VHS/DVD combo copying VS. external input copying - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 05-26-2008, 09:18 PM - Thread Starter
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OK, I've been all over the net searching for comments about this. Everywhere I go everyone is talking about everything from advanced features of DVD recording to what color the cardboard packing box is, but nothing on whether there is any picture quality difference when copying VHS to DVD from an external VCR as opposed to using a combo unit. Going through analog cables always degrades the picture, so I'm considering buying a combo recorder to see if there is improvement. I have JVC S-VHS VCRs and a new Panasonic EZ28K recorder, but so far the copy results from the tape have been mixed. Some copies are just plain horrible depending on the tape. I had even worse results with a low end Pioneer recorder. So, has anyone out there noticed an improvement in VHS to DVD picture quality using a combo unit over an external VCR hookup?
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post #2 of 17 Old 05-26-2008, 09:34 PM
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I have a combo unit (Panny EH75V) and have tried an external VHS deck as the source. To my eyes, the combo deck seems to be a tad better wrt quality of the dub, although, common sense says there really should be no difference because whether you use an external deck or a combo unit the external and internal connections are still analog. Regardless, I like the convenience of the all in one solution, however, some drawbacks of the combo decks are, limited tweaking options on the VHS output and the DVD/HDD input recording video and audio and the inability to insert a stabilizer between the VHS deck and DVD recorder if needed to clean up artifacts from copy protected tapes that affect the ability to perform high quality backup dubs.

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post #3 of 17 Old 05-26-2008, 09:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I'm pretty big on having control over the output tape source too, which is why I haven't gone with the combo yet. But with the seemingly limited quality of DVD recorders out there, I'm getting desperate enought to try it!
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post #4 of 17 Old 05-26-2008, 09:48 PM
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Unless the tapes were recorded in the same VCR, or are store-bought tapes, the playback quality will be unpredictable at best. The JVC S-VHS units all have various settings for dubbing vs watching, be sure that you have them set correctly for dubbing. Given an S-Video connect to the Panasonic, I'd expect you to get best results with your current setup. I know I do, with the same setup.
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post #5 of 17 Old 05-26-2008, 10:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, much appreciated info.
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post #6 of 17 Old 05-27-2008, 05:20 AM
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I've tried both ways with my ES-30 and personally I didn't notice a difference. To me what makes a bigger difference is how good a match the playing VCR is to what the original tape was recorded on. If the original was recorded in the SP speed on a 2 head VCR and you try and play that tape back on a 4 head VCR you will get tons of noise and a generally poor picture. In this last case you will actually get a better PQ using a very cheap 2 head VCR since it has narrower video heads to better match your source.
You have a excellent PQ DVDR (EZ-28) so I'm wondering what the PQ is if recording off say a digital HD channel? Also what is the PQ of the video tape when just playing it straight to your TV?
Personally I'd use either SP or maximum of 3hrs/disc using FR. Anything more will tend to macroblock and give you poor performance.
In my case(masters recorded in SP on a quality 4 head machine then copied in SP) I'd say my DVD copies actually seem better than the source. Not a ton better but for sure not worse.

Vic-On your EH-75 aren't you able to route your VCR signal out of the unit through the common output, then through a stabilizer, then back in to the DVDR input and record that? I'm really keeping an eye out for a used EH-75 but would be less excited if it didn't have that nice feature. I thought all Pannys had that feature but really don't know much about Pannys with HDDs. Lastly about your EH-75, does it have 2 independent displays? one for VHS and one for DVD? My '05 ES-30 combo had this but it was dropped shortly after in the non HDD combos for sure.
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post #7 of 17 Old 05-27-2008, 07:23 AM
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I use a JVC HR-S9911 to dub videotapes to my Panasonic EH75. This allows me to make any tweaks needed to get the best video and audio. Setting the Picture Control to Edit usually produces the best picture.

I have also found I get better results by using a Composite video connection, not S-Video. We have had several discussions here about Panasonic DVD recorders having circuitry that cleans up the video when Composite is used, but not when using S-Video. My eyes do see a difference. However, I use S-Video when recording from digital satellite to my DVD recorder.

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post #8 of 17 Old 05-27-2008, 11:02 AM
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In September 2007 I completed my ten month-long project dubbing to DVD selected portions of my twenty years of home-recorded videotapes. My original videotapes came from a variety of name brands and "quality" levels, and were recorded at various recording speeds. Most of my original videotapes had been stored without having been played since the original recordings were made.

