Interested in Options to Convert VHS Tapes to DVD - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 11-17-2013, 01:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Please direct to another forum if this is not an appropriate forum.

Should I be converting VHS tapes to DVD? Is DVD the best format to convert to digital?

I am deciding between

1) VHS to DVD software and a video box

2) A recorder that would convert VHS directly to DVD. Any recommendations?

3) Others?

A self contained recorder has the advantage that we could loan it to others.

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post #2 of 27 Old 11-17-2013, 04:06 PM
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That question has been answered several times on this forum. A scan of this forum will uncover a depth of answers. It depends so much on what do you want to do. Commercial tapes may have copy-protection that prohibit going to dvd without going thru work-arounds. Home recordings-- will you want to do any editting/ resquencing/combining?

Do you want to go the PC route?

Personally, I would go the DVD Recorder (DVDR) with Hard disk drive (HDD) route. Get a good VCR player and the grey-market Panasonic EH59 for around $350 from bhphotovideo or other online sellers. Used EH59 sometimes available for $100 less.

Load a batch of tapes onto the EH59 HDD (50 to 80 hours), and use the Panasonic PLAYLIST function, best editting capability on the planet.

A cheaper excellent dvd recorder is the Magnavox HDD line, available online through Walmart. The Magnavox has an excellent digital tuner (worthless for VHS to DVD transfer), but has delete-only editting capability; no combining.
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post #3 of 27 Old 11-18-2013, 12:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardT View Post

...........................................................................................

Do you want to go the PC route?

Personally, I would go the DVD Recorder (DVDR) with Hard disk drive (HDD) route. Get a good VCR player and the grey-market Panasonic EH59 for around $350 from bhphotovideo or other online sellers. Used EH59 sometimes available for $100 less.

Load a batch of tapes onto the EH59 HDD (50 to 80 hours), and use the Panasonic PLAYLIST function, best editting capability on the planet.

..........................................................

Thanks for the interesting reply.

The Panasonic EH59 sounded good but we would only be copying say, <100 family VHS tapes so $350 seems steep. We could also possibly lend it to a few other family members. ?

However, when I looked it up the description was

Panasonic DMR-EH59 250GB HDD Multizone DVD Recorder - PAL

and about 1/2 the customer reviews complained that it was not for US video standard. US is NTSC. "PAL" is the European/elsewhere video standard. Do you know the story there?

Could you speculate? -- If I found a used one would you expect it's likely that most of these models have been used heavily by a commercial VHS to DVD converter and are likely to be well worn?
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post #4 of 27 Old 11-18-2013, 01:09 PM
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I have several EH-59s and I can say without a doubt they are multi system, PAL and NTSC(our sytem). What they do not contain is any NTSC tuner(digital or analog) it only has a PAL analog tuner.

Rest assured, it works in N. America and very well at that.

I like your idea about borrowing it to family members, that or possibly trying to sell it on a place like Craigslist.org. I've never seen one on craigslist so I'd have to think if you did it might not sit around too long. You could also purchase a "floor model" EH-59 which are the ones I've purchased. They are basically new and most of the time returned by people who couldn't figure them out or grasp the idea of a DVDR. Here's a link to B&H who currently has several EH-59s for sale, starting ~$250.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/DVD-Players-Recorders/ci/15316/N/4294210544

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post #5 of 27 Old 11-18-2013, 01:18 PM
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How about a mint cond dmr-eh75 combo unit?

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post #6 of 27 Old 11-18-2013, 01:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mickinct View Post

How about a mint cond dmr-eh75 combo unit?


IMO that's about the best combo ever made! Good VHS section, HDD, DVD burner, how could one go wrong....personally I think it has kind of a large footprint(although no bigger than most combos) and at one time they were almost impossible to fine.

chas, you might want to PM Mick in CT, click his name to the left of his post and send (PM)private message is a option.

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post #7 of 27 Old 11-18-2013, 11:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chas Tennis View Post

The Panasonic EH59 sounded good but we would only be copying say, <100 family VHS tapes so $350 seems steep. We could also possibly lend it to a few other family members. ?

However, when I looked it up the description was

Panasonic DMR-EH59 250GB HDD Multizone DVD Recorder - PAL

and about 1/2 the customer reviews complained that it was not for US video standard. US is NTSC. "PAL" is the European/elsewhere video standard. Do you know the story there?

Could you speculate? -- If I found a used one would you expect it's likely that most of these models have been used heavily by a commercial VHS to DVD converter and are likely to be well worn?

Yup, it certainly *IS* PAL, but it will do NTSC just fine. As jjeff said, it has a PAL tuner, but no NTSC tuner, so it is (sort of) more PAL native, but it uses NTSC without a problem. Like jjeff, I have more than one of these and they work perfectly. Don't be put off by the power supply supposedly only taking European power either. That too is completely incorrect. It works just fine with 120/60HZ power. The pug looks funny, but they give you a small adapter that changed the pins to blades, and you can then plug it in.

There ARE a few things about the EH59/69 machines:
The date and time are European/24-hour, and cannot be changed to US date, or 12 hour AM/PM.
There is a black level issue that makes the blacks look slightly gray.
There is no Panasonic warranty, so you would need to rely on the warranty of the seller.
It doesn't record the closed caption information that is contained in the vertical blanking interval.

