The DVC Guide to Blu-ray Authoring.
You've finished your high definition edit - what are you going to do with it? Regular DVDs are standard definition only, and while you can downscale HD footage to SD quality to make normal DVDs, this won't make the most of your high definition material.
The obvious answer is a high definition disc format. For a while there were two options for making discs with HD content: Blu-ray (marketed by Sony) and HD-DVD (from Toshiba). Unfortunately for HD-DVD, Blu-ray achieved dominance in the HD disc market (largely due to Sony's aggressive marketing, including the incorporation of Blu-ray drives into their Playstation 3 console), and Toshiba ceased development of HD-DVD in early 2008.
SO WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT BLU-RAY?
The Blu-ray format is technically far superior and much larger capacity than regular DVD. A single layer Blu-ray disc is 25GB and dual layer discs are 50GB. 200GB discs are promised in the future.
The Blu-ray medium, capacity aside, is specifically designed to play HD video material, accessible through advanced navigation features and menu systems (including the ability to play several video streams simultaneously, for example to provide a picture-in-picture director's commentary).
IN WHICH FORMAT IS THE HD VIDEO STORED?
Standard DVDs are based on the MPEG2 video format. The video on Blu-ray discs can be in either MPEG2, H264 (more advanced MPEG) or VC1 (a variation of Windows Media).
Most commercial discs are in VC1 or H264. Using the tools that are presently available for our own editing systems, we can only make discs in MPEG2 or H264. The advantage of H264 is that you can fit more on a disc. With HD MPEG2 on single layer Blu-ray disc, there is space for about 2 hours of footage. With H264 you could get 3 hours at the same quality. The downside is it takes longer - an hour of H264 will take 4-5 hours to encode, whereas MPEG2 would be 1-2 hours. There are also several ways to speed up H264 encoding:
HOW DO WE MAKE OUR OWN?
Get a Blu-ray writer and some software. If you have a recent version of Encore, EDIUS or DVD Architect the chances are you have Blu-ray writing software already as they have been doing it for years.
There are som specific Blu-ray features like pop-up menus, but apart from these the actual method of making a Blu-ray disc is the same as making a DVD.
Our favourite Blu-ray writer, and the one which is generally reckoned to be the most reliable is from LG. This drive is currently about £79 +VAT.
We have three comprehensive programs for authoring Blu-ray discs - Avid HD (which used to also be available on its own as Sonic DVDit Pro, although now is ONLY available as Avid DVD), Adobe Encore and Sony DVD Architect. They all let you make a Blu-ray disc with all the features you would expect from a normal DVD - interactive menus, subtitles etc.
Encore is our favourite of these three programs, with Sony DVD Architect a close second. To buy either you have to buy their respective editing programs - To get ENCORE you buy Adobe Premiere, and to get Architect you buy Sony Vegas. Both are £500-£600. If you have an old copy of Premiere it is possible to buy Encore/Premiere for £209 +VAT - this is only from CS5 or CS6, older version do not qualify.
You can also author simple discs with programs like Nero 8 and Power DVD producer, but these will be of the pretty basic play-all variety.
WILL MY BLU-RAY DISCS PLAY ON STANDALONE PLAYERS?
Rather like DVDs if you use good quality discs then you should not have a problem. If you use cheap discs you may have a problem. We have a variety of Blu-ray blanks which we have tested available on our website: http://www.dvc.uk.com/acatalog/Blu-ray_media.html
High to low and low to high discs
There are two types of blank Blu-ray discs called low to high and high to low. We prefer High to Low discs. Low to High discs are made of an organic dye which is susceptible to sunlight and so may not last as long. We have also found them not as compatible as other discs. DVDs are also made of a dye that can be ruined by too much light, so this "feature" is nothing new. High to low discs are, in our opinion more durable.
What is the alternative to Blu-ray?
Apart from making standard def DVDs the only other option is to make some kind of file. Generally these are MP4 files which are made of the same kind of video as the Blu-ray files (H264). Therefore they take as long to make and can be the same quality as the original. How do you play them? Some Blu-ray players will play files and we are also getting smart TVs which can play all sorts of files, including MP4 files. You will need to copy them on to a USB PEN or s network hard drive which the TV can see so the TV can play them. This may become more common in the future as more and more people get smart TVs. You can also put them up on the Internet on YouTube or Vimeo for people to watch.
If you just want to had a disc to someone else with some menus to help them find things, a Blu-ray is the best option.
Can I put any HD video on a Blu-ray disc?
No. When it was first invented we could not film in any size that was not allowed on a Blu-ray disc but these days even cheap AVCHD cameras can film as sizes not allowed on Blu-ray. For example some cameras can film a very nice picture at 1920x1080 50P and this is not allowed on a Blu-ray video disc. In this case you need to make a file and distribute it that way or downsize it to 1920 x 1080 50i which any decent editing program can do for you.
These are the acceptable sizes allowed on Blu-ray discs currently:
You can see 1920x1080 50P is not mentioned and there are other surprising omissions like 1920x1080 25P. This standard is not likely to change because it was invented by a consortium of companies and they take a long time to make decisions.