Monday, March 12, 2007

New standalone DVD recorders offer ease of use to the video conversion process

I was reading a review by David Pogue about a new standalone DVD recording unit from Sony and it reminded me to comment on my quite positive experience I have had with an even less expensive unit from Go-Video. First, David's review in a nutshell:

"we insist upon upgrading our recording technologies every few years, each time orphaning millions of disks, reels and cassettes in older formats. All over the world, VHS and camcorder tapes from the 1980s and ’90s are slowly turning to dust. And it’s becoming harder and harder to find the equipment you need to play back some of those videos.

Even the DVD will one day turn out to have been a temporary format, but at least it has advantages over tapes. The video quality is terrific. You can skip around without rewinding or fast-forwarding. And homemade DVDs may last 100 years, if you believe the vendors of those gold-coated blanks.

Now, the technologically savvy computer nut thinks nothing of connecting an old camcorder or VCR to a well-equipped Mac or PC; hitting Play; waiting two hours for each tape to transfer in real time; editing and touching up the result on the computer screen; and then waiting another two hours for the resulting video burn onto a DVD.

But in Sony’s opinion (and many other people’s), this is much too laborious, expensive and time-consuming. Enter the Sony DVDirect VRD-MC3, a $218 box that converts old (and new) videotapes into shiny new DVDs with an emphasis on two extremely important attributes: simplicity and reproduction quality.

Under the hood of the cleanly designed, black-and-white plastic case (12.7 by 4.9 by 10.6 inches) is a DVD burner that accepts almost any format of blank disc: DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and dual-layer (extra-capacity) versions of each. (There is one exception: the DVDirect doesn’t accept the dual-layer DVD-RW variety.)"

I have had a similarly positive experience with a Go Video DVD recorder that I bought on sale for only $69. I had been in the market for a DVD recorder since my Dish Network DVR started reaching its capacity and, try as I might, I couldn't find anything on it I didn't want to keep!

Just before Christmas, I saw an ad from a local discount store offering a GoVideo DVD recorder for $89 with $20 rebate (and I am meticulous about sending in my rebate coupons!) I was a little dubious about quality but I remembered we had a GoVideo VCR/DVD recorder combo unit in our technology lab at work that seemed to work well so I thought I would give it a try. After all, $69 is not much to risk if I wasn't satisfied with the results.

But, I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the recording (selectable from HQ (1 hr per DVD) to 2 hr, 4 hr, and 6 hr/DVD recording settings) and the editing features that enable me to rename the titles, schedule a selectable range of chapter marking intervals, select the index image for the title segment, and finalize the disk - all from the remote control. It, too has both S-Video connections as well as RCA ( the standard yellow, white and red connectors). Only the purely automatic scanning feature to establish channel reception tripped me up. Unlike many other video devices I have owned in the past, the GoVideo DVD recorder did not have a switch for Channel 3 or Channel 4 reception. You had to select the AutoScan function from the audio/video menu option under the Setup menu for the device to detect a video signal coming in on channel 3 from my Dish DVR and lock onto it.

I wish the Dish DVR would let me connect a DVD recorder to the USB outlet and (to use David Pogue's expression) slurp content from the DVR directly without having to go back through the playback process but the DISH USB has been programmed to accept only the proprietary (and quite spendy) "Pocket Dish" device.


I found a website that discusses how to disassemble the DVR and connect it to a computer to download the data from it but it is a violation of Dish's equipment lease agreement and besides, I'm more of a software kind of gal than a hardware technician. Although I have actually installed hard drives, sound systems, extra memory, internal network cards, CD-Rom drives, etc. my hands always tremble because I find it very nerve wracking.

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