Capture the video
VideoStudio offers two ways to capture and output the video: the Movie Wizard and a more conventional VideoStudio Editor approach. The step-by-step wizard is great if you just want to capture and output video without fuss: It guides you through the process of capturing the video, creating menus, and then writing it to DVD.
Since I wanted to improve the quality of my video, I used the more complex and more powerful VideoStudio Editor.
My first step: capturing the video. I set the videotape to a point just before the video began. Then, with the software displaying the capture screen (which shows a preview of the video), I hit Play on the VCR and clicked on the Capture Video button. When the video finished playing, I stopped the capture. I repeated this process for each of the clips I wanted to put on DVD.
One thing to remember: you should always use the highest quality setting possible. The software offers a variety of video format settings, and you might be tempted to use a lower quality setting - especially since you're dealing with what may be low-quality video from an old tape. After all, if the video is already low quality, why bother with the high-quality setting, especially since that video takes up more disk space?
Well, low-quality video will end up looking even worse if you compress it again using a low-quality setting, and the amount of disk space you would save is minimal: An hour of video in the DVD format takes up about 1.5GB, while the lowest quality setting would take about 400MB. For the amount of space you would save, the cost in image quality would not be worth it. If you don't have enough space on your PC, you can add a cheap external hard drive.
Edit and transfer the video
Once all the video was captured, I began editing it. Using VideoStudio's Edit screen, I dragged the video clips I had captured on to a timeline in the order in which I wanted them to appear. Next, I applied the Auto Exposure and Auto Level filters to a problem clip. With some tweaking, I was able to correct the poorly shot video so you can actually see the subject. It still doesn't look great, but it's better than it was.
Next, I created the disc. I disabled the menu creation feature, but did want to create chapters. Using the Add/Edit Chapter option, I created a new chapter for every one of the clips that I had captured.
Finally, I wrote the whole project out to a DVD-R using my PC's rewritable DVD drive. The discs I use for projects like this are high-quality Memorex discs, but I'm going to start using archival quality media. Discs like the Kodak Preservation DVDs are made of gold, so the video should still be playable for years to come, long after the VHS tape has degraded into dust.
And that's it. In about 3 hours, I copied several home movies from the fragile media of VHS video to a much more robust DVD. It might take a bit longer if you are copying longer videos than mine, of course. It's not difficult to do, however, and making a DVD copy of your home movies keeps them safe and makes them easier to send to family and friends.
Now, if only I could find all of the embarrassing videos of me out there and stick them in my attic, where nobody but me will ever find them again.