Ripping Blu-Rays and DVDs to a Media Server

Hardware needed:

  • PC
  • BD-ROM / DVD-ROM
  • Large Hard Drive (mine is 2 TB)

Software needed:

Media is increasingly migrating towards streaming-only distribution. Discs, even BD/HD-DVD formats, have rather low limits on the amount of data that can be stored on each. These low limits and the increasing availability of high-speed and high-bandwidth internet connections are just two reasons that consumers have begun to rely on streaming digital content including movies, music, videos, and pictures. The convenience of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu allow consumers to avoid commercials and watch what they want and when they want. Products like DVR and TiVo are only band-aids on top of the real problem: cable companies disallowing customers to choose their own content at convenient times.

Just think about what you have to do in order to watch your DVDs and Blu-Rays. I have Blu-Rays in my possession that literally take 5 minutes just to load the main menu. This problem is magnified by useless services like BD-Live that require internet connectivity in order to load content like chat rooms and trailers that users may never even use. For users like me, I want to be able to access my content immediately and in the format of my choosing. The current implementation of HD media inconveniences consumers by disallowing various viewing options and restricting Blu-Rays to only existing on the original disc. In fact, the legality of copying  Blu-Rays for personal use even when creating simple backups is questionable because of the insane policies of the MPAA and the legislative pockets that they influence.

Unless you’re sharing and distributing your backups, I sincerely doubt any authority is going to care. The MPAA and other organizations that rely on Blu-Ray sales isn’t losing a single penny if you backup your physical media. You’ve already legally purchased the disc and are simply transferring the contents to a device of your choosing. Continue at your own discretion and follow these steps. Keep in mind that MakeMKV is not going to perform any transcoding of your content. The original video/audio codecs will be left untouched and will simply be transferred to a .mkv container.

  1. Download and install MakeMKV from the link above.
  2. Download and install Handbrake from the link above. (optional)
  3. Download and install VLC Player from the link above. (optional)
  4. Start up MakeMKV.
  5. Insert the DVD or Blu-Ray of your choice into your BD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive.
  6. Wait for MakeMKV to scan the disc and then click the big Disc –> HDD icon.
  7. Wait for MakeMKV to scan for titles, video, audio, and subtitles.
  8. Check and uncheck the desired contents to be included in the final .mkv output file. (I will write another post about specifics on video/audio codecs and subtitles.)
  9. Change the output path in the right panel and click the button to the right of the output path.
  10. Wait for MakeMKV to complete the process and transfer the final output to the shared folder of your media server.

If you want to perform any other compression or transcoding to reduce file size with minimal loss of quality, use Handbrake as described by the instructions on the website above. You may most commonly need to convert the audio to a more suitable format that can be played by whatever system you have. Some systems cannot support newer proprietary audio formats such as DTS-HD and TrueHD. I usually keep the content exactly as it existed on the Blu-Ray/DVD because I want to stream the best quality available to my PS3/Receiver.

Perform a final test of the video, audio, and subtitles in VLC Player to make sure there are no defects introduced by the MakeMKV/Handbrake process.

Be aware that there are some rather strange subtitle issues with Blu-Ray due to the way they are formatted as images rather than text. I have unsuccessfully streamed these PGS subtitles via PS3 using my above method of ripping. I know there are some rather convoluted ways to convert image subtitles (PGS) to text subtitles (SRT) using image recognition and several other software packages, but I’m lazy and just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Let me know if you have any better ways to do this.

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