dvd burner questions

I am looking to get a DVD burner and possibly software as well.  I am new to the world of DVD-R, DVD-RW and the other formats I have seen.  My PC is a P4 laptop with 512megs DDR ram.  The manufacturer of this machine sells a DVD burner that is designed to go in this machine.  Here is a link to it:

http://sdd.toshiba.com/cda/main.aspx?Path=/818100000007000000010000659800000000/8182000004ef000000010000659c00000d63/818200000778000000010000659c00001746

It is perfectly designed for my machine and will go in the second drive bay nicely - question is...will it do what I want to do?  My main goal here is to copy DVD movies and play them on my home DVD player.  I don't want to buy a device that is obsolete is a few months and I know there are several DVD formats out there.

Second part here is software...what do I need to copy movies?  I have Easy CD Creator 6 but I know there are other programs out there that may be better for copying movies.  I am fairly certain many commercial DVD's are dual layered (not sure if I used the right term there) and DVD-R's that you buy are not...so a movie would have to go on more than one DVD-R - is that correct?

Any light you can shed on these issues so I purchase a device that meets my needs would be appreciated.

mrsmileynsAsked:
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chicagoanCommented:
Commercial DVD's can be double sided, and as there are no double sided DVD-R's it's possible that you could need more than one disk. DVD copy software producers are being avidly pursued in court by the motion picture industry.
http://news.com.com/2100-1025_3-5078419.html

One would think that these applications work fairly well if they're being sued ;)
The two applications mention in the article are worth consideration.
A number of fairly complicated schemes are available for free if you want to put the effort in.

DVD-R is fine for DVD players. See http://www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html

You can pick the parts of the DVD you want to copy to fit on one disk, you can get about 2 hours on a disk, so most movies will fit if you trim extra content like "the making of" etc.

Using the model you mentioned will ease supprt issues with your vendor.
 
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speyfisherCommented:
Most retail DVD's you purchase or rent do not require you switch or flip the DVD.  Most of the content is on a single side.  However the amount of data on your purchased DVD will not fit on the DVD-R you wish to record on.

Basic steps
1.  decrypt the data from your purchased DVD and store on your hard drive
2.  encode the data so that it fits on a 4.3GB DVD-R
3.  Burn the encoded data to a DVD-R

Buy this app: DVD2ONE
Get this app:  DVD Decrypter (free)

Follow this step-by-step tutorial:   http://www.geocities.com/daseamonkey420/dvdindex.html 

Threads like these often turn into a swarm of confusing opinions.  this indicates dvd burning is an art form and there are so many good ways.
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mrsmileynsAuthor Commented:
do you think the burner in the link above will suit my needs?
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speyfisherCommented:
based on the reputable brand i think the burner is fine.    this dvd burner for laptops goes for around $300 while a desktop model with more speed and features can be had for around $140.     How's your hard drive?  Ripping a single-side movie can be around 7GB. then you encode it to 4.3GB.  So you might have 12GB you want to keep on your hard drive until you test your DVD on your standalone home DVD player.  Also-  your desktop will be tied up for hours ripping, encoding, and burning.

i also like this app from pinnacle for its ease of use in backing up your DVDs: InstantCopy  http://www.buycheapsoftware.com/details.asp?productID=1094

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chicagoanCommented:
I think  you'll be fine with that burner. You can make DVD's that you can use in home DVD players, use it for backup, and it should integrate nicely and be supported by the manufacturer.

Be aware that not all media (even though it's branded DVD-R or -RW) works in all burners.
Don't rush off and buy 50 pieces until you've tried a couple or it's specifically suggested by Toshiba.

And DO use it to backup once it's in hand, please?
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mrsmileynsAuthor Commented:
if you decrypt and then encode the data so it fits on a 4.3 gb dvd-r do you lose any quality in terms of video or sound?  does the 5.1 or 6.1 soundtrack get transferred OK as well?
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speyfisherCommented:
In general - you do lose quality.  You can strip out unneeded items like  foreign language soundtrack or the movie with the director's comments.  You can also remove the navigation menu and just have the movie.  You may decide to split long movies onto 2 dvds to avoid quality loss.  
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mrsmileynsAuthor Commented:
thanks for all the help folks
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mrsmileynsAuthor Commented:
what do you think of an external either USB or Firewire DVD burner?  as the DVD write speed is usually only 4x or 2x in the ones I have seen I am wondering if the slower data transfer rate will really matter as compared to an IDE drive - I am going to use this with a laptop (that I don't move ever) and the external drives are about half the price of the internal slim Toshiba for the laptop - any experience with external DVD burners?  Would you recommend USB or Firewire?  Does it really matter?
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speyfisherCommented:
4x  5.54MB/s
2x  2.77MB/s
1x  1.385MB/s

External will do fine.  If you are buying bulk DVD-Rs the cheaper ones are often 1x or 2x so this may be the limiting factor.
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chicagoanCommented:
USB  or firewire, as long as they have an external power source, either is plenty fast enough.

If you're planning on using other components, try to balance your external ports so you don't have to get a hub if you can avoid it. There is an element of esthetics to be considered with a bunch of cables, external power supplies, etc.

 I'd stick with name brands if possible as support on USB and firewire peripherals can be pretty spotty on no-name units.
Note doubling the speed of the burner doesn't cut the time it takes to back up a movie in half, the mastering process is a significant part of the process.
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mrsmileynsAuthor Commented:
one last question and then i'll leave you alone...i promise  :)  what do you think of dvdxcopy?  express, gold or platinum?
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chicagoanCommented:
I've only used the freeware kits which are a tremendous pain and take forever.

There's a comparative review at http://www.pcmag.com/category2/0,4148,582756,00.asp
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speyfisherCommented:
I think this is a fair review of products that will back up your DVDs
http://www.cdfreaks.com/article/114/1
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mrsmileynsAuthor Commented:
just thought i would let you folks know since i asked so many questions - burned my first copy of my store bought "saving private ryan" i have - i used a sony dvd burner that is in an external firewire enclosure - i used dvd x copy (costs a few dollars but it made this process so easy) and i did the the whole dvd to one disc - it was about 45% compression - original was about 8 gigs - i have to say the quality is excellent - definitely not 45% decrease in quality - if i burned it to 2 dvd's i imagine there would be virtually no degredation - thank you folks for guiding me to purchase something that so far does exactly what i was looking for
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