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Panasonic DMR-E30 DVD Video Recorder Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 October 2002
Article Index
Panasonic DMR-E30 DVD Video Recorder
Page 2

Recording and Playback
The Panasonic DMR-E30 performs entirely satisfactorily as a DVD-Video player, with the best video quality from the component outputs that you would expect, with S-Video close behind. The playback quality of pre-recorded discs was as good as any non-progressive player I’ve seen. It also has some unusual capabilities, such as being able to replay a disc while recording something else.

Of course, what sets the unit apart is its recording capability. I tried recording a complete movie to DVD-R, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” starring Murray Head, recorded from one of the less-compressed satellite movie channels onto my DishPlayer’s hard drive and then via stereo analog audio and S-Video into the Panasonic.

It was a simple matter to select the correct input, check that everything was behaving, and press record. When recording in the default SP mode was completed, I pressed Stop, entered a disc title, and finalized the disc – with a DVD-R, this is just about all you can do. Of course, you can record multiple items up to the capacity of the disc and title them all.

The video quality on playback from the Panasonic in SP mode was indistinguishable from the original, which had been recorded from an MPEG-compressed satellite channel (although not one of the really heavily-compressed ones). The video quality was way better than that of any VCR I have seen, as you would expect. Recording in the Long Play and Extra long Play did cause a deterioration of quality and increased artifacts. XP Mode did not seem to offer visible improvement with my satellite sources, but there was an improvement with camcorder input, although this was slightly compromised by the fact that I had to provide an analog feed from my DV camcorder. My suggestion would be to use SP for normal applications.

As promised, the finalization process divided the movie into a series of chapters slightly over five minutes in length, which, as you might expect, were unnoticeable during playback. On insertion into a player, the disc brought up a root menu, which had the disc title I’d entered but nothing else (there is only one title on the disc). You do not have any true “authoring” capability on this machine: for that, you need Final Cut Pro on your Mac.

I took the disc to my other two players. My Kenwood DV-5700 played the disc flawlessly, and so did my Sampo multi-region DVD player. I was, incidentally, unable to discover what regional coding the Panasonic applied to the disc, if any, as all my players accept Region 1 (U.S.) discs. The Panasonic manual tells you what regions it will play back (1 only as supplied), but not what it records. I assume the answer is “all,” which should play on any player.

While I was at it, I copied “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and “Casablanca” to DVD-R from my hard drive, which of course are both monochrome, but again, the picture quality appeared identical to that of the source material.

Recording multiple selections on a DVD-RAM disc showed off the MD-like editing functions, which worked as advertised, producing a disc that would only play on the Panasonic, as expected.

The Downside
What you think of as the downside of this machine really depends on what you are expecting from it. If you’re expecting a box to copy commercial DVDs via your de-Macrovisioned player, you will be disappointed if you want to transfer anything with more than two audio channels, and even in stereo, you can’t transfer audio digitally into the unit – and there is no component video input.

For camcorder enthusiasts, it doesn’t include an IEEE1394 FireWire port, which limits its use with digital video equipment. While the editing capability on DVD-RAM is extensive, there is little you can do with a DVD-R, especially if you finalize it. This is probably a shortcoming of the format, though one would have thought it would be possible to build a proper TOC with manually-defined chapter breaks rather than have to rely on automatic arbitrary ones.

If you want to transfer your camcorder material to DVD, this is a very cool way of doing it, but you will need to do it analogically, as this machine does not possess a FireWire port to accept a digital (DV) camcorder. The next model up, however, does (at considerably more money).

If you want something to replace your VCR, this is probably it. It records video with essentially the same level of quality as the source material put into it, bearing in mind that virtually anything you can input to the device will have already been compressed with a lossy technique. It’s a million miles better than rusty plastic (tape), however, and despite the manufacturer’s (and the pundits’) caveats on machine compatibility, the multi-machine playability of a finalized DVD-R disc seemed pretty reliable to me.

Should you buy a DVD recorder yet? Assuming you have the need for one, the machines that are coming out now and over the coming months will probably offer an acceptable combination of features and price. But start from a position of knowing what you want to do with the machine before you start looking. A DVD recorder is like an audio CD recorder. It does what it does very well, but does it do what you want it to do? If you want too much, you should be looking for a computer system.

So… do you want a VCR replacement? If so, here it is. Want to put your camcorder efforts onto disc, with about as much editing as you ever did to your tapes, i.e., not very much? If so, the DMR-E30 will do well for you, too. If you want to transfer stuff from DV, then you probably want to look elsewhere, higher up in the line.

If, however, you are really serious about putting video onto DVD in something like fully-edited form, you really need a Macintosh and Final Cut Pro, iDVD and the other applications that are making conventional non-linear video editor manufacturers pretty sick right now.

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