How does DVD recorder quality compare to a DVD player?

DVD recorder
Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Question: How does DVD recorder video quality compare to a VCR or DVD player?

Answer: DVD recorders can record video in resolutions ranging from DVD quality to VHS quality depending on the recording mode used, somewhat analogous to the different recording speeds on a VCR, however, the way DVD recording modes works is different.

While VCR recording actually uses different tape speeds, the DVD recording process maintains the same disc speeds, but the amount of compression used by the selected recording modes determines the amount of time that can fit on a DVD disc. The use of compression also determines the final video quality. More compression results in more recording time on a disc, but a lower video quality result.

Although there is some variation from manufacturer to manufacturer, DVD recorders typically can record in one hour, two hour, four hour, and six-hour mode. The one-hour mode will be very close, if not the same, as DVD quality, while the four and six-hour modes will be more like VHS SP and EP respectively.

One factor to ultimately consider, however, is that, even at the one-hour mode, the quality of the source material determines the quality of the recording. If you are copying an old home video that was recorded at VHS-EP using the one hour DVD recorder mode, you won't get DVD quality; you can't make something bad look better. However, it won't be any worse when using the one hour speed. By the same token, if you take a miniDV camcorder videotape that was recorded at 500 lines of resolution and dub it to the DVD recorder using the four or six-hour recording mode, you will only get VHS-type quality. The rule of thumb is to always use the best source material and the best quality recording mode possible.

For more details on DVD recording modes, check out my reference article: The Difference Between DVD Recording Modes and Disc Writing Speed