B&H has some open box items available here, at a discounted price. I have purchased these open box items and have never been dissatisfied.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?sts=ma&InitialSearch=OS&usedSearch=1&N=0&Ntt=dmr+eh

No doubt you could loan out the machine to friends/relatives, and sell it when you didn't need it any longer.
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post #8 of 27 Old 11-19-2013, 10:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chas Tennis View Post

The Panasonic EH59 sounded good but we would only be copying say, <100 family VHS tapes so $350 seems steep. We could also possibly lend it to a few other family members. ?

The alternative is the Magnavox MDR53x family of DVD recorders. Doesn't have all the editing features of the Panasonic, but they range up to $100 cheaper.

That's it for new DVD recorders that will work without frustration. Though mickinct's offer is intriguing.

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post #9 of 27 Old 11-19-2013, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chas Tennis View Post

Should I be converting VHS tapes to DVD? Is DVD the best format to convert to digital?

This is a loaded question, and one that people often fail to fully consider before embarking on a VHS transfer project. The biggest difficulty with this question is there's no longer a clear set of answers: the home video landscape is changing so fast now that it could make "Dr. Who"s head spin.

DVD, and even BluRay, are falling into disuse as more and more people latch on to "ephemeral" storage (web servers, home network streaming, hard drives, thumb drives) instead of physical disc media. Discs need to be encoded in a specific file format that is kind of a pain to re-code later on for tablets, phones, and streaming boxes. For the somewhat older generation that is content with replacing their VHS library with a similar disc library, its a non-issue, but younger people are often annoyed when they can't just instantly copy videos from a DVD to a different type of device like a tablet or media server. This file format annoyance cuts both ways: if you choose to make standard PC video files from your VHS, instead of DVDs, you'll inevitably run into family members who have no idea what to do with them. They'll want a DVD, and converting PC video files to DVD format is nearly as tedious as converting DVD videos to PC files.

With personal family camcorder material, its usually more convenient for the entire family if you opt to make DVD transfers upfront. People of any age will know how to play a DVD, those who insist on moving the videos to their phones or tablets can learn to do it themselves (or if you're feeling overly helpful, you can do it for them). If you decide this is the way you want to go, get a DVD recorder instead of a PC video device. PC-based video inputs can be far more twitchy at handling VHS than standalone DVD recorders, which were designed specifically with the idea people might want to copy their tapes to DVD. If you consider yourself a "techy" type of person, the advantage of using the PC is you can create standard PC video files first, then convert those into DVD format to give family that prefers DVDs. This allows having your cake and eating it too, but at the cost of dealing with twitchy PC video hardware and software. If what you seek is the easiest path to digitized VHS, get the DVD recorder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chas Tennis View Post

The Panasonic EH59 sounded good but we would only be copying say, <100 family VHS tapes so $350 seems steep. We could also possibly lend it to a few other family members. ?

That is an unusually large quantity of personal family tapes: if I had to sit through 100-200 hours of my family on video, I'd probably kill myself from boredom or embarrassment at the halfway point- this stuff is never as interesting as we thought it was when we made it. But leaving that aside:

You need to bear in mind the basic costs of transferring that many tapes. Even if you went to WalMart, which has the cheapest VHS>DVD service I've seen, you would pay $9.95 per tape x 100 tapes for a total of $995, plus sales tax, plus the cost or time necessary to make additional DVD copies for all the family members who want one (if you know how many you need in advance, WalMart can do it, or you can just have them do the original DVD and then you make the duplicates on your PC). So buying a Panasonic recorder for $250- $350 becomes much more attractive. You can lend or rent it to other friends/family when you're done, or sell it on eBay/Craigs List and recoup almost the entire cost (other than what you spend on blank DVDs).

Quote:
If I found a used one would you expect it's likely that most of these models have been used heavily by a commercial VHS to DVD converter and are likely to be well worn?

You do not need to consider a used DVD recorder. A brand new Panasonic EH59 can be bought for $339 from reputable web dealers like B&H Photo/Video, and as ChurchAVGuy mentioned they often have open-box-like-new units available for $269 (which is less than you'd pay for a used one on eBay). If you don't already have a VCR to copy from, you can find very nice reliable VCRs via friends, family or eBay/CraigsList: a mint 4-head hifi Panasonic typically costs $25 or less.

The Magnavox MDR533 DVD/HDD recorder sells new at WalMart for $248, but as RichardT noted it isn't nearly as optimized for doing VHS transfers as the Panasonic EH59. Editing on the Magnavox can be clunky and it doesn't have any failsafe system to save you from mistakes- all edits are performed on the original recordings, not in a "virtual" edit system like the Panasonic. The Magnavox makes it very difficult to enter title names for each recording, and has a clunky counterintuitive thumbnail system which encourages mistakes on the DVD and makes organizing your recordings more difficult than necessary. Overall, the Magnavox is better for recording off a TV antenna than from VHS.

Combo recorders with built-in VHS>DVD transfer abilities are not generally a good idea when you need to transfer more than a handful of family tapes. They give the illusion of easy use, with both VCR and DVD in a single unit, but in practice they can be very frustrating to operate if you need to make any edits or re-arrange/combine material from multiple tapes. The only one that was really any good was the Panasonic EH-75v, which AVS member mckinct has offered to sell you. Unlike all other combos, the EH-75v includes a hard drive for editing, just like the EH59. Normally I would not advise gambling on a used DVD recorder, but buying from mckinct is the exception: he is a professional service tech who specializes in restoring Panasonic recorders to good-as-new operating condition. If the idea of an all-in-one unit appeals to you, you should definitely talk to mckinct.

