Ripping Analog Video on a Macintosh

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This page exists primarily for my own benefit so that I can remember my own video ripping process. I figured that others that are doing the same thing might find this information helpful too.

This page has been updated several times since it was created in 2003 when iMovie 3 was the most current version. Much of the conversion of analog video was done with iMovie 3 so that some of the steps that I used are no longer necessary with iMovie HD. Also, iMovie HD is not the most recent version, iMovie '08 has been out for over a year but I don't have it. Also, Final Cut Express is a viable alternative for those that want a little more control than iMovie can provide. There are sections below that deal with upgrades to versions of iMovie beyond version 3.

The process of converting an analog video stream to digital video and then converting that into movies and then burning the movies on DVD is not particularly complicated, but it is time consuming. Part of the time issue is related the the current releases of iMovie3 and iDVD3. Maybe later releases will make life a little easier.

The tools that I use are listed below. If you don't use these exact tools, you may have to adapt your methods to those tools.

Note that this page was originally written before iLife, iMovie4 and iDVD4 came out. There is a section at the end describing the differences, but they are generally minor and don't have serious impact on the suggestions below.

Further, iLife 5 is out too and iMovie HD is different yet. There are several "features" in iMovie 5, these are described in a excellent page at List of iMovie HD bugs. Read this page, it's worth the time.

Also note that the manual hacks to the iMovie projects won't work very well in iMovie 5. It's much harder to stream a whole analog tape and then divide it up into several movies later. The whole tape may stream into one clip. You'll have to divide the clip into components, then Share/Quicktime/Highest Quality the divided clips out to disk. Then Import them into the individual iMovie projects where those clips will eventually belong. Further, iMovie 5 doesn't allow analog streaming through some camcorders that worked in iMovie 4. Better to keep a copy of iMovie 4 around to stream in the analog stuff.

iMovie 6 has some of the same problems as iMovie 5 but at least it is possible to limit the clip size by a preference setting.

If you have a digital camcorder already and all your tapes are in DV format already, then you can dispense with all the converter stuff and just use iMovie to import the digital video directly from the camera. However, this page is targeted at the conversion of older analog format tapes which adds some complications.

iMovie will run on any Macintosh capable of running OS X but iDVD requires a G4 with a SuperDrive. iDVD especially taxes the system resources heavily, it uses all of CPU and all of my 512 Meg of RAM completely for nearly 2 hours while it is rendering a DVD. iMovie is especially disk intensive. You'll need a lot of free disk (60 gig will work) and it helps a lot if the disk is REALLY fast.

I use a 15" Aluminum 1.25 GHz PowerBook. This computer is barely up to the task, primarily due to its slow disk. Laptop computers in general will be at a disadvantage in doing iMovie work. Due to the size constraints, laptop disks have only one or maybe two platters and their overall data rate is not nearly as good as a multiplatter desktop disk. Higher capacity disks tend to have more platters and can read and write several of the platters in parallel resulting in considerably better data rates that a laptop disk can ever hope to provide. iMovie tends to move multi-gigabytes of data around often so that you will find yourself waiting a lot if you use a computer with a slow disk.

Most modern digital camcorders will accept analog audio/video inputs and pass this data through to your computer in digital format. This feature is called analog pass through. I use a Sony TRV-33 with this feature with no hassle at all, although you have to dig through the manual to find the instructions for turning this feature on. One caution with this Sony is that you need to remove the mini-DV tape from the camera or the camera will try to play the tape instead of converting analog video. The Sony TRV-33 is a recent model (as of late 2003) that lists for about $1000. However, I got mine from a discounter for less than $600.

There are less expensive 8 mm digital cameras that will read and convert older analog 8 mm tapes. These tend to be somewhat larger than the mini-DV types (due to the larger tapes) but don't require a separate converter. These cameras also tend to be older designs and may not have the latest optics or other neat features but you can find them for about $300 or less.

There are also separate dedicated analog to digital converter boxes available, but they also cost about $300. If you are considering one of these, I'd look to an 8 mm digital camcorder instead because it'll also take pictures and will have value after you are done converting your old analog library.

iMovie is a Macintosh application (supplied with all new Macs or available as part of the iLife software suite) that allows you to organize video clips, edit them, and add titles and transitions. What you get from iMovie (after some considerable effort) is a complete movie that you can watch within iMovie. The movie can be of any length, but it consumes quite a bit of disk, about 250 meg per minute. iMovie will run on any OS X capable Macintosh.

iDVD is the application that stitches one or more movies together and burns them on a DVD. This application allows you to add the menus that you find at the beginning of commercial DVDs. It'll create a 60 minute DVD at the best resolution or a 90 minute DVD at somewhat reduced resolution. Later versions of iDVD allow 120 minute movies at the expense of longer rendering time. iDVD requires a G4 powered Macintosh and a SuperDrive.

