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Who would have ever thought that DVD recording would be so affordable so soon? When I wrote my first book on the subject of optical recording in 1997, a CD recorder was out of budgetary reach for most of us—in fact, I had bought my own personal drive only about three months before! (I had gathered a year or two of previous recording experience, strictly from using a very expensive CD recorder that my company had bought to handle backups at the office.) From the first appearance of CD recorders in the late 1980s, it took a good chunk of a decade for CD recording technology to gain acceptance and hardware and software prices to drop.

Today, CD recording technology is “old hat”—if you're shopping for a computer these days, you'll find that virtually every model has a CD-RW drive as standard equipment. But, unlike the early days of CD recording, it took only a couple of years for affordable DVD recording hardware and software to arrive on the scene. DVD discs can store it all: gigabytes of high-quality digital video, thousands of MP3 audio files, and all of the digital images that a professional photographer can produce in an entire career! (Heck, rewriteable DVD discs are even well suited for mundane chores you've been performing all along, such as storing hard drive backup data.)

In writing this book, I've made a serious—and I hope a successful—attempt at gathering together all of the information that a PC owner is likely to need to explore the exciting world of DVD recording. By the way, that includes several chapters that concern CD recording, as well—things such as disc label printing and standard Red Book audio CD recording—just in case you have to return to the “archaic” world of 700 MB from time to time.

Do I Need a Hewlett-Packard Recorder?

Definitely not! Don't get me wrong, I have an HP drive in my own PC—in my personal opinion, they make some of the best hardware on the planet—but like every title in the HP Books series, this book has been expressly written for all PC owners who want to record DVDs and CDs, using any recorder on the market from any manufacturer. In fact, I talk about specific hardware features in only one or two places in the book, and the recommendations and tips I mention will carry over to any recorder.

A Word About Organization

To be honest, this book makes a great linear reading adventure—but only if you're a novice when it comes to optical recording, and you're interested in what makes things tick. If you already have experience recording basic discs, your recorder is already installed, or you're just not interested in how your DVD recorder works, you may decide to skip the material at the beginning and return to it later. This section will help familiarize you with the design of the book.

The first group of three chapters explains how optical recording works—how your computer's CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive reads files and music from a disc and how your recorder stores information on a blank CD or DVD. You'll also learn how to install an internal or external DVD recorder, using an EIDE, FireWire, or USB connection. I'll show you how to prepare both your computer and your data before you record, assuring you of top performance, error-free operation, and the best organization for your finished discs.

The next three chapters provide you with complete, step-by-step procedures for burning basic audio and data discs with HP RecordNow, along with drag-and-drop recording within Windows, using HP DLA. I'll cover how you can create your own DVD Video discs for use in most DVD players, using MyDVD.

The final chapters cover the more exotic procedures and subjects in optical recording. You'll learn how to record digital video directly to disc, how to use PowerDVD to watch DVD movies on your PC, and how to print your own professional-looking custom disc labels and jewel box inserts. I'll discuss advanced formats, such as CD-Extra, Video CDs, and multisession discs, and show you how to create each one, step by step. I'll also show you how to create digital photograph slide show discs, how to edit your own digital video movies, and how to archive your existing vinyl albums and cassettes to audio CDs. You'll even learn how to design and produce a powerful menu system for your data discs with the same tools you use to create Web pages! Finally, I provide a software- and hardware-troubleshooting chapter as well.

At the end of the book, you'll find a helpful Glossary (which can aid you in keeping track of what strange term means what), as well as valuable recording and troubleshooting tips from Hewlett-Packard's technical support group. Just in case you haven't bought a recorder yet and you're shopping for one right now, I also provide a quick rundown of the features to look for in a recorder—as well as the “Do's and Don'ts” of buying any computer hardware online.

Watch For Helpful Icons!

Before I launch into Chapter 1, let me familiarize you with the special features you'll find in the text:

  • You'll find Tips that I've added to help you save time and money—as well as avoid potential pitfalls and recording errors.

  • Pay close attention to any Caution icons in the text—whatever it is, you should definitely avoid it!

  • Make sure that you have all of the Requirements that I've listed for a project before you begin the step-by-step procedure.

Where to Go Next

Here are my recommendations (don't forget to return later to read chapters that you've skipped):

  • If you haven't bought your recorder yet, read through the chapter titled “Tips on Buying Your Recorder”—then begin with Chapter 1.

  • If you've already bought your recorder but haven't installed it, begin with Chapter 2.

  • If you're interested in mastering the basics of recording and your drive is already working, begin with Chapter 3.

  • Finally, if you're already well experienced with burning audio and data CDs and you'd like to jump into recording digital video on a DVD, begin with Chapter 6.

It's my sincere hope that you'll find this book valuable: I hope it answers your questions, provides an occasional chuckle and—most of all—helps you have fun with your DVD recorder. If you have any questions or comments you'd like to send me, please visit my Web site, MLC Books Online, at http://home.mlcbooks.com.

And now…let's Burn It!

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