Monday, 19 January 2015

Blu-ray Discs: Ripping Movies and Avoiding a Bag Of Hurt.

18th January, 2015.

I’ve occasionally written pieces, here, about DVDs.

DVDs, movies, TV series, all sorts of media.


Occasionally, I’ve written about how to use a programme called HandBrake to rip DVDs.

In other words, to re-code the contents of a DVD — whether those contents are TV shows or movies — into a form that can be played on a computer, iPod or other media player, or tablet.

Partly as back-up.

Partly because I feel if I’ve bought a copy of a film, it’s my copy of the film: and I should be able to watch that film on whatever device I own.

Whatever that device happens to be.


Of course, times — and technology — change.

These days, I tend to rent movies from the iTunes store than rent DVDs from my local Blockbusters.

Indeed, the latter collapsed, several years ago: in part because more of us are making use of video-on-demand services.

Things like iTunes, Netflix and Amazon Prime.   And the various VOD services offered by the likes of Sky, BT, and others.

However, I’m very aware there will be times when we cannot access those VOD services: or have enough limits on our broadband usage to make downloading high quality films — of large size — impractical.

Nor access the online copies many blu-rays discs come with.

We have to possibly make our own.


Now I — and, I suspect, many others — have used HandBrake to rip DVDs.

As I’ve said, in part to make back up copies, and so that I can watch a film on my iPod, or AppleTV.   Without the actual bother of taking a DVD out of the box, shoving it in the DVD player, and digging up the remote control.

So I’ve built up something of a collection of digital copies of films: stored on several external and internal hard drives.

As I suspect have many others.

However, I’m very aware I’m a Mac user: and — given the money — don’t intend to use anything else.

I’m also aware that Macs, these days, don’t come with optical drives.

Those that do — including the older models I own — tend to just have optical drives capable only of reading and writing to DVDs and CDs.

Not blu-rays.

If we wish to access a blu-ray — either to play or to rip — we need an external optical drive like one I have: capable of at least reading a blu-ray sized disc.

Software depends on what we wish to do.


I’d rather not watch a blu-ray on my Mac: I’d need to plug the drive into the Mac, THEN plug the Mac into my TV.

I personally?

Would rather rip: then stream to my AppleTV, over a local network.

A lot more simple, from where I’m sitting.

To DO this?

I need something other than HandBrake: from what I can tell, the Mac version can’t access a blu-ray disc, directly.

However, after researching the issue, I’ve found that MakeMKV can be used to access — and decrypt — most of the blu-rays I’ve tried with it.

19th January, 2015.

Sorry, had something of an overnight break, there: sleep — and a bed — called.

It was getting late, when I start this post.

Now …


Let’s get moving on.

I was telling you I tended to rip DVDs with HandBrake.   But couldn’t do the same with blu-rays.

After digging around, I’ve found that I can transcode any films on a blu-ray disc with an application called MakeMKV.

Relatively easily, I should add.

So you know, MakeMKV’s maker’s have been producing it for quite some time: and make it freely, whilst the application is in beta.   (You will need the registration key, found here.)

Once installed, it’s relatively easy to use.

Firstly, we need to put the blu-ray disc we want to copy into our blu-ray drive.   (Mine’s a relatively cheap one from MegaMac.)

Then we open MakeMKV: it’ll show use this window.

We then open the disc we wish to copy, using File>Open Disc: and pointing MakeMKV at our blu-ray drive.

Once the disc has been opened, we get this screen.

Before we start the transcoding process, we need to tell MakeMKV where to put the file — or files — it’s made.

We do do this by using the ‘Output Folder’ button.

We then press ‘MakeMKV’ and let the app get on with making the files.


Now … 

There’s a few things I can add, at this stage.

For starters, the files produced are MKV files.  There is also the issue that, having used MakeMKV to turn a blu-ray’s content into mkv files, the resulting files are rather large.

As far as I know, not everything can play mkv: although a quick Google search tells me some blu-ray players and set-top box media players, can.

I’m also aware that a laptop or media playing PC or Mac hooked to a TV set — and with a copy of VLC installed — will have no problems playing.

As I’ve implied at the start of this post, my own media set-up — streamed video played on an AppleTV connected to my TV set — doesn’t handle mkv files very well.

The sheer size of those files is also rather intimidating: the blu-ray copy of Machete I’ve used as an example for the post was a 40 gigabyte disc that’s turned into a set of media files some 28 gigabytes in size.

I personally … ?   I personally use HandBrake to transcode the mkv files into mp4 files.

This has two advantages.

Firstly, I can transcode the mkvs into files I can play on my particular system.

Secondly, those files mp4s — whilst a lot larger than their standard definition equivalents made with HandBrake or purchased from iTunes — are a lot smaller than the mkvs their made from.


Hopefully, this post has given you some insight into turning you blu-rays into something you can play on tablets, computers and other devices.

Before I sign off … ?

Before I sign off, let me remind you that this is — in many countries — an iffy procedure: from a legal viewpoint.

But one I use, purely to back up content I already own: not to re-sell or pass on.

If you keep this in mind … ?

You should be able to use this procedure to you heart’s content.

And watch what you’ve already paid for: on what you want to watch it.

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