Catalyst Media Center is in fact Cyberlink PowerCinema

FWIW, for capping old vcr tapes the best I've found is an external DVDR... adds analog filtering it could take you hours if not days to duplicate on your PC, so you 1) get a much better picture, & 2) you can be doing something else beside watching your PC record, & 3) you don't have to worry about bit rate or encoding audio to AC3... plus it retains CC.

FWIW #2, win7's Media Center is what Vista's version was supposed to be, but never achieved. Which is good because CMC won't run on it properly yet.

And FWIW 3, while there are all sorts of remapping info out there for your remote, Vista & 7's Media Centers are optional Windows components. If you're using CMC, you could always try turning Vista's Media Center off, or uninstall/unactivate it if you want. Without VMC's services running you'll probably get better results in CMC anyway.

RE: your 550's... you should be able to set bit rate between 6 & 8, which depending on length of video should be OK for DVDs without needing a re-encode -- you generally want somewhere around 5.5 or 6 as you approach 2 hours, & can probably use around 8 for 1.5 hour recordings. 2 hours or more & you'll want to go Dual Layer or 2 DVDs. Look at if you need something to encode your audio to std AC3. [Mp3 works on some - not all - players, so if you don't have file size problems it can be OK]. For creating DVDs there's a bunch of links, downloads & info at videohelp as well.

If your VHS tapes include any broadcast recordings with commercials, you might be able to skip over them in your DVD authoring software, & sometimes using PGCEdit (depending on your authoring software), which is a nice shortcut.