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DVD Remote Control Actuator Identification 
A brief guide to figuring out what buttons do what on a poorly documented DVD remote control.

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Author's note

This is general information provided to assist people faced with the task of coming to terms with an incomprehensible remote control unit -specifically one for a DVD - and it should regarded as such and not as professional advice offered by a person qualified in electronics. 

Use of the information contained herein is to be seen as an acknowledgment of the fact that liability for the use of the information contained in this document lies solely with the person who chooses to make use of the document.
           Placed in the public domain 27th April 2011
           Source: - Puddledud.

The article

I've played with a lot of DVD players - it is a bit of a hobby - and the controls are varied.  I don't have a methodology for working out the functionality of the remotes.

Perhaps it boils down to identifying the key functionality. There will be a play button which might be identified with a right pointing filled in arrow. There will be a stop button which might be identified by a filled in black or red square. A pause button will likely be labeled with two vertical bars.

The remote will most likely have keys which are identified by double arrow heads. The double arrow heads pointing right are fast forward, those pointing left are fast reverse. If there are double arrow heads with a vertical bar as well as the other type then the ones with the vertical bar are skip a chapter forward - right pointing - or skip a chapter backwards - left pointing. Note that the operation of these chapter buttons can be a bit kludgy - particularly if you tell it to go past the last chapter or before the first chapter. In these cases the remote will usually default to repeatedly referencing either the last chapter or the first chapter.

The remote will have a pair of volume control buttons often marked with an increasing or decreasing filled in sound wedge. These can take many and varied forms. I have seen volume buttons marked + and -. There is also likely to be a mute button - often showing a speaker with a line through it.

The remote might have an Open/Close button which will most likely have a filled in upwards pointing arrow with a separated horizontal bar underneath it. Note that some remotes don't have an Open/Close button at all - the thinking is probably that a user would need to move to change the physical DVD and by not offering the button the maker removes the possibility of accidental presses and also saves space on the remote. This is particularly the case when the DVD player is a part of another more comprehensive setup - perhaps including a VHS player.

Knowledge of the above is usually sufficient to operate a device - venturing further is best done with the assistance of a manual. Manuals are often available from the manufacturers web site. There are also many private sites which offer manuals for download - some of which are made freely available and some of which attract a charge.

Nearly everything in the way of manuals is available if you search carefully and for people willing to join a user community it is possible to request a copy of a particular manual from other users interested in such items.

It seems that the older the device the more difficult it might be to locate a manual as manufacturers tend to cut off support for old products.

I sometimes find that manufacturers attach conditions to the downloading of manuals on the web but many don't. I find this latter policy enlightened and in the interests of the manufacturer. On the other hand - just the other day - a download from a DVD manufactures web site refused to complete satisfactorily - presumably because they were unable to place a cookie and then ceased the download. In such a case look again on the web as the manual will often be available elsewhere - perhaps in a slightly different form. Remember that many generic products exist in a variety of forms and often the same unit may be able to be located with another brand name.

When I find manufacturers behaving behaving badly with respect to making manuals available for download I simply make a mental note not to buy their products in the future for they are taking the position that their information gathering need should take precedence over my need to maintain the integrity and security of my computer system.

Most DVD remotes have navigation buttons - selection arrows - which offer up, down, right, left pointing arrows set out in a compass type circle. These keys are for navigating menu options. The navigation buttons frequently have a round OK button in the middle which is used to give assent to a choice once it has been made using the selection arrows.

Lower level machine or DVD level options are available through a setup or menu button or both. The menu option probably relates to settings to do with the DVD data source - the disk itself - such as language, subtitles, sound options - basically things customizable for a particular DVD. The setup menu is likely to relate to machine specific settings such as audio type selection, video output format etc.

Some machines might even have the occasional physical switch to controls the selection of something like video output. Such a physical switch might occasionally be found on the back of the unit and might be used to make a choice between say RGB and DVI output. (I've seen this in the case of a settop box.)

A sound option choice may be something that needs to be set up on at least one occasion. Something like an optical S/PDIF sound output wiring choice might need to be chosen in the relevant setup menu for it to start working.

The setup level options can be remarkably complex and are best not fiddled with unnecessarily. Somewhere in the mix there is often an option which enables you to return the device to its factory settings. It is possible to end up with a DVD player which doesn't output meaningfully to the TV  as a consequence of  injudicious choices having been made - particularly with respect to video output settings and in this situation you might find yourself following the manual directions blind in order to select such a 'return to factory default' selection for your DVD player.



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First posted in April, 2011

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