Blu-ray

How to Burn Any Video File to a Playable Blu-Ray Disc

If you’ve ripped your Blu-Ray collection to make your library more convenient, you might also want to burn a back up or use a copy so you don’t damage your original. Here’s how to burn a copy of your movies—or even your own home videos—to a playable Blu-Ray on Windows or macOS.

What You’ll Need

To create your own playable Blu-Ray, you’ll need a few things to get started including:

  • A Blu-Ray burner drive: By the time Blu-Ray became a common standard, many computers were skipping optical drives altogether. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to buy a Blu-Ray burner drive, which usually go for around $40-60, depending on whether you want to get an internal or external drive. If you want to burn Blu-Rays from a Mac, you’ll probably need an external burner, as most Macs can’t use internals without some kind of enclosure.
  • A blank Blu-Ray disc: Naturally, you’ll need a blank disc to burn your movie to. Blank Blu-Ray discs are a little more expensive than DVDs, but they’re still relatively affordable if you buy them in bulk. The blank discs also come in two flavors: single layer and dual layer. Single layer Blu-Rays can store up to 25GB, while dual layer Blu-Rays can store up to 50GB.
  • tsMuxeR (Windows/Mac): Before you burn your video to a disc, you’ll need to put it in the proper format. If your video is in MP4, MKV, or other supported common video formats, tsMuxeR is a simple utility that can reorganize these files into something your Blu-Ray player can read. This process is technically “muxing,” not encoding, so it won’t mess with the quality of your video.
  • ImgBurn (Windows): This is a handy tool that can burn files, folder, or disc images onto a Blu-Ray for you. We’ll use tsMuxeR to create an ISO file that ImgBurn can easily burn directly onto a disc.
  • Finder (Mac): On a Mac, the burning process is even easier. Finder has the built-in ability to burn an ISO image directly as long as you have a disc drive connected.

Install or plug in your Blu-ray drive, install the apps you need, then fire up tsMuxeR to remux your videos into the proper format.

Step One: Convert Video Files to the Blu-Ray Format With tsMuxeR

No matter what OS you’re using, you’ll need to convert your video files to the Blu-Ray format. More technically, we’re going to use a process called multiplexing, or “muxing.” In this…

What the Labels On Your TV’s HDMI Ports Mean (and When It Matters)

An HDMI port is just an HDMI port, right? Except if you peer closely at the back of your HDTV and other HDMI-capable home theater components, you’ll notice quite a few tiny labels that indicate not all ports are equal. What do those labels mean, and does it matter which port you use?

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Any Port for the Basics, Specific Ports for Specific Features

When it comes to selecting which HDMI port to use for which device, there are only a few simple things to keep in mind. First and foremost, when it doubt, always defer to your device’s manual: good labeling, poor labeling, or no labeling at all, the ultimate authority is the fine print the manufacturer has laid out in the manual. Not only might you find that generically labeled port “HDMI 2” actually has extra features, but you may also find you need to toggle a setting somewhere in the TV’s settings menu to enable it.

The second thing to keep in mind is that for older HDMI devices, like your old Blu-ray player or cable box, any HDMI port will work because of backwards compatibility—but some ports offer additional features, which we’ll address in the next section.

Finally, while any port will get the job done for older HDMI-capable devices, you will absolutely want to be sure you’re using best port on your HDTV if you have a newer device capable of 4K input. If you pair a new device with an older port, you’ll miss out on significant quality.

HDMI Labels Decoded

On your typical HDTV set, you’ll find some (though rarely all) of the following labels. While the meaning of the labels ranges from “pretty standardized” to “set in stone” at this point, there is no requirement that manufacturers label their ports at all—if your set simply has “HDMI 1”, “HDMI 2”, and so on, again, check the manual to see if any of the ports have the following features.

STB: Set-Top Box

The STB port is intended for use with your set-top box: the input device provided to you by your cable or satellite provider. The only benefit of using this port for this purpose is that 1) it’s usually the first port, HDMI 1, which means it’s easy to skip to when using the input selection button and 2) HDTVs with this port designation typically have additional buttons for the set-top box (or additional functionality related to it). For example, your particular TV might use HDMI-CEC to talk to your cable box over the STB port so that the channel up/down buttons on your TV remote will work for your cable box.

DVI: Digital Video Input

DVI ports are an old hold-over from the early days of HDMI, and offer backwards compatibility with devices that can output digital video on one cable but need another cable for audio. The benefit of using the DVI port is that your TV will accept audio input from one (or more) of the…

What Is This HDMI ARC Port on My TV?

