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Helproom: hardware and software problems solved

August 2008: your questions answered

PC Advisor tackles readers' hardware and software conundrums. For more free IT support, get live help in the PC Advisor Helproom Forum.

TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION

I work in the ICT support department of a school for children with special needs.

Teachers here use camcorders (both DVD and hard-disk models) to record the progress of their pupils. We would like to create individual DVDs for each student to give to their parents at the end of the year.

However, it's a very time-consuming process to deal with video in this format, and I worry that there's huge potential for data loss. Are there any ways we can transfer the footage directly to DVD, as would happen with a DVD recorder? Ideally, we need something inexpensive, fast, easy, reliable and foolproof. Mark Moseley

I find your question particularly interesting, Mark, because as well as answering PC Advisor Helproom enquiries, I run an education and technology website called EduGeek. However, I'm afraid there's no easy solution to your needs. The process involves taking footage from a DVD, editing and burning it back in a multisession format. It then needs to be finalised for use with a home DVD player.

DVD-based camcorders aren't the best recording devices for this task.

Once the image is burned to disk it needs to be extracted in its entirety to a PC for processing, editing and conversion (if required). Creating a multisession DVD and then finalising it at the end of term sounds like a long-winded way of doing things. It also puts you in the position of placing all your final files on relatively fragile media.

A better option would be to move over to some low-cost solid-state models, such as the Sanyo Xacti range. Using these, you can save the video to low-cost SD memory cards that can be plugged into a PC via a USB cable or by using a card reader. You can then take the files straight off without having to re-encode them.

One card can be used per pupil at little cost. You can then use a video-editing package (many software makers offer educational discounts) to stitch the clips together quite quickly before finally writing them to DVD.

This method offers the additional benefit of allowing you to keep the original footage separate, while the files generated are far smaller than raw footage taken off digital video cameras.

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