But consider very carefully: there are drawbacks to any all-in-one unit. They are great if you know all your tapes were made on the same VHS camcorder back in the day, and you don't expect to do much editing (just push the buttons and copy each entire tape over to a DVD indiscriminately). But if you aren't positive all the tapes were made on the same camcorder, using separate VCR and DVD recorder offers more flexibility (separate VCRs have better tracking range, and you can change to another brand of VCR easily/cheaply to see if it plays your tapes better). Having two units also gives you more direct, quicker control over each one, which makes editing much easier.
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post #10 of 27 Old 11-20-2013, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the information and suggestions. Thanks especially for that last completely thorough discussion by CitiBear. I will continue to study your points.

I realized that DVDs may not be around in the near future. But the VHS tapes would have been digitized and for digital media DVD has seen very wide spread application over a long period of time. In the future, some way to read DVDs should remain available - probably more so than for DVD's successor. The next popular recording media may not be used as widely or certainly for as many years as DVDs.

VHS tapes were dominant for maybe 30 years. ? DVDs, 10 years? The next digital media ? ? Still the media is an issue....I'm assuming that DVD discs will not deteriorate over many years........

My wife has said that she wants to edit.............

At Thanksgiving, I will be seeing some relatives who are more knowledgeable on video storage and hope to decide what to do.
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post #11 of 27 Old 11-20-2013, 08:25 AM
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Click the 1st link in my signature for info on the Magnavox units.

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post #12 of 27 Old 11-20-2013, 08:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chas Tennis View Post

My wife has said that she wants to edit.............

Then you definitely want the hard drive in whatever device you use.

If you want the convenience of one box that others in your family can use, send a private message to mickinct and take him up on his offer. Those DVD/VHS/hard drive combos are rarer than an honest lawyer nowadays. That's about the only viable option. Any other DVD/VHS combo unit is just asking for frustration and estranged family members. wink.gif

If you have a VCR lying around (or can peruse Craigslist for one), then I would get the Panasonic or the Magnavox (Panny has some features over the Maggy, but the Maggy saves a few bills and has an excellent support system on this forum. Although there are more than a few Panny supporters here, too.)

DVDs and ways to read them will be around for a while yet, but the direction is definitely moving away from physical media to home server or even cloud storage. The convenience is too irresistible to ignore, even if some of us old holdouts want to keep DVD. smile.gif

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post #13 of 27 Old 11-20-2013, 10:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chas Tennis View Post

[...]In the future, some way to read DVDs should remain available - probably more so than for DVD's successor. The next popular recording media may not be used as widely or certainly for as many years as DVDs.

VHS tapes were dominant for maybe 30 years. ? DVDs, 10 years? The next digital media ? ? Still the media is an issue....I'm assuming that DVD discs will not deteriorate over many years........

I'm sorry that I wasn't clearer in my comments: I didn't mean to imply that DVDs would not be around as a viable playback format five years from now. I was trying to convey that we no longer truly have a mass-market, fully-agreed-upon, very long term home video standard that will endure as long as VHS did. VHS tapes were analog, and analog formats are set in stone, so once they reach a certain level of popularity they tended to stick around for decades unchallenged. DVD is digital, and the trouble with digital is theres always some wise-ass who thinks he can build a better mousetrap. So in the short lifetime of DVD and BluRay, we've had a staggering number of devices and formats come and go that record or play digital video. This would not be a concern if DVD and BluRay worked like these other devices, but that isn't the case. They require a specific, ridiculously complex format on the actual disc that is a giant honking PITA to convert to the simplified standard video files used by Android and Apple phones/tablets and the plethora of PC-related home video systems. You can convert DVD videos to these standard files, but it isn't idiot-proof: every converter app works differently, the settings can be tough to figure out, and the results don't always look too good. Going in the reverse direction, converting standard PC video files to the convoluted format used by DVD players, can be equally tricky.

So your question "should I be converting to DVD or some other format?" has no absolutely definite answer. As long as you understand there is no simple all-purpose digital replacement for VHS, you'll be prepared for anything that comes up later. Currently, the answer boils down to "choose your poison" - neither is 100% ideal.

1. Buy and learn to use PC hardware and software that can encode VHS to digital. This will create standard video files you can distribute to family "as is" for playback on their PCs, phones, tablets, BluRay players or gaming consoles. If someone prefers or requires a standard DVD that will play in older DVD-only players, you can use software to convert these files into standard DVDs. This can be done with free apps like DVDflick or AVStoDVD, but theres a bit of a learning curve and you can run into tricky issues like lipsync drift in the audio. The easy workaround is to have all family members buy a new BluRay player (if they don't already have one): unlike DVD players, most BluRay players can play PC video files directly- they don't need to be converted to the proprietary DVD or BluRay format.

2. Bypass the PC and go directly to a standalone DVD/HDD recorder. This has the advantage of simplicity: other than learning how the unit works, you don't need to worry about all the PC hardware/software glitches that can occur during the transfer process. DVD/HDD recorders are like automated minicomputers dedicated and optimized for one task: creating DVDs from whatever video source you connect to them. The drawback to using a DVD recorder is lack of file flexibility: a DVD recorder can only create a standard DVD that plays in standard DVD players. The DVDs will have the convoluted fussy file structure required by normal DVD players. You can use various PC utilities to convert these DVD videos back into the simple file formats used by all other modern devices, but it isn't an easy or reliable process. Most of these conversion utilities are designed to convert high-quality commercial Hollywood DVDs into PC files, I find they do not make nice files from DVDs created in a DVD recorder. Realistically, once your VHS is converted to DVD on a DVD recorder you're kinda stuck with watching them as DVDs.

