Something strange happened recently, where the price of DVD/VCR recorders have jumped to ridiculous prices on Amazon. Some sellers are asking for prices that exceed $1300.
For a 2nd hand machine! Thirteen hundred dollars?
Sellers are hoping that people will buy such devices fearing that they will lose their recorded memories.
I’ve seen websites suggesting to buy a second hand DVD/VCR from Amazon or eBay. I’m telling you now, it’s not worth it.
Let’s look at some of the downsides of simply buying a VHS/VCR combo recorder:
- There is no warranty – Yes Amazon has this FAQs listing this: Used products generally do not come with a manufacturer’s warranty but all of our items are backed by Amazon’s standard 30-day return policy. That doesn’t help you if in 60 days it drops dead. It’s been used remember.
- The laser on the DVD will go first – The picture above of the Samsung DVD VR355 is the only working DVD/VCR device I have with the laser working. But I don’t need it as I record to a PC. The VCR side works perfect.
- Manufacturers don’t repair these devices anymore – Considering Samsung have ceased making Blu-ray players what are the chances of getting a device like this repaired?
So while I sound like a Negative Nancy, that’s not what this post is actually about.
I decided I wanted to find out what gives the best results for simplicity and quality. A DVD/VCR Recorder or an average PC editor.
Can’t ask for more right? Something that is simple to use and gives good quality.
Which one would be better?
Using a DVD/VHS Recorder
Using the Samsung as my test device, this machine has an EZ REC MODE, which is simply a one button record method from the VCR to the DVD.
Regardless of brand, you will be placing a blank recordable DVD into the tray, with the VHS tape rewound and ready to go into the slot along the other side.
The blank DVD will be initialized giving you two options in the Disc Settings:
DISC FORMAT – This will wipe anything that was on the disc (if you are using a DVD-RW disc), any other type of DVD disc you cannot format.
Brand new discs don’t need to be formatted as there is nothing on it anyway.
DISC INFORMATION – This option will show you the amount of time you can record on the disc.
In my test I used a DVD-R 4.7Gb which is the most common. According to the above picture, I should be able to record eight hours in Super Long Play.
Eight hours! Squeezed onto a 4GB disc? Can you imagine how crap that video quality would be?
Turns out it’s less than 1Mbps.
The average SP (Standard Play) will give you 2 hours of recording and a reasonable bitrate.
Depending on the brand of DVD/VCR recorder, you may have the simple one button dubbing option. This can be accessed via the menu.
Or in the picture above it is highlighted in the yellow square.
At this point the DVD/VHS Recorder is going to transfer from the VCR to the DVD.
For this example I let the video run its course, but you could sit there and hit pause anytime there is something that you don’t want on the disc.
That doesn’t feel like simplicity, especially if the cassette tape lasts for three hours!
DVD/VCR Recorder Completed or Not?
Once the video has finished simply clicking stop on the remote (or recorder) will update the disc.
Don’t be fooled though, the DVD is far from finished yet.
A DVD/VHS Recorder will update the disc and let you even eject the disc. At no point will it inform you that you still need to finalize the disc and this is where people have made the common misconception that everything is finished and ready.
If we look at the under side of the disc you will see the burnt data closer to the middle. The darker shade of the disc (outer edge) has nothing written to it.
Placing the unfinalized disc into a computer, you will notice it is recognized as being used, but the PC cannot open it.
In order for the disc to work on other DVD readers or DVD players, it will need to be finalized.
DVD/VCR Recorder Finalizing
Placing the disc back in the DVD/VCR Recorder, we can go to the Disc Settings.
The Disc Name can be selected to give the disc a title. For this test I didn’t do that.
Choosing the Finalize option will mean the disc will not be able to have any new videos added to it.
Finalizing the disc does take at least ten minutes to process.
Something I want to point out is the EDIT feature along the left hand side of the menu.
That only works for DVD RAM discs or re writable DVD discs and it was based on the premise that you would be only using the same branded DVD/VCR Recorder to edit those discs.
You simply cannot place a re writable disc into another device (like a PC) and expect it to read the contents.
I had that issue with a mini DVD camera, when the client wanted the discs transferred to digital. A lot were not finalized, so I couldn’t tell what was on each disc.
Further, they failed to tell me that they collected so many discs from two different cameras. One being a Panasonic and the other a Sony. So I had to sort through the discs to see which mini disc worked with which camera.
Once the DVD disc has been finalized, placing back into a PC we can see the files the DVD/VCR Recorder has created.
The disc shows that for half an hour footage is slightly less than 1GB in size.
The bitrate sits at 4761kbps which is fine for the SD settings. A PAL DVD is recorded at 25FPS and NTSC is at 30FPS.
If, after everything I just said, you still prefer to buy a VCR DVD combo, my recommendation goes to Magnavox .
Using a Video Editor
Obviously if I’m going to compare a DVD/VCR Recorder to an editor I need to have captured the video at some point.
This post lists VHS to DVD Converters that I have experimented with and will give you an idea of different devices for your budget.
For a budget of approximately $100 you can get a capture card that comes with an editor and DVD authoring program.
That’s 10X cheaper than a second hand DVD/VCR Recorder being sold on Amazon!
Before I get to the editor aspect, I want to show the difference of the same footage captured.
The DVD was approximately 1GB in file size vs this digital file being 3GB.
That is of course is due to the capture being at the correct 50FPS and a higher bitrate of 11987kbps.
Makes you realize that just transferring VHS to digital is the better option in the long run.
I think people have a weird perception of video editors as some daunting what do I do next? what if I get it wrong? experience.
If a reasonable $25 capture stick comes with a great software then it can’t be that hard.
One of the important reasons (if not the only reason) to use an editor is the fact that you can finally cut out random segments of snow or static.
Let’s be honest, VHS tapes were the USBs of the 80’s.
You’d record a family party, then later on use the same cassette to record a TV show, then back to an outing.
So all those overlap static moments can sometimes last 30 seconds or more and they’re annoying to see.
The DVD/VCR Recorder will let you edit out unwanted clips but you have to watch the footage in real time to catch those moments.
If you don’t, you run the risk of transferring random static and other unnecessary crap onto the finalized DVD.
An editor on the other hand allows you to highlight such areas and simply cut them out.
Quality wise, not having rubbish in the final product goes a long way.
Using a Video Editor – Burning a Disc
One other advantage of using an editor is to be able to make a thumbnail of your choice, so when the disc is placed into a DVD player a nice image is shown vs just the first frame of the footage.
Depending on what editor you use, they can take over an hour based on PC specs and size of the final DVD.
PowerDirector created a mind blowing fast authoring program so it depends what software you have.
The burnt disc is still at 1GB but has the unnecessary excess clips taken out leaving a seamless DVD to watch.
The disc properties show a bitrate of 9724kbps which is almost twice the bitrate quality of a standard DVD/VCR Recorder which was at 4761kbps.
As far as simplicity and quality a DVD/VCR Recorder will make any technophobe feel at ease with simple one touch button/remote menu settings.
But the price!
No way are any brand, second hand DVD/VCR combo drives worth over $200 maximum. Absolute maximum!
These devices will break down in time and specialty repair places will have to charge a high price to fix them.
Editors on the other hand can be purchased on the cheap.
You will get better quality with bitrate and editing.
Software companies are always doing specials and reducing the prices on their products during holidays, so you don’t have to over spend there as well.