How To Make Dvds Of Your Home Movies On Your Computer

Instructions for transferring your home videos to digital video disc.

How often have you worried about your wedding video being taped over, or your child's graduation tape being worn out or erased? Everyone knows that video tape is susceptible to erasure and breaking over time and excessive viewing. So what keeps DVD from wearing out or being erased? One of the keys is that a DVD, or digital video disc, is encoded digitally and read by a laser. This means there are no "heads" to read the information on the disc by making contact, as opposed to the video tape, which is read by being pulled against a head that reads the information and translates it into an audio/video image. Of course DVDs can be scratched, but can be cared for fairly easily.

Once you have made the decision to convert your home movies into DVD's, you will need to determine if you have the proper equipment to do so. If your home movies were recorded digitally (digital8 or dv tape), you should be able to plug your camera straight into your computer via USB port and the cable supplied with your camera. If, however, your home movies are recorded on analog tape (VHS, VHS-C, or 8mm), you will need a video capture device to convert analog video to a digital format. This will allow your computer to store the audio/video information on the hard drive and burn it onto a disc.

Once you have determined if you need a video capture device to convert your analog video to digital, you will need to examine your computer's configuration to make sure it can support the hardware and software you will need to complete your task. You will be looking for enough RAM memory (256mb may be sufficient, but 512 or 1024 is better), a good video card and audio controller, and a disc drive that burns DVD's. If you don't have a DVD burner, you can purchase one for less than $200, depending on the features. If you have an internal DVD player/CD burner, you can purchase an external DVD burner and plug it into a USB port, giving you an additional drive.



Suppose you have determined that your computer has enough memory and sufficient audio and video controllers, but it has no DVD burner. Likewise, your video tapes are all Hi8 (analog) tapes. That means you will need to go to your local computer or electronics store and purchase the following:

1. analog video capture device

2. CD/DVD burner drive

3. video editing software

4. any necessary cables (such as RCA cables or USB cables)

5. Recordable DVDs (and labels, if you would like)

The best way to determine what you need is to ask someone who works at the store. It is important that you feel comfortable with telling him or her that you don't know exactly what you need. Tell them what you want to do and what you already have. Be prepared to answer questions about your computer's RAM memory, operating system (such as Windows or Mac), and hard drive memory. If they can't answer your questions about what you need, ask them to find someone who can. There is nothing worse than getting home and finding out you can't finish your product until you get that one missing piece.

One word about video editing software: your DVD burner and your video capture device will both likely come with editing software (read the box and/or ask the salesman). You may, however, want to do more with your movies than what that software offers. While you are at the store, purchase whatever video editing software you want. A good video editor is well worth the money. With a good editor you can cut out those segments of video when you thought your camera was off, add music, text overlays, sound effects, video effects (like negative image and grayscale), and transitions. These little features can make your home movies much more fun.

Okay, so you have your software and hardware installed according to their instructions and you're ready to begin transferring your movies over to DVD. Make sure your video capture device is connected to both the computer and the video source (camera or VCR). Open the video editing software of your choice and find the command or button called "video capture." This should open a window or monitor on your screen which could be black or may show a message stating it is waiting for a signal. If you receive a message that says "device not found" please recheck all your connections and make sure the power is turned on for your source.

Press "play" on your video source, then press the "capture" or "record" button on your monitor. When the portion of video you want to record is finished, press the "stop" button on the monitor, then on the source. At this point, your editing software will ask you where to save the clip and may ask for you to name it (as a computer file). Make sure you place it where you can find it again easily. Once the file is saved, follow the instructions of your editing software to add effects, music, and transitions as you desire.

Once you have edited your home movie to your liking, save it as a movie file onto your computer. Your video software will render it into a single file, which may take a long time. Please note that you can save your movie as an .AVI file, which takes up a lot of space, or you may want to consider an .MPEG format. The AVI is sharper, but it is not that much sharper than MPEG, especially considering this is for private use.

After saving your movie as a file you can burn, you may close down your video editing software, but make sure you have saved your project just in case. Your DVD burner should have come with burning software, which you should have installed on your computer with the hardware. Open up that burning software and follow the instructions. Find your movie on your computer and open it into the burning software. Choose the options you want on your DVD (encoding, menu, etc.) and add your movie file(s). Make sure the burner is on and that there is a burnable DVD in the drive. Click on the icon that indicates "Burn DVD" and let the computer do its job. This may take a long time, depending on the length of the video(s) to burn.

As you become more familiar with your software, you will be able to do more things with your home movies in a shorter time. You will be enjoying your family DVDs in no time. Best of all, your family will be impressed at both the effort and skill with which you have enhanced your home videos.

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