Mulder's Guide to Burning VCDs and DVDs from Home Movies

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Mulderator

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It seems there are quite a few threads started with the same question: "How do I get video from my camcorder to my computer and burn it to a CD/DVD?". I thought it would be good to have this one thread to use and "stick it" so that people can just refer here. Also, the following is my experience and by no means exclusive. Feel free to add your own tips and build this thread into a nice resource. As the cost of DVD burners, digital camcorders, and hard drive space has come way down and the use of DVD players at home gone way up, putting home movies on DVD is something everyone is going to want to do eventually. And needless to say, Mulder has a ton of home movies to transfer to DVD! :eek:

You can skip all the detail here and go directly to "Quick Recap" if you are adventurous!

First, for those that do not know anything about getting video from your camcorder into your computer, there are primarily two ways to do it at least these are the two most common ways. If you have a digital camcorder, I would recommend only one way and that is to have a Firewire PCI card (you could also use a harware encoder and/or USB transfer), but I'll leave that for someone else to discuss).


*****************UPDATE --2-13-05************************

I wanted to update this thread because there is finally a product that does a good job encoding to MPEG--an external hardware encoder so this is the method I would recommend:

http://www.adstech.com/products/USBAV702/intro/usb702intro.asp?pid=USBAV702

With the above, you can encode MPEG in real time directly from a VCR or camcorder to the hard drive. With that, you eliminate Step 2 below (encoding to MPEG):

If you have a digital camcorder, this is the same product with a firewire port:

http://www.adstech.com/products/USBAV_703/intro/usb703intro.asp?pid=USBAV703

********************END OF 3-13-05 UPDATE*****************

Here is an example:

http://sewelldirect.com/firewirepcicard.asp?s=google&g=cp2ag2&a=firewire_card_22

I am not necessarily recommending that one--just grabbed the first one I found on a Google search.

That card snaps into any open PCI slot in your computer (very easy to install—just open the computer box and snap it in place). Your digital camcorder probably came with a firewire cable and if not, most of the firewire cards come with them or you can get one at any AV store or Radioshack, Goodguys, etc, but they will be cheaper on the Internet. Also, your computer (if you bought one in the last few years) may have already come with a firewire card installed).

Here is a firewire card that comes with the cable and software for editing the video for $22 so that seems like a pretty good deal:

http://sewelldirect.com/firewirepcicardwithUlead.asp

For those of you who know nothing about opening a computer and installing hardware, you can get help in the hardware forum, or you could just bring it to CompUSA or another computer store, buy the firewire card there and they will put it in for you.

Once you put the firewire card in, you just plug one end of the cable to the card and the other to the camcorder's firewire port and then you need software to capture the video. Any of the video editing software programs that I will discuss below will capture video or as noted in the link directly above, that firewire card comes with software. You probably have a program that came with your computer as well.

The other way to capture video (and you would only want to do it this way if you had an analog camcorder rather than digital) is through your computer’s video card and it would have to be a card that has that capability (most of them do). However, if you capture video through your video card, you will lose some quality because you will be “truly capturing” through an analog device. With a digital camcorder, the firewire card doesn't actually "capture" in that sense, it simply transfers the digital file from your camcorder to the computer with zero loss of quality. So if you want excellent quality, I would highly recommend buying a digital camcorder if you do not already have one.

I should also mention that video files are huge—about 1 Gigabyte for every 4 minutes of DV AVI (that’s the format most of the popular smaller digital camcorders use now and it is compressed AVI). What you should do to avoid dropping frames when you capture (you don’t want to drop frames because it reduces the quality) is have a separate hard drive that is dedicated just to video editing. That separate hard drive should be at least 60 Gigabytes—I recommend 120 Gigs or more. And hard drives are very cheap now. They are a bit more tricky to install so unless you are good with computers, I would recommend getting help in the hardware forum or again, having someone else install a separate hard drive in your computer. You don’t need that, but it really helps to reduce the loss of frames when capturing.

Now, once you get the video onto your computer, I recommend that you have three separate programs--you don't need all three, but I have learned over much trial and error and found it to be the best way to accomplish good high quality DVD productions relatively cheaply and easily.

