Recording NTSC Video to DVD-R

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Author/Publisher: Fluke 281
Date Added: Jun 3, 2002
Date Updated: Jun 3, 2002

In addition to creating or copying DVD’s, the other useful application of DVD-R is to record NTSC sources in the USA, Canada, and several other countries that support it. The National Television Standards Committee established this interlaced standard in the 1940's and modified it in 1953 with the advent of color television. It uses 525 lines of horizontal video which is written 262.5 lines in one pass and 59.94 seconds later, the gaps are filled in. The horizontal rate is 15,734 Hz and the vertical rate is 59.94 Hz and both signals are transmitted by a television station or generated in a settop DVD player or in a computer TV out card.

NTSC video is displayed, from the perspective of computer pixels, with a horizontal display of about 633 pixels and vertical of about 430. The remaining information at the top and bottom of the screen is not visible to the human eye and contains teletext information and other coded data.. A VCR actually displays fewer vertical pixels, more on the order of 360 pixels from a resolution standpoint. From a video capture standpoint, capturing video at 640X480 is ideal since all of the information from NTSC will be available without wasting disc space by capturing at a higher resolution.

Many of the video products on the market are supposed to provide video capture that can be burned to DVD-R. Let the buyer beware! Most of these products, particularly those that provide data to the computer with a USB port, only capture at 320X240 or similar resolution. Run this quality of video full screen or on a large screen TV and generate an opinion of it! The same goes for 1394 (Firewire) capture. Most inexpensive consumer products either capture at low resolution in real time or capture full frame and later reconstruct in DV or MPEG format. Some products capture high resolution firewire video with real time AVI compression although the compression codec provides minimal compression. After the fact, the video is compressed to useable MPEG2 for DVD-R generation (Ulead DVD Movie Factory). The file size for ten minutes of AVI before MPEG2 compression was 2 GIGS! This is an appropriate file size for professional DVD generation since the MPEG files are created after capture. But minicomputers are probably used for this huge undertaking.

After two months of experimentation with numerous programs, I did arrive at a workable solution. Numerous products were tried included Cyberlink's Power Video Recorder II and Power Director Pro, Intervideo's Wincoder, MGI VideoWave and Dazzle Main Actor. The difficulty is in capturing, with realtime MPEG2 compression, a 640X480 file that is in video and audio sync and burning it in a DVD-R format that is readable by most computer and settop players. Professionals use very expensive real time MPEG2 compression cards such as the Pinnacle DV2000 with a street price of $1900.

You may have a different experience with this software, particularly real time MPEG2 software. For me, the only workable solution that produced very good quality video and consistent burnable DVD-R's is given here.

The WinTV PVR is a hardware MPEG2 encoder card that produces very good quality video output in a format that can be used by Ulead DVD Movie Factory to produce burnable DVD-R's. The price of this card is only $180 (on line, street or EBAY) and can be compared to the usual price of $500 to $5000 for production quality hardware encoders. It also does not include any commercial software packages as do other, more expensive, products. Since the encoding is performed in real time, on the card, the hardware requirements of the PC are modest, except for disc space. The hard disc write rate is less than 500K per second. I may typically write a file of 2.5 to 3.5 Gigabytes for a TV movie with resultant DVD files in the VOB format of one GIG each plus the final, small VOB file. The total captured MPEG files and the VOB files are very similar in size and the audio is MP2 format. The DOS file limit is 4.0 GIG and this also pushes the DVD-R limit. An MPG of 2.5 GIG will require About 5.5 GIG’s of space on the drive where the \VIDEO_TS directory where the VOB’s are kept. The VOB’s do not stress the DOS file limit since each VOB is no larger than one GIG. Windows 2000 NTFS has no file size limit.

I have used the superb text DVD Demystified by Jim Taylor who explains that software encoders and decoders must use less accurate methods to accomplish their encoding tasks since they work with limited computer resources. Fewer P (predictive) frames, or B (bidirectional) are used. This is no doubt the case with the WinTV system.

There is some hesitation regarding the recommendation of this card since there have been numerous hardware and software problems with it (as with other many other products). The latest drivers for the WinTV PVR( are on the Win9x support page and the beta driver has solved many conflicts with specific motherboards (mine use VIA chipsets but Intel BX chipsets are also fine). Installing the VIA 4in1 drivers (also on is usually helpful.

The NTSC video source should be passed through a $30 Video Stabilizer box (available on the Net or EBAY) to eliminate Macrovision and instabilities and then to the Hauppage card S-video In through the provided adapter. The stereo sound is passed through a 1/8" male plug to the Hauppage card and an adapter cable carries it from the card to your sound card line in. Don’t expect to hear sound until the application starts. Carefully adjust your input volume-from VCR or cable box— to avoid audio clipping. The encoding process will not produce clipping or artifacts.

