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palliser

VHS to DVD Conversion

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From the ads on television, it appears that home DVD recorders which will permit one to copy analog VHS tapes to DVD are now available. Since tape is such an unstable medium and those of us who collect ballet tapes have some over twenty years old, I am wondering if anyone else has been tempted and if so, has any information to share regarding the best DVD recorder to buy.

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from my more knowledgeable friends i hear that yes the technology is indeed here. blank disks i gather can still be rather pricey, AND i'm told that a better method - something called 'blue somethingorother' - is just around the corner and that it might be worthwhile to hold off still more and get this improved method of transfer from video tape to CD. but as i say i have no first hand info. i think there are some on this site who are already making transfers from tape to disk so they might have far more reliable and helpful information.

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Thank you, RG. I have heard of a kind of wireless connectivity called "bluetooth". Is that perhaps what you have heard of? The available recorders are in the $800 range, so there is reason enough to wait a while, as these prices always drop. I am really in the information-gathering stage and grateful for you input.

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One problem with all electronic measures for recording information, whether audio or video, is that no medium is truly archival! Film can last for a very long time, but tape is only good for about ten years, tops, before massive losses in fidelity happen, and CDs have a longer life, but not that much longer. Alas, the archival digital medium has yet to appear.

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I would not invest any time or money in DVD burners right now. Indeed, DVD burners transfer VHS to DVD. So far, I have only experimented with VHS to CD (which holds only a fraction of data). I would hold off on buying a DVD burner as the formatting is not consistent between brands. So, you may burn a DVD today and not be able to play it except on your current system. And if your current system breaks down, you may not be able to play your DVDs elsewhere. I've read that the manufacturers are close to standardizing the formats. That would be the time to buy and invest the time to transfer your priceless VHS collection to DVD.

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Thank you, Bayadere. That sounds like prudent advice. Perhaps next year . . .

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Today's iMacs with SuperDrive can burn DVD's; a system with such capabilities costs about $2000. You can also do it with PC's, but the PC is more trouble than it's worth compared with the iMac.

To burn the DVD on the iMac, you have to first get the movie into a digital form. That can be done by many Mini-DV cameras today. You plug the VCR into the analog input of the camera, and you plug the camera into the computer with a FireWire cable. Again, it's easy with an iMac. The camera will cost you about $500 today.

So with those two pieces of equipment --- a camera and an iMac --- you can do VHS-DVD transfer. This is the system that many professional videographers and moviemakers use these days; it is a WHOLE lot cheaper than the old methods involving film.

Since the format of the DVD depends on the software in the iMac, I would expect that future DVD formats could be supported by a change in the iMac software.

That is a lot to spend just for transfer. But the combination can do a whole lot more, as well: make home videos, read email, store your CD collection, word processing, etc.

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It sounds like you need more equipment to do a video transfer with an iMac. PCs just require a Video Recorder to be plugged into the PC for VHS to DVD transfer. I don't even own a camera, and I have already done transfers directly from my VCR to my PC (and CDs) using Videowave.

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I see. So the setup you have on the PC does analog-to-digital transfer right on some card you have plugged into the PC? In that case, I suppose a camera would not be needed.

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I own a stand-alone dvd recorder. I have many figure skating tapes dating back to 1984 that I'm transferring to dvd from vhs at the moment. I have made copies of my dvds to other people around the world, and they can play the dvds fine without any problems. I like the dvd format b/c in figure skating and in ballet, you can rewind and rewatch certain parts of a program/performance over and over and not worry about the tape wearing out and becoming blurry like what a vhs tape does. most newer dvd players out there (up to 2 years old) can play the dvd-r format. But you have to really make sure that your dvd player can play a dvd-r disk. It usually says so in the front of your dvd player and in the manual somewhere. Also, take into account the different dvd media--- dvd-r, dvd+r, dvd-ram, dvd-rw, dvd+rw, etc. Most of the players in the US play the dvd-r format. Also certain brands of the dvd media don't work on certain dvd players. I own 2 dvd players. I have had this happen to me twice where if I rented a dvd from a video store and tried to play it on one dvd player, it wouldn't play. But if I played it in my other dvd player, it did play. All dvd players will have some type of compatibility issue. That's just how they are designed. That's b/c there isn't one univeral model/type of a dvd player/recorder out there. So be careful on that one. And if you look really well, you can purchase a dvd recorder online for half the cost that they sell in the stores. I bought my dvd recorder online for $325 USD. This was a NEW dvd recorder in its still unopened box. It retailed around $799 in the stores. Definitely a great buy!

