Hocus Focus: How Recording Modes Cast a Spell on Your VHS Conversion Quality
Have you ever wondered what those different recording modes on your VCR mean and what exactly they do to the quality of your conversion? As it turns out, these settings have a substantial impact on your final video product.

Although it’s the Halloween season, here at the Studio, we don’t want you to be left in the dark when it comes to understanding the process of video conversion. Let’s explore these various recording options to further understand this process and make sure you aren’t left with a horror film of your own.

There are three standard recording modes featured on your VCR, abbreviated by the letters “SP”, LP” and “EP”. “SP”, the default setting for most systems, stands for “Standard Play” and allows users to record content the way it was originally intended back then.  Recording footage in this mode will typically yield 2 hours of content. The second option, “LP” or Long Play, lets you record more content but does so by decreasing the overall quality. LP tapes usually contain tracking and color issues, as well as blurred content, but can hold 4 hours of video. Lastly, EP (short for Extended Play) is primarily used to film long events without the pain of having to change video tapes.  However, the length of recording space comes at the expense of deterred quality and videos recorded in EP tend to be the most problematic.

DVD recorders when partnered with VHS tapes to bring their content up to speed with today’s standard disc reading technology, also have settings that need to be understood.  DVD recording modes are similar to those of VCRs, but there are some differences to keep in mind. First, while VCR recordings utilize different tape speeds, DVD recorders adhere to the same disc speeds. Instead of changing speeds, they use differing amounts of compression to decipher the amount of video that can fit on a single disc. More compression results in more recording time on a disc, but turns out lower resolution content as a result.

A typical DVD recorder can record in one hour, two hour, four hour and six-hour modes. The one-hour and 2 hour options will have the least amount of compression on your VHS content and won’t degrade the quality any more than what is already on the VHS.  When you start to compress VHS content into 4 and 6 hour modes, you will see added footage degradation.  The overall quality of the final disc-formatted video is entirely dependent on the combination of both VHS and DVD recording modes used.  The ideal situation for quality of converting you VHS content would be if you are copying an old video originally recorded at VHS “EP” using 1-hour or 2-hour DVD mode.  This will yield the best quality out of your old VHS tapes without extensive post-production work to enhance it.

While converting video content can be a treat, there are a number of tricks involved. Now that you have a basic understanding of video conversion, we hope we’ve spared you from the terror of low quality video.