NOTE

This article talks about how to record video from broadcast TV, whether it be from Over-The-Air ("Rabbit Ears"), Cable or Satellite.  While you are allowed under the law to do this, whatever you record is still under copyright to the respective copyright owners and as such you can not sell copies without the copyright holder's permission. 

 So your son or daughter is playing in a local ice hockey or skating tournament, and the local TV station is either broadcasting the tournaments in full, or they have interviewed your child for a news story that will air during the 6 o'clock news.  You want a copy to keep for the sake of being able to look back on and maybe even pull out on the eve of their wedding, but aside from requesting a copy from the station, which either charges a high fee for copies, or does not make copies at all, you are wondering how you can get a copy.  Or maybe you are like me where, even though I get paid to work in video production, I still volunteer with the local cable channel and I like to get copies of my work to use in my resume reel, and due to the amount of work I do with them, it is impractical to ask them to make copies.  So you set the PVR to record the broadcast, but then you wonder how you are going to get it off the PVR?  You remember years ago being able to record this sort of thing to VHS, but you wonder, in 2015, is VHS really the best way to record stuff from TV?

 VHS

While the last Hollywood movie was released on VHS in 2006, VHS recorders and players are still being sold in 2017 (although that will soon become history, as the last manufacturer of DVD-VHS combo players has announced that they stopped making them in early 2017 due to a certain part no longer being manufactured) in what are known as DVD/VHS combo units.  One side has a DVD player, the other has VHS recorder/player.  Unfortunately most of the units being sold in 2017 are "Tuner Less" units, meaning that the VHS will not be able to record from analog/digital Over-The-Air "Rabbit Ears" or analog Cable without using something else to receive the coax cable, and converting the video and audio into a signal that is sent along a yellow-red-white RCA cable. 

Some of these Combo units also come with a Digital Tuner, meaning that you can pick up Digital signals from "Rabbit Ears" and record them to VHS.  Here in North America some Digital Tuners are ATSC/QAM compatible, meaning that you can also record from clearQAM Digital Cable.  But most of the time, if you are recording from a digital source, you'll have to hook up a yellow-red-white RCA cable up between the recorder and the cable/satellite box.


PROS

  • Easiest way to record.  (1)Pop the tape in, (2)hit record, (3)press stop at the end of the program, and (4)eject the tape, (5)pop the recording tab to "save" your recording, (6)put on a label and (7)put it on the shelf.
  • T-180 blank tapes are still available, allowing up to 3 hours of video to be recorded in the SP mode, VHS's highest quality.  Can also record up to 9 hours in the EP/SLP mode if needed, but with reduced picture quality.
  • Longevity:  People are still watching tapes that they recorded in the 1970's and 1980's on any type of VHS tape, whether it was a Standard Grade (lowest tape quality) tape or one of the higher quality Grades that were out there.  So you can be sure that in the future you will be able to see the video.
  • T-120 tapes (2 hours in SP mode) are still available in Standard Grade and High Grade formulations; High Grade will provide a higher quality reproduction
  • Tapes are cheap, even for High Grade tapes---less than $5 a tape.
  • Tapes can be repaired.  If your machine eats your tape, while you may lose the video on the part that was "eaten", the tape can be "taped" back together for playback, or transfer to another format.
  • Most people still have a VHS player, either as a standalone or as part of a DVD/VHS comb unit.

CONS

  • Modern VCR's are cheaply made.  DVD/VCR combo's are not recommended.  Higher quality and stand-alone VCR's are no longer made.
  • T-180 tapes are no longer available in a quality higher than Standard Grade, and are only available from one company. 
  • Resolution is low and color is poor, and only gets worst in EP/SLP mode.
  • Most VCR's and DVD/VHS combo units will only allow you to watch the video over composite, the yellow RCA connection, or coax.
  • Video does degrade over the years, due to both playback and storage.
  • Very easy to record over previous recordings, accidentally, if the record tab is still in place. 

 Copyright 2015 Trevor Thurlow Productions