Beyond the Office [Making Movies: Copying Old Home Movies to DVD - 09/13/2005]

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Ablang, Sep 14, 2005.

  1. Ablang

    Ablang Guest

    September 13th, 2005

    Making Movies: Copying Old Home Movies to DVD

    PC World Contributor Richard Baguley

    Barbara Streisand once sang: "Misty water-colored memories, of the way
    we were." I've always thought that she was referring to the thousands
    of videotapes of old home movies that are stuck in people's closets,
    slowly fading as they wait for someone to pull them out and copy them
    to DVD. But it's not difficult to turn those water-colored memories
    into DVDs that you can share with friends and family.

    Products such as the $90 ADS DVD Xpress or the $80 Pinnacle DVC90
    include most of the things necessary to transfer videos from old tapes
    to DVD: You just need a player for the old videotape and a PC with a
    rewritable DVD drive.

    You can find pricing and specs for the ADS and Pinnacle devices at the
    PC World Product Finder:

    ADS DVD Xpress

    Pinnacle DVC90

    These products are simple to use. Typically, they include a small
    device to which you attach your camcorder or VCR at one end and your
    PC (via USB) at the other. The device digitally encodes the analog
    video from the camcorder or VCR, then sends the resulting digital
    video to the PC, where software from the package captures and writes
    the video to DVD. You can even edit the video before you burn it,
    removing the boring bits and adding menus and background music. But
    you do need to bear a few things in mind during the process. Here are
    my tips for getting the best quality when copying your home movies to

    Good Equipment Matters

    Get the best analog video player and cables you can, and test them
    before using them on irreplaceable old footage. Let's say you've got a
    valuable home video, the only existing footage of a long-deceased
    family member. Here's what you don't want to do: Stick it in a VCR
    that's been sitting in the attic for years, serving as a couch for
    your cat. Because if you do--surprise, surprise--that old player could
    chew up the videotape, destroying the movie.

    Old videotapes should be treated like old photographs, with care and a
    gentle touch. Remember that every time you play a video, you could
    easily destroy it. So before you play an old tape on your old VCR,
    test it with a tape that you don't mind losing. And think about
    getting hold of a better player: Many video dealers will rent you a
    professional-level player that is less likely to damage the tape and
    may produce better results. These players can also be useful if your
    video is in an older format that conventional players don't support.
    You might be able to pick up a second-hand VCR on EBay, but make sure
    that it was well-maintained and serviced before you buy.

    Don't skimp on the cables that connect the analog player to the
    capture device, either: a good set of cables will preserve the signal,
    which means better-looking video and better sounding audio.

    Capture High-Quality Video

    Save the video at the highest quality possible. Most devices that
    capture analog video and convert it to a digital format offer a
    variety of different settings, from high quality to low. The lower the
    quality, the more compressed the video is and the less room it will
    take on your hard drive. But think about this: You're taking what may
    already be a low-quality video image (old tapes produce notoriously
    bad video) and compressing it in the conversion to digital format,
    thereby further degrading the image quality.

    Bottom line: Don't overly compress a signal that is already of low
    quality. Capture the video at the highest-quality setting the program
    offers. If you're short on drive space, either work in small chunks by
    capturing and burning short clips, one at a time, or buy a bigger hard

    You'll also want to write to DVD at the highest quality possible. Much
    like the software that manages the capture process, the software that
    writes the video to DVD will also offer you various quality settings.
    You might be tempted to use a lower setting--again to save space,
    because you'll be able to fit more video onto a disc. Don't do it. The
    highest-quality setting will produce video that is closest to the
    original, and that's what you want. Typically this will limit you to
    30 minutes of video per single-layer disc. However, recordable DVDs
    are cheap--around $2 each--so you won't save that much money by
    squeezing your video onto one disc instead of two, and it does make a
    big difference in quality.

    Use High-Quality Media

    You want to create copies of your movies that will last, so don't
    skimp on the discs that will hold them. Buy brand-name discs with
    decent cases instead of the cheap ones on sale at your local

    Delkin, for example, has just launched a line of DVDs that it claims
    will last for 100 years--by which time we'll probably be able to
    download memories directly into our cyber-brains.

    In the meantime, use decent discs that will last, and store them
    properly. Read Melissa Perenson's January "Burning Questions" for
    advice on keeping your media safe:,aid,119316,tk,box,00.asp

    For tips on picking the best media, plus info on archivable media such
    as Delkin's discs, read Melissa's May column:,aid,120833,tk,box,00.asp

    Archive the Tape

    Never throw out the original. You might think that once you've copied
    a tape to DVD, you can throw it out. But think of it this way: Would
    you destroy your original family photos because you've had copies
    made? Of course you wouldn't, and you should treat your original
    videotapes as the prized family heirlooms they are.

    Once you've copied your old videos, save the originals in a safe place
    so that you still have them if your copy fails or can't be read. The
    Association of Moving Image Archivists offers some great guidelines on
    storing videotapes:

    And when new technology comes along that offers better quality (such
    as the next generation of DVD), you can make an even better copy than
    the one you create now. For the latest news on the DVD format wars,
    visit PC World's Info Center for DVD Burners & Recorders:,ctrid,11,ic,DVDDrivesandRecorders,tk,box,00.asp

    Have a question or comment? Write to Richard Baguley:
    makingmovies at

    Read Richard Baguley's "Making Movies" columns:,colid,33,tk,bo,00.asp

    "People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents."
    -- Andrew Carnegie, 19th-century robber baron
    Ablang, Sep 14, 2005
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