Mini DV For Now
Mini DV tapes maintain their position of the video capture format of preference, and really act as the temporal barrier between VHS and entirely digital storage devices. Still, Mini DV tapes continue to be the most economically practical and stable video recording platforms. The only problem here is that you have to find a way to capture the footage that is on the Mini DV tape into a DVD format, or a traditional VHS.
If you want to transfer the footage on a Mini DV tape to a DVD you have to start by capturing it onto your computer, which can be done in two ways. You can purchase a capture card and a Mini DV tape deck so that you can capture the tape directly onto the computer. If you do not want to go through all that time and money, which will be justified if you work with Mini DV tapes on a regular basis, you can simply plug the digital video camera that you used to record onto the Mini DV tape right into the firewire port.
Capturing in Video Editing Software
Use a video editing software to capture your footage. There are a number of programs that can do this, but on board non-linear editing software is going to be the best. If you use a software package like Final Cut Studio or Avid Media Composer you are going to be better off, even though you are not going to be doing any full scale video editing. This capture process plays through your Mini DV tape and records it to your hard drive while it does it. If you use a non-linear editing software it will capture the footage into the software where it will rest in the Browser with the Bins. Here you take it and drag it into the Timeline and then set to export with a compression program.
Use the compression software to change the format more the video and audio so that it will be conducive to the DVD authoring software that you will use. This format tends to be universal at MPEG-2, but you can set how much you want to compress compared to how large or long the video ends up being. If you are using a high quality video editing program it will likely have an accompanying program, such as Compressor in the Final Cut Studio. With this you will even have labeled DVD ready codecs that will be in a special folder dedicated to compression for DVD authoring.
Open up your DVD authoring software and then import the compressed video and audio of your Mini DV footage into your Assets. Here you drag and drop it into a new Timeline, just as you did in the non-linear video editing software you used. Here you finish the DVD authoring process by creating menus, connecting the buttons to the Timeline video, and making sure it all runs smoothly. With a complete video editing package you can complete this entire workflow with included application, such as the DVD authoring process with DVD Studio Pro from the Final Cut Studio package. Here you just select to finish the DVD authoring process by selecting Burn.
Transferring Video Footage
If you want to convert the Mini DV tape to VHS you will have to go through a completely different process. You will start by securing a double tape deck that takes both Mini DV tape and VHS. You can usually rent these or use one for a brief period of time at a studio location that has one built in. You then simply play the Mini DV tape while you record from the VHS section. This will record just as it would in a normal record situation.
Mini DV to DVD to VHS
You can also try to transfer this once you have the Mini DV footage on a DVD. Again, find a DVD player with a VHS attached and try to do a footage transfer between the disc and the tape. This will take much longer than a direct transfer. After you transfer the Mini DV footage to the VHS you can expect there to be a little bit of a loss in video clarity. The Mini DV footage should be saved for storage as it will be more stable over time than the VHS. To transfer the footage back to a computer medium you will not want to use the VHS copy, unless that is the only option you have. Try to only use the VHS copy for home viewing and not for practical transfer.