Overall Process

The process of converting analog video works something like this:

Configure Your System

Your system configuration will depend greatly on what kind of hardware that you have. However, a typical setup goes like this.

Your analog source probably has a video and audio output using RCA type phono jacks. The video output is probably colored yellow. A monaural audio output is typically colored white. If your analog source has a stereo output, the second audio channel is probably colored red. Since many camcorders are constrained for space for these jacks, there might be a combination input/output cable with plugs on the end with these same color codes.

I use an old analog camcorder to play the 8 mm analog tapes. It has an analog video/audio input/output cable. My Sony digital camcorder also has a similar cable, but it has stereo audio too. Both cameras have plugs on the ends of the cables, a mismatch from the start. Your local electronics store should have RCA female to female (bullet) adaptors. You don't need the more expensive "video" quality adaptors with gold plating, the cheapest you can find will work.

One of the adaptors is used to connect the two yellow (video) plugs together.

Since my analog camcorder is monaural and the digital camcorder is stereo, I could just leave the white or red input to the digital camcorder disconnected, but then the audio will appear on only one channel of the stereo DVD. To fix this, I need a "Y" adaptor with a male plug on one end and a pair of female jacks on the other. The plug end goes to the bullet plugged into the white plug on the analog camcorder. The red and white plugs going to the digital camcorder plug into the two jacks on the "Y" adaptor. This splits the monaural sound of the analog source into both audio channels on the digital camcorder and sound will then appear on both audio channels of the eventual DVD.

Once the cables are connected, try playing a tape on the source and see if you can set up your digital camera to display the result. You will probably have to set BOTH cameras to VCR mode.

Once that works, set up your digital camera to do analog pass through.

Then connect a Firewire cable between the digital camera and your Macintosh's Firewire port. There are several flavors of Firewire (IEEE-1394) cables with different kinds of connectors at each end. You'll have to use a cable that has a regular Firewire connector at the computer end and perhaps a much smaller connector at the camera end.

Launch iMovie and create a new project with any name that you want. Set the slider right below the display screen to the left (camera) side. iMovie should detect the presence of the digital camera. Then set the analog camera to PLAY and you should see and hear the movie on your computer.

If something isn't working right, you'll have to check out your connections and settings. Try putting a tape into the digital camera and using the iMovie controls to play the tape. If that works, the digital connections are right. If you can see the analog video on the digital camera but it doesn't make it through to the computer, your digital camera isn't set up to do analog pass through correctly.

Once you can see and hear your analog video on the computer, you are read to go to the next step

Capture Your Analog Video Stream

Rewind your analog tape to the beginning. Then press "Import" in iMovie and press "Play" on your analog source. Don't worry if you record some blackness or garbage, you can easily edit it out later.

iMovie captures the video stream in about 9-1/2 minute clips. It then immediately starts another clip. Don't worry that a split in the clips happens in the middle of a scene, when you merge the clips together in the iMovie Project pane, the transitions will vanish.

Just let the analog tape run to the end and then press the "Import" button in iMovie again to stop the import. If you don't have time to go through the whole tape in one sitting, then stop importing after a natural scene break and back the analog tape up a little. When you start again later, you'll get a short segment twice, but you can edit the duplicates out later.

This is the point where capturing analog video differs from capturing digital video directly. When you capture video directly from your digital camera, iMovie and your digital camera can communicate such that the camera can tell iMovie where each natural scene break is, that is where you started and stopped recording. These scenes are automatically broken into individual clip files that run for as long as the scene up to 9 minutes or so. You'll end up with lots of small cleanly divided clips, each containing exactly one scene.

When you capture analog video, iMovie has no way to tell when a natural scene ends so it just keeps going. You have to divide this stuff up manually and it can take time.

An alternate method to capture the analog clips is to manually start and stop the import at each scene break. Before you start the next seen, you have to back the tape up a little. This method adds a little garbage at the beginning and ending of each clip, but it divides the clips up a little better so that you don't have to do so much file copying later. While the whole tape is in one project, go through each clip and cut off the unwanted stuff at the beginning and ending of each clip and then empty the trash.

