Opening Moves Page 3

The Pioneer is the more confusing of the two to operate because it offers so many recording choices. Besides choosing between DVD-R (write-once) and DVD-RW (rewritable) blank discs, you have to select between making a recording compatible with standard players (which we call DVD-V format) and a VR format recording, which will play only on a DVD-RW recorder or a compatible player. If you choose DVD-V, you then select the 1-hour or 2-hour mode, and you're done. But if you choose VR format, you then have to choose between VR-SP (2 hours maximum) and VR-MN (1 to 6 hours); if you choose MN, you get to select a maximum time from Level 1 to Level 32.

All these choices, of course, give you a high degree of flexibility, particularly in the ability to make finely gauged tradeoffs of recording time for picture quality using the 32-step VR-MN format. Furthermore, the Pioneer is the only machine that offers picture-quality controls on both the inputs and outputs æ it's also the only deck in the group with a bidirectional FireWire (a.k.a. IEEE 1394 or i.Link) connection. The Panasonic's picture controls affect output only, and it doesn't have a FireWire connector. The Philips has no picture-quality controls, and its FireWire port is input only, which means you can't "bounce" material in digital form back and forth between recordable disc and tape or between two DVD recorders without "dropping" into analog.

Editing for Dummies The editing features also vary considerably from deck to deck. Again the Philips is the odd man out, offering only the ability to define chapters within a title and to "hide" selected chapters during playback. On the other hand, those functions are exactly what you'd need to excise the commercials from a recording of a broadcast æ and they're also probably the most advanced editing functions most people will ever use.

The Panasonic and Pioneer decks provide two different methods of editing. The first, which we call "title editing" in our table, includes things like deletions or erasures that actually change what's recorded on the disc. If you want to preserve a recording while editing it for playback, you'd use "playlist editing" instead. Playlists are sets of cueing instructions stored on the disc and carried out during playback. To edit a playlist, you mark start and stop points to identify which segments are to be played or skipped, and in what order they will appear. The beauty of playlist editing is that it changes only the deck's instructions æ not the recorded program.

The only way to move a recorded segment out of its original order with the Panasonic and Pioneer decks is through playlist editing. Their editing features are well suited for deleting commercials from recorded broadcasts and for creating programs of highlights from camcorder footage, not for anything much more elaborate. The editing features of the Philips can't change the playback order of segments.