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Out there in the great home video marketplace, clearly VHS is fading, and DVD video is on the rise. The big holdup has been a way to record DVDs in the same way that we use our analog VCRs to record videotapes today.
Until very recently, the only way to make your own DVD videos was to use a computer-based authoring system to burn your content onto a blank DVD disc. The process was reasonably complicated and quite time consuming. Clearly consumers don’t appreciate either of those attributes in any technology designed for casual use in their living rooms. Enter the stand-alone DVD recorder, the inevitable marriage of the VCR’s convenience with DVD’s benefits.
The promise of the new stand-alone DVD recorders is to simplify the DVD authoring process as much as possible and make it more like operating a VCR. Feed the box a video stream, push the Record button, and then hit STOP when you’re done and voila! You have a playable DVD! Just like it works with a VCR, right? Well, not quite. The problem is that for a DVD–any DVD–to work, it needs a way to signal the playback device about what to expect. This is because the DVD specification–the rulebook that all DVD manufacturers and playback devices must adhere to–is so very complex. Its complexity is due to the DVD’s very flexible data storage system.
It’s happy to hold our wedding video, or playback the latest rented Hollywood movie but the specification designers also needed to accommodate higher-level functions like employee testing, database lookups–or even linking to content via the Web.
Since a DVD can do so much as each one is inserted into a player, the first order of business is for the player to read the disc and figure out just what it contains and how the author wants it played back. That means instructions must be built for any DVD you burn, even if it’s just an instruction that says “ignore the menus and just play the video.”
All the linking and encoding on computer-based DVD authoring systems is done via the computer keyboard and/or mouse. But a standalone DVD recorder won’t necessarily have these common computer peripherals available.
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