If you look on the back of your TV, you’ll likely see a few HDMI ports—but one of them may be labeled ARC, or something similar. This is no ordinary HDMI port. HDMI ARC can greatly simplify your audio cabling needs and setup if you know where to look for it and how to implement it.

HDMI ARC: The HDMI Specification You’ve Never Heard Of

Historically, an AV receivers was the heart of the home media experience, and everything connected through it. DVD/Blu-ray players, cable boxes, game consoles, and other devices all went into the box, and then video and audio signals were split between the TV and the speakers, respectively.

While there is still a time and place for a dedicated receiver, many newer HDTVs—with smart features built right in and a plethora of ports on the back—can serve as the hub, with the receiver taking a back seat (if there is a receiver at all).

But without a receiver handling the audio in a central location, how do you get the sound from the HDTV to the auxiliary speakers (like that nice new soundbar you picked up)? You could rely on older standards like the optical TOSlink cable—the little dog-door-like port is still ubiquitous on HDTVs—but if both your HDTV and your speaker system are newer, you don’t have to settle for using a 30 year old optical cable standard and can both par back the number of cables you use as well as the newer audio formats HDMI can handle but TOSLink cannot.

Since HDMI 1.4, HDMI has supported a specification known as HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) that offers two-way communication, similar to the HDMI control scheme specification HDMI-CEC. In the original HDMI standard, your TV could receive audio through HDMI, like when your Blu-ray player sends audio and video on the same cable—but it could not send audio out. HDMI ARC allows your TV to send audio out so, now, any audio generated by the built-in antenna tuner, smart TV apps like Netflix, or any other on-TV source, can be sent out to your surround sound system or sound bar.

In theory, using this feature should be as simple as plugging in an HDMI cable. In practice, however, labeling methods (or lack there of), manufacturer standards, and other variables can get in the way.

Using HDMI ARC: Read the Fine Print…

What’s the Difference Between Dolby Digital and DTS, and Should I Care?

Just like music, surround sound platforms are available in multiple standards. The two big ones supported by most high-end home audio systems are Dolby Digital and DTS (short for the owner of the standard, Dedicated To Sound). But what’s the difference between the two?

What Are Dolby Digital and DTS?

Both Dolby and DTS offer surround sound codecs for 5.1, 6.1 (rare), and 7.1 setups, where the first number indicates the number of small surround speakers and the “.1” is a separate channel for a subwoofer. For the most common applications, playback of movies and TV shows via DVD, Blu-ray, and cable or satellite TV systems, both standards are used by the studio to compress the dense files necessary for multi-channel audio and decompress it by your receiver for playback.

In addition to 5.1 and 7.1 speaker playback in various formats, both standards have multiple extra technologies, like specific encoders for enhanced stereo, the older Pro Logic standards that simulate surround sound, converting up or down to match a non-standard number of speakers, enhanced surround for extra immersion, and so on. But for the purposes of a standard Blu-ray or satellite system with a high-end audio receiver, we’re going to focus on the surround sound playback.

A relatively inexpensive 5.1-speaker setup with an integrated Blu-ray player. It may not be compatible with the highest bitrate Dolby and DTS standards.

Both formats use compression to save space (either on the disc, in the case of DVD and Blu-ray, or streaming bandwidth, in the case of services like Netflix). Some forms of DTS and Dolby Digital are “lossy”, meaning it has a degree of audio degradation from the original source, while others get around this audio loss for “lossless” studio levels of performance while still offering some compression for space savings (see below).

How They’re Different

Dolby Surround and DTS are proprietary formats, so a complete examination of the technology they use isn’t really possible (unless you happen to work for either company). But we can look at some of the specific specs available and make a rough determination.

First, each standard has its own “tiers” of quality, which you’ll find in different forms of media. Here are the options you’ll find for each:

Dolby

  • Dolby Digital: 5.1 max channel sound at 640 kilobits per second (this is common on DVDs)
  • Dolby Digital Plus: 7.1 max channel sound at 1.7 megabits per second (supported by some services like Netflix)
  • Dolby TrueHD: 7.1 max channel sound at 18 megabits per second (“lossless” quality available on Blu-ray discs)

DTS

  • DTS Digital Surround: 5.1 max channel sound at 1.5 megabits per second
  • DTS-HD High Resolution: 7.1 max channel sound at 6 megabits…