Know Your Blu-ray Formats
Photograph: Chris Manners
There are three basic Blu-ray disc formats that you need to know about.
BDAV: The Blu-ray Disc Audio/Visual format allows for HD video clips and chapters but lacks menu navigation. Instead, it plays right through.
BDMV: Blu-ray Disc Movie discs contain HD video clips and a menu for navigation, much as a commercial movie disc does.
AVCHD: Advanced Video Codec for High Definition is the new digital standard for HD camcorders. Files in this format can be burned directly to a Blu-ray disc and played in your set-top player; they do not contain navigation menus, however.
BDAV can be burned only to a true Blu-ray disc, while both BDMV and AVCHD can be mastered onto DVD media as well as BD-R/RE. Most of the consumer authoring programs mentioned here can create BDMV and AVCHD discs, which are the types we will focus on in this article.
Importing and Editing Your Video
Successful Blu-ray authoring starts in the camcorder. You can use either an AVCHD or an HDV camcorder, although the process is much quicker with AVCHD, since you can just drag recordings over from the camcorder to your hard disk.
For either type of camera, I recommend recording in the highest quality setting (such as 1920 by 1080 resolution and 17 mbps for AVCHD, or 1440 by 1080 for HDV), but otherwise leaving it in default mode. Options such as 24p mode don't have good support in current editing software, and they may cause problems in playback too.
Once you have taken some video, it's time to edit it and to mark the start of chapters that will appear as separate clips on your finished disc. I'll illustrate the process in CyberLink PowerDirector 7, which currently has the best Blu-ray and AVCHD support of the three programs I tested.
After you've imported your clips into PowerDirector, they will appear in the media area. Simply drag them to the movie timeline in the order in which you want them to appear. PowerDirector and Pinnacle Studio 12 are complete video editing programs that let you add transitions, titles, music, voice-overs, and special effects, but at a minimum you will likely want to trim the beginnings or ends of clips and set chapter markers. Once your videos are in the PowerDirector timeline, click on any clip, and 'Split' and 'Trim' buttons will then appear.
Trimming a clip is a simple matter of sliding pointers to the spots where you want your clip to start and end. If you want to delete material in the middle, first split the clip and then trim it. Play your movie back to check your edits.
After editing, set the chapter markers that will comprise the individual chapters in your Blu-ray disc navigation menu. Do so by clicking the Chapter icon in PowerDirector. You can click the Add button to add chapter markers manually at any point along your timeline, but I find it easier to have PowerDirector automatically insert a chapter at the start of each clip, under Automatic Chapter Settings; then you can quickly prune out any markers you don't want, and leave the ones you do.