DVD players are selling like snow cones in the desert. Americans are bringing them into their homes faster than they have brought home any other kind of electronic product, ever. It’s only natural that people who create videos, whether for fun or profit, should want to produce their videos in this new medium. After all, those with new DVD players love getting discs to play in them; and a single First Class Mail stamp is all it takes to deliver a disc to client or family member. The medium itself is durable, not subject to drop-out or tape stretch. If you buy blank discs in bulk, you can get them for a price close to that of blank VHS tapes.

People who make videos can now embrace a new craft and give themselves a new job title. The activity is called "DVD authoring"; the title is "DVD Author."

The makers of electronic tools have responded quickly to the demand for DVD-authoring applications by providing a range of hardware and software solutions that meet the needs of different types of authors. Specifically, they have piped software and two kinds of hardware into the market.

To run effectively, the software requires fast computers that contain, on the one hand, a means for importing video-typically a FireWire port-and a means of exporting a DVD master-typically a DVD burner or DLT drive.

Hardware options include, on the one hand, DVD burners that must be installed into, or connected with, computers; and, on the other, free-standing recorders that do not. A big development took place between the time we planned this issue and the time we sent it to the printer: a number of manufacturers released freestanding recorders that contain Electronic Program Guides and TiVo-like functionality. You can use these, not only to make DVDs from your videos, but to record your favorite TV programs as well.

In this special DVD Gear issue, Videomaker Magazine’s editors have compiled reviews of the leading DVD authoring software, DVD burners and DVD recorders. We include some reviews that ran in previous issues of Videomaker because the models reviewed are current as we compile this special issue. Reviews of some newer products also appear in this issue, for the first time. Taken together, this collection should provide a good snapshot of the DVD authoring marketplace. Peruse these pages for a sense of the tools available and the features they commonly include at a given price point.

Keep one important question in mind as you browse: do you plan to produce DVDs for low-volume distribution (say for family and friends), or do you want to distribute discs in high volumes? Tools designed for the former purpose typically do not include certain functions, such as DLT output, necessary for the latter. Conversely, if you plan to burn your own rather than sending masters to a duplicator, you won’t need to pay premium prices for authoring tools.

Carry this buyer’s guide with you as you shop. Check our Web site for additional reviews and articles about DVD authoring. Thanks for letting us help you find the authoring tools that are right for you.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.