For WinTV2000, use the configuration button and choose 640X480. Then choose the MPEG tab. Choose Full D1 4.0 Megabit/sec CBR (Constant Bit Rate). This will result in one Gigabyte MPEG files for each 30-35 minutes of video, similar to professional DVD. Since the capture size is less than 720X480, the compression is somewhat less than the typical 35:1 used professionally. The quality is also different. Since the Win TV driver has no adjustment for color, brightness, hue or saturation, you can purchase an inexpensive Video Analogue Processor on Ebay if necessary.

Ulead DVD Movie Factory is inexpensive ($45.00) and works beautifully. Use the DVD Author selection and add your MPG files from the capture drive. You can combine more than one MPG file but sometimes an error is produced during DVD production. I choose to create a DVD folder and burn it after the folder (\video_ts) tests out OK. You can test \video_ts using PowerDVD in the hard disk mode or by using WinDVD if \VIDEO_TS is on the root of a hard drive. The \video_ts is moved over a home network to a burner. I use Prassi PrimoDVD and a Pioneer DVR-A03 burner to burn \VIDEO_TS as a data disc with no other files on the disc. discs work fine. The resultant disks can be played in many settop players or use computer software or hardware player. I have had good luck with PowerDVD, WinDVD and an inexpensive Samsung settop player. These disks are playable on more machines and settop players than those created with the DVD rip and IFOEdit conversion methods (see my article “Additional info, etc on

A specific problem related to when the software indicated capture was taking place, but the files abruptly stopped being written after a few minutes. When checking the Win PVR PCI utility, the Video Base address could not be found! Closing the WinTV2000 App and resetting the hardware (through this utility) works. In general, you will know immediately when the video hardware address cannot be found since a message box is displayed.

I use a Pentium III 500 with VIA chipset and Windows 98. I changed whatever video settings were available for my ATI AGP card with 8 MB memory until I determined that the key was in reducing desktop screen area to 640X480, identical to the capture setting. WinTV requires at least 16 bit color and the screen area must be raised to 800X600 only for the Ulead program. Changing to an old S3 PCI video card with 4MB memory resulted in a different memory address in the utility and the resolution could be raised to 800X600. Windows has the drivers in its database for “Old legacy video” cards.

On an Athlon machine with Windows 2000 and a GeoForce II card, the program would run fine with 24 bit color and 640X480. Before installing the Via Drivers, however, the Win2000 App would lock the computer.

It is important, however, to realize that the WinTV 2000 app initially starts up in overlay mode which is not supported well on a GeoForce card in Windows 2000. Use the Hauppage Primary application to choose either Primary or DibDraw mode. Run this program before starting the WinTV 2000 application. I have not tried this program with Windows XP.

When WinTV starts, it searches for the base video address and will give an error such as “unspecified error” immediately if there is a problem. Close the app, make certain that you are not in overlay mode, and use the WinTV PCI utility to reset the hardware. It should then work. The 640X480 screen size was also helpful. As a last resort, use an old PCI video card. Switching cards is a lot faster than reinstalling drivers and taking the risks of numerous reboots, especially in Windows 2000 or XP. All of my experiments with software and this card resulted in more than one reinstallation of Windows 2000!

Since then the system has operated quite well. I have transferred over a dozen 90 minute videotapes.
Consult this link for more information:
If there are problems, the new drivers should correct them and hopefully Hauppage will continue to improve their drivers and applications. You can also speak to a support representative in New York.

As for the quality, I am imaging professional, and the captured images seem to be a little grainy. You must, however, consider two things: the cost of the card and the source (garbage in, garbage out). As the card cost elevates, the quality is sure to follow! A source which is extremely clear, (e.g. from digital mini dish) will produce a better DVD than an old videotape. Since TV’s, computer monitors and software have adjustment controls, you can customize a slightly unsatisfactory picture. There is the usual minimal vertical line info at the top or bottom of the image which is present on every video card that I have seen.

The alternative to this method is a stand alone DVD recorder which costs $600 to $1000. You must still use a Video Stabilizer box and no mistakes are allowed during recording! This method should also withstand any new encoding technology. You can record from a settop DVD player if ripping a DVD is unsuitable. If you choose not to use this method, any unscrambled video source can be copied to VHS as long as the Video Stabilizer boxes are used in the video line. As with everything else in I.T., the price of DVD encoder cards will decrease as more products will become available. Whether they will ever replace the capabilities of after-the-fact compression is yet to be seen.

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