Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

DVD/VHS combis

As I recently blogged, our Sky+ box had not managed to record everything during our holiday/Tech-Ed conference. This wasn’t entirely due to a lack of disc space but primarily due to a periodic hiccup in the box that causes it to go mental.
Anyway, a friend of mine has a Thomson dual-tuner DTT PVR and he was away on holiday for a pretty similar period to our absence, so we tried to act as a programme backup for each other. It was partly successful, but we don’t watch all of the same programmes .
So he has taped up a couple of the shows I missed but had to re-tape one of them because the first attempt to record it resulted in a pretty rough picture. I thought that this was probably because the tape was wearing out and suggested that we ought to look at getting DVD recorders. Both of us are somewhat constrained space-wise on the amount of equipment that we can have in our living rooms and because I still need a VHS deck for the video work I do, I then started thinking about combi devices.
I can’t remember the last time I had looked at a DVD-writer/VHS combi but I seem to remember that there wasn’t a lot of choice. The marketplace certainly seems to have changed since then! Not only is there quite a bit of choice, and from big manufacturers as well, but the specs are pretty decent.
For example, Panasonic are releasing the DMR-EZ45VEBS which writes to all variants of the DVD format, includes an SD memory slot, DTT tuner and very rich video & audio connectivity including HDMI. According to a magazine, there is also a version of this coming out with an internal harddrive as well! Unfortunately, the former isn’t available yet and the latter (at £650) is too expensive for what I want to use it for.
Ultimately, my intentions are just Sky -> DVD copying and DVD -> VHS copying for when I want to make VHS tapes from the video productions I’ve created. Anything else I get from a combi unit is going to be a bonus. In the end, I decided to go for the Samsung DVD-VR336. This will only write to DVD-R and DVD-RW, but that isn’t a problem for me. I’m not intending to need time-shifting capability (for which you need DVD-RAM) as Sky+ does that. It doesn’t have a DTT tuner, but my friend has already got that in his Thomson and I’ve got Sky+.
It does have good connectivity, particularly on the outbound side: SCART, composite video, S-video, component video and HDMI. It also has a DV-in socket for transferring camcorder video to DVD – not something I want to do, but my friend might. Quite a few of the DVD recorders seem to offer this feature.
It also supports VHS -> DVD which I might try on some of our older tapes but I think it automatically detects the Macrovision signal and prevents copying then.
The VHS format may be well into decline but manufacturers have seen an opportunity to allow consumers to "upgrade" and still keep everything going.

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