Delete the Garbage

Most home video contains scenes that are total garbage. These are scenes that nobody is going to want to watch again. It is best to get rid of this stuff early so that you don't have to copy it elsewhere and then edit it out later, maybe more than once. I usually scan through the clips and chop out the junk at this point and I also do the next step, identifying the subject matter, at this point as well.

A little description of the format of clip files is in order. A Clip File is stored in the Media folder inside your iMovie project. A full length clip file is just under 2 gigabytes in size. They show up in the clips pane of iMovie, labeled by number like Clip 03. Once you divide up a clip, more clips will appear, like Clip 03/1, Clip 03/2 and Clip 03/3. These three subdivided clips all still reside in the original clip file. If you delete Clip 03/2, the deleted clip is simply marked as deleted and held in iMovie's private trash, but the physical video that was deleted is still in the clip file. When you empty iMovie's trash, the two remaining subdivided clips remain in the original clip file but the file becomes smaller and the deleted clip is then actually gone.

iMovie 5 Note:. iMovie 5 projects are now stored as "packages." A package is a folder that hides its contents. The upside is that you can now double click on the package to open a project. The downside is that it is marginally more difficult to mess with the insides of a project. To see inside a package, right-click (or control-click) on the package and select View Package Contents from the popup menu. A new Finder window will open and you'll be able to mess around inside as before. Also note that the 2 GB limit (9 min 27 sec) for a clip is now gone so that you can create very large clips. These can be hard to manage so try to keep you clips to be less than 20 min so that the entire clip will fit on a DVD.

The rub is that when you want to import a subdivided clip into another project, you get ALL the stuff that is in the clip file, not just the subdivided part that you want. After importing, you'll have to then divide the clip up again, delete the stuff that doesn't belong in that movie and empty the trash again.

Another iMovie 5 Note:. iMovie 5 never deletes the parts of a clip that are in the trash unless the entire clip and all references to it are deleted as well.

For stuff that won't go into any movie, it is best to cut it out as early as possible and then empty the trash to make the true garbage go away as soon as possible. However don't try to subdivide the desired scenes too early or you'll just be doing it again later. Wait until the clips are imported into their final destination before cutting them down further.

Dividing the bad parts out is a pretty simple process. I use the iMovie split at playhead function although there are several ways to do it. I scan through the movie to find the first frame of a garbage section. The left and right arrow keys are used to move forward and backward a frame at a time. I put the playhead right on the first frame that is going into a new subdivided clip and press command-T. This splits the clip at that point. I then select then newly divided clip and scan through it until I find the spot where the garbage ends. I put the playhead on the first frame that I want to keep and divide again. I then select the garbage clip and scan through it to make sure that it really is the stuff I want to toss and then press delete. It goes away for now but can be recovered up to the point that the iMovie trash is emptied. The empty trash command is under the File menu. You'll end up with a bunch of subdivided clips that might still have multiple subjects in them. Don't try to subdivide the movie further at this point. Once you have deleted all the bad stuff and you don't want it back, empty the trash. This might take several minutes.

There is a bug in iMovie3 that is bothersome but doesn't do permanent harm. Each clip has a preview in it that is usually the first frame in the clip. In the case of subdivided clips, this preview frame MAY not be in the clip at all. It might be another frame that was somewhere in the original clip. In these cases, you can't trust the preview. Select the clip to see what is really in it.

Identify Subject Matter

A typical home video tape has a bunch of different stuff on it. I didn't shoot a lot so a typical 2 hour tape might run for months or even a year. There is lots of different subject matter on the tape that is best divided up by subject. If you deleted the true garbage in the last step, everything that is left will go somewhere. You need to figure out where.

Either as I watch the video as it is being streamed in or as I scan through looking for stuff to trash, I record the subject of a movie and each clip number where I find something that will go into that movie. I end up with a piece of paper with some titles and numbers. The titles will eventually be a movie, the numbers are the clip numbers where pieces of that movie reside.

Once all the movie subjects and clips are identified, the project can be saved. Open a new one and import the clips that have material pertaining to that project. Multiple clips can be imported in one operation. This is the "correct" way to divide up the original movie, but the method is cumbersome, time consuming and has to be done once for each movie. Instead, I divide up the movies manually and lump all the waiting into one longer time where I can go off and do something else for an hour or so.

Create Empty iMovie Projects

Use the "New Project" command under the File menu of iMovie to create a new project for one of your subjects. Then do this again immediately to create a new empty project for each of your subjects. Then quit iMovie.

