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Advice on Buying Basic DVD Recorder

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm new here, but wanted to ask for some advice on buying a basic DVD recorder. We're upgrading our sound room equipment at our church to do DVDs, and I need to find a good basic DVD recorder, nothing real expensive or fancy. We just take the feed from a consumer grade digital camera, feed it into the DVD recorder (along with audio from a separate source), and make a DVD master. Then make copies in a high speed duplicator we're buying. Pretty simple. So, reading all the talk about DVD recorders disappearing and all, I'm a bit worried about finding something that will suit our needs. Thanks for any thoughts you can give me.
post #2 of 10
Get a Panasonic EZ-18 tunerless model if you can find one, very rugged and good quality, this is the best of the mid-range recorders still available in the USA so it sells out all over the place. If you can't find one, the step-up model with a tuner about as good but might cost more (sometimes you can find open-box store returns in-store or on-line at 40-50% off). As a last resort, the EZ-38 model is again the same basic recorder but adds a VHS deck to the tuner and again ups the price. Figure on $150-250 for one of these, less if you find a refurb sale. Occasionally you can find a Magnavox 2080 on sale as a very low-priced refurb for perhaps $100: at that price the machine is a steal, even if you see it for $179 its a good alternative to the Panasonics. The top-line Magnavox H2160 and Phillips 3576 are excellent machines but probably out of your budget at $270-300. All the other recorders left for sale in the US are very low-rent crummy models, no matter how famous the brand name: avoid the current Sony and Toshiba models especially.
post #3 of 10
Welcome to the forum. We are doing something very similar to what you are starting. One difference is that we have three cameras inputting the video signal, with, as you have, separate audio in. Three cameras mean a video mixer. I started with a single camera, but quickly saw the need for multiple cameras.

To answer your question, I would urge a recorder with a hard drive (hdd). You will expand. I have to believe in evolution! You will grow!

I would urge the Panasonic EH55, Watch eBay, good used ones have been selling in the $400 range.

Reasons for the EH55: Writes to all current SD dvd formats; has DV input (video & audio) and Markertek has extended-distance 4-pin 4-pin dv cables that we are using, up to 164' long. The EH55 also has a number of editting and convenience features, so I do not use a computer at all, except for generating inserts for the dvd case, or making multiple copies of multi-title dvd's. Our EH55 holds a year's recording of the weekly church services.

Why DV? Ever have the microphone not turned on? With dv, can switch to the camcorder microphone, not as good, audience noise, but better than the empty mic.

Probably a longer answer than you wanted, but you did the right thing by coming here to the forum for answers. You can then choose from the various comments you'll get.

Best wishes,

post #4 of 10
I wasn't going to extensively promote hard drive equipped recorders, because your question indicated possible budget restraints combined with fairly heavy "live" event use. The Magnavox and Phillips machines I mentioned above do have the hard drive and DV interface recommended by RichardT, now that he's broached the hdd feature I'll expand on it slightly:

The hdd models cost more, and other than the Phillips/Magnavox none are available new in stores or online in a manner thats likely acceptable to a church bookkeeper. The Panasonic EH-55 would be an excellent choice, if it were available to you at Best Buy, but it isn't: it was discontinued in 2006 and very popular on the second hand market. It can be obtained as "new old stock" from an assortment of websites and eBay dealers, as RichardT said in the $400 and up price range. If church management can be open minded about the purchasing circumstances, the EH-55 would be a good investment. (Or, as Rammitinski advised, you can get the "global" EH-67 from "official" importers like World Import or J&R Computer World). Instead of recording direct onto DVD, you would record your events to its hard drive: this avoids any worry about running out of disk space (the hdd holds 60-80 hours of high-quality video). You can trim unwanted segments from the hard drive recording, then copy it to a DVD master in ten minutes. Making a high speed copy from hard drive to DVD extends the durability of the DVD burner tremendously, as opposed to recording directly to a DVD in real time. These features are nice to have if you can afford them.

If you are making a great many copies of the master DVD for members of the congregation, you will still need the DVD duplicator you mentioned. A recorder with hard drive, like the Panasonic EH-55 or the Phillips/Magnavox, can be used as a small-scale duplicator for 3-4 copies at a time but should not be used to run off large numbers of copies. The burners in recorders cannot be replaced at reasonable cost if you wear them out, but the burners in a duplicator are easily replaced for $30. Important to know.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies. This is very helpful. A few clarifications. We are a small outfit, so we'll probably only be using the unit once a week on sundays to burn our initial DVD. We are only using one camera at this time, but have talked about possibly adding a second camera in the next year or two.

