DVD recorders can record any of the following:
DVD recorders which can record high definition television (HDTV) signals have also been released.
DVD Recorder Features
NTSC (Analog) and ATSC (Digital) TV Tuner. To pull in TV channels, you need a built-in TV tuner. Just like your VCR, this allows you to program recordings for different channels. The tuner receives TV channels via antenna or cable. If you have a satellite system, you should be able to use the DVD recorder just like you’re using a VCR today. In Feb. 2009, broadcast TV stations will convert to all digital signals. Make sure the DVD recorder you buy comes with a built-in ATSC tuner to pick up digital TV signals sent over the air.
Electronic Program Guide (EPG). Sometimes, it is called an Interface Program Guide (IPG). Many DVD recorders make use of the Gemstar-TV Guide’s VCR Plus+® Gold system, which has been available for VHS VCRs for a number of years. Some are using the newer GUIDE Plus+® and GUIDE Plus+® Gold systems. The EPG puts up a graphical display of the TV programs on various channels for different times, up to eight days in advance. You can interactively sort by various categories to quickly locate the show you want. Once you find the show that you want to record, push one button and voilà, the DVD recorder is programmed to record that show for you. These EPGs are free and the EPG data/ signal should be be available through most cable TV providers.
All DVD recorders can play back pre-recorded DVD-Video in addition to their respective recordable DVD format(s). In fact, a DVD recorder would replace your primary DVD-Video player in your primary viewing environment (home theater). While you are upgrading to a DVD recorder, look for these features when it comes to playback functionality:
Progressive Scan. If you have a Digital TV capable of displaying 480 lines of progressive scan video (480p), or if you're planning to buy one in the not-too-distant future, look for this feature. It converts the interlaced scan signal inherent in DVD-Video to progressive scan. The result is a brighter image, with no visible scan lines and fewer motion artifacts (stair-step edges on moving objects). Some high-end DVD recorders will employ a Faroudja deinterlacer, for the best possible progressive scan performance.
Variable Bit-Rate (MPEG-2) Recording. Instead of recording the video with a constant MPEG-2 video bit rate, a variable bit rate approach is used to reduce the amount of data in the compressed video stream. An on-board video processor analyzes the complexity of the picture in real-time and adjusts the video bit rate used in MPEG-2 compression. Simple scenes would use a lower bit rate, while more complex scenes would take advantage of higher bit rates. The result is slightly longer recording time, since less data is used, with the same or even slightly improved picture quality.
Video Pre-Processing Circuitry. Some DVD recorders incorporate video pre-processing circuitry aimed at improving the picture quality the incoming source material. For example, 3-D comb filters and some sort of time–based corrector are commonly used. Others use a noise reduction filter or a video noise equalizer that balances and equalizes the picture. Depending on the type of circuitry and manufacturer, these may or may not have user adjustments. While this circuitry will not make a poor picture perfect, it can bring new life to degraded pictures on an old VHS tape, for example.
Simultaneous Record and Play. If the read and write data rates of the recordable DVD disc are fast enough, DVD recorders can literally record one program, and playback the same or another program at the same time. What this means is that you can let your DVD recorder start recording your TV program at 8 PM while you tuck your children in for the night, and come back at 8:20 PM and start watching the recorded TV program off of your recordable DVD disc, while your DVD recorder is still recording the rest of the show. Panasonic calls this feature “Time Slip”. Another advantage of simultaneous record and play capability is that you can play back your recorded TV program, while your DVD recorder makes another recording of a show currently being broadcast. This capability is far beyond what any tape-based VCRs can do.
Linear Editing Features. Linear editing is the traditional method of editing video when using linear formats such as video tape. You have to find the source segment that you want, record it to the new medium, then locate the next source segment, record it to the new medium, repeat until you’re done. This is very time consuming especially when your source medium is a tape-based format.
Simple Non-Linear Editing Features. Non-linear editing is the ability to cut and paste video segments in any order that you wish. This is a powerful video editing technique that saves a lot a time over linear editing methods and creates professional-looking results. For advanced non-linear editing, you need to edit on a computer-based DVD authoring package.
Titling Functions. If you plan to transfer your home video from VHS to recordable DVD discs, a titling function would allow you add some basic titles to your video footage.
Menu Creation Feature. Taking it one step further, some DVD recorders allow you to create simple menus such “Chapter Selection”, for quick direct access to your favorite scenes.
Cable Box Interface. If you have a cable set-top box for pay-per-view programming or digital cable, or a satellite TV set-top box, you will need this feature so that your DVD recorder can change the channel on your cable/satellite set-top box and record the desired TV programs.
Hard Disk Drive. Some DVD recorders incorporate a built-in hard disk drive, allowing the DVD recorder to make recordings without a recordable DVD disc. When you want to archive the recorded program, you can insert a recordable DVD disc and the program can be transferred from the hard disk to the recordable DVD disc, for off-machine archiving. Another use of a hard disk drive is that it can continue recording a program even when the recordable DVD disc runs out of space. Lastly, a built-in hard disk can also allow the machine to multi-task with simultaneous record and play functionality.
Consider the following types of connectivity, to ensure that your DVD recorder has the most flexibility to meet your needs for video recording.
IEEE 1394 “Firewire” interface (also known as “i.LINK” or “DV input”). This digital connection allows for pristine digital transfer of video and audio from a digital camcorder (e.g., miniDV, DVD, Digital-8). This interface should be located on the front panel of the DVD recorder for easy access. For output to a digital TV, this connection should be used whenever possible. Generally, the IEEE 1394 interface comes with either a 4-pin or 6-pin jack. Usually a 4-pin jack is used with DVD recorders and digital camcorders. Computers may use either or both the 4-pin and 6-pin jacks. Make sure you have the Firewire cable with the right jacks at both ends.
Component video inputs and outputs. If a digital video connection cannot be established with the IEEE 1394 connection, then component video offers the best video transfer in the analog domain.
S-Video and composite video inputs and outputs. If you have an
analog camcorder (e.g., 8mm, Hi-8, VHS, VHS-C), use the S-Video connection
if there is one. As a last resort, you can use the composite video
connection. The S-Video and composite video inputs should also be
located on the recorder’s front panel for easy access.
Digital audio outputs. For DVD-Video playback in 5.1-channel surround sound, DVD recorders include either an optical or coaxial digital audio output, for connection with a Dolby Digital or DTS-capable home theater receiver.
Analog audio outputs. If you don't have a home theater receiver,
simply use the analog audio outputs to connect them to your TV set.
So which of the six recordable DVD formats (DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-RAM, Dual-layer) should you choose? If you agree with the idea that recordable DVD discs should be backwards compatible with existing DVD-Video players and computer DVD-ROM drives, then the write-once DVD-R format seems to offer the best chances of backwards compatibility, though not quite 100%. One industry source says DVD-R backwards compatibility is better than 90%.
None of the rewritable formats (DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM) offer that level of backwards compatibility. The rewritable DVD-RAM disc is only compatible with Panasonic DVD-Video players made in 2001 or later, plus a few other brands’ models. Therefore, if you plan to share your DVD recordings with family and friends, it is best to use the write-once DVD-R format.
For daily recording and time shifting of TV shows, your best bet is to use one of the rewritable DVD formats. This allows you to record, erase, and record over again on the same disc. If sharing of recorded TV programs is a desire, then try DVD-RW or DVD+RW. If you don’t need to share TV programs with others, then any of the rewritable formats will do. Even DVD-RAM is a viable option.
Many DVD recorders use a single recordable DVD format. That is, they record to one of the following formats:
But many dual-format DVD recorders are available.