There are many possible paths to take when converting home movies to DVD, but in the end, the process will follow one of two directions: you can burn, or copy, your home movies to DVD with a stand-alone DVD recorder, or you can burn them by transferring them to a computer and writing the DVDs with a computer DVD burner.
The simplest and most direct method is by connecting your movies directly to a stand-alone DVD recorder to burn them. To convert from VHS, you can simply connect a standard VCR to a stand-alone DVD recorder and record your home videos in real time. Remember that there are simple devices to convert smaller tape formats such as VHS-C to VHS by simply placing the smaller tape into a larger tape that will play in a standard VCR.
It is also possible to get a combination VHS and DVD recorder which can convert VHS to DVD with a single device. This could be very efficient if the majority of your home movies are in VHS format. You can also find a stand-alone DVD recorder with FireWire ports if your home video camera supports FireWire. This will allow you to record directly from your home video camera to DVD.
The advantages of converting your movies using the stand-alone DVD recorder are efficiency and speed with generally good quality conversion. The disadvantages are the limited ability to edit and the need for new hardware.
If you choose to transfer your home movies to a computer, you will have a great deal of flexibility for editing your videos. If your home movies are already saved on a digital video camera, this process is relatively simple: you will need to capture your movies with a video editing program, edit it if you wish, and convert it to mpeg-2 to burn to DVD. This is a much more time consuming process than recording directly to a stand-alone DVD recorder.
If you want to transfer your movies from an analog format to edit on a computer, you will need to get an analog-to-DV or analog-to-mpeg2 hardware device or use a digital video camera that functions as one. If you get a device that converts directly to mpeg2, you will not be able to add any fancy transitions to your video, and your editing abilities will be mostly reduced to cuts. However, the video will be ready to burn as soon as it arrives on your computer, and the whole process will be much faster.
The advantages of transferring your home movies to a computer before burning are increased flexibility in editing, and the possibility of not needing to buy any additional hardware. You'll have to decide which method is best suited for you depending your individual needs.