Quote:
My wife has said that she wants to edit.............

Then you'll want to use a hard disk to make the conversions: either in a PC, or in a DVD/HDD recorder (or the unique DVD/VHS/HDD unit mckinct has offered).

There are too many options for PC video to fit in this thread: since you have knowledgeable family coming soon for the holidays, pick their brains and see what they recommend.

A standalone recorder would be easier to swap amongst family members, and lets you make your edits directly on your large screen TV. If you opt to go the recorder route, I would strongly recommend the Panasonic units over the Magnavox. The Magnavox is a more general-purpose recorder primarily designed to record TV programs from its internal tuner, it does not handle a boatload of clips from VHS very efficiently. Nothing wrong with that, most people in fact need a recorder for TV only, and it suits them just fine. But if your primary interest is dubbing a huge collection of personal family VHS, the Panasonic is vastly easier to edit with and more fool-proof. There isn't any huge price advantage to the Magnavox: you'd save maybe $30-$90 short term. Since you plan on selling the unit after your project is completed, you're gonna get 90% of your money back anyway.

********************

While you have the family gathered for the holidays, you might want to run an alternative plan by them and see what they think: don't do the VHS work yourselves at all. It is tedious and time consuming, and if you have 100 tapes between you, this will NOT be a fun project. Consider using a professional service instead, either a local WalMart or a mail-in company. Let experts do the hard work while you get on with your lives: for a cost of $12-$20 per tape, a service can provide you with BOTH simple PC video files *and* standard DVDs, making you future-proof with no effort on your part. Once you have the files, your wife can edit them on a PC and make personalized versions for herself (it is MUCH less work when you don't have to first create the darn files from scratch). Yes, the cost adds up, but you can do a few at a time over a long period and perhaps split the expense among the whole family. After spending years doing such VHS conversions, I can definitely say I wish I'd hired someone instead.
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post #14 of 27 Old 11-20-2013, 12:28 PM
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If your wife wants to edit, you definitely do not want the Magnavox; its edit facility is as poor and limited as the Panasonic is good. Your choices are the Panasonic or PC. Because of a bad experience with the PC years ago, I went with the dvdr and have never looked back.

I leave the PC route to others. Yes, there's been a time or two when the PC route was needed; I had my son handle it. (Indepenent stretching of video over a given audio.)

I do ALL my editting on the dvdr's, yes even on the Magnavox, which allows delete only, no resequencing or combining.

As pointed out, 100 tapes is more than a trivial project. It is one thing to just copy each tape to a disc; it is quite another to to pull together similar or related scenes from several tapes into one progressive title on a disc. Examples: Collect all Christmas gatherings onto one dvd, selected or all vacations onto a dvd, dvd's concentrated by family, . . . . if you can dream it, you can do it (at least most of the time). Same scene can be used in multiple places. It's a piece of cake.

The Panasonic has its PLAYLIST function, which is the way your wife would want to go if you use the dvdr route. There is a short learning curve, which may limit just handing the dvdr around.

I'm not familiar with the Panasonic EH75, sounds like a dream. Harking back to my days of Hi8 editting, I'd often insert an Audio mixer in the audio link between player and recorder, to lower the loud, beef up the weak, block out or replace distracting background noise, insert commentary, . . . . if you can dream it, you can do it (do you hear an echo?)

BHphoto video has, or had, a couple of used Panasonic EH 59 around $239 plus ~$20 shipping, even a used (doubtless returned) EH69.

Happy dreams, and there is help available here when needed.

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post #15 of 27 Old 11-23-2013, 10:17 PM
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Not to hijack to thread but I have a couple of relevant questions.

1.) I see everyone recommending the EH59. Is this just because it is the most easy to get your hands on or because it is one of the best DVD recording units?

2.) How good is the VCR in the EH-75v? How durable and good is it for general playback?

3.) I see some people mentioned it was hard to get the DVDR back onto a computer at a later date in good quality. I assumed this would be fairly simple as ripping any other DVD, if not easier in that you might not have to circumvent any copy protection. Wouldn't it be a bit for bit copy?
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post #16 of 27 Old 11-23-2013, 10:57 PM
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I'll limit my response to your first question. It depends on what you want to do. Repeat after me, "It depends on what you want to do." The Panasonic is not necessarily the best recording unit currently available. Please define "Best". The Magnavox is much more convenient for recording OTA broadcasts than using a timer-enabled Zinwell converter box to feed line input to a Panasonic. But the thread is "Convert VHS to DVD" with editting. The Magnavox edit capability is Delete only; no resequencing or combining. And the tuner on the Magnavox is of no help in inputting from VHS.

That leaves the Panasonic EH59 and its larger capacity sister, the EH69, as the only new dvdr with hdd capabilty available. And fortunately, these Panasonics have among the best dvdr edit capability available.
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post #17 of 27 Old 11-24-2013, 12:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by angle_theory View Post

Not to hijack to thread but I have a couple of relevant questions.

3.) I see some people mentioned it was hard to get the DVDR back onto a computer at a later date in good quality. I assumed this would be fairly simple as ripping any other DVD, if not easier in that you might not have to circumvent any copy protection. Wouldn't it be a bit for bit copy?
For people familiar with PC video applications, it is quite simple. If your level of PC expertise is limited to Internet surfing, Facebook and EMail there will be a learning curve akin to switching to a Smartphone from a rotary-dial desk phone. As you surmised a home made DVD is especially simple in that it has no copy protection to deal with -- the contents of a DVD could simply be dragged into a HDD folder.

