Thursday, May 23, 2019

No more keepers - recording from digital TV

Digital high-resolution television allows us to see every tiny flaw in the human face, and large-screen TVs let us see them really, really big.  It's a kind of metaphor for the highly technological world we live in: the flaws and cracks in society are exposed, but with greater speed and convenience.  And cost.

Personally, I was okay with a 13-inch black-and-white TV to watch old movies on back in the day.  I considered myself lucky to have a second TV in the house when somebody else wanted to watch football.  When VCRs came out -- any old movie fan of a certain age will tell you that was nirvana.  I could collect my favorite movies and keep them "forever."  No more waiting for Christmas to watch White Christmas.  Then DVD, and the AMC and TCM channels and it seemed like the world was your oyster.

Now we have entered a Twilight Zone world where one cannot record off digital TV without a DVR. It is another sign of our growing service economy, where we do not own; we rent. A DVR is very convenient to use, but it is just another monthly bill to surmount.  We cannot own our favorites "forever" anymore, and we have a limited number we can keep at one time, and recording anything off TV has become a decision of what do I want to jettison to catch this program for watching later?

For those of you who have become curators of your own classic film libraries, what is your reaction to discovering a rarity on the lineup of TCM and not being able to record it if you don't have DVR, or if your DVR is getting a little full?  Wait for the entire "Joe McDoakes" series of shorts to come out on Blu-ray?  (Okay, bad example.  Nobody kills themselves scrambling to record Joe McDoakes.)

I wonder if there is more purchasing of titles on DVD and Blu-ray, or renting, or other services like Netflix?  In using Internet services, are you concerned that your movie choices will ultimately be tracked and not just for advertising purposes?  ("Watch this lady, Agent Smith -- she's seen White Christmas six times this month.  Must be a radical.  Keep an eye her.")

Do you feel as classic film fans this has reduced your autonomy, obviously your anonymity, if not your options?

What do you think about this, and what do you do?


Pete Salisbury said...

Last thing I recorded on my VCR was an Under The Dome first season episode but never watched it. My cable company has gone all digital so my signal now must go through the cable box first. Pretty sure I could run that signal through my VCR and record a show. Am I wrong?

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Not if you have digital and you go through an HDMI cord from your cable box to your (newer) TV. Analog should still work, I think, but may not let you record off TCM, which now has pretty much all its programming encrypted.

John Greco said...

I have not recorded on a dvd or vhs (still have one!) in years and was completely unaware that TCM encrypted its films. Today, for me, it’s the DVR. Most films, TV shows, etc I record and delete. There are a few rare films I have been keeping. When I need to search for something to delete, I generally find a film that I ask myself why have I been keeping this? Streaming services seem to be the future, at least until something else comes along. As for Big Brother tracking what we watch, that’s becoming more and more so in every aspect of our lives.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Pretty soon we're going to have to rent our food.

Caftan Woman said...

I treat my PVR (as it is called here) like my DVD library. The capacity is always near the top and I will never catch up. There is a certain convenience, but every time I erase something I feel a sense of loss. I much prefer my physical media. In that way, I am like my son whose collection of videos and DVDs probably rival the Academy's.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I know your son is a big Disney fan, and that brings to mind Disney's strategy as regards releasing its features to the home market, which was sparingly, something like on a ten-year basis, and then removed from circulation again. As I understand it, Disney is moving towards streaming later this year and will no longer be issuing physical media. Somebody let me know if I'm wrong about that.

Laura said...

Hmmmm, I didn't realize some people were having trouble recording TCM. I transfer all my TCM recordings from my DVR to DVD-R discs to keep permanently.

My big problem -- and worry -- is the unexpected disappearance of DVD-R recorders. When my recorder died last fall I had to resort to buying one used, and it wasn't cheap ($400). The first one I bought appeared to be dying and had to be returned; the second one seems to be OK (knock on the proverbial wood). I will anticipate buying a backup this year.

If I had to, I still have a VCR and enough blank tapes (or tapes with movies I can record over due to format upgrades) to last me a while, but that seems like such a step backwards! I'm baffled by the disappearance of new affordable recorders -- even if there isn't as much of a demand due to DVRs and streaming, you'd think there would still be a niche market of them for people like me. I take comfort in the fact that if the day approaches I can no longer record, my existing library could keep me busy for *years* (and then I could start all over again LOL) -- but still. I want to be able to record what I want to play back when I want...streaming is fun as occasional "dessert" but day in, day out I'm all about physical media.

Best wishes,

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Hi Laura. I didn't know that purchasing new DVD recorders is getting difficult. Like you, I would assume there is still a demand for them. But yes, I can't record from DVD and can't transfer a DVR recording to DVD since my system got tweaked by the cable guy recently to supposedly make it worse for my convenience. Oh, happy day. As for keeping on permanent media, I would suggest that there's more than programming we like to keep -- for instance, if your child or family member is featured on a local news interview or parade, or whatever and you want to keep the video, you won't be able to do that. Like you, I still have a VCR too.

Laura said...

Hi Jacqueline,

Don't know if our cable system hasn't encrypted things yet or what, but at least I can still transfer the DVR recordings to DVD-R as long as I have a working recorder!

You're so right about the problems with recording being prohibited going beyond programming -- for instance, I have recordings of our daughter marching in the Rose Parade with her college band a few years ago, and I recorded our other daughter's TV appearances when she was doing background extra work and made a "reel" of her scenes I could share with the grandparents. I'd hate not to be able to record things like that in the future! I hope things will change up again to be more recording friendly but I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Best wishes,

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I'm glad you can still transfer to DVD. There's a lot of change going on, and it's difficult to keep up with it.

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