Panasonic DMR-HS2

This was my birthday present this year and at the moment it’s my top gadget.

It’s basically a combination DVD-R recorder coupled with a hard-disk-based video recorder. The built-in HD is 40 gigabytes, which is enough for 52 hours of video in lowest quality mode. In this mode, the picture is still better than VHS LP mode and it’s what I use for archiving frazzly old VHS. With the highest quality mode, you really can’t see any difference between recorded and live.

Why is it a great gadget? Well, firstly, I can wave goodbye to VHS. No more hunting for a blank tape, no more hunting through an obsolete, serial storage format trying to find a bit of free space. If something comes on telly, just press ‘record’ and you’re taping (ummm… or should that be disking?).

Then there’s the DVD-R recorder. Say you tape a whole load of programmes and halfway through there’s one good one you want to keep. What to do? Simple – just edit out all the shite (via the very intuitive divide or partial erase fucntions) and then dub the prog over to DVD so you’ve got it forever. Or at least until the DVD gets too scratched up.

You’ve got loads of functions for assembling your DVD, including choosing the top menu, playlisting exact bits of footage (without wiping any). So, in a pinch, you could easily use this machine to assemble a film from raw DV footage, so it’s handy it’s got a DV-input on it as well as normal video and S-video inputs. Personally, I’d probably still use iMovie for the extra flexibility but where the Panasonic wins out is in its speed and robustness – I’ve not burnt one DVD-R coaster so far. I wish I could say the same of my PowerMac.

I’ve been going through old VHS tapes, archiving across films that aren’t available on DVD and telly progs that have vanished into the haze of history. So I’ve now got my own Gilbert’s Fridge and Smile DVDs.

A truly, truly great gadget!

Oh, and I nearly forgot – the freakiest feature is chase play. This means you can set something recording, potter off to do something for a bit and then when you come back, start watching the programme from the start at the same time as recording the programme until it finishes When I tried this function out, it was as freaky as when I first used a domestic video recorder. It may seem gimmicky but it’s actually very useful.