Sunday, September 14, 2008

Create Your Own Blu-ray Video Discs

If you’re enough of an early adopter to have an HD camcorder as well as an HDTV and a set-top Blu-ray player, you’re probably itching to create high-def discs from your footage and present them on your HDTV.

Sure, you could just plug your camcorder into your TV and press Play, but then you would miss out on all the great HD features that Blu-ray has to offer. I’ll show you how to burn your video onto discs that will run on your Blu-ray player.

For this project, you’ll need a high-def camcorder and a Blu-ray video editing application. Surprisingly, you don’t necessarily need an actual Blu-ray recorder (which can cost upward of Rs 20,000) to do the job. You can burn regular DVD discs in a high-def format—complete with Blu-ray menus—using a standard DVD recorder, though it fits substantially less footage onto a disc.

Of course, if you’re creating an epic saga of your family’s vacation adventures, you’ll want a real Blu-ray burner such as the LG GGW-H20L, which can record more than 4 hours of 1080i video footage from your HD camcorder to a single 50GB disc.

Within your favorite Blu-ray-compatible video editing application, trim and edit your clips, mark your chapters, and customize your disc menu. For high-definition 16:9 discs, size the background art to 1280 by 720 pixels before importing it.

Burning Your Blu-ray Disc: Avoid Missteps
After you’ve finished editing and creating your disc menus, set the recording parameters and burn to disc. This is the tricky part, as it’s the only step of the process where things can go very wrong. First, be sure that all of the needed Blu-ray codecs and plug-ins are installed, and confirm that your Blu-ray drive (if you have one) is attached to your computer. Most Blu-ray software requires separate registration of Blu-ray components, which happens only when you attach a Blu-ray drive and start to author with it.

Next, make certain that your output settings are at the highest quality, and that they match your source video. For example, if your source video is HDV (.m2t), confirm that MPEG-2 1440 by 1080 is chosen as the video format. Similarly, for AVCHD (.mts), choose MPEG-4/H.264 and either 1440 by 1080 or 1920 by 1080, depending on the resolution at which you recorded the video. If you need to mix HDV and AVCHD clips, choose AVCHD and 1440 by 1080 as a common output format.

The purpose of carefully matching your output settings with your source video is to maximize quality while minimizing the need for re-encoding by your video editor—a process that can take many hours. CyberLink PowerDirector has a special “smart rendering” technology that skips encoding of any parts of your video clips that have not been modified. So if all you’ve done is trim the ends of clips, you’ll avoid most production and encoding time. By contrast, Pinnacle Studio 12 does not have equivalent capabilities, so it ended up spending more than 30 minutes saving a BDMV disc image of a tiny 3-minute AVCHD clip, even though I had not modified the video at all. Pinnacle says that smart rendering is not yet implemented in Studio Ultimate for AVCHD files, although it is for HDV.
The settings box will also ask you about your disc format and media. This is where you specify that you want to burn a BDMV, and choose Blu-ray or DVD media for your project. The burn-setup box in Pinnacle Studio has similar options, plus a setting for creating a disc-image folder on your hard drive as well as for burning a disc. This is a great feature, since you can go back and reburn that disc image, without waiting for production and encoding, at any time. You can also use the disc image as a test file, burning it only when you are satisfied that your project is perfect; this approach saves you from cranking out a stack of expensive drink coasters.

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