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Blu Ray on DVD (BD5 - BD9)



Blu Ray DVD


Blu Ray (but not HD) was new to me when I picked up Creator 2010 a few weeks ago. Since then I've been spending a lot of time reading, learning, and testing, & want to share some of what I've learned about Blu Ray & Creator 2010, hoping that maybe it'll make it easier for someone else...


While HD video's been around for a while, with several options to store, deliver, & play it, recent price drops in stand-a-lone Blu Ray players [the same makes/models have gone from >$200 to <$100 in a year] make putting video into Blu Ray format a decent alternative, particularly when/if you use single layer DVD, rather than the much more expensive BD blanks. While you'll have to judge for yourself, there are loads of posts on-line saying that they get almost identical quality from Blu Ray on BD & DVD discs, & surprisingly close to the same length video per layer as conventional DVD video. My experience so far bears that out, with over 1.5 hours on a single layer DVD at 720p 24fps, but there are a few important notes -- 1) a LOT depends on the quality of the original source video -- lower quality video won't benefit from very high bit rates, & so can't improve when encoded to large files on Blu Ray discs, 2) quality depends not just on the encoder, but somewhat on the number of encoding passes when you're really pushing for smaller file size, & 3) the subject of your video matters -- a higher bit rate is necessary to avoid too much quality loss with very high motion scenes. Blu Ray on DVD IMHO works because HD's larger video frame sizes are more forgiving -- encoding errors &/or artifacts simply make up a much smaller percentage of the picture. And an awful lot of HD currently is regular video upsampled & re-encoded -- upsampling adds nothing to the original quality, since all it does is spread the original pixels further apart & fill in the blanks with guesswork. A Hollywood studio planned on releasing Blu Ray versions of movies on DVD [that's why it's in the spec], but then Blu Ray discs got cheaper to produce.


Putting Blu Ray video on DVD is anything but hard -- you only need your current DVD burner, & DVD blanks are cheap, so if you decide to give it a try what do you have to lose? All you do is import your video/audio into the authoring app [like MyDVD], design a menu or two if you want them, and create the BD disc layout as a set of files or an ISO image [your software may offer to burn a disc for you too]. When burning a Blu Ray layout to disc you need to use UDF 2.5 -- in XP you might need to get an update to handle UDF 2.5 from Microsoft [KB952011]. Note that I couldn't get PowerDVD (including the latest version trial) to play a Blu Ray disc layout on my hard drive, it wouldn't play an ISO mounted with Creator's utility, & it wouldn't play a BD5 disc [blu Ray on a single layer DVD] that used mpg2 video -- Creator 2010's Cineplayer with the BD add-on works just fine. That said, working with Blu Ray, particularly burning to DVD can seem confusing at 1st... On the one hand it's so simple that there's very little for anyone to write about [though that shouldn't include the Roxio help files] -- on the other hand, problems with or because of multiple standards can mean getting some different programs to play nice may be impossible.


Right now there's 1 formal standard, & 2, maybe 3 informal ones: there's the stricter than Blu Ray compliance testing run by many (most?) retail authoring apps [to try & make sure your disc plays everywhere], the much looser informal standard widely used by free-ware apps [encoding tweaked according to user reports of hardware playback], & the original AVCHD discs popularly used in/with the PS3 [AVCHD is reported to be compatible in/with fewer players than BD5/BD9] [with BD5 & BD9, your Blu Ray player may recognize & play your disc as AVCHD, regardless if it's 100% in spec & passed compliance testing, likely because that's the mode it uses for non-DVD video on a DVD]. Not all Blu Ray players will play every format in the official spec, while some players might have few (if any) problems with out of spec video &/or discs. At home that's usually not a big deal, since many people are only concerned about how (or if) a disc performs in 1 (or a few) players -- personally I feel that if it's the same amount of work either way, I prefer stricter compliance in case that means my discs will still be playable years from now, the same way Blu Ray players handle older video DVDs. At home the biggest impact may be how standards effect the software you can use.


