How to enable your DVD player to play DivX format video from DVD+R discs

After my Panasonic DMR-EH57 HDD/DVD video recorder refused to play DivX format video from DVD+R discs recorded on my Mac Pro’s ‘SuperDrive’, I looked for a solution and found one, which I will now describe.

This is for Mac users, but the principle remains the same for users of other operating systems: you just have to find the equivalent tools. This has been tested on a Mac Pro, but if other Macs have the same model number for the DVD writer then it will probably work too (Sony DW-D150A).

First off, I was quite annoyed that Panasonic’s webpage for this DVD/HDD video recorder didn’t make it more obvious that this player WILL NOT play DivX format video recorded on DVD+R discs. They play fine when recorded onto DVD-R discs, but as I had been given 100+ DVD+R discs, that wasn’t very good to know. I find it bizarre that a modern player released only around March 2007 finds it difficult to play material from DVD+R discs, as I have an old player from 2003 that works fine with DVD+R discs (Kiss DP1000).

The problem is that the DMR-EH57 checks the media type (book type) code when a new DVD is inserted into the drive. It then decides whether it wants to support this disc type, presumably after checking what kind of content is on the disc. So it says: DVD+R disc type + DivX content = not supported.

The solution to this problem, then, is to fool the player into ‘liking’ the media type. For DVD+R media, this means setting the ‘book type’ to DVD-R for DVD+R discs before the content is written to the disc, as this cannot be done once the disc is finalized. When a recordable disc is finalized, no further write operations may occur.

The other problem we face in our task here is the fact that the stock Mac Pro DVD writer, the so-called ‘SuperDrive’, does not allow changing the ‘book type’, so that’s a show stopper. If you go into Applications->Utilities->System Profiler and click on the ‘Disc Burning’ section, you will discover that the model number of the DVD writer is listed as a Sony DW-D150A.

According to Apple, here are the capabilities of the burner:

  • DVD -/+R 16x
  • DVD +R DL 8x
  • DVD+RW 8x
  • DVD-RW 6x
  • CD-RW 32X
  • CD-R 32X

However, after digging around a bit, it appears that this is not a ‘real’ Sony model, but just a rebadged NEC 4570. Here’s the specs of the NEC 4570, changes indicated with a ‘*’:

  • DVD -/+R 16x
  • DVD-R/ DL 8x *
  • DVD+RW 8x
  • DVD-RW 6x
  • DVD-RAM 5x *
  • CD-RW 32x
  • CD-R 48x *

Now we need to do some brain surgery and make your SuperDrive think it’s a NEC 4570 instead of a lobotomised Sony DW-D150A.

Reflashing your drive

The first thing you need to do is to download the ‘necflash’ utility from here. Click on the link below the ‘Mac OS X’ heading in the ‘Downloads’ section. Unzip it and you will find it unzips an executable called ‘necflash’.

The second thing you need to do is to download the new identity for your drive — i.e. the NEC 4570 firmware. To get hold of it go here and then click on the link for Liggy’s ND4570 Bitsetting Firmware 1.03 under the ‘Orig’ column (the item in the RPC1 column didn’t work for me, but then I tried so many things, so…). This ‘Bit setting’ firmware will allow you to change the ‘book type’ (media code) that is stored on recorded discs, so that you can make DVD+R discs appear as something else — e.g. DVD-ROM or DVD-R etc. This should enable DVD+R discs then to be accepted by picky/stubborn DVD players :) Remember to unzip the file. You will see a file called something like ‘103bt_orig.bin’.

Once you have read all the warnings and decided that you really do want to risk changing your DVD writer’s firmware, then the next steps are (1) to make a copy of your existing Sony DW-150A firmware in case you decide to go back to it one day, and (2) to flash the new NEC 4570 firmware to your DVD writer.

