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Switch Box Will Solve DVD Dilemma


Question: I first purchased a simple Philips DVD player. I attached it to my TV by way of the VCR. All the wiring went from the DVD player to the VCR. I called Time Warner and this is how it is supposed to be. It seems to be the only way it works.

I also have a digital cable box. It played and sounded fine, except that the picture kept getting lighter and darker throughout the movie.

So, I returned the DVD player and bought a Pioneer DV-C5O3. Guess what? The same thing keeps happening. Do you have any thoughts as to why it is doing this? No one seems to know.

Answer: You appear to be a victim of piracy. More specifically, you're a victim of technology to thwart piracy.

All DVD players sold in this country have a built-in chip that messes up the picture if you want to record the output of a DVD movie onto a videocassette tape.

The symptoms you describe--such as the picture getting lighter and darker--suggest you're tripping over this Macrovision technology.

Because the signal is moving from the DVD through the VCR and then the TV, the system assumes you're trying to make a copy of the DVD movie on the VCR.

The free solution is to run the DVD directly into the TV, bypassing the VCR. If your TV has multiple input jacks--which yours apparently does not--that's an easy fix.

If not, you can work around this problem by simply unplugging the VCR from the TV and plugging in the DVD player when you want to watch a DVD movie and then reversing the process when you're done.

We can't recommend this as a long-term solution, since you can damage the TV jacks by repeatedly yanking wires off and shoving wires back on.

The inexpensive solution is to buy an external switch box for components such as a DVD player, VCR and video game system.

They cost $20 to $50 and consist of a small box with buttons on the front and jacks in the back for the components.

Connect your components to the switch box and the switch box to the TV, then push the appropriate button on the switch box to select which feed is delivered to the TV set.

The switch boxes are widely available at places such as Best Buy and Fry's, but if you strike out at places like that, check a video game store.

Most game fanatics have several consoles, so these boxes are quite popular.

If you have a disability and don't want to jump up and down to work the switch box, we're partial to an RCA model that will carry S-Video output and will even work with your remote control to switch system feeds.

And finally, if you have a couple of beans to spend, consider resolving this problem with an inexpensive stereo setup.

Many mid- to low-end stereo amplifiers costing $150 or so also will route video as well as audio.

Plug all your components into the stereo, add some speakers, connect the TV set, and poof, your problem is solved.

Plus, you get that great stereo sound, which is one reason to embrace the DVD revolution in home entertainment.


Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A at Please be specific about your computer and operating system and include a daytime phone number.

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