Question about a product called "Instant DVD Maker"

I just picked up a product from Comp USA called Instant DVD Maker, made by Topics Entertainment. According to what’s wriiten on the back of the box it includes seven video applications in one easy to use suite.

The application I’m interested in is the DVD maker. Here are the features of it exactly the way it is wriiten on the box:

Creates DVDs and Video CDs- burn your home movies or music videos!

DVD video authoring support

Data CD support-back up important multi-media information

Supports MPEG, AVI, BMP and JPEG file formats

CD erasing and writing

Intuitive picture icons

Step-by-Step instructions

The reason I bought this was because I want to transfer my VHS tapes of TV shows I have recorded through the years to discs. Will I be able to burn these on regular cheapie CD-R media, or do I have to purchase some kind of other more expensive disc? If I do, I want to return it and I know I won’t be able to if I crack the box open. Does anyone out there know?

Instant DVD maker is a software product?

What sort of CD/DVD drive do you have in your PC?

Yeah, it’s a software product. I have a DVD drive and CD burner.

I’m not familiar with the product, but I suspect that it is a bunch of CDR/DVDR recording software; you are not going to be able to create DVDs on your CDR drive, no matter what; it may allow you to create video CDs, using high (=very crappy picture and sound) compression ratios to fit a whole movie on a single disc.

Bummer! The kid working at Comp USA told me it would work on CD-Rs and look as good or better than the VHS tapes I recorded them from, but I suspected he was wrong. Oh well.

You’ll need to get a DVD-burner in order to create DVDs. More importantly, you do have the necessary hardware to digitize your VHS video, right? VHS, being an analog format, is not quite as easy to get into your PC since VHS decks lack Firewire output. So either you’ll need to get a video capture card that can accept an analog input, or you’ll need to use some sort of DV camera/deck as a go between interface into a Firewire capture card.

Certainly, you’ll be able to record movies onto CD-Rs. If you compress at a reasonable, though not high quality, level you’ll probably get about 25 minutes into about 220 MB. Higher quality, with less artifacts, will of course take up more space.

BTW, no matter what level of compression you record them at, they’ll never look better than the VHS tapes you recorded from, unless you do some hardcore editting. This is because the video is already recorded and you simply can’t get more information from it, no matter what you do.

Also, please remember you’re going to need a TV capture card to get the video from your VHS tapes to your computer.

All in all, if you’re just looking to get a dozen or so movies onto DVD or VCD, why not look in the Yellow Pages for a video transfer service?

You want to make VCDs… its pretty easy & most ATI cards come with the software to do it. In my experience, VHS sent to dvd looks just crappy for some reason, but VHS sent to VCD looks okay by comparsion. There have been a few topics on this on the board but then you can’t search for three letter things…

The back of the box does mention making VCDs. Can you watch these on a normal DVD player?

You can watch VCDs on some normal DVD players. It depends on the model. Check for information on yours.

In addition, some DVD players have VCD capability that has to be unlocked with some kind of code/hack. vcdhelp has information on those too.

VCD’s hold around 70 minutes of slightly better than VCR quality video and audio. But, of course, if you are converting from video cassettes, then the quality will only be as good as what you put in. Also, you’ll need a video capture card to process the video on your computer.

Are you sure I need a video capture card (whatever that is) even with this software? It’s not one of the system requirements on the side of the box.

Also, is a VCD made with ordinary CD-R media?

As it happens, we’re about to attempt pretty much the same thing (in our case, with the 20 hours or so of VHS tapes that we have of our kids when they were little).

We decided against the “send the tapes off to someone else and hope that they return safely” option because the tapes, which are worthless to anyone else, are pretty much priceless as far as we’re concerned.

We were about to purchase one of those stand-alone DVD Recorders for $750, but decided instead to buy a new computer with DVD+RW/DVD+R/CD-RW capabilities (our current computer is getting pretty old anyway, so what the heck) and some way to get the VHS info into the computer in the first place.

Buying a new computer with DVD+RW/DVD+R/CD-RW capability was easy (we just selected that option from the configuration list on Dell’s web site).

The good news on the second item is that our local MicroCenter store has a whole display rack of the latter devices, ranging in price from $50-$200. They’re all combinations of hardware devices that you hook up to your VCR/TV/whatever to get the signal into the computer and software packages that will convert that signal into MPEG/AVI/VCD/DVD/whatever formats suitable for burning onto CD or DVD.

The $50 device is just a USB cable with a connector on one end for Video In / Left Audio In / Right Audio In and software that generates movie files of various formats from the input signal. The $200 devices look like pretty much the same thing but with fancier looking connector/boxes and fancier sounding software.

