It's painful to think of your 8mm and VHS recordings fading away after years and use. Converting them to DVD protects those treasured archives, and several companies are offering new packages to simplify the process.

Converting taped video footage to disc requires some specialist equipment and a degree of expertise. Two companies are readying products that see to the equipment side of things – Hewlett-Packard has introduced DVD Movie Writer Dc4000, and Plextor is about to ship ConvertX Model PX-M402U. Both made their debut at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and should help ensure that your footage is preserved for generations to come.

HP hits higher speeds

HP's $299 (around £200) DVD Movie Writer Dc4000 is scheduled to become available in April, company representatives say. The new Dc4000 is designed to improve on its slower (and more format-limited) predecessor, the Dc3000.

The Dc3000 handled only the DVD+ writing formats, with DVD+R tapping out at 4x and with DVD+RW capped at 2.4x.

The Dc4000, meanwhile, writes at up to 8x on both DVD+R and DVD-R media and at up to 4x on either DVD+RW or DVD-RW. It adds the flexibility of using both of the most popular media standards to each one's higher performance. The drive connects to your PC through a USB 2.0 port.

Although the drive functions just fine as a standard external DVD writer, it is aimed at people who want to convert their recorded VHS, Hi8, Digital 8, and Beta movies – assuming the source player has analog output jacks.

The package includes a video transfer wizard to simplify the transfer of clips and complete tapes to DVD. HP says the new wizard will save time by permitting improved background processing. HP's software converts analog content to MPEG-2 format so that it can be written to DVD.

The drive will ship with a suite of video editing apps – ArcSoft's ShowBiz 2.1 editing package and Muvee AutoProducer to produce and edit music videos. ArcSoft PhotoBase 4.5 to assemble and write photo slide shows will be included, along with Veritas Software's RecordNow 6.5 and Simple Backup applications for saving data, video, and music on DVDs and CDs. The package includes Cyberlink's PowerDVD DVD movie player.

For those with drive…

If you already have a rewritable DVD drive, you can save money by buying Plextor's $159 (around £105) ConvertX Model PX-M402U video capture device. You'll also reap the added benefit of its many conversion options.

This model is expected to be available by the last week of January, in the States, but UK pricing and availability has not yet been announced. It improves on its predecessor, the PX-M401U, by supporting the international PAL and SECAM video standards along with the NTSC standard that's most common in the US, according to Plextor representatives.

Plextor says that its device is the first to support for real-time hardware DivX encoding, which should dramatically shorten processing time by doing the conversion as the video is captured to your hard drive. Use of the DivX format allows you to put up to ten hours of video on a rewritable DVD disc.

To use the ConvertX box, you connect it to a video source (DVD player, VCR, TV, or analog camcorder). ConvertX includes RCA composite audio/video and S-Video inputs, and it automatically converts analog video into a digital format.

Its full complement of capture formats includes MPEG-1 (used for VideoCD), MPEG-2 (used for DVD video), MPEG-4, and DivX. The unit hooks up to your PC via a USB 2.0 port, a connection that easily allows it to capture high-quality video.

ConvertX comes with the popular WinDVD player and WinDVD Creator applications, which are known for their ease of use. The Creator guides the user through the process of capturing video, editing, adding titles and putting in transitions, creating effects, and adding music. To facilitate navigation of your finished video, it lets you build menus. When you're done with your work, you can use it to burn your final video to DVD, mini-DVD, or Video-CD, using AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, ASF, WMV, or DivX movie file formats.

Whatever approach you elect, affordable and easily usable tools are now available to help you save your precious footage. Your tapes aren't getting any younger, after all.