Step 1--render (create) your movie

The first program is one that you would use to "render" the video and it has neat things like you can add text and you can add effects, etc. The program we used and have been very happy with (researched it a lot) is Sony Screenblast Movie Studio (retails for $99). You can add music and fade scenes in and out, slow them down, speed them up, etc. Here is a link to the Screenblast program:

http://www.screenblast.com/main/content/index.jsp?name=software_main&menuPath=/software/index.jsp#

You can also use Windows Movie Maker, which is free! (I didn't like it near as much as Screenblast):

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/moviemaker/downloads/moviemaker2.asp

*****Edit 6/23/04
Interestingly, Screenblast 2 was PC Mag's Editor's Choice but SB 3 did not fare near as well in 2004. Here is a recent article ranking the top movie editing programs:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1604704,00.asp

Some like Ulead 8 (Editor's choice this year) have a free trial version whereas SB 3 does not, so I would try the ones with the free trials to see what you like--much of it will be personal preferences.

*****End Edit

You can actually use those programs to capture the video as well.

Next, when you are done making your movie, output it to DV AVI using Screenblast.

***********3-13-05 Edit************************
If you buy the Instant DVD-DV hardware encoder, then you would choose to encode it with an MPEG encoder rather than AVI
***************End Edit**********************

Make sure to output it on your hard drive, NOT to a DVD (and don't use the "uncompressed AVI" which is the default on Screenblast--use the DV AVI selection—again assuming your native format of your camcorder is DV AVI). You could actually burn it directly to DVD from Screenblast or encode it directly to DVD format to your hard drive, but I find that the program doesn't encode the video as well as other programs, which I will discuss next.

Step 2--Encode the movie to MPEG-1 (VCD) or MPEG-2 (DVD format)

***********3-13-05 Edit************************
If you buy the Instant DVD-DV hardware encoder, then you would skip this stet!!!!

***************End Edit**********************


There are two types of hardware devices that burn to discs—either a CD burner or a DVD burner. With the first, you must burn in “VCD” (Video CD) format. That is not as good quality as a DVD and some DVD players will not play VCDs. I recommend that you use a DVD burner—if you do not have one, (you can get them for $100 or so now and they are pretty easy to install in your computer (just pull out the CD burner and connect the same cables to the DVD burner and if you are using Windows 2000 or XP, it should be no problem being recognized automatically). But again, you could buy it at a computer store and have them install it for you.

The "encoding" is what is done to the AVI file to make it compatible for burning to a VCD or DVD. The DV AVI is "encoded" (compressed even more than DV AVI) to MPEG-1 (VCD) or MPEG-2 (DVD) format. Good programs for encoding to MPEG are:

Cinema Craft Basic Encoder ($58) (the best quality)

http://www.visiblelight.com/mall/productview.aspx?cat=201&pid=7

TEMPenc3.0 Express Encoder (also $58) (very slow but very good quality).

http://www.pegasys-inc.com/en/product/te3xp.html

or MainConcept MPEG Encoder ($108) (very fast, but a little less quality then the others)

http://www.mainconcept.com/mpeg_encoder.shtml

All of the above are very good quality--TEMPenc Express has the best user interface and easiest to understand, but it is the slowest of the three. Cinemacraft is probably the best quality result, but the other two are very close.

You take the DV AVI file you just created with Screenblast (i.e., your finished movie) and use one of the above programs to "encode" it to VCD or DVD format (i.e., MPEG-1 or MPEG-2). There are basically two formats that have to do with television standards in countries. Most of you will use "NTSC" and should choose that standard to encode your video. Some of you in other countries outside North America will use PAL. Here is a link for more information and a list of countries that use PAL.

As a side note, as mentioned above, you could also use a hardware encoder, which is another card that you'd have to install in your computer. That would encode the video as its coming in from your camcorder. I'll leave that for someone else to discuss because I don't use a hardware encoder. The advantage is it is much faster than a software encoder and doesn't make heavy use of computer resources.

Step 3--Create DVD menus and burn the DVD

Finally, you need what is called a DVD authoring program. That program is what you use to take movies you've encoded and then create nice menus like on commercial DVDs. For example, you might make three different movies on Screenblast, then encode them to three separate MPEG files, then use the DVD authoring program to create a menu that appears on the DVD to then select which movie you want to watch and burn all three to the one DVD. So your finished DVD starts with a first menu allowing you to select however many movies you've put on that DVD. This is good because DVDs are large (4.7 Gigs) and most people make shorter vinets of their home movies rather than long marathons that can get boring (not to mention how large the file would get). So I recommend making smaller movies up to about 20 minutes maximum. You might, for example, burn 5 to 10 smaller movies on one DVD using a DVD authoring program to burn them all in one shot and create menus to select them (typically you can get about 60 plus minutes on a standard one-sided DVD). You can even create chapter markers to move around in the video just like in DVDs you rent.

