Give your VHS tapes the two-finger salute!
Archiving creaky, old analog footage is sort of like flossing—we all know we should do it, but it’s such an easy thing to blow off. And if flossing was the same tricky, three-stage process as converting VHS tapes to DVD—digitize, encode, burn—it’s a safe bet that few of us would have any teeth in our head.
A handful of products, including Plextor’s ConvertX, have simplified the process, but we’ve never encountered anything as simple as Sony’s DVDirect. We hooked up a VCR loaded with a legendary tape of a beloved colleague barfing into a patch of succulents during a Future Network company weekend, pressed two buttons, and the DVDirect spat out a set-top compliant DVD-Video, complete with chapter stops at 15 minute intervals (yes, the stomach-churning episode went on for that long).
That’s so cool it’s not even funny. The DVDirect can do this parlor trick with any analog signal carried on a composite or S-Video cable—from your camcorder, VCR, or television—with its composite or S-Video inputs, as long as the source doesn’t use CGMS or Macrovision copy protection (that includes most commercial VHS tapes). It will automatically begin recording as soon as it detects a signal, and at the lowest quality setting, you can pack up to 12 hours on a single DVD. You can specify the chapter-stop intervals, and even whether to make the disc play automatically when dropped into a set-top player.
Connect the DVDirect to a PC via USB, install the bundled Nero software, and you’ve got a DVD burner capable of writing at 16x to DVD+R media rated for that speed, and at 8x to DVD-R media (if you can find it—no one could supply us with any at press time). At 16x, we wrote 4.25GB to a disc in six minutes flat. Burning 8GB to double-layer media came in a brisk 43:11 (min:sec)--so there are no issues with speed on this drive. The DVDirect would not, however, burn at speeds in excess of what the media was rated for.
If you don’t already have a DVD burner, chances are it’s because you’ve been waiting for a drive like the DVDirect: one that makes converting analog sources to DVD-Video truly effortless; one that supports disc-burning speeds that exceed what most folks can afford in media anyway. It should be noted, however, that recording an analog signal direct to DVD with this device, but without a PC, can be done only with the DVD+R format. This will produce discs that are compatible with fewer older set-top DVD players than DVD-R discs are. The drive also lacks a FireWire port (yes, we know that creating DVDs from FireWire-equipped DV cams is already a breeze). And the DVDirect was unable to record any of our commercial VHS tapes, not even our aged Schoolhouse Rock compilation. But we can buy that on DVD—not so with our company-weekend videotape, which will now be around for a long, long time. --Logan Decker
+ Copyrights: By far the easiest and most convenient way to archive analog media; fast burner.
- Copywrongs: Doesn’t permit recording of copyrighted material, won’t exceed rated media speed, and very expensive.