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TV/VCR question for A/V geeks

So I'm buying my new television this weekend. The one I was going to buy last New Year's but then didn't because I was saving my pennies for my vacation. My mother's TV set is official Old and her VCR no longer functional, so I decided to give her my current TV/DVD/VCR combo since it's pretty easy to use.

Which means I can replace it with something New and Shiny. I already bought a Blu Ray/DVD player with a wireless connection, and I have my eye on a 32" LCD TV that I will buy this weekend.

My question is, will this new TV work with one of my existing VCRs? My mom replaced her non-functional VCR with a brand-spanking new DVD/VCR combo, and there was NO WAY to hook it up to her newer-model (or older model, for that matter) television so that you could get a cable TV signal into the VCR for recording. I sat for hours last Saturday making sure the cables were all connected according to the instructions, the red/white/yellow wires were all connected according to the instructions, but zilcho.

At best, it seemed to assume you had an "external tuner" (cable box?) which she didn't. And I'm not sure how that would have helped. I have a DVR, by the way, that functions like a cable box. I also have a VCR that has the red/white/yellow audio and video hook ups.

I'd hate to buy all this fancy stuff and not be able to make a quick VHS tape off the television for something I want my mom to see.

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( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
spiletta42
Jul. 1st, 2011 03:42 am (UTC)
You can make anything work through an LCD television if you try hard enough. It might end up looking like a mad scientist's doomsday device on the back, but it can be done. I believe I've bragged about the 1984 Sony Walkman currently wired up to my television so that I can listen to William Shatner read audiobooks on my Bose speakers.

If your shiny new equipment won't play nice with everything, then head over to Radio Shack. It's not the ideal place to buy your actual equipment these days, but that back 1/3 of the store with all the wires and bits is very, very useful. Plus they sell some switchbox thingies for gamers that I find very handy for running multiple VCRs and doing ridiculous things like listening to the sound from my DVD player with my actual television turned off.
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 03:49 am (UTC)
I found a converter that could take a cable from the cable company and you could connect the red/white/yellow wires going to the fancy new VCR/DVD combo, but that only allowed the VCR/DVD to output to the television, not the cable company to input into the VCR/DVD. I didn't find any connector that could do that.

Edited at 2011-07-01 03:50 am (UTC)
spiletta42
Jul. 1st, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
Was it a true VCR, or just a VHS player? I've encountered those.
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 03:56 am (UTC)
No, it had the whole recording schpiel in it--record button, timer, clock, the whole nine yards. It was clearly made to record. But what it didn't have was in internal channel tuner of any kind.
spiletta42
Jul. 1st, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
Huh. That I have not encountered. I think I'm glad I stockpiled VCRs before DVD players and DVRs completely overtook them. To be functional, it needs a channel tuner, else you can't program it to record a specific channel.
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:02 am (UTC)
I'm not worried about programming the VCR myself personally, although my mother would have wanted to do with that VCR/DVD combo that had no channel tuner. I would do all my recording on the VCR manually, with the DVR playing back the recording. Although it would be nice to have a shut off time on the VCR, you know, record and stop and 30 minutes, 60 minutes, etc.
spiletta42
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
I really don't think you'll have a problem, so long as you buy a television with multiple inputs -- the Toshiba is great for that, because they're made to also serve as external monitors for Toshiba laptops.
cactuswatcher
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
I'd look at the specific set model. My set (a Toshiba) is a few years old, but it has separate inputs for everything including the old red, white, yellow plugs. Then you switch devices through menus on the TV screen. If you don't look at the actual TV model you may not find out because the guys in the store may not know. Look at all your plugs and try to see where they'd go on your desired set.

As I recall hooking up my sister's HDTV took some creativity. I had to route everything external including the antenna through a single input device, in her case, a VHS/DVD combo.
spiletta42
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
Mine is also a Toshiba, and it has significantly more inputs and outputs than the Vizio my stepfather bought. Looking at the actual model is a very good idea.
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:18 am (UTC)
My old VCR had the red/white/yellow IN OUT connectors, but i am not sure that's enough to be able to view and record from the new TV (I am going to make sure the corresponding In OUT connectors are on the new TV).
spiletta42
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
You're not technically recording from the television. You're recording from the DVR, the computer, or whatever else. The television need only show you what the DVR is doing, unless the television is the only part of the system capable of decoding the cable signal, and you're trying to record said cable signal directly.
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
So I need to find the right hook-up from the DVR to the VCR and, incidentally, the television, so I can record shows from the DVR and watch them at the same time for editing purposes.

*iz exhausted*

My DVR has cable company connector in and a cable out to the TV and the red/white/yellow outputs-only, which apparently at the moment I am only using for audio.
spiletta42
Jul. 1st, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
Yes. Unless an S-cable is possible, the best solution is to run the red/white/yellow cables from the DVR to the VCR, and then from the VCR to the television.

(Or, you can add a step, and use a gaming switchbox to rotate several devices through the same input on the television, but it's sounding like you hope to avoid that sort of thing.)

Also, the digital vs analog thing mentioned below needs to be addressed. On our cable, all the channels are doubled, so if a device can't cope with the digital, we just click down a channel to the non-digital version of it. It sounds like your mom might not have the same option?
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
Does the S-cable handle video and audio together? Because I have that on a VCR and my DVR.
atpo_onm
Jul. 1st, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
An S-video cable does not handle any audio, it's only video. You run seperate red/wht cables for audio. This format is pretty much dead now, and most newer products no longer provide the connector for it.

