Can I copy VHS videos and DVDs on a DVD recorder?

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Just as you can't copy commercially made video tapes to another VCR due to Macrovision anti-copy encoding, the same applies to making copies to DVD. DVD recorders cannot bypass the anti-copy signal on commercial VHS tapes or DVDs. If a DVD recorder detects the anti-copy encoding on a commercial DVD it will not start the recording and display some sort of message either on screen or on its LED front panel display that it detects the anti-copy code or that it is detecting an unusable signal.

A DVD recorder can be used to copy any homemade videos, such as camcorder videos and videos made from TV shows, and can also copy Laserdiscs, and other non-copy-protected video material. Also, remember that most DVD recorders also have a built-tuner for recording TV programming directly. However, it is important to note that some DVD Recorders are "tunerless". "tunerless" DVD recorders need to be connected to a Cable or Satellite box in order to record TV programs.

The tuner in a DVD recorder that has one can be programmed to record a series of programs on different days and times, much like a VCR.

However, if you are recording a non-copy protected DVD to a DVD recorder you can record any of the video content, provided you click on the menu and start the video segments running and you have enough time space on the disc.

DVD recorders function like VCRs in that they can record incoming video signals -- however, they do not automatically copy all the contents of the DVD - for instance, you cannot copy the interactive menu functions of a non-copy protected commercial DVD. A DVD recorder creates its own menu functions, it will not duplicate the function menu from another DVD.

In addition, most DVD recorders also have digital video inputs (IEEE-1394, Firewire, i-Link) that allow users of digital camcorders to digitally transfer their audio and video direct to DVD in real time.

Additional DVD Recorder, VCR, and Television Connection Tip

In addition to the above, it must also be important to note that you should not hook up a VCR and DVD recorder into the same path to your television. In other words, your VCR and DVD recorder should be hooked up to your TV through separate inputs on the TV.

The reason for this is copy-protection. Even if you are not recording anything, when you play a commercial DVD on your DVD recorder and the signal has to go through your VCR to get to the TV, the anti-copy signal will trigger the VCR to interfere with the playback signal of the DVD, making it unwatchable on your television. On the other hand, the same effect is present if you have your VCR hooked into your DVD recorder before the signal reaches the television, in that a commercial VHS tape with anti-copy encoding will cause the DVD recorder to interfere with VHS playback signal, causing the same effect on your television. However, this effect is not present on tapes or DVDs your make yourself.

The best way to hook up a VCR and DVD recorder to a single TV is to split your cable or satellite signal so that one feed goes to your VCR and other to your DVD recorder. Then, hook up the outputs of your VCR and DVD recorder separately to the TV. If your television only has one set of AV inputs, you can either hook up the output of your VCR to the TV's RF input and the DVD recorder to the single set of AV inputs OR get an AV switcher to place between the VCR and DVD recorder and your television, selecting the unit you wish to view.

Of course, the best hookup option, if you have a home theater system with an AV receiver, is to hook up the AV outputs of your DVD recorder and VCR to your AV receiver, and use it as your video switcher for the television. This hookup scenario not only separates the DVD recorder and VCR paths to the TV but will also allow you to copy between the DVD recorder and VCR more easily.

For additional information, this issue, also check out my Quick Tip - Video Copy Protection and DVD Recording

Also, for answers to questions regarding topics related to DVD players, be sure to also check out our DVD Basics FAQ