So we are now at the point where we look at some older recording formats that, while the machines are no longer being produced, the media to record on is still available.

But first, some of you may be wondering why I have not mentioned Blu-Ray recorders.  For this write-up I am dealing with things you can do in North America, where ATSC and NTSC are the broadcast standards.  And here in North America, the movie studios do not like the idea of common people being able to make recordings of TV shows and movies that look like they came right off the master tapes, plus Blu-Ray player manufacturers do not believe that there is enough public demand for recorders in the US and Canada.  As a result stand-alone Blu-ray recorders are not offered for sale here n North America, and while they are available in Japan and Europe, those countries use different standards.  Thus the only way to record to Blu-Ray is by recording to computer and then burning a Blu-ray.


Older Recording Methods

Super VHS (S-VHS)

Super VHS recorders can record both to both regular VHS tape and Super VHS tape.  Super VHS recorders made between 1997 and 2007 also allowed for S-VHS-ET recording.  S-VHS-ET allowed for a S-VHS signal to be recorded on a regular VHS tape, something that people had discovered you could do with S-VHS VCR's since 1987 by removing the pin inside the VCR, keeping the machine in S-VHS mode, or burning a hole in the underside of the tape where the pin would go.

PROS

  • Offers higher quality video than regular VHS
  • S-VHS-ET uses regular VHS tapes (the higher the quality, the better the recording)
  • Can record video form S-Video connections and playback via S-Video
  • Can play S-VHS-C and VHS-C camcorder tapes with adaptor.

CONS

  • Keeps regular VHS's color
  • True S-VHS tapes are no longer being manufactured
  • Regular VHS VCR's can play S-VHS and S-VHS-ET recordings, but only if they are S-VHS Quasi Playback (SQPB) enabled, and only if the tape was recorded in the SP mode, at VHS resolution.  Most post-2001 VHS players are able to playback S-VHS tapes, but some post-2001, and even the majority of pre-2001 VHS players can not playback S-VHS or S-VHS-ET recordings.

Digital VHS (D-VHS)

Digital VHS (D-VHS) was introduced around 1996 to allow for digital recording of standard definition video.  It was then upgraded to allow for recording of high-definition video.  To date this is the only stand-alone format released in North America capable of recording HD video.  Unfortunately the last D-VHS VCR rolled off the assembly lines in 2007.

PROS

  • Can record bit-for-bit digital copies of broadcast video
  • HS and STD speed can make recordings of analog video sources look like virtual clones of the source. 
  • 1080i, 720p and 480p recordings can be made on HS speed
  • VCR's can playback and record S-VHS, S-VHS-ET and VHS video; S-VHS-C and VHS-C camcorder tapes can also be played and recorded with adaptor
  • Standard Definition Picture Quality on HS and STD modes is higher quality than DVD is able to offer
  • LS3 mode offers up to 24 hours of DVD-quality recordings on 1 tape
  • Certain VCRs offer LS5 mode that can record up to 40 hours on 1 tape at a quality comparable to regular VHS
  • Can use S-VHS tape to record; you do not need true D-VHS tape, as the VCR's have a button that turns on the D-VHS circuits when a S-VHS tape is inserted

CONS

  • No Component input.  High Definition can only be recorded by firewire.
  • JVC units only record and playback for 4-6 hours in Digital mode before needing a cleaning, as the Digital Heads tend to clog very easily; STD and LS3/LS5 modes will be the first to not playback or record correctly.
  • Most VCR's have only analog Component outputs as their highest quality output that is compatible with modern TV's.  All units have firewire input/output, as in the early 2000's firewire and HDMI were both being considered for HD hookup.
  • Requires high quality tapes to record digital video. 
  • There are no D-VHS Quasi Playback (DQPB) S-VHS or VHS players; S-VHS and VHS players can not decode the digital MPEG-2 Video that D-VHS records in.

Mini DV

Mini DV I am only putting on here since the only way that you can hook it up to an antennae or analog cable, on the consumer level, is if you have one of the JVC Mini DV/S-VHS Combo units.  Most Mini DV VCR's are professional VCR's that do not have any tuners or timers.  You can connect those professional VCR's to a PVR or converter box by S-Video, composite video, and a lot of times component video (for composite and component video in on the VCR's you would need between 1 and 3 RCA to BNC adaptors as the VCR's would have BNC connections for composite and component; the S-Video would be your regular S-Video connection), but to record would need to done manually by someone pressing the record-play buttons at the start of the program.

PROS

  • Digital Recording
  • Better than DVD picture quality
  • Mini DV tapes are cheap

CONS

  • Maximum recording time is 2 hours with scarce 80 minute Mini DV cassette in LP mode
  • LP mode is not standardized.  LP recorded tapes can usually only be played back on the camera/VCR that made the recording
  • Consumer-level decks with timers and tuners are only available in JVC Mini DV/S-VHS combo units
  • No Mini DV to VHS, S-VHS or D-VHS adaptor (does not exist)


Video8/Hi8

Both of these use the same tape, and while there was a Digital version released, the Digital version never received an actual VCR for home use.  However, back in the 1990's, if you wanted to preserve any family memories, Hi8 was the best analog video that you could record..

