The Cutting Room

If you've got a camcorder, chances are you've been filming anything you've found vaguely interesting, and you're now starting to wonder what to do with all the footage. Specifically, you'd like to cut out the boring bits and put the rest on DVD.

Fortunately, both goals are easy to achieve. If you have a digital camcorder, all you'll need is a FireWire connection, a DVD-authoring program, and a rewritable DVD drive. You may already have all three because most modern PCs come with them. (Sony calls its FireWire port "I.Link," but it's exactly the same thing.)

If your system doesn't have a FireWire port, you can add one to a desktop PC for around $40 and to a laptop for about $60. Many PCs also come with a rewritable DVD drive; if yours doesn't have one, you can buy an internal one for less than $100 or an external one for less than $200. See the PC World Top 10 DVD Drives chart for details and buying advice.

This just leaves the software, and again, you may already have it. The software handles the process of importing the video, converting it to the right format, and then outputting it to DVD.

Many PC manufacturers bundle software such as Nero Express or ULead DVD Movie Factory SE with their products. You'll also get a similar program if you buy a DVD drive separately. These are usually slimmed-down or older versions of commercial programs. If you want the full set of features, you'll have to buy an upgrade or else get the full program in the first place. ULead's $100 DVD Movie Factory 4 or the $100 Roxio Easy Media Creator 7.5 are good picks.

With all the necessary technology in place, you can proceed in one of two ways. You can either dump the entire video to DVD, or you can edit it, committing only the best parts to disc. The programs listed above can do either.

Just run the software, plug your camcorder into the FireWire port, and follow the instructions. If you want to do more-serious editing, such as adding titles, transitions, and special effects, you should look at a dedicated video-editing program, such as Adobe Systems' recently released Premiere Elements 2 or Pinnacle Studio 10. Both can import the video from a digital camcorder, edit it, and then output it to DVD while giving you access to more-sophisticated editing tools that help turn your home movies into a cinematic experience.

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