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VCR Guide


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Recording TV shows on a VCR

With digital video recorders (DVR) being built-in to cable TV and satellite TV tuner/converter boxes and electronic program guides able to control all your event recordings, the VCR may be fading, however the ubiquitous VCR is still a viable and reliable way to record TV programs for those not quite yet on the cutting edge of video technology.

Also, if you have a collection of old VHS movies, you may want to hang on to your VCR. The modern VCR has impressive features and costs far less than in years past. The following explains how to get TV shows on VHS tape for your repeated viewing enjoyment. 

Video Cassette Recorder - VCR User Guide

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Hi-Fi Stereo VCR with on-screen display, jog shuttle control, VCRplus+, auto clock-set, built-in cable ready tuner and 8-event programming.
First-time VCR setup

Many brands of VCR need an initial setup, sometimes even after being unplugged from AC power. The channel setup process (what channels are available), setting the clock and the input signal selection (AIR/CABLE) are examples. Make sure this is completed before attempting to record. 

A VCR typically has a TV tuner built-in, meaning the VCR can tune in TV channels 2 thru 13 and 14 thru 99 and sometimes even more, over 125. All modern VCRs have cable-ready tuners, meaning the VCR can tune in all your analog cable channels. However, a VCR cannot tune in scrambled or encrypted CABLE TV or satellite TV signals. Most digital cable and DBS satellite TV providers scramble their channels and you therefore need a converter/receiver box to decode the signals before you can record them. The converter boxes typically provide a composite or RF output so you can hookup your VCR or DVD recorder.
The following guidelines consist of general VCR operation information. Because there are so many different brands of VCRs available, not all of these guidelines may work for your particular component. For additional information regarding your VCRs operation, please consult your VCR owner's manual.

If you want to record TV programming from a cable or satellite converter/receiver box, please see the following instructions for installing a VCR.

1. Connect cable TV or satellite TV signal cables (coming from wall outlet) to the cable/satellite TV  receiver input labeled "Satellite In" or "Antenna In."

2. Connect a RF coaxial cable to the "Out To TV" output post on the back of the cable/satellite TV receiver and connect the other end of this cable to the "Antenna/Cable In" input post in the back of the VCR.

3. Connect a RF coax cable to the "Out To TV" post on the back of the VCR and connect the other end of this cable to the "ANTENNA IN " post on the back of the TV.

See Hookup Diagrams

About VHS videotapes

Videocassettes come in various lengths which translate to recording capacities of about 2 hours to 8 hours for VHS. Make sure the tape you choose to use has enough recording time for the TV show you want to record. Also be sure to check if the tape you are using has been previously used to record something you want to keep. If this is the case, fast forward to a point on the tape to prevent recording over your prior TV show. If it looks like you will not have enough tape to record the next TV program, your best option is to use a new blank videocassette.

The back of the VCR has connections for coaxial cables and RCA audio/video cables (IN and OUT).
Recording a TV program
How do I program my VCR?

The VCR must have an input signal. This can be ANT for over-the-air antenna or CABLE using a coax cable TV signal or a satellite TV signal from a converter box. 

The VCR must be connected properly. Coax cables or red, white, and yellow composite video/stereo audio RCA connector cables can be used. The 3-cable RCA hookup allows better video than the RF coax connection and also allows stereo audio. A TV with only a RF coax cable input will not yield stereo sound from the VCR, only mono sound. 

Using a S-video cable hookup instead of the yellow composite video will yield better video. The TV and the VCR must both have this port/jack to be able to benefit from an S-video connection.

Recording "LIVE":

1. Power on the VCR and the TV.

2. Load a videocassette into the VCR.

3. Tune the TV to channel 3 or 4 if using a RF coax cable from the VCR. If using a audio/video RCA phono cable, then select "VIDEO" or "AUX" or "L1" using the TV remote control.

4. Set the VCR to the channel you want to record. 

Note: In the case of an input signal from a converter box such as satellite TV or Cable TV, the VCR needs to be set on channel 3 or 4 if using an RF coax cable, or LINE input if using a audio/video cable. The converter box needs to be set on the channel you want to record. The cable connecting the converter box to the VCR input will provide the signal source. Make sure the VCR is set to "VCR" in the "TV/VCR" function.

5. Select the record speed on the VCR. SP is standard or best quality and EP is extended or long for the lower quality but longer recording times.

