Price (RRP): $1,549
Removing ads or re-ordering a sequence of video from a DVD recording is normally only possible with PC-based DVD recorders. Recently, however, Panasonic brought this functionality to its stand-alone models by integrating hard disk and video editing tools. The DMR-E85H is Panasonic?s latest DVD recorder to feature this technology.
At the heart of the system is an 80GB hard disk drive, which Panasonic says will hold up to 142 hours of video, albeit at lowest quality settings. Both the hard disk and DVD recorder can capture from the built-in analog TV tuner or the line inputs, which include a front-panel digital video (DV) connector. To make clean videos, the best option is to record to the hard drive first, then edit and dub to a DVD-R.
The recorder offers a simultaneous record and play function, which means that while you?re recording this week?s episode of your favourite show, you can watch last week?s episode. This function also lets you record a program while you watch another one that has already been recorded onto the same disc.
The DVD drive supports DVD-R and DVDRAM discs. The latter is an extremely powerful format but hobbled by a lack of compatibility with most regular DVD players.
The DMR-E85H?s editing features are quite advanced. Take for example the unusual ability not just to edit your video, but edit it with cuts to precise frames. This introduces a brief pause at the cut frame, however, presumably to avoid re-encoding the whole MPEG-2 video stream. For frame-perfect editing, you have to choose a special option in the setup menu. This warns that you may not be able to perform high-speed dubs, but during testing, I found one DVD would dub only in real time, while a second dubbed in the high-speed mode.
Editing material on the hard disk (or DVDRAM) is non-destructive because it is performed using Play Lists. These assemble sets of pointers showing the sequence of video that you want to play or dub to DVD. The selections don?t even need to be from the same recording.
The high speed dub mode is very fast. Panasonic says this can be as quick 24x, but only in a low quality mode. More realistically, I transferred a one hour and 57 minute movie, recorded at the two-hour-per-disc SP mode, to a 4x DVD-R in 13 minutes and 15 seconds, which is well under one-eighth the playback time.
Finalising DVD-R discs is fairly quick (about two minutes for a five title recording) and along the way you get to choose the look of the disc?s menu from nine choices, each showing six titles, but with different colour schemes.
The recorder also has a couple of slots on the front for accepting Secure Digital (SD) memory and PC cards containing still photos or MPEG4 video. The DMR-E85H can also encode MPEG4 video, although it?s hard to think of why you?d bother.
Overall, this is feature rich and powerful DVD recorder.