DVD's are encoded as MPEG-2. MPEG-2 may have fallen out of favor with the advent of more efficient codecs for high bitrate BluRay HD video, but it will continue to endure as a viable format that will be supported for a long time in the future -- MPEG-2 is one of the three codecs that are part of the BluRay spec. There are any number of PC programs that will quickly extract a DVD title into a standard video format retaining the MPEG-2 encoding and original resolution -- IOW, a bit image copy. There are any number of programs that will author standard video format files into DVD Video. There are any number of programs that will convert a DVD title into a lower resolution encoding for playback on tablets and/or phones. There is nothing mysterious about the AV stream encoding formats, the video container formats or the disk formats -- they are all well understood and open formats. Once you have the source in digital format it will outlive you -- encoding formats may fall out of favor but they never disappear; there is always a program to convert old formats into newer ones.

Where people generally run into trouble is a combination of a lack of PC video expertise and their insistence to spend no money and do everything with free software utilities and applications. While the most popular of the free utilities will accomplish their task very well, they are written by people with considerable video expertise for use by other people with both PC and video expertise -- people low on the learning curve will have a steep climb. Free video utilities are generally single task and command line driven so many free video applications are just GUI front ends that assemble batch files that call these utilities, which must be separately installed and maintained on your PC. A myriad of parameters often can be set and it is assumed that the user has the expertise to know what those parameters are and how to tweak them. Buying a quality editing/authoring package like Video ReDo TV Suite can make life very simple for the informed non-geek. With it, the informed user can easily extract a title from a DVD, edit it and save it in any common video format, convert it for any mobile device, join segments into single titles, split titles into smaller titles or segments and author any video collection into DVD Video and burn it onto disk with full menus (either stock or user defined to make them as simple or as pretty as you want) -- all within the confines of a single unified application with a unified UI and a staffed support forum.

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post #18 of 27 Old 11-24-2013, 05:27 AM
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2.) How good is the VCR in the EH-75v? How durable and good is it for general playback?

The EH-75v is probably the pinnacle of N. American combos, other than the internationals, Panasonic kind of went downhill from there. While the internationals are very good, for N. American use they do have a slightly elevated black level(most noticeable in black or dark scenes or white titles on a black background) the EH-75v does not have this issue.

The VHS section of a EH-75v is quite good, durable and good playback/recording quality. Of course as anyone who has done lots of VHS to DVD conversions will tell you, no VCR(or combo) will be the best for all tapes, some may end up playing better on another VCR(cheaper, better quality, etc.) but overall the EH-75v contains a quite good VCR :) 

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post #19 of 27 Old 11-24-2013, 09:13 AM
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I'll limit my response to your first question. It depends on what you want to do. Repeat after me, "It depends on what you want to do." The Panasonic is not necessarily the best recording unit currently available. Please define "Best". The Magnavox is much more convenient for recording OTA broadcasts than using a timer-enabled Zinwell converter box to feed line input to a Panasonic. But the thread is "Convert VHS to DVD" with editting. The Magnavox edit capability is Delete only; no resequencing or combining. And the tuner on the Magnavox is of no help in inputting from VHS.

That leaves the Panasonic EH59 and its larger capacity sister, the EH69, as the only new dvdr with hdd capabilty available. And fortunately, these Panasonics have among the best dvdr edit capability available.

Thanks for the reply. I kind of meant in the general scheme of DVD recorders (not just units that include a HDD) is the recording quality at the top or near the top. So just really talking about picture quality rather than convenience or other features.
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post #20 of 27 Old 11-24-2013, 11:04 AM
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Thanks for the reply. I kind of meant in the general scheme of DVD recorders (not just units that include a HDD) is the recording quality at the top or near the top. So just really talking about picture quality rather than convenience or other features.


Over the years I've tried many DVDRs but really prefer the sharp picture of Panasonic DVDRs. Of course a sharp picture also tends to show macroblocking during scenes with lots of fast motion or things like strobes and even running water(like a creek or river) but in my case anyway I'll put up with a bit of macroblocking if it means a sharper brighter picture the rest of the time.

Another thing I like about Panasonics picture quality is that they are among the few to retain full D1 resolution(720x480) for speeds through LP(4hrs/SL DVD). I like to use LP for clean sources like copying extras from another DVD player or a clean digital digital broadcast or even B&W programs, full D1 resolution LP doesn't work so well for noisy VHS or analog broadcasts. For those I like to use FR(flexible record) set to no more than 3hrs(preferably not more than 2 1/2-2hr 42 minutes) which I find to be Panasonics "sweet spot" as a compromise between minimal macroblocking and maximum duration. SP is even better but not all movies(or conversions from VHS tape) are under 2hrs or 2hrs 7 minutes which is about the maximum amount of SP material that Panasonic allows you to copy(from the HDD) to a blank SL DVD. Of course with a DVDR like the EH-75v you can use DL blanks(I'd ONLY suggest Verbatim AZO blanks) and you could get close to 4hrs of SP material on a single disc but DL blanks are ~4x the cost of a SL blank and DL discs tend to burn more problematic and aren't 100% guaranteed to play on all players(mainly because of the way Panasonic records to + discs in general). -R DL blanks are also a option but Verbatim(the only DLs I'd personally burn in a Panasonic) are 3x the cost of +R DL Verbatims and are hard to find(generally only available in jewel cases, not in a spindle).

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post #21 of 27 Old 11-24-2013, 02:04 PM
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Thanks for the reply. I kind of meant in the general scheme of DVD recorders (not just units that include a HDD) is the recording quality at the top or near the top. So just really talking about picture quality rather than convenience or other features.

