Next-Generation DVD

Tips and Tricks

Image Quality

DVD recorders typically have at least four quality presets: The 2-, 4-, and 6-hour preset modes correspond roughly to the familiar SP, LP, and EP modes on a VCR. In addition, all the recorders we tested offer an uber-high-quality, 1-hour XP mode.

Pick XP or SP mode if you're archiving old tapes and home videos, recording sporting events, or recording something that you want to enjoy at optimal quality. Use 4- or 6-hour mode only if the length of your content forces you to--and if the image quality of the resulting recording isn't a priority.

If you plan to record a program of oddball length, such as a movie on cable TV, adjust the bit rate manually (check for this feature in the recording menu), or select a variable bit-rate setting (a preset that all but the GoVideo, Sharp, and Sony models have). With this option, you can fit a 2.5-hour feature on a single disc at a higher quality level than you'd get if you'd recorded it in 3- or 4-hour mode.

Understand VR Mode

Rewritable DVD discs can be recorded in two video formats: DVD-Video, the format that commercial movies use; or VR (Video Recording). VR mode enables on-disc editing, so you can alter menus, change the menu background, and retitle a disc. In VR mode, space occupied by deleted scenes or titles is actually freed up; in DVD-Video mode, it's not available until you reformat the disc. Discs recorded in VR mode are compatible only with players and recorders that support VR. Still, if your recorder offers VR, use it: That way, you have the option to edit if you wish; and if not, you can always convert the disc to DVD-Video later.

Pick Your Recording Medium

I Want To...

So I'll Use...

Because...

Transfer my VHS tapes or home videos to DVD, or record video to archive for posterity

Write-once DVD-R or DVD+R

Write-once discs have the greatest compatibility with other DVD players; and they can last 50 years or more if they're stored carefully.

Record my favorite shows for viewing later,and then erase them so I can record a new show

Rewriteable DVD-RAM, DVD-RW,or DVD+RW; or the hard drive

All of these media are easy to reuse. Of the DVD formats, DVD-RAM allows the greatest number of rewrites--but has the least cross-compatibility.

Edit out all of the annoying commercials in a program, or trim a progam's length

Rewritable DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, or DVD+RW; or the hard drive

Each of these media can handle advanced editing tasks, but you'll need to check carefully to make sure that your recorder explicitly supports doing so.

Jon L. Jacobi is a frequent contributor to PC World. Martyn Williams reports from IDG News Service's Tokyo bureau. Test analysts Thomas Luong and Jeff Kuta directed the laboratory testing for this story.

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