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Taking French Videos Home

Watching French DVDs and VHS Tapes at Home


When you visit France and the rest of Europe, many souvenir shops and attractions sell great videos or even foreign films. The only problem is that regions and video codes prevent French videos from playing in many other countries. Find out how to make them work.

The problem is French videos and DVDs won't play in many other countries. You will have to take some steps to make them work,or you might be able to find videos that work in the States.

The video cassette system used in America & Canada is called "NTSC". Western Europe and Australia use a system called "PAL", and Eastern Europe and France use "SECAM." In France, they refer to VHS tapes as "K-7," pronounced "KAY-set."

For DVDs, the French and all of Europe is on Zone 2, yet the U.S. is in Zone 1. Hollywood established these zones, simple coding on a chip in the DVD, so they can control the release dates for new movies. It is pesky for tourists, however.

Our first trip abroad, my husband and I bought a video tape on the Cathar country. When it played nothing on our VCR, we cursed the airport security X-rays... but we were wrong. Soon after we pitched the video in the trash, we learned the truth.

If you want to buy a video in France, there are a couple things you can do to make it work.

Here are a couple ways to get around the system:

Buy Zone 1 DVDs or NTSC Video Tapes

You might find some tourist videos available in the U.S. and Canadian systems at popular spots. Look for videos stamped with, "N.T.S.C." or DVDs that say, "Zone 1," or (more rarely) "All Zones." If you aren't sure, just ask.

In French, for videos, say, "Avez-vous cette film en N.T.S.C." pronounced, "AH-vay voo sett feelm on en-tay-ess-say?" For DVDs, ask, "Avez-vous cette film en Zone 1," pronounced, "Avez-vous cette film en zone uhn?" For movies, you can often find Zone 1 or N.T.S.C. videos at major chains like FNAC or Virgin Megastores.

Get a Region Free DVD Player or VCR

Get a VCR or DVD player that works on these cassettes or DVDs. This isn't an easy or cheap option, but if you travel often, will live abroad for a time, or are way into collecting videos, it is the only way to watch them on TV at home.

The downside of this is that some movie companies are now locking DVDs so they will not work on region-free DVD players. In most cases, DVDs will work on them, however.

Watch DVDs on Your Computer

You can actually switch the zone on your computer's DVD player. The only problem is that you can only do this a certain number of times before it locks to one zone, so you can't just keep going from zone 1 to zone 2. There is software such as DVD X Player that will allow you to make your computer a region-free DVD player.

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