When the new projects are named, pick project names that you will want to be displayed in your eventual DVD menu. You can always change the names in iDVD, but it is easier if you start with the movie title the way you'd like to see it on your DVD.

Import the Clips

Open a couple of Finder windows and manually copy or move the clip files from the original source project into the Media folders in each new project. For a clip that has material for ONLY one project, just drag it. For a clip that will be needed in multiple projects, option-drag it to make a copy. Do this for each clip or set of clips. The Finder will then thrash for an hour or so copying many gigabytes of data around. Let it finish.

Open iMovie and open one of the new projects. The first thing iMovie will do is complain that it found new clips that it didn't know about. Let it move them to the clips pane. If it also complains about clips that don't belong, you can probably trash them. I've never found anything useful in them.

Edit the Clips

Once all the clips that are at least partially important for your movie are in the project you then need to delete all of the stuff that doesn't belong to this movie just as if it were garbage. These deleted clips are still in the clips that you copied to other movies so that you can trash them in this movie.

Just for safety, I take a look at the contents of a subdivided clip that I am about to delete to see if that clip number really is really identified as part of another project. If I find a scene in a clip that should go into another project but I didn't catch it, I stop there and save the current project. Then I open the other project and import the clip. Then I open the original project again.

Drag the clips down to the project pane one by one. As you add more and more clips, you will see the length of the movie grow. I like to keep my movies less than 20 minutes long so that the iMovie project is less than the capacity of a data DVD so that I can back up the project, or maybe a few shorter projects, on one DVD. Later I might want to rearrange the movies to make new DVDs with different contents. If the movie exceeds 4.28 GB, it won't fit on a data DVD. You will see the correct size in the finder after you trash the unwanted stuff in the next step but 21 minutes is about the limit depending on how many titles, transitions and effects you add later.

Empty the iMovie Trash

This is the LAST TIME that you should empty the trash. This compresses out the deleted stuff. Don't delete the trash AFTER adding effects because then you won't be able to undo the effects.

Add Titles, Transitions, Effects and iDVD Chapter Titles

Add the nice pretty stuff here. Sometimes, I divide up the movie into much shorter segments with individual titles for each segment. If I do this, I also add iDVD chapter titles at each title frame. This will cause iDVD to create a submenu later. However, since my movies are typically short anyway and the subject matter is usually fairly uniform, I usually add a title only to the first frame and a fade out at the end. You can add any other effects that you want as well, but each takes a little disk space, typically 15 meg for a title and 7 meg for a transition.

If the movie runs longer than about 20 minutes, I will sometimes divide it up again into two movies by creating a new iMovie project for the 2nd part and dragging those clips to the new movie. It is easier to do this BEFORE the effects are added. Drag some clips from the end of the movie back to the clips pane until the movie length comes down to where you want it and note the clip number of the first clip that ISN'T in the movie anymore. Create a new project and then close iMovie. Use the Finder to drag the extra clips into the new project and then open the new project and drag the clips back into the project pane. If the movie is still too long, do it again.

If I want to keep it as one movie but still back it up, I'll just drag out some clips temporarily to back them up on another data DVD and drag them back in after the backup is completed.

Save the Project

Once you have edited out the stuff that doesn't belong, emptied the trash and added transitions, and saved the project, the iMovie part is done.

Back Up the Project(s)

I keep backups of the iMovie projects because most of the time and effort that I expended has been spent making the movie itself. Backup of a movie on one disc requires that you do length or file management because a data DVD only holds 4.28 GB. The iDVD projects aren't worth backing up because it takes only a couple of minutes to recreate one if the movies are still available.

An alternate method to backup very long movies is to manually move some of the clips out of that movie and onto another backup DVD. After the backup is complete, the clips can them be copied back into the original movie. It is important that iMovie not be used to open a movie that has had some clips temporarily removed or it will recognize that they are gone and complain. It might also mess up some of the titles and transitions.

It does take considerable time to copy movies back from the data DVD's and iDVD takes a very long time to re-encode the new DVD, but if you are doing this you are probably rearranging the movies and you'll have to re-encode them anyway.

Create a new iDVD Project

Once you have 60 or 90 minutes of movies that you want put on a DVD then it is time to create an iDVD project. Open iDVD and pick Create New Project. iDVD defaults to storing the new project in your Documents folder, but I override it and put the projects into my Movies folder.