Given the choice, I'd opt for a hard drive over absolute picture quality every time. The convenience, safety net, and polish of the finished product would outweigh trying to squeeze that last bit of quality out of dubbing from VHS (which is going to have compromises anyway.)

But to answer your question, even if picture quality is the only concern, I can't think of any of the crap HDD-less recorders on the market that would be topping the Panasonics (or even the Magnavox for that matter.) They're just not well put together machines, and most are made by Funai anyway. Funai also makes the Maggy, but they put some effort into that machine. The rest are "slap a burner drive into a basic housing and ship it from China." I can't see those being anywhere near the pinnacle of recording quality.

Maybe some of Panasonic's HDD-less recorders (EA-18 or EZ-28) might be worth the conversation, but I haven't seen those around in awhile. The one combo I have seen (though it's been a bit), the EZ-48, would only appeal to masochists.

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post #22 of 27 Old 11-25-2013, 09:22 AM
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Not to hijack to thread but I have a couple of relevant questions.

1.) I see everyone recommending the EH59. Is this just because it is the most easy to get your hands on or because it is one of the best DVD recording units?

Because the EH59 is one of the best DVD recorders ever sold. Quality-wise and convenience-wise. The only recorders that could edge it out for picture quality were the old Toshiba XS series, but they were so staggeringly failure-prone and unreliable that they weren't worth the aggravation for many of us. The best combination of video quality, convenience and reliability was offered by Panasonic, Pioneer and Sony between 2005-2006. Pioneer and Sony were gone from USA after 2006, but remained available in Canada until 2009. The best Panasonics (EH55, EH75) were officially discontinued in 2006 but the "unofficial import" versions EH59 and EH69 remain available today.

Up until 2006, many brands and models of DVD recorders were on the quality/convenience level of the Panasonic EH59, and something like the Magnavox was a bargain-basement anomaly you only bought if you were flat-ass broke and just had to save $60 over the better units. But at the end of 2006, our genius govmint forced all recorder makers to include an ATSC digital tuner, despite the fact that ATSC was still two years away. At that time, adding an ATSC tuner would have jacked the price of the better-grade DVD recorders from $449 to $649, a price point mfrs (wisely) viewed as unmarketable to USA consumers. So they all left the USA (eventually also Canada) market and stopped selling DVD/HDD recorders altogether. Funai and WalMart felt there might still be a bottom-feeder customer if they could build a DVD/HDD with ATSC tuner cheaply enough, which they did with the Philips 3575 and then later the Magnavox units. These sell like crazy to the 400 people on AVS who rush to buy every new revision WalMart releases, but otherwise don't even register on the electronics industry radar. The Magnavox is handy if you aren't a power user who needs convenience features and customizable quality settings. It is the only DVD recorder with a fairly reliable ATSC digital tuner/timer for off-air reception (its utility when tuning cable TV varies from "usable but infested with glitches" to "utterly useless").

The Panasonic EH59 is a holdover from the last really good 2006 Panasonic lineup. It is similar to that year's model EH55, except does not have a tuner for US/Canada broadcasts. It was designed for people who travel between Europe, the Middle East, and North/South America, and its recording mode can be switched accordingly. It records from the line outputs of a VCR very nicely. It can't record from off-air broadcasts unless you connect it to an external tuner. It can't record directly off a cable TV wire but it works perfectly when connected to a cable box (which any sensible cable customer who follows the AVS recorder forums would make sure they had by now). It can record from DiSH or DirecTV satellite boxes in the same manner.

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2.) How good is the VCR in the EH-75v? How durable and good is it for general playback?

Its as good as the typical consumer Panasonic VCR sold in 2006, which is to say "adequate" and not much else. By 2006 Panasonic VCRs were no longer what they were in the past: they were slapped-together Chinese crap like every other VCR made after 2002. Perhaps a little better than average, since it was integrated into the EH75v which was Panasonic's "halo" model of DVD recorder. If most of your tapes are in good condition and recorded at the SP speed, it should work fine for you. But if you have a lot of 2nd-generation dub tapes, or Hollywood tapes, or tapes recorded from old analog cable TV service, you might be better off with a separate VCR (or three) and DVD/HDD recorder (Magnavox or EH59). The VCR built into the EH75v should be considered more as a convenience feature for playing the occasional VHS tape, than something you would use to make a lot of DVD copies from VHS.

The EH75v was simply a EH55 with a VCR shoved into it. The EH59 available today is essentially the EH75v without the VCR. If you have a collection of widely varied tapes you want to transfer to DVD, the Panasonic EH75v or EH59 will give you better (and easier) results than any Magnavox. The only advantage of the Magnavox is its tuner: if you expect to keep the unit to use as a TV recorder after you finish copying all your tapes, the Magnavox would be easier to use later on. But for the actual tape dubbing, the Panasonics are much easier to operate and offer more extensive, idiot-proof editing features, as well as better recording quality beyond the SP speed (two hours per dvd). The Magnavox encoder is great up to 2 hrs per DVD, but once you drop to the 150 min or 180 min per dvd speed, it isn't good for copying tapes. If you have cable or satellite service, the Panasonics are the hands down better choice. If you get your TV from an antenna, the Magnavox tuner feature must be weighed against its lesser abilities at tape copying.

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3.) I see some people mentioned it was hard to get the DVDR back onto a computer at a later date in good quality. I assumed this would be fairly simple as ripping any other DVD, if not easier in that you might not have to circumvent any copy protection. Wouldn't it be a bit for bit copy?