Practical options today are either:

*** HDMI for digital connections. This connector also carries audio within the same cable.

*** Component video plus seperate analog or digital audio cables. This format is dying out slowly, but is still used in some hookups. The video passes through three cables, marked Red, Green and Blue. The audio either goes through a pair of cables, usually Red & White, if analog, or a single digital cable, either S/PDIF ("coaxial") or TOSLINK "optical". You can see why the HDMI took over.

Trivia item-- "S/PDIF", pronounced "SPI-diff" is an acronym for "Sony/Philips Digital Interface". The connector looks like a regular audio-type RCA jack, typically with an orange or black plastic insert. Connctions are made to it with a regular 75 ohm composite video type cable.

*** Legacy video connections, such as for old VCRs, camcorders, old video games, etc. are made with a composite video cable. This is the cable that typically has the yellow plugs or color bands on the plugs. The jack will have a yellow plastic insert in it. Audio is carried seperately.

That's about it nowadays. Nearly all modern TVs will have these three connection systems on their jack packs. The other formats are gone.
cactuswatcher
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
Most older VCR's had their own tuners and don't need the TV to do anything but display. The only thing you can record on an old VCR now is off cable, anyway. You route the cable through the VCR to the TV, assuming you can connect the VCR to the TV.
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:31 am (UTC)
That's a big assumption these days, apparently. Everything you described is standard issue for the olden days. Quite a shock last Saturday to discover those really are the olden days now.
cactuswatcher
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:41 am (UTC)
Personally, I'd forget about recording on the VCR any more. Your new TV will be begging for a DVR. The quality of the display of your tapes will be annoying on your new TV. (DVDs will be fine.)
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 04:47 am (UTC)
I already have a DVR that I use to record programs all the time. But my mom doesn't have certain channels on her cable, and I use the VCR to make tapes for her.
atpo_onm
Jul. 1st, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)
I am assuming that you have cable. If you have satellite, VCR hookup is easy.

The VCR does not work properly because almost all of the channels coming in on your cable service are digital. (For example, in my area, only channels 2 to 25 are analog and can be recorded on a VCR. All others-- hundreds of them if I actually subscribed to them-- are digital).

So, what you need is a cable box that converts from whatever the cable system uses to a standard analog output, either with the little round coax connector, or the red/white/yellow cable triad. The cable company provides these boxes. The ones we have here are little things, barely bigger than a cigarette pack. The cable connects to the input of the converter box, and your VCR (or old analog TV) connects to the output.

You will set your VCR permanently to either channel 3, channel 4, or the AV line input if the box has such an output(Red/Wht/Yel jacks).

To record a given channel, you tune THE CABLE BOX, not the VCR, to the desired channel. Start the recording and you're on your way.

Timer recording is possible but very involved. I'd forget it or get a DVR that integrates with the cable box.

Inprovised block diagram:

[CABLE SERVICE]--->[SPLITTER OUT #1]--->[CABLE TUNER BOX]--->[VCR]

... [SPLITTER OUT #2]--->[TV ANTENNA/CABLE INPUT]

Lastly, be aware that some cable companies require you to have a cable tuner box for your TV, even if the TV has a cable-ready tuner built in, as nearly all do. If you do not, you cannot get most channels because they are encrypted and the decrypter is in the box. The TV does not have a decrypter, so its tuner becomes useless even though it can tune to the correct frequencies. This does not change the sitch with the VCR, since that will have its own tuner box regardless.

Edited at 2011-07-01 05:57 am (UTC)
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC)
I have a DVR, which with my cable company, is also a cable box/tuner. I was looking at the book for it, and it does describe the [cable from wall]->[DVR]->[VCR]->[television].

I am assuming the new Blu Ray has another way of connecting to the television outside the above loop. I had to buy a special HDMI cord for it.
atpo_onm
Jul. 1st, 2011 05:48 pm (UTC)
Yep, the Blu-Ray will connect directly to the TV, typically with an HDMI cable. The TV will probably have several of these inputs available, you simply pick one of them.

I have a DVR, which with my cable company, is also a cable box/tuner. I was looking at the book for it, and it does describe the [cable from wall]->[DVR]->[VCR]->[television].

Good. That may solve your problem right there. However, you will not loop the VCR between the DVR/tuner box and the TV-- one output from the box (the downconverted to analog one) will go to the VCR, and the regular, digital output will go to the TV. Parallel, not a serial connection.

If the box does not have a downconverted to analog output, the cable company can probably supply one-- there are lots of different models of these boxes available. Some will output analog, and some will not.

Your new TV should still have a legacy analog video input that you can use to play the VCR tapes if you wish, using the red/wht/yel cables. They won't look very good, but they will be playable.

BTW, unrelated, but IMO-- 32" is very small for a 16x9 widescreen set. I'd try for at least something near 40" Seriously. It's a TV, not a computer monitor. Brand-wise, Toshiba is still my first choice, although Panasonic is fine too.
masqthephlsphr
Jul. 1st, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
It's really a space issue for me. Where the television will go, there is limited area for width, and I will be very close to the set. And I really don't want to move the television's configuration relative to the room.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )