The biggest misunderstanding (and disappointment) consumers have when transitioning from VHS to DVD is the fact DVD does not at all work like a VCR. Not at all
. To enjoy DVD recording instead of cursing it, the first thing you need to do is clear your mind of everything you ever learned about using VHS: it no longer applies
. Many of the "features" indicated on DVD packaging are outright lies used to reassure VHS consumers that changing over to DVD is "no big deal". But it is a "big deal", and you need to be clear in your mind about several points:
1. There isn't one single type of DVD, you can't just go to a store and buy any random disc. You have to decide beforehand if you will be recording things to keep forever, or recording things to timeshift and erase. Forever recordings should be made on single-use standard DVD-R, disposable recordings require DVD-R/W or DVD-RAM discs (depending on your recorder). Eraseable discs cost a lot more than single use discs but the single use discs are better for long-term collecting.
2. There is no such thing as sloppy brainless DVD recording. You can't just randomly throw in a disc and record on it, you have to think first. Partially used DVD-R will only have a certain amount of time left on it for additional recording, and you can't erase anything older to make more room. R/W can be erased completely but doesn't always allow deleting individual recordings to make room in a hurry (you often have to erase the whole disc). DVD-RAM comes the closest to working like VHS, you can erase anything to make room immediately, but is the most expensive disc, doesn't play in most standard DVD players, and is only usable on recorders with the DVD-RAM feature.
3. Perhaps the single most important difference between VHS and DVD:DVD does not have truly usable long-play recording speeds.
If you have a 19" tube television, you might get away with it, but todays nasty flat-panel LCD televisions are horrible at showing long-play DVD. Horrible
. So get the old VHS "2-4-6-8" hour speed settings out of your head. The longest possible recording you can make on DVD that won't cause eyestrain is 3 hours, and thats pushing it, most recorders are good to 2.5 hours and then yuck. (There are those who insist Panasonic recorders are just dandy out to LP/4 hours on a DVD: I would like a prescription to their meds because it still looks like crap to me on a big TV, LP is LP.)
The silver lining to all this is that DVD recordings look WAY better than VHS: no added noise or static, colors are pure (reds especially are so much better), sharper details, etc. And single-use DVDs are cheap
: you can buy twelve
blank DVD-Rs for the same price as one
VHS tape. Plus, the storage space for DVD is one-tenth
that of VHS! So even though you can't record as long
onto a single DVD, you get far better quality in much less storage space. Think of it as being able to record everything in "VHS SP" but in a fraction of the space VHS SP would take up and at a fraction of the cost.