If you simply rip the dvds as disc image files to your PC hard drive, and use a software player to play them as "virtual DVDs," there is no quality loss whatsoever.

If you need to extract the DVD videos as individual files (TV episodes, music videos, whatever) that you can put on a tablet, phone or streaming box, it gets trickier. I always defer to Kelson on these matters, what he said above regarding software choices, format choices and user expertise would apply. In my own specific personal experience, I have had mucho problems extracting videos from my DVD recorder discs. Maybe its my software, maybe I'm a lunkhead, but they always look terrible after extraction. I cannot get a pure unadulterated MPEG file from a DVD recorder disc if my life depended on it, and forget any media-player-specific format conversion like MP4 or AVI or M4V. Hollywood dvds extract perfectly for me, but not DVD recorder dvds. If I needed to do this more than occasionally, I would go find an expert to show me what I might be doing wrong, but I rarely need to extract files from my recorder DVDs.
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post #23 of 27 Old 11-25-2013, 11:38 PM
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Because the EH59 is one of the best DVD recorders ever sold. Quality-wise and convenience-wise. The only recorders that could edge it out for picture quality were the old Toshiba XS series, but they were so staggeringly failure-prone and unreliable that they weren't worth the aggravation for many of us. The best combination of video quality, convenience and reliability was offered by Panasonic, Pioneer and Sony between 2005-2006. Pioneer and Sony were gone from USA after 2006, but remained available in Canada until 2009. The best Panasonics (EH55, EH75) were officially discontinued in 2006 but the "unofficial import" versions EH59 and EH69 remain available today.

Up until 2006, many brands and models of DVD recorders were on the quality/convenience level of the Panasonic EH59, and something like the Magnavox was a bargain-basement anomaly you only bought if you were flat-ass broke and just had to save $60 over the better units. But at the end of 2006, our genius govmint forced all recorder makers to include an ATSC digital tuner, despite the fact that ATSC was still two years away. At that time, adding an ATSC tuner would have jacked the price of the better-grade DVD recorders from $449 to $649, a price point mfrs (wisely) viewed as unmarketable to USA consumers. So they all left the USA (eventually also Canada) market and stopped selling DVD/HDD recorders altogether. Funai and WalMart felt there might still be a bottom-feeder customer if they could build a DVD/HDD with ATSC tuner cheaply enough, which they did with the Philips 3575 and then later the Magnavox units. These sell like crazy to the 400 people on AVS who rush to buy every new revision WalMart releases, but otherwise don't even register on the electronics industry radar. The Magnavox is handy if you aren't a power user who needs convenience features and customizable quality settings. It is the only DVD recorder with a fairly reliable ATSC digital tuner/timer for off-air reception (its utility when tuning cable TV varies from "usable but infested with glitches" to "utterly useless").

The Panasonic EH59 is a holdover from the last really good 2006 Panasonic lineup. It is similar to that year's model EH55, except does not have a tuner for US/Canada broadcasts. It was designed for people who travel between Europe, the Middle East, and North/South America, and its recording mode can be switched accordingly. It records from the line outputs of a VCR very nicely. It can't record from off-air broadcasts unless you connect it to an external tuner. It can't record directly off a cable TV wire but it works perfectly when connected to a cable box (which any sensible cable customer who who follows the AVS recorder forums would make sure they had by now). It can record from DiSH or DirecTV satellite boxes in the same manner.
Its as good as the typical consumer Panasonic VCR sold in 2006, which is to say "adequate" and not much else. By 2006 Panasonic VCRs were no longer what they were in the past: they were slapped-together Chinese crap like every other VCR made after 2002. Perhaps a little better than average, since it was integrated into the EH75v which was Panasonic's "halo" model of DVD recorder. If most of your tapes are in good condition and recorded at the SP speed, it should work fine for you. But if you have a lot of 2nd-generation dub tapes, or Hollywood tapes, or tapes recorded from old analog cable TV service, you might be better off with a separate VCR (or three) and DVD/HDD recorder (Magnavox or EH59). The VCR built into the EH75v should be considered more as a convenience feature for playing the occasional VHS tape, than something you would use to make a lot of DVD copies from VHS.

The EH75v was simply a EH55 with a VCR shoved into it. The EH59 available today is essentially the EH75v without the VCR. If you have a collection of widely varied tapes you want to transfer to DVD, the Panasonic EH75v or EH59 will give you better (and easier) results than any Magnavox. The only advantage of the Magnavox is its tuner: if you expect to keep the unit to use as a TV recorder after you finish copying all your tapes, the Magnavox would be easier to use later on. But for the actual tape dubbing, the Panasonics are much easier to operate and offer more extensive, idiot-proof editing features, as well as better recording quality beyond the SP speed (two hours per dvd). The Magnavox encoder is great up to 2 hrs per DVD, but once you drop to the 150 min or 180 min per dvd speed, it isn't good for copying tapes. If you have cable or satellite service, the Panasonics are the hands down better choice. If you get your TV from an antenna, the Magnavox tuner feature must be weighed against its lesser abilities at tape copying.
If you simply rip the dvds as disc image files to your PC hard drive, and use a software player to play them as "virtual DVDs," their is no quality loss whatsoever.