I am just estimating here as to usage percentages of my original VCRs but I would say that 15% of my home-recorded videotapes were originally recorded on a two head Mitsubishi-built Emerson "HQ" VCR (purchased in December 1986); 35% of the videotapes were originally recorded on a four head Sony SLV-555UC HI-FI VCR (purchased in 1990); 45% of the videotapes were originally recorded on a "six head" Toshiba M781 HI-FI VCR (purchased in 1996); and 5% were originally recorded on various other family VCRs including Panasonic, GE, JVC and Samsung.

I used two methods for dubbing/copying around 5,200 titles, mostly with Panasonic DMR-ES30V and DMR-ES35V combo recorders. 85% of the titles were dubbed/copied internally with the FUNCTIONS menu-initiated Time Limited Dubbing/Copying, sometimes using the Flexible Copying feature. 15% of the titles were dubbed/copied with two external Toshiba VCRs connected to Panasonic inputs. These recordings were manually-initiated or SCHEDULE-initiated timer recordings (sometimes using the Flexible Recording feature). With these model Panasonics the FUNCTIONS menu-initiated dubbing/copying methods provide for user defined customized settings, seamless results, and allow these combo recorders to do their work with very little supervision. (The Panasonic front panel control for dubbing/copying prevents the user from specifying customized settings, results in a start and stop DVD recording with a new "title" at VHS index marks and other places--such as commercials--deemed to be a program change, and requires frequent user supervision. Such operational limitations render the 2007 and newer Panasonic combo recorders unsatisfactory for an extensive selective dubbing/copying project utilizing the internal method.)

The external method of dubbing/copying was necessary due to tracking difficulties related to the physical condition of certain T-160 videotapes. The two Toshiba VCRs, one of which was one of the original recording VCRs mentioned above, were generally better able to track Sony T-160 videotapes (purchased beginning in 1996 or 1997) that had been recorded at the EP (8 hours per T-160) speed. After just five to ten years of dry, room temperature storage, Sony T-160 tapes became difficult for most of my Panasonic combo recorder VHS sections to track. I seldom found that my Panasonics had problems tracking T-120 videotapes or other brands of T-160 videotapes stored in the very same environment.

When comparing the quality results between the internal and external methods of dubbing/copying the internal method gave marginally better results for color material and both methods gave identical results for black and white material.

Other than certain tracking problems (described in more detail below) I found full-featured Panasonic 2005 and 2006 combo recorders to be ideal for selective dubbing/copying.

I deliberately use the term "selective." By "selective" I mean that with many videotapes I did not wish to preserve the entire contents, only "selected portions." Most combo recorders currently found in the marketplace are not particularly adept at recording "selected portions" of videotapes. This is but one area where the 2006 Panasonic combo recorders (DMR-ES35V, DMR-ES45V, DMR-ES46V) and one 2005 Panasonic combo recorder (DMR-ES30V) outshine other combo recorders.

Outstanding picture quality is another area where Panasonics outshine most other brands.

Adjustments to reconcile video and audio tracking became a frequent problem with most Sony T-160 videotapes. These problems appeared since Panasonic combo recorder VHS tracking could not be manually adjusted during "internal" dubbing/copying. Problematic videotapes were then sampled between the Toshiba VCRs and played on the one that provided the best compromise between audio and video tracking. With the Toshiba VCRs the "digital tracking" adjustments could be overridden and the Toshibas would maintain the manual tracking setting while playing the videotape, but only until pressing STOP. Then, when resuming PLAY on the Toshibas I would readjust manual tracking before beginning recording to the Panasonics. Even while merely playing many of these Sony T-160 videotapes the Panasonic manual tracking adjustments were found to be too limited in their factory pre-set range.

I also experimented with the manual tracking override of a Samsung combo player/recorder but found that its digital tracking would reassert itself after a brief time rendering the Samsung useless as a player in the dubbing project.

I should mention that one DMR-ES35V had what initially seemed to be a problematic VHS section. I partially disassembled and rebuilt the VHS mechanism. That DMR-ES35V became the "best tracking" of my Panasonic combo recorders; seldom having a problem with any videotapes. This indicates that there are certain adjustments that may be made to VHS mechanisms. I just happened to stumble onto the right adjustment without realizing how that was accomplished.

