As tapes become a thing of the past, and as tape players begin to get old and break down, many people are faced with the decision of how to keep their treasured video memories in a format that will be kept safe and playable in the foreseeable future. Since most tapes are standard definition, DVD represents a good alternative. If you already have a computer, one option is to capture the video using a USB device, such as this one.
While it's relatively easy to then burn a DVD on your computer using the bundled software, some people might find it time-consuming and complicated. Another alternative is the DVD recorder, which is like a DVD player, except that you can put in a blank DVD and record from any video source, using the familiar red, white, and yellow cables. You can record about 2 hours onto a DVD at a decent quality setting, but many recorders allow you to stretch this to 4 or more hours. Depending on the quality of the original footage, it's usually not a good idea to go much beyond 3 hours on a DVD, because the quality tends to suffer after that.
For recommendations on models, with links to current prices, I cannot do better than this article by Robert Silva. He also includes links to DVD Recorder/VCR combination models and an interesting article on Why DVD Recorders Are Getting Harder To Find. This latter topic is particularly true of DVD recorders with hard drives that allow you to keep many hours of video on file, with the ability to make high-speed copies and custom chapter divisions.

Advantages of DVDs include the following:
  • Cheap media: you can buy blank DVDs for less than 50 cents if you buy in bulk
  • You can easily jump ahead using chapter divisions
  • Relatively small storage space required
  • They can be sent in the mail quite cheaply
The only disadvantages that I can think of are that disks are prone to scratching, and if you inadvertently record something you don't want on the disk, you can't just "rewind and tape over it" as you could with tapes.
It is hard to know how long DVDs will remain popular. But while we wait for The Next Big Thing in video archive storage, DVD fits the bill. A few things to keep in mind:
  • It's probably good to make a couple of copies, in case the first one gets scratched
  • Keep disks in a dark cupboard or video case; over time, light can degrade the data side of the disk
  • Buy a recognizable brand of blanks; they are more likely to last longer. Verbatim DVDs seems to top many lists of recommended brands. A brand you might NOT have heard of that is of consistently good quality is Taiyo Yuden.

Coming soon: How to Archive Your High Definition Footage