Ready For My Close-Up: Making Home DVDs

movie-reel No one in my family is really the type of person who scrapbooks.  We take lots of pictures and video; sometimes we remember to develop the film, but typically the videos and photos wind up in an unmarked box or computer folder, unorganized.  We’re the sort of people who whip things together at the last second and smile modestly when people are impressed, omitting the truth: that last-second is our only way.

For Thanksgiving, I was determined to do something different, something that required advance thought and organization, no matter how difficult that may be.  I decided I would take all our years of VHS home movies and put them on DVD – and not only that, oh no.  This wasn’t going to be a straight, chronological conversion.  I was going to make themed DVDs.  Graduations!  Christmases!  Maybe I could figure out some sort of Pop-Up Video feature!

It didn’t matter that I had never used a program more complicated than Microsoft Paint – I was determined that I would sit down and figure it out, weeks in advance.

Here’s the thing, though: my plot was foiled.  I wasn’t crouched over my laptop, burning the midnight oil and the dust off my VCR.  The whole process was… well, it was downright simple, and could very well have been done at the last second.

First thing I did was buy a video capture cable from Amazon.  One end is a USB that goes in the laptop, and the other has the AV cables that plug into my VCR (and camcorder).  I didn’t have to hook up my VCR to a TV (a relief, since a coaxial cable had snapped off in the decade-old VCR); I watched the videos on my monitor.

Then came the most exhausting step: I had to watch all the home videos and catalog everything.  Many years’ worth of little camcorder tapes had been recorded onto a few VHS, so I had hours of footage to watch.  When I was done, though, I had a neat list of everything on there, with notes, and I could then take a broader view when figuring out what themes I wanted.  It also made it easier later, when I’d rewind and fast-forward to find the clip I needed.

When I had chosen my themes, I went back and recorded the snippets I wanted, using the record feature on the capture cable.  It literally only took as long as it would to watch the clip.

Armed with my clips, I was faced with the most daunting step: turning those into a DVD.  This, however, turned out to be the most fun aspect.  I used Ulead Video Studio, and after a few minutes of poking around I could trim the snow from the beginning and end of my clips, or whatever else I wanted.

Moving into the “DVD” features was even more fun – I started to get into the goofy features, and I added the cheesiest “scene transitions” I could find (my family is either going to think they’re watching Star Wars or America’s Funniest Videos).   My DVD menus have personalized chapters, and I even selected the clip from each chapter that would play on the menu.  This might be child’s play to an A/V geek, but for my first time out I was blown away by what I could put together.

Burning the first DVD takes time, but the copies fly along, so I quickly moved from one themed DVD to another.  And then… I was done with everything I had planned.  Not counting the time it took to watch and catalog the footage, the whole process (4 DVDs) took about half a day – and I know that in the future it would be even faster, since I’m more acquainted with the software.

Now I’m already plotting my next batch of themed DVDs.  Maybe an Easter-Halloween combo!  Maybe a montage of unfortunate 90s clothing!  Maybe I will finally figure out that Pop-Up Video idea!

Best of all, I don’t even have to turn into a scrapbooking sort to do so.

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