When I purchased my iMac computer, it came equipped with an internal DVD burner already installed. That’s the case with most computers these days. However, if you are working with an older computer, you can easily attach an external DVD or Blu-Ray disc burner.
Standard Definition DVD’s are still the most commonly used format. Blu-Ray technology never quite took off, but is still worthy of consideration depending on the project.
When choosing a DVD burner, especially for documentaries and other long format video projects, make sure it’s capable of dual-layer recording.
A standard DVD can record up to 4.7 GB, whereas a single-sided, double-layer DVD holds up to 8.5GB. For the highest video quality results with the most space, Blu-Ray Discs can’t be beat, holding a whopping 25GB on a single-layer disc and about 50GB for dual-layer.
Even though I’ve never had to buy a DVD burner for myself, I’ve done a lot of research and here are some key things to know.
First of all, internal devices are less expensive. However, they are not portable and can tax your computer’s power. An external device has its own power source and can keep itself cool. Plus, you can move it from computer to computer if needed.
Whereas an internal DVD burner connects to your computer via an IDE connection, an external burner connects via a USB or Firewire port. Depending on what devices are already connected to your computer via these various ports, might be a deciding factor.
For external burners, I highly recommend using a Firewire connection because it’s much faster than USB. (If your computer does not have a firewire port, you can buy one for less than $50).
Again, especially when working with video, make sure to select a burner that can work with dual layers.
Sometimes these terms are interchangeable and can cause confusion. For clarification, a DVD Recorder is different than a Burner.
A DVD Recorder (also referred to as a “Stand-Alone DVD Recorder) is an external device that functions very similar to a VHS recorder. It records footage from another video device (camcorder, dvd player, vhs player, your TV, etc) “as is” directly to a DVD. This is a great tool, for example, if you are transferring old home movies from VHS to DVD. It’s a “dub,” copying the footage exactly.
Some DVD recorders allow simple menu titling and setting chapters, but for the most part, it’s a simple transfer of footage. It saves you the hassle of inputting your footage into a computer, authoring it and then outputting it to the DVD. However, just realize your final DVD won’t have all the “bells and whistles” that come with using the fancy DVD authoring software.