I got a copy of “That’s It, That’s All” on blu-ray a few weeks back. I thought it would probably be a good idea to get a player so I could actually watch it. I was also reading about how Toast 10 could burn up to 30min of blu-ray video to DVD-R, and that places like Discovery HD and National Geographic were requiring their producers to submit rough cuts on blu-ray DVD-Rs instead of regular DVD-Rs. So I ordered Toast 10 Pro and the Sony S350. Watching blu-ray video was pretty cool. I have been watching and editing HD video for years, so I wasn’t as blown away as the typical Best Buy customer. But coming from the DVD authoring world, I was pretty impressed with how great the video looked when its really only a doubling or tripling of the MPEG2 bitrate. So, time to test Toast. I took a 7min video and had Toast encode at its Best setting. The video looked good, but seemed to get pixely, as if it was randomly assigning I frames. The S350 has a cool feature in the Display mode that will show you the codec used along with the current bitrate. Toast discs showed up as AVCHD and the bitrate would be around 15 or 18Mbps, but then would drop down to 4 or 5 during fast motion and would cause blur. So I changed the settings to manual and tried to use 28Mbps. It wouldn’t let me. I looked around on forums to see what was going on, but couldn’t find an answer. So instead I created a 28Mbps MPEG-2 in Compressor and used Toast to burn it to a DVD-R. It looked great. For a few seconds. Then skipped like crazy. So I think that DVD-R just has a bitrate max of 18 or 20Mbps. I have read on forums that Toast’s encoder is crap, but in the end, I think its the DVD-R spec and Toast is doing the best it can at roughly half the bitrate of a typical Hollywood blu-ray encoded with MPEG-2.
But using Toast to make HD screeners is pretty cool. It works well most of the time. If you use the default AVCHD (MPEG-4) encoder, you can use the Elgato Turbo.264 HD USB dongle to speed up encodes. (Edit: Tried this the other day and it doesn’t work. Roxio says that support for the Turbo.264 HD will be added in the next update) The Elgato doesnt work in MPEG-2 mode though. But in that case, I would just use Compressor, which looks awesome btw. Which brings me to:
I bought a Blu-Ray burner and got my hands on a copy of Encore CS3. I created a play-only blu-ray of a current project using Compressor, Encore and Toast and it looks great. So now I’m thinking about getting into the Blu-Ray authoring game. I have heard horror stories about Encore, but it’s pretty similar to DVD Studio Pro in layout. So I think I’m just gonna do some simple projects and wait patiently (like everyone else) until Apple updates DVDSP for Blu-Ray. Currently, the pro-level blu-ray authoring solutions are just too expensive for a dabbler like me.
As for the burner, I bought a bare LG from Newegg.com for $175, and a SATA to USB external case for $30. Works great. Connecting directly to my MacBook Pro via a SATA to eSATA cable is instant and completely set-up free. I’m not even going to bother with USB since my MacBook Pro has an eSATA card. I pretty much just chose the case I did because it’s power supply is built-in – no power brick or wall wart. I don’t know why some resellers are selling Blu-Ray burners for Macs for $400. I really hope Apple gets their act together soon!
Slightly OT: this reminds me of college when I was the only guy on my floor with a CD burner. People would bring me entire Case Logic books full of CDs they wanted copied (for their own personal use of course). That burner was like $350 or $400 in addition to the $2500 I dropped on an HP 350MHz Pentium 2 with a DVD player! That computer broke on me so many times. But that’s how I learned how to fix computers, then switched to Mac, and that’s now why I do what I do. Take that UW-Madison Engineering department. I had more fun on the other side of campus in the Business and Film departments anyway. And yes kids, that’s why college takes more than 4 years. 5 in my case.
Anyway – get rewritable BD-RE discs. I learned my lesson long ago when I first started authoring on DVD Studio 1.5 and DVD-Rs were like 5 bucks a piece.