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I have about a dozen videos on VHS tape, all of them family videos. They're tucked away in the closet and I worry that they'll start degrading. There's some controversy about how long a videocassette will last; some experts say CDs won't last long, either.

To play it safe, I'm going to keep the tapes, but also burn the videos onto DVDs. I'll do it myself rather than buying an expensive device, like Sony's DVDirect VRD-MC1. I don't want to send the tapes to a lab to burn them onto DVDs, either. I want to make the editing decisions myself.

One device I'm experimenting with is Honestech's $100 VHS to DVD 2.0 Deluxe. The process is straightforward--and if you want--wizard driven. Start by attaching the capture device to your PC via the USB 2.0 port. Then connect your VCR to the capture device using standard RF cables or S-video. Once transferred, you can use the software to do the usual stuff--add titles, transitions, and special effects, and trim out unwanted scenes.

If you already have a capture device, or a graphics adapter with capturing capability, you might play around with just the $50 software (it's exactly the same as the Deluxe version, except that it doesn't come with the USB 2.0 TV/Video capture device). There's a free trial that lasts for 45 days; unfortunately, there's a watermark plunked down in the middle of the screen.

You may want to dig deeper into VHS to DVD conversions. If so, I have a couple of articles for you to look over: Bob Rankin covers the basics in "Convert VHD to DVD"; PC World contributor Richard Baguley discusses the process in "Making Movies: From VHS to DVD."

Dig This: A bunch of people got together and did something wacky at a Home Depot in New York. The thing is, if you see one person do this, you think they're crazy. It's art if 225 people do it. Either way, reading the story and watching the videos is a terrific way to spend 15 minutes. Get started at the Slo-Mo Home Depot page.

A Better Way: VHS to DVD

A reader recently shared his video conversion secrets with me. Bob H., from Springfield, Illinois, says he knows a cheap way to convert home movies from VHS to DVD.

<blockquote>I read your blog and it sounds to me like you're doing it the expensive way (but that's what happens when you work for a magazine and can borrow the stuff for a while [grin]).</blockquote>

<blockquote>I've been copying videos from VCRs to DVDs for a while and my experience is that a cheap, $50 VCR from Sam's Club connected to my video and sound card with composite cables does the job. I use Ahead Software's Nero Ultra, which I know is now old, but it works very well.</blockquote>

<blockquote>I use Nero's best quality settings and get results that are indistinguishable from the original. And if the result is too large for a DVD, I use DVD Shrink, a freebie, to reduce it to size. I've been tickled to death by the results. The renderings from a combination of Nero and DVD Shrink are very fast; in fact, the first rendering that I did was so much faster than I expected that I ran it twice just to make sure that everything was okay.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Just as an FYI--I've used Sonic's $50 MyDVD and I think Nero is the best total package for video. The rendering of the video was very fast, beating Sonic for speed and quality of the video/audio package.</blockquote>

<blockquote>One other thing--I like Nero for audio, especially vinyl to CD and tape to CD. The enhancement options are so easy as to be almost mindless and they do a really excellent job at eliminating hiss, pops, clicks, and crackle.</blockquote>

BTW, we've got a trial version of Nero Ultra 7 in our downloads library; we've also got a review. For prices on other versions, check out our pricing partner.

You can download DVD Shrink from the company's Web site.

Dig This: The Tennis Challenge is a killer.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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