The computer will probably arrive in a week or so, and we’ll probably be ready to start thinking of using it to generate DVDs a week or so after that. If anyone’s interested in the results, I could start a message thread about our success/failure at that point.

That’s because you don’t need a capture card to make a DVD. You just need a video file.

However, you DO need a capture card in order to make a computer video file from your VHS tape. It’s a separate process that happens before the DVD making or editing.

To add on to what others have said here.

  1. Yes, you need some way to get your movies from that tape to a digital file inside the computer. Dazzle or one of the other brands work fairly well. Check is a great site for info, but for the beginer, it can be confusing. This page has some information on specific capture devices that you can use to get the data from the vcr, to your computer.

2)Once you’ve got the movie from the tape into your computer, you can use the software that you bought, and create either a VCD (Video CD) or an SVCD(Super VCD) that can be placed on a regular CD-R disk, and maybe played on your home DVD player. Check here for different players listed, along with details on what you can watch on them. I’ve found that I can fit about 40 minutes of SVCD data on one CD. Depending on how long your home movies are, you may be ok with that, or you may need to split the file into two parts.

  1. If you have to buy a capture card anyway, I’d suggest that you return the software you bought, and buy the card. It will come with software for you to capture your movies to digital data, and programs like VCD Easy are free, and can do the work of taking the video file and formating it to create a VCD. Creating a VCD is not just burning a file onto a CD, and poping it into your player, there are other files that have to be created that tell the player what to do.

I’m currently doing this right now. Although I’m having trouble with the sound input levels from my capture card, I’m more than happy to tell you what I’ve found to work, and not work. Also, I suggest that you start off playing around with a tape other than your home movies, and only working with maybe 5 minutes at a time. Sure you may go through a bunch of CD’s, but you won’t have to sit there capturing data for 45 minutes, to find out that it’s in the wrong format, and won’t work. Remember, you have to capture the data in real time to the computer. Which means watching all those movies again.

I bought and installed a Pinnacle TV tuner and video capture card but the software records with some proprietary codec and not with a general MPEG codec. Any way to record using MPEG?

Regarding VCD, I have many VCDs I have purchased and they look good enough, and I would use that quality to record from video tapes. At 340 x 280 you can record a bit over an hour of TV and it looks fine. I have a couple of half hour episodes on each CD-ROM

VCD specs arecan be found here:

Playing time: 74 minutes 
MPEG-1 encoded video CBR (Constant bit rate)
Resolution: 352 x 240 at 30 fps (NTSC)
         or 352 x 280 at 25 fps (PAL/SECAM) 

Super VCD:
Playing time: 35 to 70 minutes 
MPEG-2 2.6 Mbps average Variable Bit Rate
Resolution: 480 x 480 (NTSC)
            480 x 576 (PAL/SECAM)

To transfer from VCR tape, VCD should be enough quality.

Thanks sailor. Do I need a TV tuner also? Basically what I need to know now is what products do I need to buy to do this. I looked at the prices of some video capture cards and they vary greatly. Can I get a cheap one and still make VCDs and Super VCDs?

As I said, I got a cheap Pinnacle card and it works but the captured video uses some obscure codec rather than the standard MPEG and I have not bothered to look further into it. If you can get a card and software which encodes directly in MPEG then you will save yourself some trouble. I am not an expert in other video capture cards though. I would think that it makes sense to get a tuner card because it will probably cost about the same and you get to watch TV on your computer. Maybe someone can recommend the best cheap card and software for this.

x-ray, a TV tuner is not necessary but you’ll find many capture cards these days include them. Heres 3 very popular cards that will capture to MPEG1 (VCD) and MPEG2 (SVCD/DVD):[ul][li]Dazzle Digital Video Creator. This is probably your simplest solution as you don’t need to open up your computer to install a card, just plug it into your USB port. Plusses: Hardware MPEG encoding which will substantially ease the load on your processor. Minuses: No TV tuner, can’t capture to AVI.[/li][li]Hauppage WinTV. Plusses: Hardware MPEG encoding, TV tuner and PVR software. Minuses: Requires empty PCI slot, buggy with 3rd party capture programs.[/li][li]ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon. Plusses: TV tuner and PVR software, excellent quality video out & DVD playback. Minuses: Requires empty PCI slot, software MPEG encoding, buggy drivers.[/ul]I’ve not used the Dazzle but have heard good things about it. I’ve used both Hauppage and ATI capture cards and have had good experiences with both of them.[/li]
sailor, what codec does you card use? Many cards default to their own proprietary formats, e.g., ATI uses its own VCR format, but also let you choose other standard encoding formats, as well.