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Excellent DVD transfer not only involves using professional equipment, but also knowing that not every VCR will play every tape perfectly during a tape transfer to DVD. This page illustrates the process we used to find the best VCR match for a disagreeable video tape.

A good technician will match your tape with the best VCR to play that exact tape. In addition, a high-quality company should have multiple makes and models of VCRs in its rack – AND know the strengths and weaknesses of each unit. This range of equipment and skill is one of the key differences between professional video to DVD transfers and companies that convert video to DVD as a sideline.

Tapes to DVDs - our test case

For the video transfer below, we tried four VCRs before finding the deck that would play this tape cleanly. Usually, if a tape doesn't work on one deck, a second one will work fine. It's very unusual that it takes four! It's also unusual that this tape manifests different problems on each unit. (But it is VERY common for one VCR to play a tape better than another.)

The VHS tape below is approximately 18 years old. Its multiple playback issues illustrate the need to try different decks during video transfer.

Converting video to DVD: examples

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VCR 1: Jitter
The first VCR we tried was a JVC, one of our prosumer-grade decks that is regarded as one of the best models ever made. It exhibits wonderful noise reduction, meaning that the picture is very clear. Unfortunately, jitter can be a problem with this deck, even when using its internal time-base corrector – and it didn't like this tape at all.

VCR 2: Top-screen tearing
On to the next VCR, a relatively new D-VHS unit. D-VHS VCRs are geared to playing digital VHS tapes, but this model can yield remarkable results on old tapes with excessive chroma noise. The jitter is gone, but instead, we have extreme tearing across the top of the screen. Since the internal TBC didn't help, we move on.

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VCR 3: Flickering
The third VCR exhibited flicker, or chroma flux. When it appears intensely, it is usually a sign of copy protection, but that did not apply to this tape. This VCR was a consumer-grade model that did not have a TBC, which can fix flicker if it is tied to a corrupted tape signal that is confusing the gain control. So, no solution yet!

VCR 4: No problems!
We finally hit paydirt with the fourth VCR, a model from Panasonic's AG line that is well-known among professionals. This unit was able to stabilize the picture (no jitter) and its internal TBC eliminated any sign of flicker. There is a bit of top-screen tearing, but this will be cut off on most TV sets. We agreed this deck was the right match for this tape.

Tape transfer to DVD . . .

When converting video to DVD, take a good look at a video company. Cheap prices and automated transfer will get you the jitter of VCR 1, not the quality transfer of VCR 4.

Not every transfer company will take the time to try multiple decks when copying tapes to DVD, but Timeless DVD does because we want to transfer tape to DVD in the best way possible! Unfortunately, many companies do not even monitor their transfers – everything is automated. That means the owner of the video tape on this page would have wound up with a DVD transferred from VCR 1 – jitter and all!

We convert tapes to DVD at Timeless DVD!


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