We cover lots of cool DVD gear and software in this magazine, but feedback from our readers reveals that while you love reading about all of this fancy technology, most of you just want to put your home movies on DVD. You aren’t really interested in capturing, editing, authoring and burning, except as a means to an end. The easiest solution would be to get a standalone VCR-replacement DVD burner for video to DVD transfer. HP has another solution: the DVD Movie Writer dc3000. This external DVD drive is a great solution if you have a computer with a USB 2.0 port and analog video sources you want to put on DVD.
The Essence of Video to DVD Transfer
The heart of the dc3000 is a standard HP 300n 4x DVD+R burner that you connect to your computer via a USB port (USB 2.0 is really a requirement). It shows up as a DVD disc drive on your machine, just like any other DVD burner. You can burn data discs as well as CDs.
The essence of the HP dc3000, however, is its analog video capturing and MPEG-2 encoding capabilities. The side of the unit has a standard array of S-video, RCA composite video and stereo RCA jacks, so you can plug an analog video source into the drive.
Firmware for your Video to DVD Transfer
We hooked the dc3000 up to our computer and it immediately appeared as a DVD drive in Windows XP. At this point, we could burn data discs and music CDs. We then installed the included software suite, which is necessary for video to DVD transfer from your camcorder.
After we rebooted, a dialog popped up and automatically installed a firmware update for the drive. Firmware is a small piece of software that resides on a solid-state memory chip on the drive. This firmware is what controls the drive. Your computer’s software says “Burn a DVD+R disc, please,” but it is the firmware that tells the laser where to go, when to turn on and how fast the disc should spin. Firmware updates have been important since DVD technology has been improving and changing so rapidly. For example, a firmware update may allow your older 2x DVD burner to work with 4x blank media (even though it won’t increase the speed of the drive itself). Screwing up your firmware when attempting to update it can ruin your drive, so we appreciate that HP made the process foolproof.
Video to DVD Transfer Action
We connected our camcorder to the S-video and RCA audio inputs on the drive. Then we put a blank DVD+R disc in and pressed the Record button. The Record button actually doesn’t do anything more than call up the Video to Transfer wizard software on your computer. Our first attempts failed: the software would capture video for a few minutes and then lose the connection. The connections on the drive are not very deep, so we checked our cables and tried again with the same results. We can’t say that this was the cause, but it might be that the HP/ArcSoft capture software did not play well with the existing Pinnacle capture software on the machine (and vice versa).
The second computer we tried was an HP xw4100. After a full install and reboot, we were up and running. We ran through the excellent wizard, which walks you through the entire process, from connecting your camcorder to burning. There are quite a few menu templates and variations to choose from, so you should be able to find one you like. You cannot alter anything on the templates except for the title. The next dialog in the wizard has a preview window that displays the incoming video from your camcorder. There is a delay between when you click the Transfer button and when capture actually begins (just a couple of seconds), so you’ll want to practice to get the timing right.
The video isn’t burned directly to the blank DVD. Instead, after you click the Transfer button, the dc3000 encodes your video to DVD-ready MPEG-2 and sends it to the computer. Then, after you stop capturing, the video and menus go back out to the blank DVD. The software inserts chapter markers every three minutes and these appear as thumbnail images on the Scenes submenu. The video to DVD transfer and encoding process happens in real time, which means that an hour of video will take an hour to transfer. After a very short delay, burning begins and, at 4x, only takes about 12-15 minutes. Not bad at all. If you want to put more video than an hour on a DVD, the video will need to be re-encoded on your computer, which will just about double the time you’ll have to wait.
Video to DVD Transfer Conclusion
The drive also comes with a small suite of software for when you are ready to edit a little video. ArcSoft ShowBiz 2 is fine introductory-level editing software that will allow you to do all of the basics: trim clips, arrange scenes, add transitions and create titles. Muvee AutoProducer DVD Edition is also included, which is one of the most fun applications around for creating music videos. You don’t actually need to use any of this software to burn DVDs, but it’s really fabulous that you have the option, which is something you distinctly don’t have with a standalone living room DVD burner.
Although the AV connections were not as solid as we’d like to see and the manual is very (very) light, the dc3000 is a great way to convert your video tapes to DVD, even if you don’t own a fast modern computer or a digital camcorder.
D. Eric Franks is Videomaker‘s Technical Editor.
>Operating System: Windows 2000/XP
Processor: PIII 800MHz
Hard Disk: 550MB
Interface: USB (USB 2.0 recommended)
Video Inputs: S-video, composite RCA
Audio Inputs: stereo RCA
Write Formats: DVD+R/RW, CD-R/RW
Write Speeds: 4x DVD+R, 2.4x DVD+RW
Included Software: HP Video Transfer Wizard, ArcSoft ShowBiz 2, Muvee AutoProducer, Veritas RecordNow, Cyberlink PowerDVD
- MPEG-2 encoding/capture
- Simple DVD creation
- Optional editing/authoring
- Very light manual
- AV connections not robust
Probably the simplest and most complete DVD burning package available for casual home users, short of a standalone VCR replacement burner.
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