This article, "Choosing DVD burning software," is a logical extension of its companion article, Choosing CD Burning Software. The fundamental steps are the same: do a web search and find your options, select the most appropriate candidate, evaluate trial copies, and choose what works best for you. The following steps assume you have read the companion article, so if you haven't, please do so now. Let's briefly review the steps that are the same and quickly get to the specific things to look for in DVD burning software.
- Visit a search engine. Find logical candidates for evaluation. If anything, you will find even more DVD burning titles than you will CD burning titles. A lot of them will be adware for pirating movie DVDs. Be cautious of these titles. Some have embedded spyware. Many are worthless. Stick with the mainstream packages if you are risk-averse.
- Download trial copies. Get an evaluation copy for each title that seems to meet your needs. You have a larger feature set to consider with DVD burning software. Depending on your intentions, you may need authoring software such as Adobe Premier or Premier Elements if you want to build larger and longer movies. DVD slide shows with background music make great birthday and anniversary gifts. Study product features. You may discover something that sounds great that you did not even think about before you started looking for software.
- Do your own hands-on evaluation. Put your trial copies through their paces. Get some cheap DVDs and burn some test data disks and movies. How difficult was it, and did it produce the results promised? Some titles will fall far short of their claims.
- What do you look for in DVD burning software? Here are the things most people want:
- The ability to burn data disks. All burning software can burn data disks, but authoring software normally cannot.
- The ability to make movies that play in conventional DVD players. Most all-purpose DVD burning software will have some limited ability to do this. How well the final result works is questionable for some packages. Try stringing together some very, very large movie clips to push the software to its limits. The biggest problem I have seen with these packages is their ability to keep video and audio in synch. You may need dedicated software for authoring if you have needs beyond those of the ordinary consumer.
- The ability to copy DVDs. Like its companion article, this article is not a piracy tutorial. If you have copy protection problems, it is because the manufacturer wants you to have problems making copies.
- The ability to capture video. This is an important feature if you have a camcorder, and you don't like the capture software bundled with the camera.
- The ability to make photo slide shows. These are for sharing with other folks. You create slide shows and add background music. Your friends and relatives can then play these in their home DVD players. Keep in mind that not all DVD players can play media burned in a home DVD burner. See the paragraph on choosing media.
- The ability to "rip" video from DVD and burn it as an AVI or .mpg. Very little commercial software provides this capability. I have had better luck with shareware titles. You absolutely must try this feature to know whether the manufacturer's claims are true. They often are not. I had to try two or three before I actually found a title that worked for me. Also, make sure that the resulting file can play on someone else's computer. Nero, for instance, can create .mpg files, but they are MPEG-2 format, and not every software package can handle that format.
- The ability to back up your hard disks. DVD backups are quite feasible. Backing up important data to DVD is an important consideration for a lot of people.
Most importantly, buy software that works for you. How is the look and feel? Can you afford it? Does it have the right features? You are much more likely to need different programs and utilities for different tasks when burning DVDs. No one package is likely to do it all if you are really interested in making the most of your burner.
What to do about the alphabet soup of DVD media formats? The oldest format is DVD-RAM, but these disks have never grown popular with consumers, and you won't find many players that can read them. They are useful for backing up data. The first general format was DVD-R. It is far and away the most compatible, especially with older DVD players. All the rest are statistically about the same in terms of compatibility: DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW. The + varieties can record faster in a capable burner. Dual-layer DVD+Rs hold much more than the standard 4.7 GB DVD, but the burners for them are just coming out, and the compatibility is a question mark. The -R and +R DVDs are better for archiving. You can't accidentally overwrite them as you can with -RW and +RW rewritable DVDs.
No one package fills my needs. I use Nero for most everyday use for data and music CDs and DVDs. I use Adobe Premier or Elements for DVD authoring and camcorder capture. I like Magix Video deLux (now called Movie Edit Pro) for slide shows. For duplication, I use the freeware DVD Shrink for DVD backups. I edit AVIs and .mpg files with the free VirtualDubMod to tweak before sequencing in Premier. And I use 1Click DVD to Mpeg Mpg to rip DVDs and convert to .mpg for editing. Do I endorse these products? Not really. All have their limitations, which is why I can't get by with just one.
Frankly, I spent way too much money for DVD software. I hope you learn from my experience and purchase only what you really need to duplicate a DVD. Buy the software that works for YOU.