The DVD authoring program I use is ULead DVD Movie Factory [retails for $99]

http://www.ulead.com/dmf/runme.htm (Screenblast also comes with one called "Sonic MyDVD" which I did not like as much, but it eliminates the need for buying a separate DVD authoring program).

Now keep in mind that you don't actually need all these programs, but you will find that the movie production programs such as Screenblast do not do as good a job at encoding to MPEG format as the programs I listed, so you get better quality movies using a good encoder. And Screenblast (or other movie production program) typically does not do DVD authoring (which allows you to create menus. If you want, you could just take the DV AVI file from your camcorder and capture the video directly into Ulead DVD Movie Factory and it would also encode it and burn it directly to DVD (in that case, that is the only program you would need). But again, Movie Factory is not as good an MPEG encoder and you cannot do many of the editing things you can do with Screenblast.

All of the programs (except Screenblast) I listed have the option to try them before you buy them, so go ahead and do that (but remember you only need one of the MPEG encoders, either Cinemacraft, TEMPenc, or Mainconcept, but NOT all three, but you can certainly try all three). You can download Windows Movie Maker to use instead of Screenblast to try out the system. If you follow the format I gave you above (which I've learned by much trial and error) you will be very satisfied with the end product and your relatives will be envious of your high quality DVD movies!

It is not really as difficult as it seems. But as with most things in life, the reward comes from the struggle and if you follow the above steps, you will be VERY satisfied with the results and will be able to make your own high quality DVDs or VCDs. Download and install the trial versions of Windows Movie Maker, TEMPenc3.0 Express Encoder (because it has the easiest user interface and does not add any watermarks) and Ulead DVD Movie Factory and go ahead and follow the steps 1 to 3 and see how you like it. It is well worth the $260 or so for the three programs. You can probably find those programs even cheaper from secondary wholesalers on the Internet and possibly do it all for much less.

Quick Re-Cap to try system

1. Download Windows Movie Maker--it's the only free one or the trial version of Ulead VideoStudio (I like Screenblast better, but there is not a trial version) to transfer your video from camcorder to your computer (remember you need a firewire card or video card that will capture) and render your movie to AVI file on the hard drive.

2. Download the trial version of TEMPenc3.0 Express Encoder and encode your AVI file to MPEG-1 (for VCD) or MPEG-2 for DVD. Most of you will use the NTSC format rather than PAL (Some countries will use PAL).

3. Download the trial version of ULead DVD Movie Factory to take the MPEG file you created above and burn it to VCD or DVD.
 
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Nice job Mulder! ;)

The only thing I would add is to keep in mind that DVD players will only play VCDs and/or DVD-Rs if the player states that it does. Do not assume that if your player refuses it, it must be the disk.

Also, you may want to create and hold on to an AVI version of the final project in case you want to then create generic PC versions of your movies or highly compressed .WMV's for posting on the internet, the AVI will be a good quality version and minimize the chance of suffering quality degradation.

Again, great post Mulder!

MBN
 
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Hi Mulder

You have made the most useful guide I have so far seen on my search to learn digital video. Thank you very much. I am registering to ask you a few questions. Hope you will still read this thread.

1. You mentioned that you prefer screenblast over WMM2. This is the first time I come across screenblast. Can you let me know what makes you prefer screenblast over WMM2? What I like about WMM2 is its title features, which I can't find in any video editing software I have encountered. E.g. subtitle, news video inset, news banner, moving titles layered, etc. I also kinda try out the Primier (but couldn't get it work much, its hard to use for a beginner like me) and couldn't find these useful title features there.

2. The only way to get MPEG video from WMM2 is to save the video as DV AVI, and then encode using other encorder into MPEG. Am I right? Is there any difference in quality of the AVI file produced by WMM2 and screenblast, and also other AVI encorder (may be using VirtualDub, etc)? I am not sure what AVI encorder does WMM2 use. Is it standard item in all software producing DV AVI?

3. Is there anyway to directly use CinemaCraft Encorder from within the WMM2 or screenblast?

4. Why do you call it as "render" instead of "editing"?

Hope this post is not too long and hope to hear your reply. Thank you.

Regards
owhong
 

Mulderator

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owhong said:
Hi Mulder

You have made the most useful guide I have so far seen on my search to learn digital video. Thank you very much. I am registering to ask you a few questions. Hope you will still read this thread.

