How to RIP a Blu-ray movie in Mac OS X; fast, easy and free! [UPDATED with More tips, and how to play a Blu-ray on your Mac!]

Panasonic UJ-260 Bluray burner

Panasonic UJ-260 Bluray burner

 

Copying your Blu-ray movies in Mac OS X is actually a relatively easy process. Ignore the jibber jabber you see on the Internet, The Net is full of unqualified opinion from people that actually aren’t technology experts, nor do they really know what they are talking about. They make this process unnecessarily complex when it doesn’t need to be so. In the past it could take an entire day to fully copy a DVD and required the use of dubious or hard to use software, and now we have a completely new technology, Blu-ray, with its owns problems to solve, but those days are well behind us. Here is the direct, simple, fast and free way to make an unnecessarily convoluted job easy and pain free. Just a few tips is all you need.

Legal Mumbo Jumbo

Before we get started we have to address the white elephant. Many folks believe that copying (for your own use) the Blu-ray (or DVD) discs you purchase with your hard earned money is illegal.

Christopher Breen, Macworld: The MPAA and most media companies argue that you can’t legally copy or convert commercial DVDs for any reason. We (and others) think that, if you own a DVD, you should be able to override its copy protection to make a backup copy or to convert its content for viewing on other devices. Currently, the law isn’t entirely clear one way or the other. So our advice is: If you don’t own it, don’t do it. If you do own it, think before you rip.]

Of course, on the other hand, the MPAA never mentions the “Fair Use” doctrine:

Wikipedia: Fair Use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.

Where copyrighted  commercial material may be used for other purposes, even commercial purposes, if it meets certain criteria. So if copyrighted material can be used for education, commercial and literary purposes, then it stands to reason that you may make copies for your own personal use. Doesn’t it? Of course it does, its only logical but so your own research first.

You must do your own research and determine if anything and/or everything in this story is appropriate for you, you are responsible for your own actions.

The Core Process

First you need to get the movie off the DVD or Blu-ray disc, get around the encryption, then convert to a format that your computer can play back easily and once you do that you may as well compress the huge file size and optimize for the device you will be watching on (on your Mac screen or iPad or iPhone). That is really everything that needs to be done.

I’m going to show you how to do this all with just two pieces of software and seven easy clicks. It just couldn’t get easier.

Horsepower

With Blu-ray’s huge increase in quality some a gigantic increase in pixel count, requiring more processing time when copying video and while converting it to a more useful format. Blu-ray discs can hold 30 to 50 GB of data (the latest BD-XL discs promise 100GB capacity), compared to 4.7GB on a typical store bought DVD (actual DVD capacities range from 1.46GB to 17.08GB), so it becomes obvious that processing more modern movies will require a lot more processing power. Fortunately contemporary Macs feature rather powerful processors which can slice through the tasks we put to them in a fraction of the time that the old hardware required. Only a few years ago it could take seven hours to process a single DVD. Now I can process an entire Blu-ray in under three hours. Not impressed? Keep in mind that the Blu-ray movies I’m processing right now are in the 30 to 35GB range, the DVDs we did a few years ago were typically less than 4.7 GB so we need to process six to seven times as much (or more) information now and we are doing it in half the time. Using my abacus, that comes out to a fourteen fold increase in processing power. Using the same setup now to process a DVD makes it look like child’s play.

The Glitch

So far so good. But as always, there is a glitch. DVDs and Blu-ray discs are almost always encrypted to prevent copying. This would not be a big deal if the movie production companies gave us a free replacement discs when ours became unplayable or lost (after all, they get to keep our money forever and can choose to do anything they want with it, we should be able to do the same with the movies we buy), the encryption has to be dealt with.

Its Not Really Magic

So what is the magical recipe? The classic solution, used to be to use expensive software, that came from dubious fly-by-night sources, or you had to chase down software that would disappear just as quickly as it appeared, in an attempt to avoid the motion picture industry goons. Handbrake worked moderately well, was free and could decrypt DVDs which would have made it the ideal solution today but it no longer offers the ability to decrypt discs since version 0.9.3 (in my previous testing I found it to be very unreliable anyway), so we need to update that approach. HandBrake has been steadily updated and is my favorite conversion tool right now, we just need something that can bypass the disc DRM and extract our movie files intact.

Today the simplest, fastest and easiest tool to Rip discs that I could find is called MakeMKV. MakeMKV reliably extracted movies from DVDs and Blu-ray discs without any problem or glitches whatsoever. Handbrake was never this good (nor anywhere near as fast).

