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Record HDTV on Your VCR

written by: •edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 7/13/2010

A simple guide to recording HDTV digital broadcasts with your VCR. All you need is an HDTV converter box and an extra cable.

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    HDTV and VCR's

    Since the big ‘Digital Switch’ to HD broadcasts earlier this year, many people said the VCR would finally be obsolete, but this isn’t quite true. My wife is a big soap opera fan and she still uses our VCR to tape two of her favorite shows Monday through Friday. You can still record HD television broadcasts on a VCR, but you need to convert the signal first. In this article, I’ll tell you how to do that.

    A VCR can’t handle an HD signal because the High Definition image is beyond the capabilities of a VCR. A standard television has the same exact problem because its tube wasn’t designed to display the number of lines of resolution found in HD broadcasts. If you have a standard TV and want to watch HD broadcasts, then you need to get an HDTV converter box. Likewise, you can connect that converter box to your VCR and record downgraded HD signals just like you recorded from the antennae or cable box before. All it takes is an extra cable.

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    Hook It Up

    hdtv-vcr If you are using an HDTV converter box along with an antenna to pick up digital broadcasts from the air, then you have an antenna connected to the converter box and then a cable going from that box to your TV. To hook up a VCR, just connect the cable from the converter box to the back of the VCR, then connect the VCR to your TV. That way, the converter box is running through the VCR so that it can capture the signal and record. Even if you are not recording, the signal will pass through the VCR.

    The easiest way to connect everything is with coaxial cable, which is the thick cable that has a copper wire in the middle and screws into the back of the unit. Coaxial won’t give you the best image quality, but it all depends on what kind of TV, VCR, and HDTV converter box you are using. If possible, I’d recommend using component cables or s-video. Anything is better than standard coaxial.

    For reference as to how the cabling will go, click the image on the right.

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    Recording Input

    The final step in the process is making sure you have your VCR set to the correct input so that you can view the HDTV converter box. There are far too many types of VCR’s to cover specifically in this article, so you may need to consult the manual or just play around with the menus or remote control of your own. Your VCR should have a way of selecting which input or recording source you want, and you may need to scroll through those options to find the right channel or setting. Be sure to test everything before you record, because a wrong setting could mean two hours of static instead of the soap opera you didn’t want to miss.