Bits & P.C.s: DVD Recording

A year ago, a DVD writer for your PC was selling for $350 or more. Today, you can find these drives selling for $100 or so. The price has dropped so rapidly that it has driven the prices of CD writers down to the $50 price point.

A DVD will hold 4.7 Gigabytes of data or 2 hours of video. By using compression, it is possible for the disc to hold up to six hours of video. A CD will hold 650-700 Megabytes of data or 74 to 80 minutes of audio. If you compress the audio using MP3 encoding, you can fit almost 10 hours of audio onto the CD.

To play this MP3 disc requires a CD or DVD player that supports MP3 playback. Many of the players manufactured in the past year or so will play MP3 files.

With the price of DVD writers at such a low price it actually makes better sense to buy this type of drive rather than a CD writer. The DVD writer will also write and read CDs, and it will also play back DVDs. Most of the DVD writers include the software necessary to play back movie DVDs on your computer.

There are two major formats for DVDs, a plus (+) and a minus (-). In much the same way that Beta and VHS are not compatible, the + and – are not either. The format was originally developed to be deliberately not compatible with

a DVD player in a effort to prevent piracy. The + format was developed to be compatible with the DVD player.

There are two forms of blank discs for each format. The first is an R or write once disc while the other is an RW or a re-writable disc. The re-writable disc can be erased and re-used up to a thousand times. The R discs sell for about $1.50 each while the RW discs are about $3.

If you do not want to put a drive in the PC, you can always buy a stand alone recorder. The DVD recorder functions much the same as a VCR – it has a TV tuner and a clock.

You can set the timer and have your TV shows saved to a disc. You have the option to select the quality and amount of time that you would like the disc to hold, up to six hours. Unlike videotape, there is no need to rewind when you are finished recording or watching the disc.

The recorders will also allow you to transfer your VHS tapes or camcorder footage over to a DVD. Since the recorder does recognize copy protection, you may not be able to copy commercial tapes. Some of the recorders allow direct connection and control of a DVD camcorder. The recorder can insert chapters in the recording as well as allowing you to edit, delete or add footage to the disc.

The stand alone recorders are available starting at about $300, or less than what the drive was selling for a year ago.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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