Thanks For The Digitally Enhanced Memories

The HP DVD Movie Writer takes home movies into the 21st century.

Watching home movies never gets old. Remember when Timmy and Molly dug for shells on that beach out in Portsmouth? Remember that little stray dog they found on the beach? The one they called "Ruggy"?

Wait just a minute. Wouldn't it be cool if Timmy and Molly had flown around the beach like Neo in The Matrix, instead of just ambling about, stubbing their toes? And wouldn't it have rocked if Ruggy had breathed fire?

Historical revisionism is just one of the advanced uses of this season's leading memory-saving device, the DVD Movie Writer from Hewlett Packard. This cutting-edge gadget looks (to borrow a friend's description) like a little toaster. Instead of burning bread, however, the gizmo burns DVDsfrom various source formats, including those VHS tapes of Timmy and Molly that no one has watched in years. Introduced on Sept. 1, the Writer has yet to make an appearance at many top electronics stores. We did manage to find a few placesincluding Circuit City in Bellevue (15600 N.E. Eighth St., 425-747-2949) and Best Buy at Northgate Mall (330 N.E. Northgate Way, 206-306-7663)that already stock the Movie Writer, which retails for $399.

Combining analog video inputs, a DVD burner, and an encoder card, the Writer is an external component that requires only a PC and a video source (such as a VCR) to do its magical business. The device handles DVD-R discs (for permanent recording), as well as the increasingly common DVD-RW, which allows for theoretically endless writing and rewriting (as with regular VHS tapes).

Simply converting VHS to DVD is sure to bore you eventually; luckily, the Writer comes bundled with loads of editing software, including the ArcSoft ShowBiz Editor, a tool you'll truly appreciate after you turn little Rodney's hour-long band concert into a five-minute highlight reel. If you're dealing with nonmusical footage, the Editor lets you spice things up with video effects and tunes of your choosing. You could even follow Hewlett Packard's own advice and "chart a child's growth in a jaunty music video." No matter how aloof your kids seem now, one daywhen VHS has gone the way of the eight-trackthey'll be glad you preserved their growth from sprout to 6-footer on a visually altered DVD with a soundtrack. Because when you get down to it, nothing says "cherished memories" like Hilary Duff songs and fire-breathing dogs.

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