Greg, the different kinds of DVD refer to movies, N.America is region 1 europe is region 2 which only seems to matter now for DVD rewriters installed in your computer. However, American TV operates on NTSC and UK on PAL the difference is the number of lines displayed on the TV screen, it seems you can play NTSC format on Pal systems but not vice versa. If you backup your video tapes it won't improve the quality of the image and if you want to send DVDs to America they will have to be recorded in NTSC format.
I've been recording in dvd for a while (and I'm still learning)for instance, I recorded the Bert Jansch prog. on BBC 4 TV last night so that came through the digital set top box, connected to the computer using PCTVPRO (TV card) the 1 hour prog. used 2.16 gigabytes of memory and to put that onto DVD ( via NERO, with the extra £20 DVD authoring software plugin) will take about 2 1/2 hours.
If your thinking of buying the all in one DVD recorder standalone (non computer) I think you can get them starting from £150 but don't know if you can vary the NTSC/PAL standard.
Hope this makes sense.