6. When you want to begin recording, press REC on the VCR or VCR's remote control. Recording will begin unless the cassette is protected with the safety tab. To cut out commercials, press PAUSE and then PAUSE again to resume recording.

7. When finished, press STOP, then EJECT.

Unattended or "overnight" recording:

TV shows can be recorded automatically at a pre-determined time/date. The VCR's clock must be set to the correct time and date.

Programming a VCR to record TV shows while you are away (time-shifting). Watch your TV program at your own convenience, later the next day or next week. Never miss an episode again and archive episodes for the future. 

Different brands of VCR use various specific sequences of steps to setup an unattended recording, but the process used by all brands ultimately leads to accomplishing the following:

1. Set time of day in hours and minutes and day.
2. Set channel to record from.
3. Set start time and stop time.
4. Set to record only once or every day or weekly.
5. Set recording speed (SP, EP)

Most VCR remotes have a button such as MENU or GUIDE which enters the on-screen setup options function. You do all the setup functions in this way using the arrow keys to move up, down, forward, backward. Setting the clock and date is done in this way.

On-screen menu. Depending on your brand of VCR, your on-screen menu may appear differently.

TIMER PROGRAMMING is also done thru the MENU. The "arrow" keys may be PLAY or STOP or ENTER or SELECT depending on your brand of VCR. Consult owner's manual for which keys to press or use trial and error approach. 

Usually you can program multiple events enabling you to accomplish more than one unattended recording. 

Sometimes the settings will be auto-filled by your VCR which makes it easy. You just have to move forward to the next field. For example, the start time may be auto-filled to the current time. 

After setting the start and end times, channel etc. , press MENU again to exit the setup. 

If you make a mistake or want to change a setting, press MENU - go into TIMER PROGRAMMING, skip down to the field to change and press key to make your change, then exit by pressing MENU again. You can check your settings anytime by going into MENU - TIMER PROGRAMMING again and looking at your settings to make sure they are correct. 

Using your VCR remote control, fill in the date, start and end times, channel to record and speed.

Your brand of VCR may have a menu that looks like this.

Make sure you have a videocassette loaded and ready to go, then turn VCR power OFF to activate the timer.

You should now see a "TIMER" indicator on the VCR. This shows you the VCR is set to record unattended. When the day/time you have setup occurs, the VCR will automatically record the TV show on the channel you setup and stop recording according to your set "end time".

You can easily change your settings, if desired, anytime up to the event start day/time by powering ON the VCR and ejecting the tape if desired and then make your changes or even cancel the entire event program.

The only other thing you may need to do is stop an unattended recording IN PROGRESS. Most VCR brands today will have some sequence you can execute to do this if required. For example, Press the power ON button and immediately press the STOP button. This will stop the recording process on some brands of VCR.

VCR back panel cable hookup

Hookup using coax cables. 
The VCR gets the signal from the satellite box.
Tune VCR to channel 3 or 4.
Tune TV to channel 3 or 4.

Hookup using coax and RCA cable connectors.
Select VIDEO or LINE input on TV with TV remote.
Select LINE input on VCR with VCR remote.
With this setup you get stereo sound.


VCR cable hookup

VCR Plus+

Some VCR models have a built-in feature called "VCR Plus" which is designed to help you setup your TV show recording without entering each piece of required information yourself. 

Instead you enter a code, which you get from your local newspaper TV listings or TV GUIDE, for the show you want to record. The code for a particular TV show is all you need to enter and the VCR handles the rest, recording the TV show at the start time, on the channel it is shown on and stopping at the end of the show. Some people find this method easier than programming the VCR the old standard way. 

One possible glitch with this method is you have to "map" your channels locally. This only needs to be done once but if it is not done you may end up with a recording of the wrong channel. Refinements of VCR PLUS include VCR Plus Silver and VCR Plus Gold.

VCR Plus+® has become a standard feature. VCR Plus+ lets users program the VCR by entering the PlusCode® numerical codes that are found in many newspapers’ television listings, as well as in every edition of TV Guide®.  Some VCR models feature VCR Plus+ Silver.  Others offer VCR Plus+ Gold. VCR Plus+ Silver automatically sets up the VCR by mapping all receivable channels according to your entered zip code (AllSet™ Automatic Channel Mapping.)  VCR Plus+ Gold adds control of cable TV and satellite TV boxes.