We have some flexibility on the funds for the purchase.

We're trying to keep the system as simple as possible. And we likely won't do much if any editing, even if we wanted to, as we want to get copies made as quick as possible before people leave after the sunday meeting.

The high speed duplicator we've ordered has a hard drive that can store quite a number of past recordings.
post #6 of 10
Given your additional details, I would revert to my original suggestion that you pick up a Panasonic EZ-18, -28, or -38: whichever you can get cheapest. In fact, if you can afford the upfront cost, I'd say buy two of them: it is better down the road to have a spare on hand than to repair a recorder thats worn out. These Panasonics avoid the complication and expense of the hard drive you say you don't need, and they are well-made compared to the absolute trash out there masquerading as other "brand name" recorders. We are well into the final days of decent DVD recorders in North America, these Panasonic EZ models are likely the last reasonably rugged machines we'll see in the USA.
post #7 of 10
A couple of more comments. You are getting opinions as you asked; that is good. Your high-speed duplicator has a hard drive. How do you get the program into the duplicator? By dvd only? Or does it have any kind of line input that would allow direct input from the camera and bypass the dvdr completely? Probably not.

My thought is that you will need a high degree of cooperation from the church presenters if you plan to produce edit-free programs. It CAN be done. One of the churches I visited had that kind of cooperation. All local "stuff" ocurred prior to the offering. After the offering, a large digital clock visible by the speaker was started in the window of the recording booth; the television audience was welcomed, the program proceeded with the children's story, music, sermon, and so on. The speaker ended at 58:00 minutes, and the program went on the air at 2:00pm.

Maybe I'm too soft, but I don't get quite that cooperation. Generally, I leave a "church archive" copy in the church office, often before I attend the hospitalty dinner following the service. But there are times that I miss the title (Speaker, sermon topic, date) before the announcements start , I can record the title at the end and use the Playlist feature to move it to the front before writing the dvd. Minor cleanup editting like that doesn't take long, 15 minutes, and can compensate for some goofs. And for special Christmas programs, weddings, you'll have the capability to do more editting as desired.

No, you shouldn't buy something just because someday there may be a wedding, but I think you'll appreciate the "breathing room" and flexibility that a hard drive provides.

Or might a camcorder with flash or stick memory be an option?
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
One of the folks I'm working with on this project was asking about, with DVD recorders being phased out in the U.S., would it just be best to get a desktop computer with sufficient horsepower to record the DVD on there, and then take a copy to our DVD burner for high speed duplicating?

My general sense was that taking the audio/video feed into a computer might take longer to come out with a DVD than if we had a simple, stand-alone DVD recorder. We really don't plan on any editing of the DVD, just a basic DVD of the meeting, and quickness of getting copies out is a high priority. So, is a computer in place of a DVD record a viable alternative?

We're considering putting some content on a website, but there wouldn't be a tight timeframe on that, as there would be to have DVDs available for people to pick up at the end of the church meeting.

Thanks again for all the comments. They are very helpful.
post #9 of 10
For the circumstances you describe, which leave no room for screwups or delays, you need a dedicated DVD recorder for sure. Get one of the sturdy Panasonics while you still can.

Computers are not designed for direct-to-DVD live video recording: I am not aware of any software that would let you do this (although I'm sure a dozen people will post to correct me here). The PC workflow involves recording to the hard drive first, editing the raw camera feed in camera video format, then authoring/burning the DVD ( a conversion step). You do not have time for this workflow, you want a system that immediately creates a rough "master" DVD in the DVD format live on the fly. This pretty much requires a dedicated DVD recorder, which records the event in real time directly onto a DVD as a DVD, so the only task at the end of services is to finalize the DVD in the recorder (sixty seconds) before moving it to the duplicator. Another annoying "gotcha" with using a PC to record live events is that PCs will flake out on you at the worst possible times- repeatedly. Windows gets corrupted, video software gets corrupted, hard drives get corrupted, minor power surges throw off the system, PCs need maintenance not needed on a standalone recorder, etc. Go with a recorder.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Well, I went ahead and bought a Panasonic EZ-28. They had them in stock at Best Buy, so I figured I'd jump on it. I did some looking around, and the EZ-18 and EZ-38 seemed pretty hard to find at all. So, thanks again for the input on this.
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