1. You mentioned that you prefer screenblast over WMM2. This is the first time I come across screenblast. Can you let me know what makes you prefer screenblast over WMM2? What I like about WMM2 is its title features, which I can't find in any video editing software I have encountered. E.g. subtitle, news video inset, news banner, moving titles layered, etc. I also kinda try out the Primier (but couldn't get it work much, its hard to use for a beginner like me) and couldn't find these useful title features there.
What I liked most about it was it had Wizards that made it very easy to learn. WMM2 was more clumsy and hard to figure out. But again, I think it comes down to personal preference. But Screenblast does not do some things well, which is why I recommend a 3-step approach. Take a look at this article:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1604704,00.asp

Interestingly, Screenblast 2 was PC Mag's Editor's Choice but SB 3 did not fare near as well. Again, as I mentioned earlier, this is my personal experience and certainly not exhaustive. I know Pinnacle is highly reputed as a very good program and I am sure Ulead does a good job as well, but I expect all are better than WMM2. BTW--Ulead Video Studio 8 also has a free trial and since that was an Editor's Choice, I would certainly recommend trying that out as well as WMM2 and any others that come with free trials.

owhong said:
2. The only way to get MPEG video from WMM2 is to save the video as DV AVI, and then encode using other encorder into MPEG. Am I right? Is there any difference in quality of the AVI file produced by WMM2 and screenblast, and also other AVI encorder (may be using VirtualDub, etc)? I am not sure what AVI encorder does WMM2 use. Is it standard item in all software producing DV AVI?
I don't know if DV AVI is the only way to render video with WMM2. I would think that it has an uncompressed AVI choice, doesn't it? I do not believe there will be any noticeabledifference in AVI outputs because it isn't compressed. As for DV AVI, unless your original input is uncompressed AVI (unlikely because its so large), it really does not make a difference--its DV AVI to DV AVI. Although I do not know that for sure. Best thing to do is to try it and see if you notice any difference in programs.

owhong said:
3. Is there anyway to directly use CinemaCraft Encorder from within the WMM2 or screenblast?
Not that I am aware of.

owhong said:
4. Why do you call it as "render" instead of "editing"?
That how most of the programs refer to making a movie (i.e., rendering it).
 
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That's a great guide. I wish I had read it earlier. For the past year or so, I have been using Movie Maker to create home movies in .WMV format and have been saving them to my hard drive. Now I'd like to burn them to DVD. Is that possible? If so, what kind of conversion software do I need? Many thanks.
 
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Hi Mulder,
Thank you very much for the reply. There is one thing I found in WMM that no other video editing software, I have, does is its ability to use IME. I am able to enter non-alphabet characters in WMM but not in Premier, etc. If you know about any software that allow one to enter non-alphabet characters (in particular, Chinese), I would be most grateful to learn from you. My search (months) in this has not been successful yet. A problem with WMM that I am facing is that it does not take in MOV files that I record using my digi cam. I am still in search of right tools for myself. I am trying to get my hands on Screenblast.
Regards
owhong
 

Mulderator

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owhong said:
I am trying to get my hands on Screenblast.
Regards
owhong
I would suggest trying as the top ones: Screenblast, Ulead, Pinnacle, etc, listed in the article above from PC Mag. You can find trials for most.

I am going to try the new version of Pinnacle as it supposedly improved significantly on some of the problems I had with previous versions. I tried Ulead's (the Editor's choice) and didn't like it as much as Screenblast. Again, I think much of this is personal preference.
 

Mulderator

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LeeBerlik said:
That's a great guide. I wish I had read it earlier. For the past year or so, I have been using Movie Maker to create home movies in .WMV format and have been saving them to my hard drive. Now I'd like to burn them to DVD. Is that possible? If so, what kind of conversion software do I need? Many thanks.
You cannot burn DVDs from Movie Maker, but you can use a movie created in Movie Maker and use another program (like Ulead's Movie Maker Disc Creator 3 noted in the first post) to burn the DVD. You see, it is really a 3-step process. You make the movie. You encode it to the format needed for DVD, then you burn the DVD. Some programs do all three (like Pinnacle and Screenblast), but I really think that none of those "do it alls" do them all well. That's why I use different programs for different steps. This is really a complicated process for your computer so you will find that it just works much better split up into different tasks not to mention the encoding programs just do a better job at encoding and that makes a difference in the final quality of the movie. Again, I suggest experimenting to see what works best on your system.
 
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Cinema Craft Basic Encoder ($58) (the best quality)

This is a stand alone product correct? I saw in the system requirements that it was a plug in for Adobe Premiere. Do you need Adobe also?
 
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nice, but still confussed a bit here, If I have a dvd rw, what else do you need? hoow does the camcorder/vcr (like to copy old tapes to dvd) hook to the comp, doyou need a pci slot or something? thanks bear w/ me real newbie when it comes to this here transfering stuff.. thank you ron
 
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