More details on VCR Plus+


How do you set-up the Guide channel setting for VCR Plus+?

How do I make a copy from a camcorder to a VCR or from one VCR to another VCR?

I cannot bring up my VCR’s On-Screen menu.

The MBR remote for my VCR has no code listed for my brand of TV. Is there another code?

I have attempted to copy a movie that I rented or own but the copy came out very dark or with no color.

I cannot get Surround Sound.

Will a TV or VCR designed for use in the U.S. work overseas?

What is quasi S-VHS playback SQPB?

What is S-VHS ET?

What is a TBC (Time Base Corrector)?

What are 19 micron heads?

My VCR only has 2 recording speeds: SP and EP. How do these compare to the 3 speeds (SP, LP and SLP) of other VCR’s?

My VCR will not turn on and the Timer indicator is flashing.

• How do you set-up the Guide channel setting for VCR Plus+? 
Individual cable companies use different channel numbers for various cable stations. For example, one system may assign HBO to channel 14, on another it may be channel 24. The manufacturers of VCR Plus+ assign one specific number to each cable channel; for HBO they use channel 33. The stations must be reassigned to those numbers consistent with those of your respective cable company. When setting Guide channel, the VCR Plus station number should appear under Guide channel and your channel should appear under listing VCR or Cable Channel. Guide channels will be found in your local TV-Guide.
How do I make a copy from a camcorder to a VCR or from one VCR to another VCR? 
Connect the audio and video outputs of the playing camcorder, or VCR, to the audio and video input of the recording VCR. Set the recording VCR to AUX or Line Input setting. 
I cannot bring up my VCR’s On-Screen menu. 
To bring up the menu on a VCR, set TV to video channel, either channel 3 or 4. Turn on the VCR, and press the “TV/Video” button on VCR remote. At this point the video indicator on the VCR’s display should be lit; press “Menu”.
The Multi-BRand remote for my VCR has no code listed for my brand of TV. Is there another code? 
The only codes that are incorporated into the remote are listed in the instruction manual. If the code is not listed then the remote is not compatible. However, sometimes if you try all the codes, there may be a possibility one of the codes will operate your TV.
I have attempted to copy a movie that I rented or own but the copy came out very dark or with no color. 

This is normal. The motion picture industry does not want unauthorized copying of their material whether owned or rented. They have encoded the tape with a signal known as Macro-vision or copy guard. When a copy is attempted the VCR picks up this signal and produces a poor quality copy.
I cannot get Surround Sound. 

Surround sound requires a stereo source. A VCR cannot transmit stereo via channel 3 or 4 to a Television. It can only transmit stereo through the left and right audio inputs of the VCR. These may be connected directly to a surround sound receiver or to a television with audio/video inputs and outputs. When connecting to the Television audio and video inputs, make sure to connect the TV’s audio input to the audio out on the Receiver. Also with this connection remember to put TV in video mode, not on channel 3 or 4.
Will a TV or VCR designed for use in the U.S. work overseas? 

TVs and VCRs designed for use in the U.S. traditionally use a broadcast system called NTSC. The NTSC system is primarily used in North America and Japan. Most other countries use either a system called PAL or SECAM. These three systems are incompatible with one another. An NTSC TV or VCR will not receive or playback information from a PAL or SECAM broadcast or tape. The same is true of the other systems. There are some TVs and VCRs, which are capable of handling all three systems, and both would be needed to play tapes of different systems.
What is quasi S-VHS playback SQPB?

SQPB is a feature that is available on some VCRs. This will allow you to playback a S-VHS tape on your regular VHS VCR. The resolution of the tape will play back in regular VHS mode.
What is S-VHS ET? 

