Dirty Disc and HD DVD error codes

The other day Paramount sent me the HD DVD of Stardust, all nicely shrink-wrapped. I hadn’t really heard of this movie, so quick lookup on IMDB was encouraging, since it scores 8.1 out of 10 from over 36,000 voters.

Last night I started to watch it with one of my daughters. And the Toshiba HD-E1 HD DVD player was playing up. It stopped play a couple of minutes into the movie, showing an error code. I switched the unit off (holding down the power key for ten seconds) and then started it up again. It froze with the ‘Welcome’ message on the screen, before even attempting to read the disc.

This had been happening several months ago, but had stopped when I upgraded the unit’s firmware to 2.7. So I closed it down again and started it up again by pressing the ‘Open’ key to make sure the disc wouldn’t be read.

Then I did an ‘Initialise’ in the player’s setup menu, had it check that the firmware was up to date, made suitable settings again, checked that the persistent storage was empty and tried playing the disc again. This time the player displayed error code 408bc00d before even getting to the main menu. I closed down the player again (another ten seconds on the power button) and started it up. Then the player worked properly.

The movie was very enjoyable, until about 55 minutes into it the sound started dropping out and the picture stuttered in an unwatchable way. So I did a few more restarts and still the problems persisted. I took out the disc and watched the last couple of episodes of season one of ‘Star Trek‘ on HD DVD, finally completing this ten disc epic.

Only then did I examine the Stardust disc. When a DVD plays up about halfway through the movie, it’s a fair bet that there are some finger marks or dirt on the playing surface near the disc’s edge. Dual layer discs generally play from the centre to the edge and then back in towards the centre again. I know this, and since Startdust is longish, it was also a fair bet that the HD DVD was dual layer.

But it was fresh out of a shrink-wrapped box! That’s why I had lightly dismissed this possibility. Still, I checked. And, sure enough, there were three separate gooey splotches on the surface near the outer edge. A bit of metho and a soft tissue, and these were gone. Then the disc played flawlessly.

But how did the dirt get there in the first place?

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