Shopping Made Simple: DVD Recorders Page 4
Hit the Decks Are you a big time-shifter who can't stand missing an episode of Six Feet Under? Or are you a camcorder nut who likes to edit home movies and send them to friends and relatives? Or do you just want to archive treasured video footage for your personal library? Whatever the case, the mission is to find a deck that offers the right set of recording and editing features.
If you want to record TV broadcasts for later viewing (downconverted to standard-definition for HDTV shows), look for a recorder with programming features like VCR Plus+ and newer onscreen services like Guide Plus+. Some models have an infrared (IR) "blaster" so the recorder can send channel-change codes to a cable-TV box, making it easy to record a succession of programs on different channels. Any inveterate time-shifter who can afford a model with a hard-disk drive - or even TiVo facilities - should buy one. Most recording and editing are done on the hard drive, with the DVD burner mainly used to make "keeper" discs.
If you want to extensively manipulate camcorder footage, pay attention to a deck's editing capabilities - and how you'd use them. While most recorders can get rid of the commercials in TV shows (especially if you're using rewritable discs), editing 2 hours of birthday-party footage down to a nice, tight 20, 15 - or, better, 10 - minutes requires more sophisticated tools.
While it's hard to produce a truly movielike program using any DVD recorder, the decks best suited for editing camcorder footage allow you to easily trim, excerpt, and reorder shots. Disc format isn't nearly as important here as the simplicity of the editing system. Unfortunately, all DVD-recorder editing systems are equally complex to use. So if you're really into making your own movies, a computer with appropriate editing software is better than even the most sophisticated DVD recorder.
A few decks have video processing for cleaning up the signal from analog tapes - like VHS, 8mm, even Beta - before recording it. But if you have a Digital 8 or MiniDV digital camcorder, get a recorder with a FireWire (a.k.a. i.Link or IEEE 1394) input, typically labeled DV In. This is the only way to get your footage onto disc without going through a cycle of digital-to-analog-to-digital signal conversion, which will degrade the quality. Even inexpensive models now have this connector.
A few DVD recorders also have FireWire outputs for feeding camcorder footage into your computer for further processing. (Unfortunately, most of the FireWire inputs on DVD recorders won't accept video from a computer.) As for DVD dubbing, don't get any big ideas. Practically all DVD movies are copy-protected. DVD recorders won't record copy-protected signals regardless of input, and they won't feed such signals to their FireWire outputs during playback.
If video editing is a big priority, take a close look at the growing number of models with 80- to 160-gigabyte (GB) hard drives. Usually the hard drive is there to provide TiVo-like simultaneous record/playback functions, which will be of interest to hard-core time-shifters - although any DVD-RAM recorder (and, apparently, also Sony's new RDR-GX300) can do that without a hard drive.
But a hard drive can also be used to edit footage before you burn a DVD, which has several advantages: editing is a lot faster because hard-drive cueing is much quicker than DVD cueing, you can use inexpensive DVD-R or DVD+R discs for making final copies, and it's easy to make multiple copies of something you've edited because the editing commands are stored on the hard drive. Otherwise, you'd have to edit each copy separately or dub a homemade DVD played on an external player, which would degrade the signals.
Now check out the product listings to see which models catch your eye. There's enough variety to satisfy just about any set of technical demands and to meet any budget. The trick is getting those requirements to come together in a single model. But with the field of DVD recorders undergoing a Big Bang expansion, you're likely to find just what you're looking for.PDF: How the Recordable-DVD Formats Compare PDF: Product Listings