The Blu Ray spec is both sealed & expensive, so free-ware authors have had to deal with some trial & error. The free X264.exe encoder [for AVC] is considered by many pros & enthusiasts alike to be the best there is, & there are many front ends [GUIs] that use this CLI [Command Line Interface] app. Many of the GUIs I tried would not accept Lagarith or other avi test files in mjpeg format -- those that would could not produce AVC video files that would make it through MyDVD's compliance checking. Many of these GUIs (& VideoWave) have templates or profiles specifically for Blu Ray players, & the results *probably* work on/in most players -- they just won't make it though MyDVD [or other authoring apps with compliance checking] & so will be re-encoded. I was surprised that video encoded with VideoWave's BD templates wouldn't make it through MyDVD without a re-encode. While both MyDVD & VideoWave made some small use of my ATI graphics card, encoding using VideoWave's BD templates used more & was faster. [Note: it may be possible to encode MyDVD compliant video in VideoWave after creating a custom AVC template, but even with everything at default settings, encoding halted every time with an error using several test files. Also note that the dialog for setting the necessary Advanced Options only made sense to me after I spent time doing some serious reading/learning. "Advanced" in this case is accurate.] If you go the free-ware route you probably won't have any problems, and in fact many apps combine the authoring & encoding features, just like MyDVD, but may give you much more control compared to MyDVD's set encoding templates. Now the downside: if/when your video doesn't pass MyDVD's compliance testing, the odds are greater that your discs will not play in/with some players, & you'll waste some time & quality re-encoding should you bring your video into MyDVD for menu creation & content.


I could only access VideoWave's BD templates editing a movie in MyDVD -- besides enabling MyDVD to work for Blu Ray (not just AVCHD), the optional Blu Ray authoring add-on should fix that [give you BD templates in *normal* VideoWave], but shouldn't alter the core program, won't change VideoWave's BD template compatibility. MyDVD uses only predefined AVCHD templates [+ BD with add-on] -- VideoWave has both predefined BD templates & the option to make new ones [if you get it to work for BD AVC]. I found it possible to alter the bit rate editing the 2 HD .xml templates in XP's docs & settings, All Users\Application Data\Roxio\VideoWave12\Templates\Produce folder -- Microsoft's free XML Notepad makes it easier. I found quite a few settings for 3 Roxio/Sonic encoders in the registry, but didn't see any great effect changing them. I tried the converter that comes with Creator 2010, getting puzzling results that wouldn't pass MyDVD's compliance testing either... I think it was faster encoding compared to MyDVD, & short test clips seemed to play OK, but longer files turned out smaller than they should have, & the AVC ones were totally useless -- not just unplayable, but unrecognizable to dozens of apps.


To summarize, for max quality & efficiency if you're using MyDVD to create an AVCHD disc layout [or Blu Ray with the add-on], whether you're burning the results to DVD or BD, encode in MyDVD. If you edit in VideoWave, send your project to MyDVD for rendering. If you want to use VideoWave's faster encoders [or another encoder that gives you more control over settings], use one of the less restrictive [often free] authoring apps to create your AVCHD or Blu Ray layout. If for whatever reason you want/need to render a file in VideoWave to import into [not send to] MyDVD, use a lossless or near lossless format/codec so quality will suffer less when MyDVD re-encodes it. Note that for regular, DVD video [mpg2], there's IMHO less incentive to use VideoWave's encoder -- it wouldn't do 24p fps with pull-down [flags to repeat frames for an effective 29.97 fps NTSC], reversed the reported field order, & while it was quick, it's not all that fast compared to many alternatives.


Now a quick word on formating HD video to burn on DVD... You obviously have to make the files small enough to fit, but reducing the bit rate [adding more compression] isn't the only thing you can do -- you can reduce the frame size & sometimes cut the fps [Frames per Second]. Reducing the frame size from 1080i/p to 720p can be a good move, especially when there's not a lot of really fine detail to lose, but your eyes will have to be the judge. The downside: maybe because settings have to be slightly different, maybe because some players &/or TVs won't handle it well [though 720p is formal spec], Many encoders tend to leave 720p out -- there's a 720p Blu Ray AVC VideoWave template, but if you try to create an AVC template 720p is not an option [again, that's if you can create a working AVC template]. Because it's an extra step, resizing + encoding takes longer, but you get time back since there's less data to encode. Dropping the fps is more difficult, may not be practical, & can effect what you see on screen more than cutting frame sizes. If you're working with a recorded TV broadcast for example, if the original was film at 24 fps, going back to 24 fps [iVT] can be fairly easy & well worth it, since that's roughly 6 frames per second you don't have to encode & store in the final file. Reducing the fps on video that was shot at 30, 50, or 60 fps however might look disastrous. Blu Ray video can be VC1, AVC, or mpg2 encoding formats. AVC is supposed to be the best because of it's higher efficiency, but in my experience so far mpg2 looked as good if not very slightly better [that could be due to the AVC encoder used & its settings because most of what you read on-line says the opposite]. Considering the lower data transfer rate when your Blu Ray player reads a DVD, reducing bit rate is also often a necessity -- just 'cause the clip will fit, doesn't mean your player will handle it well, especially for things like seeking, ffwd etc. And if you do see a problem with your encoded video, make sure it wasn't there in the source from the start [it often is].

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