I sometimes found it necessary to set the Toshiba VCRs to output only the linear audio tracks (instead of the HI-FI tracks) on some videotapes. While I don't have sophisticated (enough) equipment to have TBC, playing only the linear audio tracks often allowed a satisfactory balance between video and audio tracking. This indicates that older VCRs (both my Toshiba VCRs date from around 1996) have a wider range of pre-set tracking adjustment than is found on current products.

My six most heavily used Panasonics (two DMR-ES30V and three DMR-ES35V combo recorders and one DMR-ES15 DVD recorder) average more than 3,000 recording hours per machine. One of the DMR-ES30V models has more than 4,200 recording hours. During my dubbing project I usually had four Panasonic DVD combo recorders each running up to sixteen hours per day. Occasionally I had up to seven Panasonic DVD combo recorders or DVD recorders running up to eighteen hours per day. During the dubbing project I continued to time-shift my favorite early talkies through the film noir era from TCM with two Panasonics enslaved to the Comcast digital STB.

While I have two 2007 Panasonic DMR-EZ17 DVD recorders I have not attempted to dub/copy videotaped recordings with Panasonics newer than the 2006 models. I also have a Philips DVDR3575H/37B hard drive/DVD recorder, a 2007 model. I am currently using the Philips and three Panasonic DVD recorders to time-shift from TCM. The Philips has not yet been used for editing or dubbing/copying.

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post #9 of 17 Old 05-27-2008, 05:41 PM
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There is no noticeable signal loss from using cables to connect separate VCR and DVD recorders, and no improvement from the interior connection in DVD/VCR combo recorders. If anything, the combo recorders can be more subject to interference due to the exposed, unshielded ribbon "bridges" connecting their VCR sections to their DVD sections. Also, Pioneer only marketed one or two "low-end" DVD recorders in the US, mainly the model 231 which *was* pretty lame. Most better-grade Pioneers with hard drives are very good (540, 640, 450, 550), as is the Phillips 3576. So don't base your decision entirely on that one bad experience: most any current DVD recorder is capable of great recordings.

I'd say in my experience the results from combo recorder vs separates ranges from roughly equal to much better using separates. Much depends on the specific combo recorder and how it implements its internal components. If the combo has a very good quality VCR section, the limiting factor will be tracking concerns and variability of source tape quality. If your tapes were recorded primarily with the same VCR and primarily off the air, a combo recorder can give excellent results. (Though some early combos ironically had encoders that were really unsuitable for VHS dubbing- the worst of all worlds.)

If, like me, you have a collection accumulated over the course of many years using many different (and long-defunct) vcrs, made from assorted cable systems, satellite, OTA, and 2nd-3rd-4th generation copies, you will probably have an easier time getting good results from separates. The same borderline recording will play back differently on every VCR you try it in, so I keep four on hand (Panasonic AG1970, Mitsubishi DVHS, JVC DRMV5 combo DVD/VHS recorder, and an old Quasar). All of these feed a Pioneer 640 DVD recorder with 160Gb HDD.

DigaDo gives excellent info re his use of combo recorders for a big project, but note he was using OLDER, "deluxe" Panasonic combo recorders which had convenience features that are missing from most other combo decks, new or used. The typical combo deck has "dumb" automated dubbing features that make it MORE difficult to use than separates, and remembering to switch back and forth between its tape signal and DVD input monitor can be a pain. If you are very dextrous and can keep track of the kinda goofy operational ticks of a combo unit, you might love it. My own preference is for separates, I find it much easier to use the two remotes and two machines.

Short version, it all depends on your source tapes and work habits. Good tapes are conducive to using a combo, spotty tapes are better served by separates. The "quality" difference is tied the VCR's playing ability, most DVD recorders (or the DVD section of combos) will record in excellent quality.
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post #10 of 17 Old 05-28-2008, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Great info, thanks. The above post by CitiBear brings another question to mind; is there better VHS copy quality by first recording VHS to a hard drive and then burning to DVD?
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post #11 of 17 Old 05-31-2008, 10:33 PM
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No better, or worse, copy quality, but it does let you edit, insert chapter marks, make thumbnails, and just recopy to disc, for more copies, or if your first copy turns out to be a coaster. For best PQ, record in the highest bit-rate that will fit on one disc, While making the real-time dub.
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post #12 of 17 Old 06-01-2008, 01:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kjbawc View Post

No better, or worse, copy quality, but it does let you edit, insert chapter marks, make thumbnails, and just recopy to disc, for more copies, or if your first copy turns out to be a coaster. For best PQ, record in the highest bit-rate that will fit on one disc, While making the real-time dub.