S-VHS ET (Expansion Technology) allows the broader-bandwidth S-VHS signal to be recorded on VHS tapes (High grade recommended). So you can easily enjoy high resolution images even when you record on VHS tapes. Once the tape is recorded in ET mode, that recording will not playback on a VHS VCR. You will have the ability to select the ET mode to off, if you do not want to record a certain tape with this technology.
What is a TBC (Time Base Corrector)? 
The Time Base Corrector digitally removes jitter from fluctuating video signals to deliver a stable picture even with old tapes and rental cassettes. Contributes to improved dubbing quality and superior big screen images.
What are 19 micron heads? 
These high-precision heads are only 19 microns wide to minimize cross talk during EP playback, contributing to sharper image contours and highly stable colors.
My VCR only has 2 recording speeds: SP and EP. How do these compare to the 3 speeds (SP, LP and SLP) of other VCR’s? 
The EP speed has the same ability of SLP of other VCR’s. LP is generally not available anymore.
My VCR will not turn on and the Timer indicator is flashing. 
If the Timer indicator is flashing you would need to press the Timer button on the remote control to dis-engage the timer and unlock the VCR. The same instructions apply if there is a cassette symbol flashing with the timer indicator.

VCR means Video Cassette Recorder. A VCR plays  videos and records shows from TV. The modern VCR standard media is the Video Home System or VHS, more commonly known as a videotape or videocassette. There are many features of a VCR. VCRs may connect to your television, cable TV box, satellite TV system and/or audio system. 


VHS stands for Video Home System, which is very simply, a videotape. A VHS tape is a small plastic rectangular device that has a roll of magnetic tape inside, just like an audiocassette tape. The standard resolution of VHS is 240 lines. A Super Video Home System or SVHS has a resolution of 400 lines, outputting better image quality. An SVHS VCR is recommended for use with high-quality satellite systems. Some VCRs are for VHS only, and therefore an SVHS tape played in one, will play at VHS quality. An SVHS video, on the other hand, can play both VHS and SVHS tapes.

VCR Heads

A VCR head may be the most important piece inside your VCR. The VCR head is the part that comes into contact with the magnetic tape inside a VHS cassette. How many heads your VCR has affects the quality of recording, playing and pausing videotapes. The main difference is in transitions. With a four-head VCR, a pause is a clear still frame, as opposed to a fuzzy paused frame with a two-head VCR. Definitely get a four-head VCR if it will become part of your home theater system. As part of regular maintenance for your VCR, it's important that the head is cleaned. Since a video head comes into contact with so many videotapes, it tends to collect dust. 


High Fidelity or Hi-Fi refers to the quality of sound. The human ear can hear up to 20,000Hz of an audio frequency, and Hi-Fi provides 20-20,000 Hz. Good quality audiocassette tapes never reach Hi-Fi quality, and neither do non-Hi-Fi VCRs. If you plan to hook your VCR to a stereo system or want it to be part of your home theater system, definitely shop for a VCR that's Hi-Fi. Many movies are recorded with Dolby-encoded soundtracks. To enjoy the sound of these movies like they were meant to be heard, a Hi-Fi VCR is a must. Using high-grade videotapes are preferable with Hi-Fi VCRs to optimize viewing quality.

VCR Plus+

VCRs that have VCR Plus simplify recordings, and allow you to record from a particular television or cable channel just by entering a specific code. VCR Plus Silver allows you to create auto-channel mapping, matching your television channels with your VCR channels, and VCR Plus Gold has all these features and more for satellite TV connections.


SP, LP and SLP are all modes of recording speeds. A standard T-120 VHS tape records two hours of video on the SP mode, four hours with the LP mode, and up to six hours with SLP. Not all VCRs record in all speeds. If you plan to record long shows, make sure your VCR comes with speed adjustments. The slower the recording speed, the poorer the quality of video, but the more time you have to record on a single VHS.

Inputs and Outputs

AV or audio/video inputs and outputs are what you use to connect equipment like a stereo, television, satellite system, cable box, video editor and other devices to your VCR. Every VCR has at least one audio and video input and output. AV inputs and outputs are usually located on the back panel of any VCR, and some models have an AV jack on the front panel for easier access. If you just want a TV-VCR connection, then one output should be enough. Two or more input and output jacks are recommended if you plan to add your VCR to a home theater or stereo system.


Multi-system VCRs have the ability to play a videocassette from any country. In America, a standard in all videos is NTSC. Other formats are PAL, M-PAL, and PAL-SECAM. A Multi-system VCR will play some if not all of these formats. With another standard single-system NTSC VCR, you have the ability to transfer videotapes from one system to another, so they may work in other countries. If you often view tapes from other countries, or have business in transferring videotapes from one system to another, then you need a multi-system VCR.