To make a copy of your existing firmware open Terminal and ‘cd’ to the downloads directory where you downloaded the zip files. Then type:

  • ./necflash -dump oldfirm.bin A:

Then to flash your DVD writer with the NEC 4570 firmware, type:

  • ./necflash -flash 103bt_orig.bin A:

Now reboot your Mac Pro, and then take a look in System Profiler under the ‘Disc Burning’ section. You should now see that it thinks you have a NEC 4570 :)

Now it’s time to fudge the media type

Now that your Mac has had its default lobotomised ‘SuperDrive’ upgraded to what it really was in the first place, then we need to find a suitable utility to mark the media with a media type that your Panasonic DMR-EH57 will like (or whichever player you have). There are not too many around. The first one I tried, called DVDPlusTool didn’t seem to work for me, but then I found necflashX which worked :)

Stick an unused DVD+R disc into the DVD writer, and then run ‘necflashX’, click on the ‘Booktype’ button and select ‘Change booktype settings’ from the dropdown listbox and click OK. Then select the new default booktype for the drive. I selected ‘DVD-R’ and clicked OK, as I know my Panasonic DMR-EH57 likes DVD-R soooo much :) Just check in the log window to verify what has been changed on your drive — i.e. that the drive will now default to storing a media type code (booktype) of ‘DVD-R’ on each future disc that is recorded.

If you ever wish to check the current default booktype on your drive, just select the ‘Query current booktype’ from the dropdown listbox and click OK. Then look in the log window and you’ll be able to verify what you expect to see there.

Now for the best bit

Now that you’ve done the hard part, now you can burn DVD+R disks with DivX data, or other data types that your home video player can’t read on DVD+R, and you should find that it works — at least it worked for me. Using the above technique, you will probably find that it works too for DVD+/-RW discs too. You can use the Mac’s default Burn Folders or some tool like Toast etc.

Have fun!

Why does Apple nobble these drives?

I have no idea, but it could be to ensure that they provide a quiet drive in their flagship Mac computer. Spinning a CD at 48x instead of 32x speed is definitely noisier, so perhaps that’s the reason. It could be a bit noisy if you’re trying to listen to a music CD at low volume. That’s just my guess.

OK that’s fun, but how can I go back to my old Sony drive?

Just reissue the previous flash command, but provide the name of your saved Sony firmware file. So, open Terminal and ‘cd’ to the downloads directory where you downloaded the zip files. Then type:

  • ./necflash -flash oldfirm.bin A:

Now reboot your Mac Pro, and then take a look in System Profiler under the ‘Disc Burning’ section. You should now see that it thinks you have a Sony DW-150A.

Related links

For ZFS Home Fileserver articles see here: A Home Fileserver using ZFS. Alternatively, see related articles in the following categories: ZFS, Storage, Fileservers.

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5 Responses to “How to enable your DVD player to play DivX format video from DVD+R discs”

  1. Drazkiewicz Pawel on January 20th, 2008 at 22:42

    Good Day
    Unfortunatelly this is not reply but new question rather. I have bought dmr eh-57 too for playing my music from dvd-ram disks. Simply my children doesn’t like my music cds as me. My plan was to use dvd-ram disks in cardridge for everyday playing the music. Sounds perfect but dmr eh-57 will not play music from dvd-ram disk ever. That is answer from Panasonic when I contact them after few foulty trials. What I can do now? Returning of this useless and pricy box to the shop is out of question as 30 days gone. Regards – Drazkiewicz Pawel

  2. Hi Pawel,

    You are right, this device has severe limitations which appear to have been designed in to the device to cause annoyance. Panasonic will not be getting any more money from me in future. That’s the only thing to do with companies like this — boycott their products in future and look for open, unrestricted products, or make our own if possible using open source — things like MythTV etc.

    As a simple device for recording TV progs onto the hard drive, this box is OK though. But if you’re looking for a flexible, unrestricted, user friendly device, this product is not it.

  3. Nice post !
    I wish I had found it earlier !
    I just bought some DVD+RW and will try this tonight. I’m on a Windows box, but the problem and solution are the same.
    Just for the record, I was amazed to see that ONE of the DVD+R that I burned (without changing the booktype) DID play on my EH57. It was full of DivX. The second one I burnt did not play… strange huh ? This one only had one DivX on it, maybe that made a difference ?
    Anyway, I have a NEC3220A, and it says it will not change the booktype of ‘minus’ media. So this method is OK for DVD+RW, not for DVD-RW.
    Definitive answer tonight !

  4. I have a Panasonic DMR EX-77 and have been unable to get it to play any blank discs at all. I have tried DVD-RW, DVD-R and DVD+R so far and all come up as unsupported format. I am burning them as dvd video or ISO image on various software packages but have had no luck at all.

  5. Hi

    I’ve just bought a DMR-EH57 recorder.
    Is there somebody able to play 2 or more avi files on a DVD+/- RW ?

    Thanks

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