What is a DVD Recorder and a Burner?

Magnavox DVD Recorder (top) - Sony Internal PC Writer (bottom)
Magnavox DVD Recorder (top) - Sony Internal PC Writer (bottom). Images provided by Magnavox and Wikimedia

Although internet streaming and saving recordings to the Cloud, instead of on physical media is very popular, many still favor saving their memories and favorite TVs shows onto DVD. Recordings can be made on a DVD recorder or DVD burner, and although the core technology used to make recordings is the same for both, there some differences.

How DVD Recordings Are Made

DVD recorders and DVD Burners both create DVDs by "burning" via a laser to a blank DVD disk.

The laser creates "pits" on a recordable DVD using heat (that is where the word "burning" comes in) that stores the bits of video and audio information needed to create a playable DVD.

Differences Between DVD Recorders and DVD Burners

However, what makes a DVD recorder different is that it refers to a specific type of standalone unit that resembles and functions very much like a VCR. A DVD burner, on the other hand, refers to a unit that is either an external add-on or internal DVD drive for a PC or MAC. These devices are also many times referred to as a DVD writer. DVD writers not only record video, but can also read and write computer data and store it on a blank DVD disc.

All DVD recorders can record from any analog video source (most can also record video from digital camcorders via Firewire. Like a VCR, DVD recorders all have AV inputs, and most have an onboard TV tuner for recording TV shows.

DVD Recorders come in several configurations such as Standalone, DVD Recorder/VCR Combo, or DVD Recorder/Hard Drive combo units.

Another characteristic of most DVD writers is that they can also record video and audio onto CD-Rs/CD-RWs, whereas standalone DVD recorders do not have the ability to read or write computer data, nor record onto CD-R/CD-RWs.

Also, in order to record video and audio onto a PC-DVD burner the user must input the video to the computer's hard drive using Firewire, USB, or S-Video through a video card - this is done in real time. However, you can then copy the resultant files from the hard drive onto a blank DVD disk, in an accelerated manner.

Recording From Different Sources

However, although a standalone DVD recorder can record from compatible video sources (such as its tuner or external device), it must be in real time, direct to a blank DVD.

It is also important to point that when making copies from from VHS to DVD either from an external source within a DVD recorder/VHS combination recorder, this can only be done in real time. The same goes from DVD-to-DVD if copying from an externally plugged in DVD player. However, for DVD recorder/Hard Drive combos, if a video is recorded on the hard drive portion from an external VHS or DVD source, a copy can be made to the DVD section in either real-time or via Hi-Speed dubbing.

On the other hand, it is important to point out that when making copies from either externally sourced VHS or DVD content, or from a DVD recorder Hard Drive to a DVD, video copy-protection limitations apply

Standalone DVD recorders cannot be used to connect to a computer for recording of data files and can only record video from analog video inputs and, on most DVD recorders, from a digital camcorder via an iLink (Firewire, IEEE1394) input. Standalone DVD recorders typically do not come with drivers that are required to interact directly with a PC.

However, it may be possible that some PC video editing software may allow for the exporting of standard DVD video files made on a PC to certain standalone DVD recorders through a PC's and DVD recorder's firewire interface, but, in this rare instance, you need to consult your software and DVD recorder operating manual or tech support for specific details.

If no information is available on this, with regards to a specific DVD recorder, the assumption would be that the DVD recorder in question is not capable of this type of operation.

Final Thoughts

Although DVD burners for PCs are still available as either built-in or add-ons, DVD recorders are now very rare. This is due to restrictions on what consumers can record onto DVD, as well as the preference for video-on-demand, internet streaming, and downloading services.