VHS to DVD recorders are a simple and convenient method for converting VHS video tapes to the DVD format. Video tapes were not meant to last forever. Over time, the tapes deteriorate and with them your stored memories disappear. Copying an old VHS tape to a new blank VHS tape to save the content is not a viable preservation option because blank VHS tapes nowadays are hard to find, the quality of new blank tapes is poor, and VCRs to play VHS tapes are disappearing. The best option to preserve the VHS video content is to digitize it. VHS to DVD recorders are one way of doing this.
VHS DVD recorder equipment is essentially two pieces of equipment joined together in one unit. Half of the equipment is like a standard VCR that can record onto VHS tapes and playback VHS tapes. The other half of the unit is a DVD recorder that can record to optical discs and playback optical discs. Which formats of discs that can be played or recorded onto depends on the brand of VHS to DVD recorder, but generally most recordable DVD formats can be used and most CD and DVD formats can be played. A DVD VHS combo unit can also record television programs on either VHS tapes or recordable DVDs. However, the most important use of these units is to convert VHS tape recordings into DVDs.
VHS to DVD recorders are manufactured by several companies such as Panasonic, Toshiba, Samsung, and JVC. Panasonic makes a very good unit and is recommended for this type of work. The general cost of a good unit in 2010 is about $300 to $400 and prices of the units tend to not fluctuate much.
Using VHS DVD recorder equipment is simple. The following instructions are very brief and are provided only to give a general idea of the process. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the equipment for more detailed procedures. First, establish the amount of recorded content on the tape. This will help you determine at what quality level you will produce the DVD at. Next, insert the tape in the VCR unit. Fast forward the tape to the end and then rewind it. This conditions the tape to the VCR that will play it. Play the tape a bit to ensure the tracking is good. If the tracking is off, then adjust it and then rewind the tape to the beginning again. Next, place a recordable DVD in the DVD drive. In general, DVD-Rs should be used unless the manufacturer of the unit recommends a different format. Select the copy from VHS to DVD direction setting and then the on-screen instructions guide you the rest of the way.
You will also have to select at which quality setting you want to produce the DVD at. In general, there are five settings to choose from, although this may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. A high quality setting (often called XP) allows only 1 hour of VHS video per single layer recordable DVD. The SP or Standard Play setting will allow 2 hours of VHS video per single layer recordable DVD. The other three settings are LP (Long Play) which allows 4 hours of VHS video per DVD-R, EP or Extra Long Play for 6 hours of video per DVD-R and finally FR (Flexible Recording) for up to 8 hours maximum of VHS video per DVD-R. The more VHS video you pack onto a DVD-R the poorer the quality. Therefore, it is recommended that you always use the XP setting as much as possible. The SP mode may be acceptable as well, especially when the VHS tape recording is not great and you want to keep the video content all on one disc. Although recording at the higher quality will likely force you to spread content over more than one disc, the gains in video quality can be significant. In the end, it is the choice of the individual as to what is acceptable or not. VHS to DVD recorders at least provide the flexibility to allow you to select the quality desired.
A final key point to mention with respect to VHS to DVD recorders has to do with Finalization. Finalizing the disc is important if you want it to play in standard DVD players. If you don’t finalize the disc it will only be playable in the VHS DVD recorder unit that produced it. Sometimes it is advantageous to not finalize the disc immediately because you can add additional content to the DVD from several VHS tapes until the disc is full. Once the disc is full, then you must finalize it so that it can be played in standard DVD movie players.
If you have many VHS tapes to convert to DVD, then the purchase of this type of equipment makes sense. The unit can also be shared with family and friends and the purchase cost of the equipment can be shared. Having the conversion performed by an outside company is recommended if only a few tapes need to be converted to DVD, but for a collection of many VHS tapes, use of outside companies will be very expensive. Some outside companies will not do a better job than a decent quality VHS to DVD recorder will do. Some other VHS to DVD conversion companies actually do perform very good work and include VHS signal correction and other adjustments in the conversion process to ensure the VHS tapes playback at the highest quality possible so that the digitization result is the best it can be.