Johnny, DVD region codes and NTSC/PAL television-system difference are two completely-separate things. The region codes do not affect the signal that goes to your analog television. (I’m not certain about televisions with digital inputs; there are some standards for “digital rights management” that apply to digital signals, but I think this is still evolving.)
I have a North American DVD player which can play PAL discs, converting the output to NTSC so that it can be displayed on an NTSC TV. However, it is set for Region 1, and will only accept discs that include Region 1 in their allowed play locations.
I should have bought a “region-free” player, which can play discs from any region. Unfortunately diodn’t know much about the regions when I bought the thing, and assumed that the region coding in the player could be easily defeated. Ooops. I seem to have gotten the only JVC player for which no region-code defeat is known.
Live and learn. My next player will be region-free.
As several posters upthread mentioned, DVD regionns were added to the DVD standard so that the free trade of DVDs across the oceans would not reduce the profits to movie companies from staggered theatrical release dates.
I should stress that the regions are entirely optional for the producers of a DVD. There is nothing to stop producers from releasing a disc playable in all regions, and making it available worldwide. IMHO, many more producers should be doing this, especially with backlist titles that have been released for some time. I hope it will become more common.
DVD regions also apply only to DVD-Video titles. DVD-ROMs (and, I believe, DVD-Audio discs) are unaffected.
Consumer DVD-recording equipment cannot record a DVD with regions. In some of the more advanced prosumer-level DVD-authoring software, such as Adobe Encore and DVD-Lab Pro, you can specify a region for a disc and have it implemented by a professional DVD replicator, but the DVD recorder you buy for 89 dollars and stick in your PC cannot mark the DVD region. This is a Good Thing, IMHO.
Another problem with the DVD regions is that there is no way to make the region locks on a specific disc ‘expire’ once the movie’s staggered release schedule has completed and it has been released worldwide. Thus, if I buy the North American DVD of The Incredibles when it is first released, the movie may still be playing in theatres in, say, Europe. However, when The Incredibles is released on DVD in Europe, I am still barred from playing my North American DVD in Europe, even though the DVD is available there… unless I get a region-free disc player.
Some friends moved from Canada to New Zealand. If they had not bought a region-free DVD player, they would have had to replace all their hundreds of Region 1 DVDs with Region 2 DVDs at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.
I do not know whether this region system will apply to the upcoming high-definition discs. I hope not, but expect to be disappointed.