Friday, September 19, 2008

Something Shiny . . .

Got a shiny new toy yesterday! A Toshiba D-VR610 DVD recorder and VCR combo. I've been meaning to get one of these for a very long time, but was put off by all the horror stories of inconsistencies I've heard from others who have DVD recorders.

And what, pray tell, is the purpose of this gizmo, you ask? Well, as some of you know, I have this tendency to record everything. I record tv shows, movies, video games, etc. My favorite thing is the latter, in which I play through a really good video game and record the juiciest bits for posterity. This can be a combination of both nuts & bolts gameplay, as well as the cinematic cutscenes that more and more games have been favoring since the late 90s. Perfect for recording, IMO. Over the years I have amassed quite a collection of game-related VHS tapes, chronicling my crazy adventures in gaming land. I also have a tendency to record awesome tv shows to tape, such as Battlestar Galactica and 24, which I then loan to friends. Thing is, VHS is getting so passe now, and it's getting to the point where none of my friends even have working VCRs anymore.

So, finally, I have upgraded to the digital world! With this combo, I get to transfer all my old tapes to DVD, and also use the built-in VCR to replace my existing and ailing Panasonic model.

Not bad.

I was a bit nervous after purchasing this recorder, tho. I felt guilty afterwards for splurging on something so frivolous (or so it seemed). Also, from talking to my good friend, B, I was sure I was going to have issues getting the recorded DVDs to play on other people's DVD players. Apparently this is a big problem with these recorders.

So when the package arrived last night, I was anxious. I was sure I would be returning the unit today. But after quickly setting it up (my god, that was easy) and skimming through the operator's manual for how best to record to a DVD-R blank disc, I tested it out on Metal Gear Solid 4. Because I had to forgo my nice, digital connections for ugly RCA cables that don't deliver a pretty picture on an HD-TV, the game looked like donkey ass. And the sound was even worse! Ugh! But, I had to keep reminding myself that this was only for recording purposes. Once I move the recorder to its permanent location attached to my standard tube-tv in the living room, there should be no depreciation in image quality. And the DVD itself will look fine on any tv once its actually recorded, even an HD-TV. So, again, no big deal.

The recording session went without a hitch. Much better than I expected. I'm going to have to wait until I get home from work later today to tweak it some more, because I had the options set to widescreen, and the playback on my standard tv was loopy as a result. But this is something that can be easily fixed on the recorder's menu. It's just a matter of some trial and error.

More importantly, I think I figured out why people can't get their recorded DVDs to work on other players. Apparently folks don't like to read their manuals, because it specifically states that you have to do an additional "finishing" process after recording anything to a blank DVD. In other words, you can't just press stop on the recording, eject the disc, and then expect it to play on another standalone DVD player. Sure, in its "raw" form it will still work on the original DVD unit you recorded it on, but that's it. In order for it to play in other DVD players, you have to go to the built-in menu and select "finalize". Or you can access the function from the remote. Once selected, the recorder takes anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour (depending on how full the disc is) burning everything permanently to disc, and squaring away all the empty space so that it doesn't cause other players to go haywire when reading the info.

And just like that, you're done! It played perfectly--and with full Dolby Digital surround sound to boot!--on my old DVD player in the other room. I suspect it will play on any DVD player, although I'll have to wait for my friends to test it out on their units to make sure. But I think this is the issue people were having, and it's sad that it's something so easily fixed, but often overlooked if you don't read the instructions carefully. I never would have guessed to press "finalize" after recording, although in hindsight it seems obvious now.

Anyway, I look forward to playing with this toy some more over the weekend! I'm going to go out and buy some blank DVD+RW discs, which will allow me to record over existing content as much as I like. The DVD-R discs I have now are only good for one-time recording. Which sucks if you're making first-time mistakes like I am. If all goes well, I will play through MGS4 again from start to finish, recording all of the best parts along the way. Then I'll move the unit to the living room tv where the cable box is, and start recording Fall tv shows. Good times ahead! :-)

1 comment:

Ashe Hunt said...

Yes, yes. This works. I didn't know that was the problem people were having. Normally i don't read manuals but I did read the one for the dvd/vhs combo I dealt with because it was a really new thing at the time and I wanted the discs to come out right. Intelligence is a wonderful thing. Lack of is the downfall of the race.

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