Handbrake, MakeMKV and VLC Guide



Handbrake, MakeMKV and VLC are extremely popular software, each one is superior in its area of specialty but there is a lot of confusion on when to use them and how to make them work. If you are attempting to transfer movies from DVDs or Blu-rays, that you legally own, to your computer or mobile devices then there is even more confusion. This guide aims at clarifying this mess and making it crystal clear.

Myth #1 Handbrake is a DVD ripper

This one used to be true years ago but is not true any longer. A “ripper” is software that can remove a movie from a DVD or a Blu-ray disc and give you a copy that is not encrypted so it can be played on any of your computers or mobile devices. Without “ripping” any movie file that you copy from a disc will not play back correctly (or at all). Handbrake cannot do this.

Myth #2 You may not legally copy your discs for personal use

Yes, in the United States according to the DMCA (Section 1201) you have the right to make copies of discs that you personally legally own, for personal use. Other countries may vary or not even have any restrictions at all. This is commonly called “Fair Use” but I would call it “Personal Use”.

Myth #3 MakeMKV is an easy alternative to Handbrake

MakeMKV is a Blu-ray and DVD ripper, so it can copy a movie from a disc and remove its copy protection. Handbrake is a transcoder so its job is to convert different format video into MPEG4 (.mp4; .m4v; h.264; h.265) and compress them to a much smaller size (to save disc space). MakeMKV does not replace the function of Handbrake but they can be use together because MakeMKV cannot compress files (it gives you gigantic files that are the same size as what was on the original disc) and MakeMKV can only give you a video file in the .mkv format, which most players cannot play. Once you run the .mkv file through Handbrake it comes out as a .mp4 (.m4v) file and is much smaller (as much as 90% smaller).

Myth #4 VLC is a DVD ripper

VLC used to have the ability to help rip discs but that functionality was removed years ago. Interestingly enough, an anonymous person or group has posted a library file meant for VLC to allow it to playback any encrypted DVD or Blu-ray disc, which works fairly well. It is this library, not VLC itself that allows ripping, and its this anonymous library that many people confuse for VLC when ripping discs.


You now have four methods to rip movie discs:

  1. Handbrake with the anonymous library plug-ins
    1. This is simple and elegant, one you set it up it takes minimal effort to rip movies and does not have to be updated monthly.
    2. There are two library plugins available, version 1.2.12 and version 1.4
      1. Version 1.2.12 has an installer and is easy to install
      2. Version 1.4 does not have an installer and is only available as source code so you have to compile it yourself, but 1.4 can process any discs, even the ones with new protections.
    3. To process Blu-ray
      1. Download libraries from http://vlc-aacs.whoknowsmy.name
        1. Put KEYDB.cfg in ~/Library/Preferences/aacs/ (create it if it does not exist)
        2. Put libaacs.dylib ~/lib directory (create it, if it does not exist)
    4. To process DVD
      1. Download libdvdcss from http://download.videolan.org/libdvdcss/
      2. Get the latest version, 1.2.12 was the last one to come pre-compiled but it doesn’t always work on all discs. If you don’t know ho two compile software then this is your only choice.
      3. Version 1.4.0 has worked well (in 2017) but does not have an installer
        1. Download the source code and compile it yourself
        2. Place the compiled library in the ~/lib directory (create it, if it does not exist)
    5. Caveat:
      1. We have no idea if these anonymous libraries/plug-ins will be updated in the future
      2. To get the latest version (as of this writing, version 1.4.0) you have to know how to compile software.
      3. These plug-ins do not handle defective discs very well. Defective discs (badly scratched or factory defects) fail nearly 100% of the time.
      4. It takes a long time and will spin your fans up to their maximum speed, making noticeable noise, as it uses all your CPU power while it makes your machine run hot, this is normal.
  2. MakeMKV alone
    1. MakeMKV is very effective but its has limitations
    2. Its been in Beta for years so although there is a free trial version, you have to reinstall MakeMKV every month because the key expires. Once the Beta period is over it will be priced at $50.
    3. It cannot figure out which title is the one you want, manufacturers will place up to 99 different titles on the disc just to make your life more difficult. People will often say that you can just select the largest title but that is unreliable.
    4. It creates an unencrypted file that is original quality.
    5. Caveat:
      1. It can only create files in the .mkv format which most video players cannot read so you might have to purchase an expensive player if the VLC player doesn’t work for you.
      2. You have to be able to figure out which title, and which features within each title that you want. Its not as easy as it sounds, its not always the biggest file and can be frustrating to make it work for you.
      3. MKV files are gigantic, as large as the original movie in the disc. This uses a massive amount of storage space and fills your disc drive up quickly.
  3. MakeMKV and Handbrake sequentially
    1. Run MakeMKV first
    2. Select that .mkv file from within Handbrake
    3. Select your Preset
      1. In the new versions of Handbrake (i.e. version 1.0.0 or newer) you can just choose the 1080p30 Preset and Handbrake will automatically scale to whichever size the actual video is, if its lower than 1080p.
    4. Start Handbrake
    5. Handbrake then will compress the file to a much smaller size and convert it to the MPEG4 (.mp4/.m4v) format.
    6. Caveat:
      1. It takes a long time and will spin your fans up to their maximum speed, making noticeable noise, as it uses all your CPU power while it makes your machine run hot, this is normal.
      2. MakeMKV has to be reinstalled each month because the Beta version key is only good for up to 30 days.
      3. It has been in Beta for many years, and still has a few small glitches. If it ever gets out of Beta the price is expected to be $50 which is very expensive.
  4. Handbrake with the MakeMKV library plug-ins
    1. Install MakeMKV and make sure that it works
    2. Create links (shortcuts) in the Finder so that Handbrake can use MakeMKV’s library to process discs in one step
      1. cd ~
      2. mkdir -p ~/lib (if it doesn’t already exist)
      3. ln -s /Applications/MakeMKV.app/Contents/lib/libmmbd.dylib ~/lib/libaacs.dylib
      4. ln -s /Applications/MakeMKV.app/Contents/lib/libmmbd.dylib ~/lib/libbdplus.dylib
    3. Now when you use Handbrake it will automatically use the MakeMKV libraries to process the DVD or Blu-ray disc, no further action is required on your part.
    4. Caveat:
      1. You must re-install MakeMKV each month in which you want to use Handbrake.
      2. It takes a long time and will spin your fans up to their maximum speed, making noticeable noise, as it uses all your CPU power while it makes your machine run hot, this is normal.

 Now all you have to do is to decide which technique suits your needs the best, that is within your skill level to install and maintain, then you are all set.





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