I actually didn’t burn a DVD for this activity, instead I will discuss the process as I have done it before.  This is because my laptop doesn’t do a very good job of burning DVDs (and I’m stuck on it for the summer until our stuff arrives from Bangkok) and I don’t have any DVDs to burn (one of the drawbacks of living on a small island for the summer).

I’ve burned many DVDs in the past, and the process really only has a few drawbacks I can see.

The first hitch that happens is finding software which will reliably and cheaply burn DVDs.  I’ve tried a variety of different software packages and one that I have used quite a bit is called Nero.  Unfortunately Nero costs money, and isn’t open source, so I’d really rather find a replacement, however the feature set of Nero is exceptional, it can handle pretty much any task related to your CD/DVD drive.  I have tried a few open source packages here, and none of them appealed to me terribly.  Maybe someone can give me a suggestion for something I should be using?

The second problem which happens when burning a DVD is ensuring that whatever you are using to burn the DVD with can handle the type of video media you are burning.  There are tonnes of different video formats, including a whole swack of proprietary video formats (like the one my Video camera uses, yay!).  This leads to endless searches for ways of reliably converting the video you have into a format that your DVD burner likes.  Yech.

A third problem is time.  Nero takes longer than the actual play time of the movie itself to burn the movie.  This is because it first converts the video file you have into the proper format, then burns it.  The actual burning itself takes maybe 5 minutes, the rest of the time is spent on the conversion.  I’ve been told that if I have more memory for my computer (I’m at 2GB on my desktop machine and 1Gb for my laptop) that this conversion takes a lot less time, but that will have to wait for a new computer (I’m too cheap to buy more memory for either).

A fourth problem is the fun stuff like title screens, DVD chapters, etc… which Nero does not do a good job with.  The basic template Nero uses for the resulting DVD video is not too hot, it could definitely use a lot of work.

My wife and I have also noticed that we have a problem with the final DVDs we burn.  They work fine for about 5 or 6 showings, and then begin to degrade in quality over time.  We never did manage to determine if this was caused by Nero, the DVD burning hardware in our computer, or by the DVD player itself.  It has been a frustrating thing to our two year old son that “No you can’t watch that movie anymore, because the DVD is broken” or to our relatives abroad who liked seeing our home videos of our son over and over again.

DVD burning is a pretty tried and tested technology, but it is a complicated thing to do for most people, and not for the faint hearted.