Reader How Tos: A System To Convert VHS and 8 mm Tape To DVD


This article is unusual in so far as it is by one of Tom's Hardware Guide's readers. It's a little experiment on our part to see if it is possible to include reader's experiences on the site. So, put your money where your mouth is. If you have a desire to write your own DIY story then drop me a line with a very brief pitch on what you want to write about. You never know, just like Jim Tomlinson, you might get published. Send your pitches to . I won't reply to everyone so, don't take it personally. I won't read long, rambling emails either. Short, sharp, and interesting. That's the first step to get by my initial filter.

Decision To Buy A New Computer

On July 9, I decided to buy a new computer to convert my many hours of aging 8MM and VHS tapes into DVD videos. I believed the state of the art had advanced to the point that personal computer technology could make reasonable (watchable) digital videos captured from analog video sources. But, many questions arose in my mind.

Should I Buy A Complete System Or Bit-piece?

For the last couple of years I had been a fan of Dell computer systems, for both work and home. It had been seven years since I had assembled my last computer from the ground up. Dell made it so easy (and cheap!) to buy a computer system, already assembled, with the software installed, ready to plug in and use (after some minor configuration). And they gave terrific phone support! So I looked at buying a Dell system, and looked hard. But the closer I looked, the more I wondered if I couldn't do better if I bought it bit-piece.

Here is what I knew when I first started: I wanted a fast system to process all the analog video I had and store it on hard disk in digital video form. I then wanted to edit the digital video, shuffle video scenes around, and make my own movies. Finally, I wanted the option of making a DVD movie disc or a CD/ DVD data disc. These requirements dictated a processor with a fast front side bus (FSB) because of the tons of data that was going to flow from the processor to the main memory during video rendering. I chose the Intel Pentium 4 with a 533 MB/s front side bus (FSB) with 512 MB of PC1066 main memory. To accommodate all the digital video, I needed a fast, large hard disk. I would also need a DVD writer, of course, and video capture and editing tools.

Dell offered a system with all of this for $3,800, excluding shipping, handling, and taxes, of course - a very reasonable price, I thought. But their DVD burner was +R and +RW. (Was that good or bad? I honestly didn't know.) The video capture and editing tools were made by Dazzle Multimedia. What were my other choices?

Researching A Bit-piece Purchase

Clearly it was time to do my research. So out to the Internet I went, looking for DVD burners first. What was the difference between +R and -R? Here is what I found out: DVD+R is being introduced as of the summer of 2002; it is to have faster read and write times. DVD-R drives have been around for a while, and supposedly have better backward compatibility with DVD computer drives and DVD movie players. But here is what I really learned: DVD+R drives are more expensive than DVD-R, and they are just being introduced to the market as of the writing of this article. Sony has introduced its DVD+R drives, but Pioneer and Panasonic have had DVD-R drives on the market for over a year.