of a picture. You can trust that all Blu-ray discs RailfanDepot sells have been initially recorded in a high definition format or were ported from large format film (also HD!) and so will bring you a better picture when played back on your Blu-ray player and HD TV.