From VHS to DVD

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Create Your DVD

When you're satisfied with your edited movies, you can transfer your finished video into iDVD, customize its menus, and then burn your finished project.

Make the Move to iDVD If you have only one iMovie project to burn, you can import it into iDVD simply by clicking on the Create iDVD Project button in iMovie's iDVD pane. iDVD will launch and begin importing the movie. If the movie contains chapter markers, iDVD will also create a Scene Selection menu with buttons for each of the chapters.

To add more iMovie projects to your DVD, click on iDVD's Customize button. When the Customize drawer pops out from the left side of the window, click on the Media button and choose Movies from the pop-up menu. Find the movie you want to add, and then drag its thumbnail into your DVD's menu area. If you've stored your iMovie projects somewhere other than in your Movies folder -- on an external hard drive, for example -- you'll need to tell iDVD where to find them. Open iDVD's Movies preference pane and click on the Add button to specify the location of your files.

For best results, open your iDVD preference pane and choose the Best Quality option. iDVD lets you include as much as two hours of video on a disc. But you'll get the best image quality by limiting video to an hour or less.

Customize Your Menus iDVD includes several predesigned templates -- called themes -- for your DVD menus. To add one of these to your project, click on the Customize button, select Theme from the Customize drawer, and then set the Theme pop-up menu to All. Choose a theme that best represents your subject. The Projector theme, for example, is great for old movies that you've transferred from film.

If your theme contains a drop zone, add the still image that you saved from iMovie. Simply drag the image's icon from the Finder into the drop zone.

You can also use an image as the background to your iDVD menu: just press the 1 key as you drag the image into the menu area.

Preview and Burn When you've finished designing your DVD, click on iDVD's Preview button to test your disc. If everything checks out, double-click on the Burn button and insert a blank DVD-R.

Note that if your DVD project takes up 4GB of disk space, you'll need at least 8GB of free space (essentially, double the amount of your project) to burn the DVD. To gauge the size of your project, open the Status pane of iDVD's Customize drawer.

For reliable burns, don't use your Mac while a disc is burning. If you're burning on a PowerBook, plug the PowerBook into the wall so it won't run out of battery power.

When iDVD finishes encoding and burning your movies, it'll give you the option of burning additional discs or closing the iDVD project. Even if you're burning a DVD only for yourself, I recommend making additional copies. Discs sometimes get lost and it'd be a shame to have to do all of this again.

Preserving Your Media

After all the effort you've put into importing and enhancing your old movies, the last thing you want is for your DVDs to become unplayable after a few years. Alas, DVD-R discs don't last forever. To improve their reliability and longevity, don't apply peel-and-stick labels to them. These can cause a host of problems, including jamming up the DVD player, causing the disc to spin off-balance, or damaging the DVD's substrate. Instead, label the discs with permanent marker (such as a Sharpie). But keep your description brief -- the solvents in permanent ink can damage a DVD's substrate over time.

Verbatim offers an interesting alternative to plain DVDs. Its Digital Movie DVD-R resembles a film reel (pictured, bottom; For users who want to give their DVD's more panache, Epson offers a line of printers that can print directly onto the surface of a printable CD or DVD (

Keep your burned DVDs in jewel cases, and store them in a cool, dark place. And consider stashing a couple of backups in a safe-deposit box.

And what about those old videotapes? If you're like me, you can't bear to throw them out, even if you've digitized them. To prolong their life, rewind them and store them vertically (like a book), with the full reel on the bottom. Store them in a cool, dry location. Fast-forward and then rewind the tapes once a year.

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