Troubleshooting DVD


"Your ^&*% DVD won't work in my ^&*% DVD player"

    You know the scenario, it's one we've almost all certainly played out at least once. You've just heard that your favourite movie of all time has been released on our beloved format. So, you rush down to the local DVD store to grab a copy of Final Mutant Cannibal Gladiator From Mars, you rush home, quickly make some popcorn, rush into the home theatre, rip open the DVD, shove it into your DVD player, press play, dim the lights, plonk yourself down in your special DVD watching chair, and......nothing.

    Now what?

    This article is designed to answer exactly that question, and in a much more comprehensive fashion than the limited or no troubleshooting info provided in your DVD player's manual. It has been my experience that a good 90% of DVD playback problems are the result of simple things, and are easily rectifiable with a little care and common sense.

    Note that this article presumes that your DVD player has been working perfectly up until this point in time.

General Troubleshooting

Try To Repeat The Problem

    Eject, re-seat and re-insert the disc. Does the problem still occur? Around 10 - 20% of DVD glitches are one-off glitches that disappear with this very simple manoeuvrer.

Check Your Settings

    It may seem dreadfully mundane, but check that your TV is set to the correct channel for DVD playback and your AV receiver is set to the correct input channel and your volume control is set appropriately. Still nothing? Try a DVD that you know worked recently. If that works fine, the problem lies with the new DVD. If that doesn't work fine, the problem lies with your system somewhere. Check your system cabling and settings. Even if you are sure no one has fiddled with your equipment, you should still double check your settings.

Clean The Disc

    An essential item in everyone's DVD library should be a DVD cleaning kit. Even if the DVD is brand new and looks pristine, give it a thorough clean. You'd be really surprised at just how many DVD playback problems this will fix - I'd estimate that this simple step would rectify 50% of disc playback problems.

Try Another Copy Of The Disc/The Same Disc On Another Player

    Still no joy? It could be a one-off dud disc. Exchange the disc for another and try it again. If the second copy also has a problem, it is worth trying a third, just in case. Try the faulty discs in another player if you have access to one. If the same fault occurs on all copies of the disc on more than one machine, there may be a batch fault with the disc. If the same fault occurs on your DVD player with all copies of the disc but not on another player, there may be an incompatibility between the disc and your player. Such incompatibilities are rare, but they do exist - DVD players are far more complex than CD players and VCRs, and occasional incompatibilities between specific DVDs and specific players do occur.

Specific Troubleshooting

    There are a number of common issues that occur time and time again with DVD players. The solutions are usually simple, but not normally self-evident.

This Disc Has DTS and I'm Not Getting Any DTS Sound

    This is quite a common complaint and one which can have many causes;
  1. Is your DVD player DTS compatible? If there is no DTS logo on the front of the DVD player, then it is unlikely to be DTS compatible and you're out of luck - you cannot get DTS sound out of it no matter how hard you try. It's time to upgrade your DVD player.
  2. Has DTS output been enabled on your DVD player? If your DVD player is definitely DTS compatible, then you should check the player's set-up menu to ensure that DTS output has been enabled. Many players come with DTS output turned OFF by default, as many owners find out later, much to their chagrin.
  3. Do you have an AV receiver which can decode DTS? Once again - no DTS logo, no compatibility. If you are using the 6 channel outputs from the back of the DVD player, you need to determine whether the DVD player's internal decoder can decode DTS or not - most cannot.
  4. Has the disc been authored so that you can only access the DTS track via the disc's menu? Some DVDs are authored in such a way that you are unable to switch between audio tracks with your remote control, but must select the DTS option via the disc's Setup or Audio menu.

The DTS track drops out occasionally

    Some half bitrate DTS tracks have problems with some combinations of equipment. If it is an option, try changing from a coaxial digital audio connection to an optical connection or vice versa. Also, if your receiver has any form of THX or theatre re-equalization, disable it.

This Disc Pauses Slightly Half Way Through

    This is likely to be the layer change of a dual layered DVD. These DVDs are usually gold coloured. The pause is normal and is not a fault. The pause is usually of the order of 1/2 second.

This Disc Stops Working Half Way Through

    The DVD plays fine until the half way point, after which time it suddenly starts to break up, often to the extent of the player refusing to play the disc further.

   This could be what is known as DVD rot or disc delamination. This only affects dual layered DVDs (which are gold-coloured on their data surfaces) and you can often see a characteristic "coffee stain" appearance on the data side of the disc. There is no remedy for this - the disc is ruined and will need to be replaced.

Everyone's All Tall and Skinny

    Go to your DVD player's setup menu. You need to find options like "16x9, 4x3 letterbox, and 4x3 pan & scan", probably under the Video setup submenu. You will find that this option has been set to 16x9. Set it to 4x3 letterbox and the image will return to normal proportions.

The Disc's Cover says the Disc is Widescreen but it plays back in Fullscreen

  1. The disc's cover is wrong.
  2. The disc has Auto Pan & Scan information encoded. This is a special feature of the DVD specification which allows the same disc to play back both in widescreen and in fullscreen depending on how your DVD player is set up. Enter your DVD player's setup menu and set the aspect ratio option to "4x3 letterbox" instead of "4x3 pan & scan".

I Can't See the Highlighter on a Disc's Menu

    The workaround for this problem is to set the DVD player to 4x3 letterbox mode instead of 4x3 pan & scan mode. This is an uncommon but not rare disc authoring glitch.

I Can't Hear Any Audio from the Extras (or from some of the main program's audio tracks for that matter)

    Some DVDs released early in the life of Region 4 were released with MPEG audio tracks instead of the more commonly seen Dolby Digital audio tracks. If your AV receiver cannot decode MPEG audio (not to be confused with MP3 audio which is something quite different), you will hear silence from such audio tracks. You can check the format of an audio track with your DVD player's on-screen display. Some DVD players will convert MPEG audio tracks to Linear PCM audio tracks, which you will able to hear - check your DVD player's setup menu for such an option. If you don't have this option, you are out of luck, and won't be able to hear that particular audio track..

The Subtitles Always Turn On With Title 'X'

    Some DVD players have a propensity to display subtitles inappropriately. Some DVDs are authored with a glitch which turns subtitles on inappropriately. It is worth going into your player's set up menu and changing the subtitle language from "Auto" to "English". This should stop at least some of these occurrences.

My Remote Control Has Stopped Working.

    Firstly, replace the batteries. If that doesn't help, try getting nice and close to the remote control sensor on the DVD player (say within 50 centimetres) and if it still doesn't work, try turning the lights off if you've recently installed new globes - some long life energy saver globes can interfere with remote control functioning.

Still No Luck?

    Check our glitch list to see if your problem has been reported by someone else and to see if there is a work-around for it.

© Michael Demtschyna
30th November 2001