How do you take a movie that is stored on your hard drive in AVI format and burn it to disk so that you can watch it on a standard DVD player? This is an important question for most of us with digital camcorders. Even digital cameras take little movies as well as still pictures these days. You can simply burn these AVI movies to CD or DVD as files to share with friends and family who have computers, but if you want to send a movie to grandma, and she doesn't have a computer, you are stuck. With the right software, making a DVD for grandma is not too difficult.
- Get DVD conversion software that works for you. None of it is perfect. Some AVI to DVD conversion programs might be intuitive and easy for you, but someone else may hate them and vice versa. The best way to find the right conversion software is to download several evaluation copies, try them, and then buy the one that works best for you. One fantastic program is Convert Genius; this program is excellent because it allows you to work with multiple formats, not just AVI.
However, I cannot tell you what DVD conversion software will work for you. I can only point out some likely starting places. Do a search online to explore some of the options. Here are some other titles: Adobe Premier (and Premier Elements), Magix, Nero, Pinnacle, and Roxio Easy Media Creator. I have personally tried these. I love some, and I hate some. Get recommendations from tech-savvy friends, relatives and fellow employees. You can get a free trial and decide for yourself. Do NOT go out and plop down $100 or more for the full AVI to DVD video conversion program just to try it. Once spent, that money is gone. You very likely cannot get your money back later if you decide you don't like the software.
- Some evaluation versions of AVI to DVD are cripple-ware. Cripple-ware means that some functionality is disabled, so you can't tell whether the real thing fully works or not. Burning less than 100% of the movie to DVD is a common way to cripple a trial version. Other DVD conversion software trials expire after a short time or a limited number of uses. In a trial, expect something that has less usefulness than the full copy, but not so little that you cannot get a good evaluation. Some video conversion programs have no evaluation version. Consider these last, if at all.
- Try some AVI to DVD video editing standard features. Most programs will lay out a timeline and then let you open up and drag media files (movies, sound files, etc.) to a timeline where you can string pieces together to create your own movie. The video conversion software should let you trim elements, overlap them, fade in and out and do other transitions, adjust sound levels, and then add chapter marks so you can jump to specific spots in the final DVD you burn, just like you can with a commercial DVD.
Do you plan to put some still pictures in the .AVI movie you will burn to DVD? If so, please be aware that not all the software listed will do that. Does the program accommodate AVIs? If not, don't buy it. Does it handle MPG and other common formats? If not, don't bother. Do you run Windows XP? At least one program listed above requires XP. You cannot use it at all on Windows 2000.
Look at three things: ease of use, features, and price. If an AVI to DVD conversion program is so complex and difficult that you will never learn it well enough to actually produce anything useful, it's the wrong video editing software for you. Whatever you choose must, at minimum, have the critical features you need for your movie. If you do not intend to become an expert at creating movies, you may not need too many features. But if you cannot string together all the things you want in your movie, you should find another program. And if you would never be able to afford the video editing program, it is the wrong one for you. If this is your first attempt at burning a DVD, don't spend too much. You don't even know if you will like making your own movies. I enjoy it, but you may find it to be drudgery, and you may never use the program again.
- Eliminate the AVI converter programs that are wrong for you, and you hopefully have a few (or at least one) AVI to DVD programs left. Choose the best balance of features and ease of use that you can afford. That is your program.
- A word of caution: some video converter programs do a poor job of keeping picture and sound synchronized. Your movie may start out looking and sounding good, but by the time you string a significant number of large elements together, there will be a delay between picture and sound. Your movie will look like some poorly dubbed B-grade foreign flick. Also, make sure the DVD you create will actually play in a DVD player, not just in your computer.
- I really need to point out some cool AVI converter freeware. Download and use VirtualDubMod. It is currently at SourceForge.net. Find it with a Web search. It is a free editor that can trim your movies, clean up the sound, enhance the picture, and convert to different formats. It is not the easiest thing, and you may need to go find some CODECs (Coder-Decoders) to be able to edit the particular movie format you have, but it is very powerful. And again, it is free. It may provide some features that your movie-editing program lacks.
- I caution you one last time to be careful that you don't get ripped off. I certainly have been, and I thought I was being careful. Buy the best program you can afford.