I’m pleased to report that my column is generating a good amount of feedback from you, dear readers, with several people asking questions or offering comments or suggestions on subjects I have written about. This month, I’m going to address a few of these comments and suggestions.
Digitizing Analog Video
In a previous column, ” Copy Your Old Videos to DVD,” I’ve written about the various ways that you can take an analog video and copy it to a DVD, including using set-top DVD recorders and analog-to-USB capture devices. A couple of readers e-mailed me to point out a way to capture analog video without necessarily having to buy any new equipment: Use a digital camcorder.
Many MiniDV camcorders have an input for taking content from an analog video source (such as an analog video recorder) and converting it into a digital format. The name that manufacturers give this feature varies, but most call it something like “analog pass-through.”
Basically, if the camcorder has a video and audio input, it should be able to do this conversion–but check the specifications before you buy. The way this works is simple: You connect the video source to the video- and audio-in ports of the camcorder, and then connect the FireWire output of the camcorder to the PC. Put the camcorder into recording mode; launch your video software (any program that can record digital video, such as Adobe Premiere, Ulead DVD MovieFactory 3 or most DVD authoring programs, should do); and then save the video to disk. The camcorder deals with the analog-to-digital video conversion. You can then edit the video and output it to DVD using the techniques I described in my previous column.
Another reader sent me a simple question: What DVD software lets you create subtitles? If you are creating educational or commercial DVDs, subtitles can make your productions more accessible to viewers who are hard of hearing or who don’t speak English.
The answer is that the basic programs bundled with rewritable DVD drives (such as Sonic Solutions DVDit or Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator) can’t create subtitles. To add this capability, you’ll need to upgrade to a professional DVD authoring program such as Adobe Encore DVD or Sonic DVD Producer, both of which can create subtitles on a DVD. Adobe offers an online tutorial showing how the procedure works in Encore DVD.
Making Beautiful Menus
One of my readers is generally happy with the process of making her own DVDs, but would like more control over how the menus look. At present, she is using CyberLink PowerDirector 3, a program that does not allow much control over the final look and feel of the menus: You can choose a template for your menu, but not much else.
Slightly more sophisticated programs like DVD MovieFactory 3 allow you some control over the appearance of the menu: You can add your own pictures as backgrounds; change the font and appearance of the text on the menu; and add your own background music.
However, if you really want to control every aspect of the menu, you’ll need a professional DVD authoring program like Adobe Encore DVD or Sonic DVD Producer. These are the sort of tools professional DVD producers use, and they allow you to create the type of menu that you see on commercial movie DVDs. But beware: This level of control makes these sophisticated programs much more complicated to use.
Doing Dual Layer
I received an e-mail from someone who’s seen some of our recent news stories on the new dual-layer (also known as double-layer) DVD discs, and wonders if he can use these discs in his existing recordable DVD drive. The answer, unfortunately, is no. Unless the drive was designed to write to dual-layer DVD media–and such drives have only become available in the past month–it cannot write to the new discs. This is a pity: Dual-layer media can hold twice as much data, and thus twice as much video content, as their single-layer siblings.
But it’s not just the drives that need to be updated. In order to write to the discs, and keep track of how much data has been written to them, DVD authoring software has to be updated as well. Fortunately, many of the companies that publish this software have already prepared, or are working on, updates that allow their programs to work with dual-layer rewritable DVD drives.