Recording the Olympics

Just because you can’t sit in front of your TV 24/7 for two weeks in August doesn’t mean that you have to miss anything important. We haven’t had that problem since the VCR appeared a quarter of a century ago. But there are far better ways now to move TV broadcasts to a time that’s more convenient to you.

Aside from the VCR, there are four ways that you can time shift the high definition Olympics. One of them is acceptable (if you have no other options), two of them are OK, and the fourth is by far the best.

Time shifting, the bad way

We don’t really recommend this way, but if you’ve no other option, well… Let us say that you have a DVD recorder you purchased some time in the past few years. Chances are it has an analog TV tuner built-in, rather than a digital one. Well, you can use this to time shift the Olympics broadcasts using the hard disk (if any) or a rewritable DVD.
Of course, you will be stuck with low quality, low resolution analog recordings, but it’s better than nothing.

If you also have a standard definition digital TV receiver, then you should be able to get better quality. Plug its video (S-Video or better if possible) and audio outputs into the line inputs of the DVD recorder and set up your timer recordings to record from those inputs. Some digital TV receivers even have facilities to switch themselves on and off with a timer, otherwise you will just need to leave the receiver plugged in and switched on.

Time shifting – the OK way

Other ways of time shifting the Games are to use a DVD recorder with a built-in digital TV tuner, or a standard definition PVR. PVR stands for Personal Video Recorder, and it’s a digital receiever with a hard disk built-in. One of the nice things about these is that what is recorded onto the hard disk is precisely what was broadcast in terms of picture quality. Some of these even allow you to show subtitles or change the audio track between, say, stereo and surround (but only if there were two audio tracks broadcast in the first place).

This is not the case for DVD recorders with built-in digital TV tuners. Even if you are recording to the hard disk drive (virtually all DVD recordings have a hard disk built-in), these are designed to process the video so that it conforms to the quality necessary for whatever recording time you have selected. So, for example, most recorders have an ‘SP’ mode, which provides for two hours of the video fitting onto a single-layer recordable DVD. This does reduce the picture quality, but only very slightly if you use the SP or XP (60 minutes per disc) modes.

Now the reason we consider these methods only adequate if because there is no provision for high definition recording. The majority of DVD recorders do not have HDTV receivers built-in because DVDs don’t support high definition. Those which do – and there was only one model at the time of writing – record high definition to the hard drive, but must convert the video down to standard definition for dubbing to a DVD.

So, what’s the best way to time shift? Read on…