Create your own Blu-ray video discs

From shooting great video with your HD camcorder to playing the footage back on your HDTV, here's how to turn your own home videos into high-def Blu-ray masterpieces.

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-definition discs from your footage and present them on your big HD screen.

Sure, you could just plug your camcorder into your TV and press Play, but then you'd miss out on all the great HD features that Blu-ray has to offer. I'll show you how to trim and rearrange your clips, add chapter markers, and create an attractive Blu-ray disc navigation menu, just as you would for a standard-def DVD, as well as how to burn the discs for playback on your Blu-ray player.

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For this project, you'll need a high-def camcorder and a Blu-ray video editing application. Though it has been a long and rocky road getting to this point, most of the major consumer DVD-editing tools have been upgraded recently to support Blu-ray video-disc authoring (as distinct from Blu-ray data burning, which is a much easier task and has been widely supported for more than a year now). CyberLink PowerDirector 7 Ultra, Pinnacle Studio 12 Ultimate, Nero 8 Ultra, and Corel Ulead DVD MovieFactory 6 coupled with VideoStudio 11.5 Plus can all bring Blu-ray video to your PC for around $100 to $130 (less if you're upgrading).

You will need a fairly powerful PC to make use of such video apps, as Jon L. Jacobi's "Play HD Movies on (Almost) Any PC" indicates. Surprisingly, however, you don't necessarily need an actual Blu-ray recorder (which can cost upward of $600) to do the job. You can burn regular DVD discs in the Blu-ray format using a standard DVD recorder, as long as you don't mind fitting substantially less footage onto a disc.

A 4.5GB DVD can hold about 20 to 30 minutes of high-def Blu-ray video, and a dual-layer 8.5GB disc can hold up to 45 minutes. Such discs can play in many set-top Blu-ray players. Which would you rather burn, a 25-cent DVD-R, or a $10 BD-R? The price goes up to an eye-popping $50 for a 50GB BD-RE (rewritable) disc with 4 hours of HD playing time. Since most home movies tend to be relatively short anyway, burning your HD videos onto standard DVD media on the drive you already have can be a pretty sweet deal.

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 LaCie d2 or Plextor PX-P900A, which can record more than 4 hours of 1080i video from your HD camcorder to a single 50GB disc.

The editing and authoring tools for making true Blu-ray discs and Blu-ray-on-DVD discs are the same, so you can get started with the DVD recorder you have now and then upgrade to a Blu-ray recorder later, when prices for drives and media come down.

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