S&V Q&A — January 2006 Page 2
ADD YOUR OWN SOUNDTRACK
Q. My wife and I bought a DVD recorder to transfer home movies from VHS tapes to DVD-R discs. Some of them have no sound since they were originally filmed on an 8mm camera. We want to add narration to some of them but the dealer where we purchased the recorder didn't know how to do this and the owners' manual isn't much help. How can we dub audio onto these movies, and what equipment would we have to get? D. Creps New Albany, IN
A. Ian G. Masters says: The easiest way would be simply to add the commentary to the tapes before you dub them. You may have - or be able to find - an old VCR with an "audio dub" function. This lets you replace the audio of an existing recording (or add audio to silent recordings like yours) without disturbing the pictures. A feature of VCRs well into the hi-fi era, it only operated on the linear audio track recorded along the edge of the tape and was notable for its inferior sound quality, but it might suffice for a project such as yours.
Alternatively, you could simply add commentary live as you transfer the films from tape to DVD. Ideally, the equipment you would need would be a microphone and some sort of preamplifier to boost the mike's output to a level the recorder's inputs can handle. An inexpensive mixer would do this and also give you the facility to add a bit of music, although that can be tricky when making a soundtrack "on the fly" like this.
The most complicated way, but one that would yield the best results, is to transfer the films to digital form on a computer hard disk and add the commentary there using editing software. This would also allow you to edit the film itself, if you want. Then you can just transfer the doctored film to DVD, either using the recorder you have or a DVD burner in your computer. Without knowing what, if any, computer gear you have, I can only suggest you consult a store serving pro and semipro videographers. It might be worthwhile setting yourself up in this way if you have a very large number of films, or if you plan to continue editing in the future.
Q. I have a DirecTV receiver with TiVo, and I'm wondering if I can retain TiVo capability without spending $700+ for a new high-def DirecTV TiVo box when we upgrade to HDTV. If I connect a high-def DirecTV receiver to a separate TiVo box, could I record HDTV programs, just at reduced quality? John Neiman Brea, CA
A. Al Griffin says: First, Let's be clear: DirecTV's standard and high-def receiver/DVRs are integrated components - the receiver functions can't be separated from the recorder, and vice versa. That's because the digital signal the DVR records first gets compressed at the DirecTV uplink facility before getting bounced up to a satellite and then earthward to your dish. DirecTV's DVR simply stores programs without applying additional compression. This system is different from a standalone TiVo, which has a digital video encoder that lets you select the quality level of recordings to maximize hard-disk space.
If you're not interested in recording in HD, you could save "downconverted" high-def DirecTV channels on a standard TiVo by connecting the receiver's composite- or S-video and audio outputs to the recorder's input. But why bother since you'll probably spend as much buying a separate high-def DirecTV receiver and standalone TiVo recorder as you would on an integrated HDTV receiver/DVR?Back to Q&A main