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ajoyjoie, would you like to tell us what make and model DVD recorder you bought and what online vendor you bought it from? It looks like you got a great buy all right!

Also, I understand new eMacs start at about $1300, and I would think they had video inputs, making a third piece of hardware unnecessary. But a friend has recently bought a DVD recorder for $300, so it appears the time has about come.

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>>>ajoyjoie, would you like to tell us what make and model DVD recorder you bought and what online vendor you bought it from? It looks like you got a great buy all right!>>>

I bought a Panasonic DMR-E30. It's the greatest/best thing that I ever own! LOL!

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Looks like all the technology experts have commented, so I'll only add a few brief facts:

"Bluetooth" is a standardized way of allowing devices to communicate (usually two way) via infra-red beams, so you don't need the various specialized cables, connectors, etc., and so speed and compatibility become much easier to deal with. There are already bluetooth compatible cell phones, printers, scanners, digital cameras, videocamera, etc. Bluetooth is not unique to the video / CD conversion process, but obviously makes it much easier to do ...

The format issue of the CD (if you're recording audio only) or DVD is critical to compatibility and also to economy. Basically, almost every CD/DVD player will play DVD-R, so that is the format you will be most successful with ... The others, DVD-RW, etc. -- proceed at your own risk. It may work with the equipment you have today, but there is no guarantee it will play on your friend's system or on the bigger, better system you buy in 3 years ...

BB

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This thread is so technical that I can't understand half of it so forgive this question. I hope I can phrase it so that it makes sense.

I have a new Panasonic DVR-E30. In transferring tapes to discs I get a wide range of quality, from great to ho-hum. I'd like to know exactly what I'm recording: the actual tape itself or the quality of the recording my VCR provides?

Giannina

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Hi Giannina:

It's a little like trying to make a medical diagnosis over the phone -- generally not a good idea!! -- but here goes, and I'll try to keep it non-technical. Basically, you use a process of elimination ... play the video tape in two different VCRs and play the DVD in two different DVD players ...

If the video tape sounds and looks the same in the two VCRs AND is significantly better than the DVD, then there is a technical problem in the recording process, meaning it could be in your VCR output, the actual connecting cables, or the DVD recording circuitry.

If the video tape is different in different VCRs, the problem is in the original VCR itself.

Alternately, if you take the recorded DVD and play it back in another DVD player, you may find that it sounds/looks much better than it does in your new DVD ... in that case, the problem is in your DVD playback circuitry and not in the recording circuitry. Basically, it becomes a process of elimination to find where the problem is and then how to fix it (assuming it can be fixed!!).

Hope this helps ...

BB

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Hi Giannina:

Thanks for the compliment -- I tend to get lost in technical matters and go into "technospeak" ...

I re-read your question and actually, the literal answer to your question is you're recording the playback output of your video recorder, not from the tape directly -- that's what comes out of the "video out" socket you're connecting your DVD recorder to. It should look very similar/identical to what you see on your TV when you play the tape. If it doesn't (i.e., if the quality is much better on your TV, or much better if you play it in another VCR), then there's an electrical problem and you can start to trace it ...

Regards,

BB

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I bought the Panasonic too.

I admit to being a techie. I have a Tivo, which has a bunch of ballet performances still on it, so I transferred it to DVD.

Perfect digital quality!

Panasonic also released a VHS/recordable DVD machine, that is the easiest way to transfer, and you don't have to worry about the quality.

For those wanting to buy the recordable DVD, I would wait a year or so, for the price to go down.

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There has, thankfully, been some progress on the DVD burning format issue. Sony produces a DVD recorder (DRU 500A) that will record DVDs in multiple formats. The cost of the burner is about $350. It allows you to hedge your bets about what format and medium (type of recordable DVD) to use to keep your videos.

This is not a pitch for this drive (except that I'm looking at it very seriously for the same purpose). It comes with some simple burning software that may be suitable for your use. If you want to get fancy by having multiple tapes on one DVD with slick transitions and titles, you'll have to spend some money (probably about $100) for more professional editing software.

Stephen

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