Home videos aren't supposed to look like something by George Lukas; they should look like regular people made them.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Putting your old videos and movies onto DVDs, Part 2

Dec. 23, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   Last week I explained how to take the first step in converting video tapes to DVDs. This week we'll look at the "production" step -- creating actual video DVDs from the digital files we created in the first step.
   The first task is the fun part: You have to put on your director's hat (one of those cute French berets, maybe) and decide how much of your digital transfer is going to end up on the cutting room floor. In other words, are you going to make a big production of this video, complete with fade-in, fade-out effects and a professional-looking menu of scenes, or are you going to chicken out like all the rest of us and forget the "Director's Cut" in favor of a more-or-less direct transfer of your video onto the DVD?
   Let me try dissuading you from the "Director's Cut" approach. If what you're producing is a basic home movie, skip the bells, whistles and fade-outs and just put the video onto the DVD. Your intended audience won't care about all the fancy stuff; they'll just want to see Aunt Bertie winning the pie-eating contest or little Vinnie catching that line drive in Little League.
   Home videos aren't supposed to look like something by George Lukas; they should look like regular people made them. Turning them into Oscar contenders takes away from the homey atmosphere of home videos.
   If you're still not convinced, let me suggest a half-way approach. Using good video-editing software -- that means iMovie on a Mac or Pinnacle Studio on a Windows PC -- you can remove all the flubs (all the shots of the ceiling and barely lit scenes of package unwrapping, that sort of thing). Both programs make this so easy a grownup can do it. You can add a fade-in at the beginning and a fade-out at the end, too.
   But stop there. Don't mess it up with trick transitions or silly backgrounds.
   Next, of course, is the production step. You turn your video into a DVD. Software for making DVDs usually lets you create fancy menus, just like the videos you rent from the store. But the best way to put your home videos in front of an audience -- trust me on this, because I've put more guests to sleep than Sealy ever did -- is to make a DVD that automatically starts playing as soon as you insert the disk.
   Most DVD-making programs should have that option. Sometimes it's not in plain sight -- iMovie, for example, hides the "auto-run" option, so use the Help menu to find it -- but once you've created a sample auto-run DVD, making others will be easy.
   As for blank disks, you have a choice of DVD+ and DVD- (DVD "plus" is obvious, but the other kind is called DVD "dash," not DVD "minus"). Use whichever type works best. (Try one of each kind and see.) Don't use RW disks at all. DVD players often have trouble playing RW disks.
   And, yes, you do need a DVD burner to make a DVD recording. It's one of the most common questions I get about DVDs. If you want to replace a CD burner with a DVD burner, you can find bargains online. Try www.amazon.com or www.buy.com.