Remote Controls  

Most VCRs do come with remote controls so that you may control your VCR while not standing beside it. Some VCRs come with an MBR or Multi-Brand Remote which functions like a universal remote, allowing you to function not only your VCR, but your television and even your cable box. If your VCR will be part of your home theater system, it's a good idea to find a VCR that has an MBR. Some VCR remote controls have functions like slow motion and fast-play that normally are not found on a VCR.


There are thousands of VCRs that have been used for recording movies, and hundreds of different brand names. Although basic functions are the same for all brands of VCRs, there are some differences in playing and recording. It is because of these differences that most VCRs have a tracking feature. Whether it's automatic or manual, you should always buy a VCR with adjustable tracking. Most newer model VCRs have an ATR or Automatic Tracking feature, while others have a manual knob or button for adjustment. It allows you to get rid of annoying lines and static that you may find on your screen while playing a pre-recorded video.

Dual-Deck Devices

A dual-deck VCR is essentially two VCRs built in one machine. Made especially for dubbing purposes, most dual-deck VCRs function like any other VCR with a remote control and channel changing. Each deck has its own head, and is stacked either one on top of another or side-by-side. One-touch button features allow for easy and speedy dubbing.

Auto-Head Cleaning

Many VCRs have a simple foam ring positioned next to the video drum which is used to "clean" the heads. However, as the VCR is used more and more, this method is simply not enough to get the video heads clean. A manual cleaning is required to restore the original video quality. This requires taking the cover off the VCR and using some alcohol on a cloth to get the dirt off the heads. If done carefully, this process can be accomplished by the consumer. For a detailed explanation see VCR CLEANING.

4-Head VCRs incorporate four record heads that allow you to see a jitter-free still frame, or advance the picture one frame at a time during playback.  Noise levles from tapes are reduced as well.

Hi-Fi Stereo VCRs provide theater-like stereo sound reproduction from both recorded tapes and broadcast TV.  This feature enhances viewing since most newer rentals and TV shows are produced in stereo.  A Hi-Fi stereo VCR an essential component in a home theater system.

Super-VHS is a video format that records and produces over 400 lines of horizontal resolution.  This format is ideal for recording the best picture and audio from standard "off-air" broadcasts, and is especially crisp when recording from a DSS system.  Super VHS ET lest you record s-0VHS using standard high-grade VHS tapes.  SQPB means you standard VHS deck can play back S-VHS tapes without the picture distortion that would normally happen when you try to play S-VHS tapes on a regular VHS VCR.

VCRPlus+ with Cable Box Control lets you record basic and optional premium channels through the cable box your cable system provides.  All you do is enter the codes found in most TV listings.  VCRPlus+ programs the proper channel on your cable box and VCR, then turns them on at the proper time to record.  VCR Plus GOLD automatically maps your channels for the cable system in your area.  It makes setting up VCR Plus a breeze.

Flying Erase Head allows you to produce "glitch free" starts and stops during recording.  The advantage is clean images when going from scene to scene.  A VCR with this feature is particularly useful when editing from a camcorder.

Jog Shuttle is a circular dial control that allow you to have touch control over special effects playback.  By turning the dial you can view the image a frame at a time.  some units allow reverse viewing as well.  This a great feature for a sports fan.

Program Information Storage lets you know what programs are on the tapes you've recorded.  Features such as Smart File and Program Index Search show you on-screen what program are on the tape included when the program was recorded, what channel, the length of the program and the title of the program.  Now you won't miss any programs on your tapes because you forgot what was on them and recorded over them by mistake.

Auto Clock Reset automatically sets the correct time on your VCR when you plug it in.  It will also adjust itself for daylight saving time in the spring and fall. This assumes you live in an area where the time signals are broadcast (most PBS stations) or sent over cable.

Commercial Advance/Movie Advance .  Commercial advance automatically marks the commercial breaks on the program you've taped.  when you play back the tape, the VCR will automatically scan past the commercial break and go back into play when your program resumes.  Movie Advance automatically skips the previews at the beginning of movie rental tapes.  Now you can start enjoying the movie you've rented right away.

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Standard setup for recording/watching analog cable TV shows.
VCR has 181-channel cable ready tuner.
RF coaxial cable (RG-59 or RG-6) is used to connect VCR to TV.
TV is set to channel 3 or 4. Mono sound only.

For stereo sound and better video, 
you need to use the 3 cable (red, white, yellow) RCA cables hookup.

Hookup Diagrams : VCR Guide

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