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Can I record HDTV on a DVD recorder?

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Question: Can I record HDTV on a DVD recorder?
Answer: Commercial DVD is not an HD format, and DVD recording and recorders adhere to that the same constraints. The maximum resolution of a commercially made DVD, or a DVD made on a DVD recorder, is 480i (which can be played back in 480p on a progressive scan DVD player or upscaled 720p/1080i/1080p on an upscaling DVD player).

HDTV broadcast resolution is usually either 720p or 1080i, which is beyond the capabilities of a DVD recorder and is also beyond the capabilities for a DVD player to play back (although there are growing number of DVD players and DVD recorders that can now upscale standard DVD playback output to match the pixel count of 720p and 1080i -- but the DVD itself does not contain any HD information). In addition, DVD recorders are not designed to record HDTV standards.

DVD Recorders with ATSC Tuners

DVD recorders with ATSC tuners (also referred to as HDTV tuners or Integrated HD Tuners) capable of receiving Digital/HDTV signals have been available some time.

The reason that DVD recorders that include a tuner (some DVD recorders are tunerless - requiring connection to an external tuner or cable/satellite box to receive any TV programming) are now equipped with ATSC tuners is the DTV Transition. All new TVs and recording devices that normally come equipped with a tuner must now also include an ATSC tuner that is capable of receiving Digital TV/HDTV signals. This is due to the fact that all full-power analog over-the-air TV broadcasts were discontinued on June 12, 2009.

However, it must also be pointed out that even though newer DVD Recorders may have ATSC tuners that are capable of receiving HDTV signals, the recordings made on such DVD recorders will not be made in HD - since DVD is a standard definition format. What will happen is that any HDTV signals received by the ATSC tuners built into DVD recorders will be downscaled to standard definition for DVD recording purposes.

On the other hand, many DVD recorders now have upscaling ability, via HDMI connections, on playback. This means that if you recorded an HDTV program on your DVD recorder in standard definition, you will be able to play it back in an upscaled format if the DVD recorder has upscaling playback capability. Although upscaling is not the same as true high definition, it will still look better than if you played the DVD back in standard resolution.

What this means to consumers is that newer standard DVD recorders, although equipped with ATSC tuners, will only record DVDs in standard definition, as is done currently.

The only devices that can record HDTV programming in High Definition in the U.S. are HD-DVRs, such as those offered by TIVO and Cable and Satellite companies, or D-VHS VCRs, which were made primarily by JVC, but are out of production.

For the ability to record in true High Definition on a disc-based format, the consumer needs to use either a Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD recorder (Note: HD-DVD has been discontinued.)

Blu-ray Disc Recording

Blu-ray technology supports high definition video recording, but there are no current plans to market Blu-ray Disc recorders in the U.S.. One of the factors contributing to this is the increasing popularity of TIVO and Cable/Satellite DVRs in the U.S., which may affect the competitive success of Blu-ray disc recorders, and concern by the movie studios regarding copy-protection of high definition content.

However, if you desire high definition video recording on disc now, you choice is limited to Blu-ray Writers installed, or added externally, on a PC.

The two types of Blu-ray Recording formats are:

BD-R: A record-once only format disc, similar in concept as a DVD-R, DVD+R, or CD-R disc.

BD-RE: A re-writable format disc that can be erased, edited, and re-used multiple times, similar in concept to DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM, or CD-RW disc.

Also, Toshiba had been selling HD-DVD recorders in the Japanese market. However, since HD-DVD in now discontinued worldwide (as of February 19, 2008), there are no plans for HD-DVD recorders to be available any longer.

For historical reference, the format disc for HD-DVD recorders is HD-DVD R (single layer) and HD-DVD R-DL (Dual Layer), which are record-once format discs, similar to BD-R.

Also, most, if not all, Blu-ray and HD-DVD recorders released so far in Japan also record in one or more of the current standard DVD recording formats, such as DVD-R/-RW or DVD+R/+RW.

One important point to remember is that Blu-ray or HD-DVD disc you make yourself can only be played on that format's player or recorder.

AVCHD

There is one high definition format that can be recorded on a standard DVD disc, or MiniDVD disc, available for U.S. consumers, known as AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition). AVCHD is a high definition (HD) digital video camera format recording 1080i and 720p signals onto miniDVD discs, miniDV tape, Hard Drive, or digital camera Memory Cards, by using highly efficient compression using a format known as MPEG4 (H264).

AVCHD was developed jointly by Matsushita (Panasonic), and Sony Corporation. AVCHD recordings made on MiniDVD discs can be played back on some Blu-ray disc players, however, they cannot be played back on standard DVD players. Also, standard DVD recorders are not currently equipped to record DVDs in the AVCHD format.

More High-Definition Recording on Standard DVDs...With a Catch

Panasonic and Toshiba both announced at the CEATEC 2007 exhibition, that they were incorporating new technology that allows the recording of high definition on standard DVDs. However, there are three caveats:

First, the formats used by Panasonic and Toshiba are incompatible with each other.

Second, the new technology was only being incorporated in Blu-ray and HD-DVD (now discontinued) recorders that are available exclusively in the Japanese market so far. There is no official word if this technology will be incorporated into standard DVD recorders.

Three, the HD-recorded DVDs can only be played back on a compatible Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD player - they cannot be played back on standard DVD players, in their present configuration.

For more details, check out a report from Engadget. As additional information becomes available, it will be added.

For more information on high definition DVD, check out my Blu-ray and HD-DVD FAQs

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