PROS

  • Hi8 video has been considered as Broadcast Quality Standard Definition video by Professionals since it's release in 1989.
  • Color is better than S-VHS and VHS color
  • Can record from Digital OTA Tuner, Cable and Satellite boxes via S-Video
  • Tapes are still available
  • Video8 quality was about equal to Super Betamax video quality
  • Video can be copied to a hard drive via certain Digital8 camcorders that can play back Analog 8mm tapes

CONS

  • Can only record a maximum of 4 hours per tape in the LP mode
  • VCR's have not been manufactured in about 10 years.
  • Analog Standard Definition
  • No Video8/Hi8 to VHS adaptor due to the size of the tape and the way the information is recorded being very different.


Betamax/Super Betamax

Some may be laughing at this, but Betamax and Super Betamax are still good for recording.  Super Betamax offers better resolution than regular Betamax, but all in all, Betamax is better than VHS.  And while the major tape manufacturers have not made Betamax tapes in about 10 years, there are still small businesses online that sell blank Betamax tapes (such as misterbetamax.com).  However, because here in North America the last machine came off the assembly lines in 1993 (in Japan the last machine came off the assembly line in 2002, and as Japan used NTSC for it's analog broadcasts, you can easily use the machines over here in North America), parts are becoming scarce or unavailable for a number of North American machines, so the price for these machines are on the rise.

PROS

  • Higher Quality Video than VHS
  • Video Quality, especially for Super Betamax, is close to 3/4-inch Umatic Low Band, which has been used by professionals and TV stations since the 1970's for industrial and Standard Definition Broadcast
  • The SL-HF2100 Super Betamax model was able to record video via S-Video
  • New Betamax tapes are still available.  Professional Oxide Betacam (not Betacam SP) can also be used.

CONS

  • Last North American Betamax rolled off the assembly lines in 1993; last Japanese model came off in 2002
  • Standard Definition
  • Majority of models came with composite input only, and some were by RF coax only
  • Majority of pre-1983 Betamax's only accepted and recorded Mono sound, very few offered linear stereo, and it wasn't until 1983 that Hi-Fi Stereo was introduced.  Post-1983 you saw a mix of Mono and Hi-Fi Stereo Beta's, as well as a few Beta's that were Hi-Fi ready, but needed an additional unit to record and process the Hi-Fi information. 
  • No Betamax to VHS adaptor due to the way the information is recorded 

Enhanced Definition Betamax (ED Betamax)

To combat JVC's new S-VHS format, Enhanced Definition Betamax really upped the ante, and even offered picture that Professionals wanted, as a few TV stations were even starting to buy ED Betamax VCR's and Camcorders as an alternative to the more costlier Betacam SP format.  At the consumer level this was easily the TOP format for the 1980's and 1990's, but it was only on the market from 1988 to 1991, as Sony took it off the market to force professonals to buy the more expensive Betacam SP format.

PROS

  • Picture Quality is equal to or better than DVD
  • Can use Professional Betacam SP tapes in machines to record
  • Can record video from S-Video sources
  • VCR's are able to playback and record to oxide Beta tapes in regular Betamax and Super Betamax modes

CONS

  • Was not on the market for long, so there are not that many machines out there
  • Needs to use Metal Beta tapes to achieve the Enhanced Definition, not the regular oxide Beta tapes
  • Can not play Metal Beta tapes on Betamax and Super Betamax machines as the heads will be damaged.  ED Betamax tapes can only be played on ED Betamax machines (plus, due to the way the information is recorded, ED Betamax recorded Metal and Betacam SP tapes can not be played back on Betacam SP decks) 


Hopefully you'll be able to figure out what you need for your needs.  Personally I went through the same thing earlier this year, because I was not satisfied with the picture quality being provided by my current DVD and VHS recorders. In the end I went with a D-VHS VCR, since digitally it offered a higher constant bit rate for recordings (HS speed is 28.8 Mbps, STD is 14.4 Mbps) compared to DVD's variable bit rate (that averages around 5.0Mbps for XP recordings and 4.5Mbps for SP, while LP recordings average around 3.8Mbps).  And D-VHS's STD mode offers a 4 hour recording time with a ST-120 S-VHS tape that's perfect for recording hockey games that I volunteer on, without pixelating from a low bit rate, like the DVD's do when I record in the LP mode.  Plus if I ever run into the situation of not being able to find anymore S-VHS or D-VHS tapes, I can always record to regular VHS in the S-VHS-ET mode.

 

But remember, while you are allowed to make your own recordings from TV, they are under copyright, and you can not make any copies with the purpose to sell.  And Trevor Thurlow Productions cannot be held responsible for any trouble you have should you make copies to sell: these pages are just for advice on how you can save programs that have value for you.


Copyright 2015 Trevor Thurlow Productions