Why the odd name? Because after it decrypts the movie, it drops it off on your hard drive in .MKV format (also known as Matroska). Matroska is a container technology to hold the movie’s many components in one single file, it does not alter the video’s quality at all so your Blu-ray movies will be in full Blu-ray quality.

MakeMKV does not alter the movie in any way, you are just moving it from being contained on a Blu-ray or DVD disk to being contained in an .MKV file. The quality is stupendous, and yes as its being moved, MakeMKV will get rid of that pesky encryption problem for you. The Blu-ray disc can contain anywhere from one to dozens of files, so this step really helps cleans up that very confusing can of worms with minimal effort. The movie industry takes perverse pleasure in making our life difficult by including multiple copies of pieces of the movie, on the disk, to try to confuse and dissuade you from copying it.

We still need to compress and convert the .MKV file to something that our players will play. Its true that VLC and MPlayer will play .MKV files easily right now but the files are huge (most of the movies I’ve done so far are circa 35 GB in size. We can do better than that.

Handbrake is currently the best choice for compression and conversion. Why? It works well and has nice presets to make the job easy (as long as you don’t panic and play with all the possible options, just leave them alone).

Review The Steps

All we need to do is to:

  1.  Rip the DVD or Blu-ray disc using MakeMKV (decrypts movie and drops it off as a .MKV file)
  2. Compress, convert and optimize the .MKV file into an .M4V (MPEG 4) file using Handbrake
Thats it. I’ve gone through all the hard work, testing old and new software, for you, the bottom line is that this is the fastest, simplest way to get this job done.

The Software

I’ve distilled the entire process down to two pieces of software. MakeMKV and Handbrake. There is no need to drudge through the dozens of pieces of software I’ve looked at over the past twenty years, its just not an interesting story. What is interesting is that these two pieces of software are free, fast, reliable and do their job well. There are other ways to get the job done, but this method works every time. If you ever run into a glitch then just download a fresh copy, the good folks that maintain these two pieces of software are on the ball and likely to have a fix for you reasonably quickly.

MakeMKV

The MakeMKV developers offer a free Beta that is continuously reset so you don’t have to pay for it. Per their instructions, just remember to download a new version every month (there is a free Beta key on their site for you to use, if your software expires then try the latest key, else download the latest version).  You will need to enter the free Beta key to work on Blu-ray discs anyway.

http://www.makemkv.com

MakeMKV is actually easy to use, once you understand that DVDs and Blu-ray discs are rather complex. It only takes three clicks to get the job done, but one click could be tricky until you understand the concept.