Pick your iDVD Theme

iDVD has a bunch of prepackaged themes for your DVD or you can roll your own. The one that comes up as the default is especially obnoxious. The ones that play music or have some sort of animation in the menu require some special care in their use, see the iDVD tutorial for more information. I use the blue background in the old themes list. It gets the job done and allows fairly long titles.

Each of the 6 possible DVD menu items can be a folder that holds even more movies. If you established iDVD chapter titles in iMovie, this submenu will be installed automatically when you import the movie. Each chapter of the movie will retain the name that you defined in iMovie.

You can also manually create a folder in the DVD menu and then manually install individual movies there.

If you did not define iDVD chapter titles, the movie will import with the name of the iMovie project and no submenu. The movie will play as soon as you pick that item on your DVD player.

If you want the whole DVD to play through from beginning to end, then make the DVD from a single full length movie. In iMovie, add chapter titles to allow you to jump to particular parts. If you make a DVD from several smaller movies, you will have to select and play each individually.

Import Your Movies

To import your movies, make sure that they are stored in the Movies folder in your OS X user account. Movies stored elsewhere will not be visible unless you set the iDVD preferences to look for them in specific places (iDVD 5 only). Click movie camera icon in the Customize pane and the available movies will be displayed. Drag them to the iDVD project pane. If you drag more than 60 minutes worth, iDVD will warn you that the quality will be somewhat reduced. It won't let you drag in more than 90 minutes worth. If your movies are a little too long, you'll have to go back into iMovie and cut one or more of them down a little.

iDVD 5 allows a 2 hour movie with high video quality. It does this by spending al of more time in the rendering operation. Figure that it's going to take all night and start the burn at bedtime.

The initial iDVD project file is pretty small, but it will grow to 2 GB or more after the first DVD is burned. Even then, the project doesn't contain all of the movies. If you decide to backup the iDVD project file, you'll also need to save all of the iMovie projects and read them back from the backup media in exactly the same places that they were the first time that you ran that iDVD project.

Edit Your Movie Titles

If you want to change the titles, simply edit them like any other text. You can also drag the titles around to change their order. Until you are confident of what you are doing, preview each movie to make sure that you are getting what you expect.

Burn Your DVD

Before you try to burn a DVD, SAVE YOUR PROJECT. If something goes amiss, it is easier to start over from a saved project.

To burn a DVD, press the burn button TWICE and then insert a blank DVD when asked. The encoding process takes a LONG time. On my computer which is medium fast, it takes about two hours to burn the first one hour DVD. During the first 3/4 of that time, iDVD will use ALL of your CPU performance and as much memory as it can get so your computer should be left alone. You can indeed do other stuff while iDVD is running, but I do not recommend it. The two occasions that iDVD failed to encode a DVD properly on my computer is when I was doing something else while iDVD was working. iDVD tries to predict how long it will take to finish, but it is usually quite inaccurate. Figure on two hours. iDVD 5 seems to do a better job of multitasking so that you can work in other programs while iDVD is running.

When iDVD has finished burning the first DVD, it will ask if you want to burn another one. The second one will take about 25 minutes. However, until you get confidence that all is working well, it is a good idea to test the newly created DVD in another computer or any other DVD player. If the DVD looks good, burn as many copies as you want.

Cleaning Up

Once you have backed up your iMovie projects and burned your DVD's, all of the multi gigabytes disk that these files consume can be reclaimed. Unless you have much more than 60 GB free, you'll need to delete everything to make room for a new project. I ascertain that I have everything backed up and then empty my entire Movies folder and empty the trash. I'm then ready to start over with a new analog tape.

Notes on iMovie4 and iDVD4

The above discussion assumed the use if iMovie3 and iDVD3. If you have purchased iLife4 (a bargain at $49), you can use the same instructions or you can take advantage of some of the features of iDVD4. IMovie4 is essentially the same as iMovie3, if you don't add audio tracks or do slide shows, it is the same although there seem to be some new bugs related to titles. If iMovie4 crashes or your movies don't import to iDVD4, then you might want to go back to iMovie3.

iDVD4 adds a new encoding method and removes the 90 minute option. The new encoder will make 60 or 120 minute DVDs instead. It also allows you to use or make themes that can hold many more chapters.

The 60 minute DVD option is the same. This option still uses Constant Bit Rate encoding. This method is fairly fast (in comparison to the 120 minute option anyway). If you open iDVD Preferences and select "Better Performance" you get the CBR encoding. This option also allows the encoding process to start in the background while you are working in iDVD proper.