If you need to extract the DVD videos as individual files (TV episodes, music videos, whatever) that you can put on a tablet, phone or streaming box, it gets trickier. I always defer to Kelson on these matters, what he said above regarding software choices, format choices and user expertise would apply. In my own specific personal experience, I have had mucho problems extracting videos from my DVD recorder discs. Maybe its my software, maybe I'm a lunkhead, but they always look terrible after extraction. I cannot get a pure unadulterated MPEG file from a DVD recorder disc if my life depended on it, and forget any media-player-specific format conversion like MP4 or AVI or M4V. Hollywood dvds extract perfectly for me, but not DVD recorder dvds. If I needed to do this more than occasionally, I would go find an expert to show me what I might be doing wrong, but I rarely need to extract files from my recorder DVDs.

Thank you for the really detailed information. You cleared up a lot of my questions.
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post #24 of 27 Old 03-26-2014, 07:49 AM
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Thanks for all the information and suggestions. Thanks especially for that last completely thorough discussion by CitiBear. I will continue to study your points.

I realized that DVDs may not be around in the near future. But the VHS tapes would have been digitized and for digital media DVD has seen very wide spread application over a long period of time. In the future, some way to read DVDs should remain available - probably more so than for DVD's successor. The next popular recording media may not be used as widely or certainly for as many years as DVDs.

VHS tapes were dominant for maybe 30 years. ? DVDs, 10 years? The next digital media ? ? Still the media is an issue....I'm assuming that DVD discs will not deteriorate over many years........

My wife has said that she wants to edit.............

At Thanksgiving, I will be seeing some relatives who are more knowledgeable on video storage and hope to decide what to do.

 I just started using this for home videos: http://www.magix.com/us/convert-vhs-to-dvd/ and I like it for that exact reason: it lets me edit the footage when I'm done converting it. It's a bit price though. Oh and one important thing: I use a pc so if you're a mac user I don't know if this will work :( sorry! Gosh, you guys incorporate videos into Thanksgiving? And I thought the family stories were embarrassing enough! I'm sure it's a lot of fun though :)

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post #25 of 27 Old 03-27-2014, 10:47 AM
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Hi, I have CANCER! BRAIN TUMOR, to be exact.
I was looking for a Pioneer DVD HDD DVD recorder.
I want the HDD DVD DVR 660H UNIT!
I go in and out of the hospital on a weekly basis, and I need a recorder that
can handle a big load, AND RECORD TO A DVD DISC.
SO, EVERY TIME, I bid and win on the 660H, it disappears,
and it CAN NOT BE FOUND!
CAN SOMEBODY HERE TELL ME WHAT THE HELL
IS GOING ON HERE?
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post #26 of 27 Old 03-27-2014, 02:02 PM
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The Canada-only Pioneer DVR-660 model was the very last Pioneer DVD/HDD sold in North America. Because of its larger 250 GB HDD and its exclusive (dubious) Ethernet port, it is the most coveted recorder by Pioneer fanatics. Not many of them were sold in Canadian stores to begin with: the 660 was a limited-production model and overpriced compared to the far more popular DVR-560. The only difference between a 560 and a 660 is the 660 has 33% larger hard drive and a completely useless Ethernet port (that many geeks delude themselves into thinking will let them network the 660 to their PC).

Mostly because of this stupid Ethernet port, the 660 has become the scarcest "unicorn" among Pioneer second-hand models. So of course, many of the eBay and Craig's List ads you see for it are scams or bogus in some way (bait & switch, or your winning bid was too low for them to accept, or they don't want to ship to your location, etc, etc). Such bogus Pioneer listings are common in Canada and typical in USA. It is not an exaggeration to say I would be astonished if more than twenty DVR-660s were ever sold to Americans by liquidators or brought in by transplanted Canadians. The 660 is just ridiculously scarce, so getting your heart set on finding one is guaranteed to disappoint.

Here and there on eBay you might find a Hong Kong dealer who has retrofitted a terabyte HDD to a 560 or 660, but this is very tricky to do so they charge a fortune (at least $999) for these modified new-old-stock units. The dealers are legit, but here again they do play games if they don't want to sell it to a particular winning bidder, so the listing will evaporate after you apparently "win."

Much as I loved the last run of Pioneer recorders, their moment has passed for anyone who didn't already manage to buy one new before 2009. Second hand availability in 2014 is limited, esp in USA, and asking prices are outrageous for recorders that were last made in 2008. These Pioneers start to experience burner issues after three or four years, and the burners cannot now be repaired or replaced. For the $400+ people are asking for a used Pioneer 550, 650, 560 or 660 you would be much MUCH better off with a brand new import-model Panasonic DMR-EH59 from a dealer like B&H Photo Video. The 250GB Panasonic does everything the Pioneer 660 did, but with better convenience features, more extensive editing, and more compatible finalized discs. Supplies of the Panasonic EH59 are dwindling and prices have shot up 35% in the past few weeks: anyone who wants a truly great DVD/HDD recorder for dubbing VHS (or connecting to a cable/satellite decoder) should consider buying one NOW, before they follow the Pioneer 660 into unicorn-land.
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post #27 of 27 Old 03-29-2014, 08:09 PM
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I have the Panasonic EH59 DVD HDD recorder and it is great except for missing one feature I need: the ability to record closed captions. Specifically, the closed captions on many old movies shown on Turner Classic Movies, movies that now get released as DVD-Rs with no subtitles. To get the subtitles for these movies, you can extract them from DVDs you burn after recording the TCM airing (which will usually have closed captioning but not always) on a Magnavox recorder. In most cases, these captions of old Hollywood movies are nowhere else to be found. With the captions handy, I can create a DVD with on/off subtitles using some computer programs and some of my time. I get the impression most people don't care if they have optional English subtitles available for their recording. Different strokes for . . .
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