Doesn't that result in degadation through a second encoding run (albeit at a higher bit rate) than doing a straight high speed dub (provided the HDD-based combo recorder supports it)?

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post #13 of 17 Old 06-01-2008, 02:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vferrari View Post

Doesn't that result in degadation through a second encoding run (albeit at a higher bit rate) than doing a straight high speed dub (provided the HDD-based combo recorder supports it)?

I heard that a lot in these forums and just recently did some tests that proved otherwise, at least to my eyes. I no longer hesitate to do mode-conversion or multigenerational dubs with my Philips 3575's... so far using the top 3 rec modes only. More tests coming, I'm sure!

My tests reported here.
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post #14 of 17 Old 06-01-2008, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kjbawc View Post

No better, or worse, copy quality, but it does let you edit, insert chapter marks, make thumbnails, and just recopy to disc, for more copies, or if your first copy turns out to be a coaster. For best PQ, record in the highest bit-rate that will fit on one disc, While making the real-time dub.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vferrari View Post

Doesn't that result in degadation through a second encoding run (albeit at a higher bit rate) than doing a straight high speed dub (provided the HDD-based combo recorder supports it)?

I'm thinking my post was unclear. The real-time dub I refer to is the VHS to the HDD. The transfer from the HDD to disc is a HS dub, so no second encoding, no loss. "Recopy to disc, for more copies" refers to more HS dubs, HDD>DVD. But, you must select the best recording speed when recording VHS>HDD, for best bit-rate, because you can't change it in a HS dub.

The point is, there is no loss if you record a VHS to HDD, then to disc at HS, vs recording the VHS directly to disc. And, recording to HDD first gives you lots of options.
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post #15 of 17 Old 06-01-2008, 06:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kjbawc View Post

I'm thinking my post was unclear. The real-time dub I refer to is the VHS to the HDD. The transfer from the HDD to disc is a HS dub, so no second encoding, no loss. "Recopy to disc, for more copies" refers to more HS dubs, HDD>DVD. But, you must select the best recording speed when recording VHS>HDD, for best bit-rate, because you can't change it in a HS dub.

The point is, there is no loss if you record a VHS to HDD, then to disc at HS, vs recording the VHS directly to disc. And, recording to HDD first gives you lots of options.

OK, yeah, that makes sense.

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post #16 of 17 Old 06-01-2008, 06:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wajo View Post

I heard that a lot in these forums and just recently did some tests that proved otherwise, at least to my eyes. I no longer hesitate to do mode-conversion or multigenerational dubs with my Philips 3575's... so far using the top 3 rec modes only. More tests coming, I'm sure!

My tests reported here.

I do real-time dubs only when I have no other choice - for example, when the source program was accidentally recorded at SP to the HDD and exceeds 2 hrs duration (the maximum you can fit on a disc at SP mode), then I'll do a real-time FR mode dub to disc. But I try to avoid real time dubs, not only because of the "perceived" degradation (I admit it is not usually noticeable with a decent source recording) of the re-encoding associated with a real-time dub but because it takes a lot of time vs. a high speed dub (obviously) and ties up the recorder. On the Panny models you cannot initiate a timer or manual recording during a real-time dub, but you can have a timer recording scheduled and initiate without interrupting a high speed dub.

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post #17 of 17 Old 06-03-2008, 10:18 AM
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I too only do real-time dubs as a last resort. There are a series of criteria I follow. If the show is near the two hour mark, use SP. It's just easier to do it that way. I can usually, with high speed dubbing, get about 2:07 on a -R. If the program is 1:30 or shorter I use FR, and if it is 2:08 to about 2:30 I use FR as well. If it is longer then 2:30, and not much is, I record it SP and use a DL disk to high speed dub it. It sometimes happens that I record a 2:20 movie in SP by mistake. That would be the only reason to real time dub a program. Besides what Vic said, the time and quality hit, I also hate having my chapter marks removed.

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