This is a very painful and time-consuming process. Having seen digital still cameras I also had a feeling that you connect your digital camcorder to your PC, copy all the footage on your hard disc and move it across to a blank CD or DVD.
However, this is NOT the case.
Although I am quite new at this as well and haven't figured out a perfect way of doing things, this is what I know:
TRANSFER YOUR FOOTAGE ON TO PC:
Windows Movie Maker is a free and stable program built in Windows XP. It captures movies in two formats - avi and wmv.
CONVERT YOUR AVI OR WMV FILES INTO MPEGS:
With third-party software like TmpEng (I think I've spelt it correctly) you can change your avi or wmv files to MPEG (or MPG) files. The free version will let you make unlimited MPG1 files (which are inferior quality and are used for VCDs). In addition, you make MPG2 files for 30 days. MPEG2 is somewhere between VCD and DVD and creates Super VCDs or SVCDs.
You can copy these MPEGs directly on a CD or DVD and your stand-alone DVD player might play them - my Yamada 5320 does that. However, if your DVD player can't you'll have to burn your CD or DVD as a "Video disc" rather than a "Data disc".
CAPTURE DIRECTLY AS MPEGS:
This is a natural question that arises. Why can't we capture directly in a universally playable format?
ULEAD have a software (I forgot the name). I have used its version 6 which givea the option to choose between saving as a DV, AVI or MPEG file. Each of these options is configurable.
A SIMPLER OPTION:
Perhaps recording directly onto a stand-alone DVD recorder will be a simple thing. Hook your camcorder to it, playback the miniDV tape and there you go - just like creating a VHS.
However, I must admit that I have no clue about the format of the video, whether or not it will be editable or universally portable. Mind you, DVD recorders as well as DVD camcorders are still not united on a format - Panasonic, Sony and Philips all have their own versions and it might be a while where there is ONE format for DVD recording.
Please email me if you have any questions.