Hewlett-Packard dc3000 DVD Movie Writer

Ever since I got my DVD player and video hard-disk recorder, I've been itching to throw my VCR in the garbage. I haven't done it, though, since I have no other way to play my many VHS tapes - or even VHS-C tapes without using a camcorder. You can hardly slap rectangular videocassettes into the round tray of a DVD player, but Hewlett-Packard (HP) has what may be the next best thing.

Bridging the analog and digital worlds, HP's DVD Movie Writer dc3000 ($399) is a computer peripheral with conventional A/V inputs that lets you transfer analog sources to blank DVD+R/RW discs using its built-in burner. The first decision you have to make is whether to move your VCR or camcorder into your home office or to move your PC over to your TV. I wasn't crazy about using the small video window that the software opens on a computer screen, and I didn't want to disconnect my ReplayTV hard-disk recorder from my TV and cable box. So I found it easier to set up a notebook computer in front of my TV along with the small (7 x 3 x 10 inches) Movie Writer. That way I could preview videos on my big screen and also archive programs from the ReplayTV box to DVD blanks. A plastic base is included if you want to position the Movie Writer vertically.

The software, which includes a suite of applications, will work on a PC running Windows XP or 2000 with at least a Pentium III microprocessor (or equivalent) at 800 MHz. It must also have an open USB 1.1 or 2.0 port. (Plug the square end of the supplied USB cable into the Movie Writer - don't try to use the flatter pass-through USB port around the corner.) Also included are stereo audio and composite-video cables and a blank DVD+R disc. (If you insert a DVD-R or DVD-RAM disc, it'll be unceremoniously spit out.)

There's also an S-video input, but you'll have to provide your own cable. If you're using a digital camcorder, you'll have to use its analog outputs since the Movie Writer has no FireWire (i.Link) port. But it's clearly aimed more at owners of 8mm or VHS-C camcorders than those who've already made the leap to digital video, who are probably already using their computers to edit videos for DVD.

Installing the Movie Writer was simple. Unfortunately, my two-year-old notebook computer has only USB 1.1 ports, which meant the dc3000 would be operating below its maximum speed. But even though I wasn't able to obtain maximum performance, the Movie Writer worked just fine with my system.