If you select the "Better Quality" option you can't encode in the background, but you can encode a 120 minute DVD. Better quality uses a Variable Bit Rate encoding method and can take MUCH longer. CBR makes one pass through your video. VBR makes one or two passes depending on what it finds. A 2 hour DVD takes 6 hours to burn the first copy on my computer (a 1.25 GHz Powerbook G4) and 1 additional hour to burn more copies. VBR can produce better quality because it examines the video and changes its encoding rate depending on the degree of movement between any given pairs of frames. Video elements that don't change much don't get very heavy compression. Video elements that change more get more encoding detail than static elements. The encoder can save enough space on the static elements so that it can produce fewer artifacts than CBR on the elements that move.

Since the "Better Quality" encoding takes so long, I usually save these runs for overnight or during the day while I'm at work. The iDVD project file can grow to the size of a DVD.

Notes on iMovie5 and iDVD5

iLife 05 contains iMovie HD (aka iMovie5) and iDVD5. The biggest change is that iMovie HD supports HD formats. Also, some stuff that worked, broke.

First the downside. iMovie HD doesn't support my Sony video camera's analog pass through mode anymore. Fortunately, I've ripped all my old analog video already but I keep a copy of iMovie4 around anyway just in case.

When a clip was edited in iMovie4 and pieces cut out, they stayed in the clip until the trash was emptied. Then the deleted stuff was compressed out of the clip. iMovie HD doesn't actually delete parts of a clip until EVERYTHING that referenced anything in a clip was deleted. Then when the trash was emptied, the whole clip goes away. If you only use a few seconds of a 20 minute clip, the whole 5 GB or so of the clip hangs around forever.

An iMovie HD project is now a "package." This means that the guts of a project isn't immediately visible. I found that this was a bother when I manually disassemble a project to make it fit on a DVD for backup purposes. However, if one right clicks (or control clicks) on a project, a context sensitive menu will appear that allows one to view the package contents. Then the media folder can be opened and individual clips dragged out to allow backup across multiple DVDs. After the backup is done, the clips can be dragged back in the same way. Again, DO NOT OPEN the project in iMovie HD while it is taken apart.

The upside is that iMovie HD seems to be a little more responsive and stable than previous versions.

iDVD5 seems to be much the same program with new themes. The option for burning a 90 minute DVD is no longer there but it isn't needed either.

Notes on iMovie 6 and iDVD 6

iMovie 6 works much the same as iMovie 5 but there are some differences. My Sony camcorder works again as a DV converter. Also the maximum clip length is user settable.

Another important feature of iMovie 6 is that several different movies can be open at the same time and clips can be dragged between them. This makes splitting a time based video tape into subject based movies much easier. My simple process for doing this follows.

iDVD 6 is also much the same as iDVD 5 but with a whole bunch of new themes. It also drops many of the very old themes. It does have a "Magic DVD" function that will make a DVD directly from a camcorder import in real time.

Notes on DVD Burning in General

My old PowerBook will only read and burn DVD-R at 2X speeds and sometimes not even that depending on the media used. No matter what speed your DVD burner supports, it may be picky about the media. If you get burn failures, in general try reducing the burn speed. Apple only guarantees that the SuperDrive will work at the advertised speed with Apple branded media and their media does seem to work in all cases. I've only burned maybe 10 Apple branded DVD-R's but they all worked. Unfortunately, Apple gets premium prices for Apple branded media, sometimes 10X what you can find the stuff for elsewhere.

I have found that there really are differences between brands of media. I had been using TDK for a long time because Costco had it for a good price. However, sometimes the media on a particular spindle would fail to burn properly at 2X and I had to slow the burning speed down to 1X to get it to work. The cheapest stuff that I have tried is the "GQ" branded media from Fry's. Go figure, but this stuff has worked fine. Out of 50 or so, I had only one bad burn. I bought some Memorex media and I had real problems with it. Trying to burn it at 1X would usually produce a "laser calibration error." Burning it at 2X would eliminate the calibration error messages, but sometimes the verification would fail.

All this means is that you have to try different kinds of media until you find one that works at a reasonable price. The prices have come way down in mid 2005 to roughly $0.40/disc and $0.20 on sale. I expect that the prices won't get a whole lot lower.

If you are having burning difficulties, you can see the error messages generated in the Console application (Utilities folder). Select the DiscRecording.log under the ~/Library/Logs heading to see reports of any applications that try to burn disks. You can also find log information in console.log.

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© 2003-2008 George Schreyer
Created 27 Dec 2003
Last Updated April 25, 2008