Getting help from the experts

By now you should all be experts in all aspects of video/digital video/analog video conversion to DVD.

shamexp8888 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
By now you should all be experts in all aspects of video/digital video/analog video conversion to DVD. I mean, if you don't get it after 13 weeks - well, I don't know what to tell you! Relax - I'm just kidding! Video is a complicated subject, and there always seems to be something new that works "better" than the old software or method you have gotten used to. And, as usual with highly technical procedures, there's always something you haven't taken into consideration to throw your methodology off kilter. I've just gotten used to working with iLife 5 - and now they've gone and released iLife 6! Should I invest the time to learn the update's new features - as well as the money in acquiring it? After all, I've more or less got iLife 5 working the way I want - and it took me long enough to figure out that much. Is investing time, money and energy in the new edition worth the effort? Remember, I'm doing this video work as a sideline, and I don't have unlimited time or financial resources to throw into this project. Ditto for updated or "better" hardware, or any other piece of software; it might be worth spending "X" amount of time/money if the product I am acquiring is going to accomplish the task I need it to. But will it? There are two answers to that question: One is to actually beg/borrow/steal the hardware and software you think will be useful, learn how to use it, and then decide. A dubious idea on all accounts, if you ask me. There's a better way, though - and that's to draw upon the experiences of others who have (or had) the same dilemmas you do, and find out what works best for them. There are innumerable forums, Web sites, newsgroups, and other on-line help centers, with nice, friendly and, above all, sympathetic people who know exactly what you're going through because they've gone through the same frustration themselves. So, to close off this topic of digital video, I'm going to list some of the best on-line resources I've come upon while researching the topic. Hopefully, these sites/forums/groups will give you ideas on how to overcome the specific roadblocks you've encountered. First: I've gotten lots of e-mail from people who have missed some of the articles I've written on this topic. I hope to upload the digital video pieces on my own Web site, ( by the end of the week. The granddaddy of all DV help sites has got to be VideoHelp ( This site covers hardware, software, and methodology for any digital video project you can imagine, with reviews and FAQs on any and every aspect of DV. And it has a search engine. The site is huge, though, and can seem a bit intimidating to newbies - so a good place to start is in the newbie articles section (http://www., which gives you the basics on conversion techniques, all written by dozens of volunteers who have graciously given of their knowledge to the less technically savvy. Also check out the useful glossary (, which gives you on-the-fly definitions of terms you may come across in manuals and how-to files that can leave you scratching your head - such as the term DVD, which stands for both Digital Video Disc and Digital Versatile Disc, as an observant reader pointed out to me several weeks ago. VideoHelp also has lots of great articles on more advanced techniques, specific guides on how to use software we've been discussing (in fact, it has in-depth guides on 300 tools). The site also has a very active discussion forum (, with over 39,000 topics addressed in the newbie section. Another great site for those who feel comfortable with the basics is the scary-sounding but actually very helpful Doom9 site ( The site is actually run by one very knowledgeable guy who is generously sharing all he knows (or lots of it, at least), and is easier to navigate than VideoHelp, as well. All the articles are written by Doom, and clearly tell you what tools you need and exactly what to do with them, step-by-step. The site also has a very active forum with 80,000 plus members contributing tens of thousands of posts on every imaginable DV topic. Another good guide site can be found at http://www.dvd-guides. com/, with how-tos for some of the more popular copying, ripping and editing programs. Also check out, another very complete help site. I mentioned in passing DVD Shrink, which lets you take commercial (non-copyright protected, of course) DVDs and shed some of their "extras" so you can copy them on a 4.7 GB DVD, or a CD (to create a VCD). Besides supplying numerous how-tos on using the program, however, also has an excellent tutorial on how to use Nero to burn DVDs and VCDs more effectively. Speaking of burning, you'll find plenty of reviews and links to programs and DVD/CD products at along with guides on how to use popular programs. Burnworld is a commercial site and is geared to selling stuff, but it does have lots of good information, and the forums ( are worth checking out. Some of the sites listed here also offer assistance to Mac users - but of course Macs are so easy to use that no tutorials are necessary :). However, if you are a Mac user and find yourself in need of a boost of knowledge, check out,, and http://discussions., which is Apple's own discussion site for the Mac and software manufactured by the company (scroll down to the iLife forum section). As far as newsgroups are concerned, there are hundreds, if not thousands, that you can subscribe to. Of course, newsgroups are not Web sites, and tend to attract spammers and other loonies who either very nastily tell you to RTFM when you ask a question, or advise you to take your business elsewhere (as in "that question is off topic here, go ask at alt.whatever). Still, if you're patient, you can glean all sorts of useful tidbits going the newsgroup route, and you'll probably learn lots of naughty words you never knew existed! I suggest using Google's Usenet interface to check out groups before making a commitment to any group; at, click on computers, and then multimedia, at the bottom of the page, or use the search engine to check out your query. And don't forget, when you produce your video masterpiece, to give me a credit! [email protected]