Q: I am interested in converting my movie collection from videotapes to DVD. I would like to be able to bring the files into the computer...

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Q: I am interested in converting my movie collection from videotapes to DVD. I would like to be able to bring the files into the computer then, using a video-editing program, ad menus and maybe special effects. What hardware would be required to connect a VCR player to my computer?

Also, would it be possible to use Panasonic DVD recorders such as the DMR-T6070 Proline DVD Video Recorder, the DMR-ES30VS or MR-EH50S with a computer to make DVDs from my computer?

Thomas Smith

A: All you need to connect the VCR to your computer is a digitizing card and the right cable, which generally means an S-video or composite video cable.

As for the right card to buy, you’ll want to shop around to see which offers the best combination of features and price. Popular models are available from Creative Labs (www.creative.com) and Matrox (www.matrox.com), among others. Most such solutions also include software for editing the video, though you may choose to purchase a more powerful program separately.

As for the DVD recorders, you’ll still need a card and an appropriate cable to get the data into your computer. Of course, you won’t have to covert the signal from analog to digital so there are fewer concerns about loss of quality.

Q: In a previous column, you discussed various optical disc failure modes. But what kind of optical disc has the longest archival life; preferably high-capacity dual layer DVD media?

John Tate

A: All types of optical discs — CD, DVDs, dual-layer, etc. — share the same vulnerabilities. The different brands no doubt offer somewhat different life spans as a result of different manufacturing procedures and the quality of materials. But I don’t know anyone who has done studies to compare the different brands.

(In general, you might trust name brands, which usually have higher price tags, to last a bit longer than the least-expensive brands.)

There is one exception to this. Commercially retailed discs — such as music CDs and DVD movies — have had the data cut into the plastic, just like an old-fashioned LP.

Such disc won’t be subject to the degradation of the dies used in discs sold for use in home DVD and CD recorders.

Either way, the discs are likely to last longer than the software for reading them. Even dye-based discs are likely to last several decades if they are kept in good condition.

So we can expect that our children and their children are likely to find all kinds of CDs we’ve burned and stashed in the garage, and they won’t have the equipment or the programs around to read them anymore.

Q: I run Windows 98 on a 6-year-old Dell Dimension XPS R400 with 256 megabytes of memory and a 12-gigabyte hard drive. I have a TBS Montego II PCI Audio sound card with Altec Lansing speakers and sub-woofer.

Recently, my sound has degraded to the point that it is barely audible, even with the volume control turned up all the way. I also use earphones, with which the volume control continues to work just fine.

Given these facts, do you think the trouble is with the speakers and/or sub-woofer, rather than the sound card or driver?

Bob Smith

A: The problem is almost certainly not with the driver. They tend to either work … or not.

Which leaves the sound card or the speakers — or the connection between them. Given that your earphones are working fine — assuming they are plugged into the sound card and not directly into your CD drive — that would point to the speakers or the connection between the speakers and the sound card.

I’d suggest you borrow a friend’s speakers and try them with your current setup. If they work fine, you’ll know it’s time for a new set of speakers. If they don’t, suspicion suddenly reverts to the sound card.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.