A few more thoughts on the original question which had to do with archiving old VHS (or 8mm) onto some kind of digital media, like CD-R, or DVD-R.
1. The first thing to know is summed up as follows: Garbage in, garbage out.
If your VHS tapes (or 8mm camcorder tapes) look like, well, VHS tapes, converting them to a digital format (AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 etc.) won’t make them look any better. In fact, each of those digital formats uses some kind of compression to keep file sizes down, so they will actually look a bit worse than the original VHS tape version.
The question of which storage device you save these digital files on is irrelevant in terms of image quality. If you save your MPEG-2 file onto a ZIP disk, or a CD-R, or a DVD-R, or your hard disk drive, it’ll look the same.
Where storage device is important is in term of distribution. If you want to, say, send your buddy a “DVD-movie” so that he just has to pop in into his TV’s DVD-player and it is able to play it, then you have to encode the actual video file in the right way before burning that special data to the DVD-R. (For the record, it has to be encode in the MPEG-2 format with a certain bit-rate, etc.)
So what should you do now?
My advice is to wait a bit. There are two new developments which will change things a lot:
A new video file format called MPEG-4 is now emerging which produces the quality of MPEG-2 images, but at hugely reduced storage space. They are still ironing out the kinks in it and no official standard has emerged. In theory, you could fit an entire MPEG-2 quality movie onto a CD-R (or CD-RW) using the MPEG-4 format. Sweet, eh?
The other important development is happening on the storage front. I just read that Pioneer is about to sell a $1,000 DVD-R unit which, they claim, will produce discs that most set-top box DVD players will be able to read.
Ultimately, it would be cool to combine these two improvments to create a DVD disc that can store, say, 10 movies and that can be played on your home TV’s DVD-player.