BOOT CAMP 469 (27/03/07)

Video Tape to PC to DVD part 6


We’ve reached the final instalment in this series showing how to transfer analogue video recordings from VHS or camcorder tapes to a DVD using nothing but free software and if you haven’t already done so you now need to download a program called DVD Maker Free (see part 3, Boot Camp 467).


Don’t expect too much in the way of bells and whistles with DVD Maker, but that really isn’t a problem. Its simplicity is an advantage and actually increases your chance of success; it is really easy to use and there are fewer things to go wrong.


If you want to try your hand with something a bit more sophisticated then you will have to pay for it and any of the commercial programs mentioned in part 3 fit the bill. These editing and DVD authoring suites are certainly impressive and give you the option to add extra features, like fancy interactive menus. However, whilst these can be quite eye catching the trick to producing a really watchable DVD lies not with the frills but the time and effort you spend at the editing stage and this is where you should concentrate your efforts (see also this week’s Top Tip).


We are now ready to make a start but I must repeat the warning from part 4 that video editing and DVD burning make significant demands on your computer’s CPU and memory so for the best results your PC should be dedicated to this one task. Modern fast multimedia PCs are actually quite good at managing their resources but all it takes is one brief stutter in the flow of data to ruin the whole process. To avoid interruptions exit all running programs, disconnect from the Internet, disable your screensaver and anything else you can think of for the duration, especially if you are using an older or slower machine.


Pop in a blank DVD and launch DVD Maker then on the opening screen click Setup. There’s not much to do here but you should check that under System ‘DVD PAL’ has been selected, unless of course you are creating a DVD that you want to send to friends or relatives living in North America or Japan. If so then you should select ‘DVD NTSC’.


Click the Back button (small green arrow) to return to the opening screen and select the second option ‘Make DVD from AVI file’. Click Next and a standard Windows Explorer window opens; navigate to your saved movie, highlight the file, click Next and the opening frame appears in the Preview window.


Click the Next button at the bottom and the transcoding process begins. Your movie will now be converted into the DVD file format and this can take several minutes, depending on the length and complexity of your movie. The movie starts to play back but a only a few frames per second so you might think it has frozen but be patient and keep an eye on the time readout in the progress window that appears in the left hand pane.


When it has finished (the preview screen will go blank) you are ready to burn your DVD. However, before you go any further double-check that that your DVD writer is showing in the ‘Drive’ window, if not use the drop-down menu to select it. If you proceed and the drive is set wrongly DVD Maker won’t tell you and you can spend ages waiting for something to happen. If everything is okay click the Next button once again.


At this point you should start seeing a list of status messages, starting with ‘Building DVD Image’, appear in the Preview window. All you have to do now is confirm that data is being written to the DVD (the activity light on the drive starts flashing) and you can go and make a cup of tea because this final stage of the process may also take a while to complete. You will know when it has almost finished because ‘Close Session’ appears on the Status list, followed by ‘Done’ at which point the DVD drawer opens and the disc is ejected. Remove your freshly minted DVD video and check that the burn was successful by playing it back on your DVD player.


Next Week – Office Software, the Freeware Alternative


Part 1 2 3 4 5





Central Processor Unit - the main microprocessor chip in a PC


National Television Standards Committee; 525-line/60 fields per second colour television system used in North America, Canada, Mexico, parts of Central and South America, Japan, Korea, The Philippines and Taiwan



Conversion process, changing a file from one format to another




Don’t worry if your first attempt at creating a video movie looks a little crude, you can easily go back and re-edit your recording as many times as you like, and if you are not satisfied with the quality try experimenting with the various file capture and movie saving options.


From a production standpoint the commonest mistake is to allow your clips to run on too long. Unless there’s something really interesting happening aim to make each clip last for no more than 10 seconds or so. Try not to confuse your audience by jumping from one location to another without any explanation. There’s a basic grammar in movie making and a brief establishing shot – a signpost, landmark or famous building for example -- before each change of location, really helps. Don’t worry if you didn’t include an establishing shot in the original recording; using Windows Movie Maker you can easily drop in a still picture from a digital camera or a scanned photograph, or even an image downloaded from the Internet. 



© R. Maybury 2006, 2107

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