I can help a little bit…
DVDs can be used to back up data, back up other movies on. Just make sure not to use low or variable quality media. Get Verbatim that’s Made in Taiwan (MIT) or even better, buy Taiyo Yuden (TY for short) from a place like www.rima.com
As for your VCR-DVD recorder, check the manual carefully to see what DVD formats it accepts, then you can buy the formats it will accept and record to. However, remember that DVDs recorded on that unit may not be recognized by your computer or even a different standalone DVD player. These VCR-DVD units are notorious for only making copies the same unit can read/play. I have not read of a DVD recording standalone unit that has ceased to have this problem, but I may be wrong–although I do not think if there are models that have addressed this problem that there are many models to choose from.
If you are transferring VCR tape to DVD, you won’t need a decrypter to do this, as there won’t be any copy protection on your home movies. However, if you want to be able to make a DVD backup of a DVD movie you own on your computer, then you will need decryption software, plus the software for processing the titles in the decrypted version. the best combination I’ve used is from Slysoft, the AnyDVD (decrypter) and CloneDVD2 combination from www.slysoft.com. It is not free, but they are worth the price. They usually have a 20% off coupon to use to lower the price, and so far they still have lifetime updates and excellent support. There are other software choices out there, but that is among one of the best. If you have something you want to convert from .avi to a DVD format, one option for that conversion is VSO’s CopyXtoDVD. With the right codecs, you could view .avi content on your computer, but if you want to convert them to a DVD format, you’d have to use some kind of software title like that.
Others probably have some more suggestions and directions, but I think I’ve given you enough to give you some ideas.
Welcome to the forum, Trucker.