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FAQ - How to Connect a VCR, or DVD Recorder and STB

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Updated 2015.03.07. 11,248 Previous views.

This setup applies to a Cable, Satellite, IPTV set-top-box (STB), but is applicable to other STBs as well.

Here's a solution for high picture quality and the fullest possible functionality using a STB and a VCR (standard or S-VHS). A DVD Recorder, TiVo or PC can be substituted for the VCR. On STBs, the composite, S-video, analogue audio connections are active, irrespective of HDMI or component video used for the HD connection.

The following does not apply to DTA (Digital TV Adaptors), since they don't have the appropriate capabilities. DTAs are discussed later in the FAQ:

1. Connect the STB to the VCR or DVD recorder via S-video, or composite video (your preference - use composite (yellow) if you don't have an S-VCR, or there is no s-video connection on either device).
2. Connect the STB to the TV via S-video or composite video. (if you have an HD STB you should use the component video or DVI/HDMI cable instead). (If the STB doesn't have a second video output, you can put a "Y-connector" on the single output (usually composite)
3. Connect the VCR to the TV via composite or S-video. (If using a DVD recorder, then you can use component video cables, or HDMI for this connection for better picture quality) You also need to connect analogue audio (red/white) from the VCR to the TV (and/or Audio Video Receiver (AVR)) for audio, unless you're using HDMI on a DVD Recorder which carries audio and video.
4. You'll need to send the audio signals from the STB to the VCR (red/white) and to the TV. If your STB doesn't have two sets of audio outputs you'll need audio piggyback cables or "Y" connectors for the analogue audio (two outputs to four inputs). If you're using digital audio to an AVR and don't want to connect the analogue audio to the AVR, you can omit one set of audio cables - the ones between the STB and the AVR. Same goes if using HDMI to the TV or AVR from an HD STB
5. If you are going to an AVR, you can replace "TV" with "AVR" in all the above and then connect from the AVR to the TV in the appropriate manner.
6. If you want a digital audio signal for the AVR simply connect that "digital audio" cable from the STB to the AVR (it's simply another RCA plug cable) (if you have optical for digital sound, use a TOSlink cable instead) If using a DVD recorder, you can send a digital signal from the DVD recorder to the AVR. If you have a VCR you can send audio to the AVR if desired via the analogue audio cables.

If you still have analogue cable channels and wish to record those channels, split the "incoming" "audio/video RF-coax" with a two way splitter - one coax to the STB input, one to the VCR input. (use a good splitter rated at 5-1000 MHz, bidirectional) (This step is not necessary for satellite STBs since a VCR/DVD Recorder cannot record satellite without the STB. It's also not necessary if you always want to record from your STB. Since most Cable systems have eliminated most analogue channels, this step can now usually be deleted.) You can now record any analogue signal while watching anything via the STB (not applicable to Satellite, IPTV, or if you're using the cable STB to record full time).

When you want to record from the STB, program your VCR/DVD recorder to, instead of selecting a channel, you select Video1 or V1 or LINE or channel 0 or whatever it is called on your VCR. Refer to your VCR/DVD recorder manual to find out how to select it - usually done when you set an event timer or by pressing "channel down" to get below channel 3, 2, to ch 0. Now your VCR will record whatever channel your STB is on. So if you leave it on channel 201 it will record channel 201. Read your STB manual to find out how to set up a TIMER or VCR timer so that you can record that programme. Not all STBs allow for "timers" You'll need to set the timer on the STB and the VCR. (Some advanced users will use a "VCR commander" and avoid the VCR programming setup, but that's for advanced users and doesn't work if you want to also use the VCR's analogue tuner)

If you're simply trying to record something off a PVR, once you have the correct connections as described above, set the VCR to the appropriate input, key up the programme you wish to record on the PVR, hit "play" on the PVR and "record" on the VCR or DVD recorder. You should be able to see the image on the TV if it's on the appropriate input.

Most STBs will let you record "HD" channels downconverted to 480i. These recordings may need to be stretched/zoomed to be viewed "properly", depending on whether the STB does an "anamorphic squeeze" to the SD output.

If you want to watch and record two digital channels, you'll need two STBs or purchase a two-tuner digital PVR.

If you have an HD STB, you'll need to connect the component video cables, or DVI/HDMI to the TV/AVR.

These instructions are only on how to include the VCR "in the loop". You'll still have to make all of the other appropriate connections (DVD, BD, Game, turntable, MD, Laserdisc, audio tape, etc)

For Analogue Cable - one option that some people utilize is that they use a three-way splitter connecting one of the outputs directly to the TV's internal tuner. In this way you can watch the TV's internal analogue tuner while the other two devices are busy. In most instances, this no longer applies since most cable is now digital.


If the STB only has RF-coax out, then you'll need to use that connection as you did before with your VCR, but tune the VCR to channel 3 (or 4, or whatever the output channel is on the STB) to record the output from the STB. Timers need to be set on the STB (the channel/time you wish to record) and on the VCR (channel 3 at the appropriate time for example) If the STB doesn't have a timer feature (most DTAs don't), you need to leave the STB on, and tuned to the channel you wish to record.

Whew, I don't think I've forgotten anything...

If you're not familiar with the cables discussed above, please see the following post on Cables & Connections:

FAQ - Cables & Connections - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

Want to avoid all this - get yourself an integrated PVR and enjoy - I did.

If you're in/near the GTA and need assistance, see:

57's Home Theatre Optimization - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

Note also that some programming is now copy protected. See the following thread on that topic:

Prevented From Recording to VCR/DVD From Your Digital STB - Please read first post. - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

Please PM 57 if you've got any comments or suggestions.
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One note. The DVDs recorded will be similar to non-anamorphic DVDs, therefore the stretch modes used on your player or TV may differ from what you're used to for most commercial DVDs. For example, recordings of HD channels will have black bars all around them if viewed on an HDTV without zooming the image... The PQ may be better if you don't zoom....
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