  • Insert your DVD or Blu-ray disc into the drive
  • Launch MakeMKV
  • If DVD Player starts by itself, just quit it
  • As soon as MakeMKV starts, it will automatically look for a disk and have it ready for you. (Select the optical drive where the disk is located, if its not automatically selected for you) and click the green arrow.
  • The program will now start removing the protection on the disk.
  • Once that has finished (usually a few seconds to less than a minute) you will be presented with the next window that will ask you what parts of the disk you want to copy. All of the boxes are checked by default, which means that the program will create a single MKV file that will include everything on the disk including trailers, multiple subtitles etc. Identify which is the largest file and uncheck all of the others (this is the one tricky click, its actually simple but people panic here, just don’t panic). (Stretch the window wider if you cant see the file sizes.)
    • Some discs are a bit tricky, they include many duplicates to trip you up and attempt to prevent you from making a backup of your own disc, don’t panic. The choices whose size is much smaller than the movie are obviously decoys (i.e. anything under 800 MB is likely to be a decoy unless its a very short movie. This leaves only the larger files as possibilities. Of those you could try each one, one at a time but that time consuming. Instead consider looking at the number of chapters listed in MakeMKV and comparing it to the list on the disc;s case (or look it up quickly and easily on http://chapterdb.org/
  • Click the MakeMKV button on the far right. You’ll be asked to select a destination folder if you hadn’t previously done so.
  • Sit back and relax, MakeMKV will do all the hard work for you. On my system, MakeMKV uses very few resources, a tiny amount of CPU and maybe 25 MB of real RAM, so you can use your Mac and not even notice that MakeMKV is running at all. This part of the process can take an hour plus or minus, depending on how much content is on the disc and how fast your system is.
  • The resulting .MKV files may be played back on VLC or MPlayer
  • Click on the Eject symbol (the triangle with the bar under it) to release your disc.
  • You may view your movie now using VLC or MPlayer (it will not play in Quicktime or iTunes). Quicktime used to be able to play .MKV moves with the Perian plug-in but Perian has recently ceased operation, so it might not work for you. The files are gigantic so although we could stop here and just use the MKV files, in reality we do want to compress them a lot so we can reduce the size size by ninety percent or so, as we do that will automatically convert them in to a format that Quicktime and iTunes can play back.
  • Want to speed up the process? Run one instance of MakeMKV for each optical drive you have, at the same time. This will allow MakeMKV to process several DVD or Blu-ray at the same time. Just select Make New MakeMKV Instance  from the MakeMKV menu and add each drive. Make MKV is so efficient that it does not tax your system at all. this greatly speeds up the first part of the process, and using my Panasonic UJ-260 external Blu-ray player-burner, in addition to my built in DVD burner, I can process these discs easily and quickly (DVDs are ridiculously fast).
  • MakeMKV is a speed demon. the only limiting factor is how fast your drive can deliver (and by extension, you can greatly increase the speed of this portion of the process if you get a super fast drive that has Riplock disabled).
  • We use MakeMKV for this process because it can extract movies directly from Blu-ray discs reliably, which Handbrake has not ever been able to do. VLC could not do this either, but recently a workaround was found to allow VLC to play Blu-ray movies, I might test in the future to see if we can use VLC to enable Handbrake to read the disc directly (like how many folks used to do for processing DVD discs) once I see that the software is mature and appears and remains easily available. At the moment its not working, but the Blu-ray support in Handbrake is experimental and relies on other pieces of software that has not been updated in a long time. I suspect they are now out of date (Blu-ray discs have a copy protection method that can be updated when you insert a new Blu-ray disc, which renders old software useless until it gets updated).
  • NOTE: This procedure is for Blu-ray discs, and it also works perfectly DVDs so you can actually use Handbrake to directly process the movie off the DVD player if you have the latest version of VLC installed. Just install VLC (you dont need to launch it, load the DVD disc, click Source to select the DVD movie disc, then click Title and select which file you want to process (its usually the longest one) then click Start.

HandBrake

  • Click Source to select your source movie, this will be the .MKV file you created with MakeMKV.
  • NOTE: If its a DVD, you can select the DVD disc directly from the DVD drive, without previously processing it through MakeMKV. Click Source to select the disc, then click Title and select while file you want to process, its usually the longest one) then click Start. You’ll notice that your system might not use all your CPU power so it takes longer to process because you are reading directly from the disc (and the Riplock feature on the drive may be slowing it down intentionally) but if you do your math you’ll probably find that this is faster than the the total time it takes to run the movie through MakeMKV then go through Handbrake at full speed. Do your own research and see what works best for you. Both methods work just fine.
  • Click the desired Preset (click on the Toggle Preset button at the top right if you cant see the preset sheet to the right of the main screen). Don’t mess with any of the settings, I know its tempting and interesting but you can easily mess up your project. Save the experimentation until after you have mastered the basics.
  • The Preset feature in Handbrake allows you to easily convert a DVD or Blu-ray movie to watch on your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. Why do you want to use a Preset in Handbrake for your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV? Because each one has its own requirements, the first of which is screen size. Each screen only has so many pixels and if you create a movie with more pixels then you are wasting a lot of storage space on pixels that you cant see. Each device’s graphics chip can only play back certain “Profiles” ex: Baseline, High, etc. If you use an unsupported profile setting for your device, it might not play back or play back poorly. It also is a lot faster to get the movie into your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV because you aren’t copying useless pixels that you cant see.
  • Use the “High Profile” preset (under Regular) for Blu-ray discs. Why? because if your finished movie is significantly larger than 4GB it wont play in most players if you don’t turn on the “Large File Size” option. Using the “High Profile” preset automatically checks the  “Large File Size” option and gives you a very decent and usable set of configuration options for good quality at a relatively small file size.
  • Note: If you are working with DVDs you may use the Normal preset (under Regular) if the final movie is under 4GB (it usually is.
  • If your intended viewing device is an iPod, iPhone or Apple TV, then you may use their respective presets.
  • Selecting either the High Profile or Normal profile, under Standard will result in an MP4 (MPEG4, .M4V) file being created, which is exactly what we want. MPEG4 gives very high compression (small file size) with decent picture quality.
  • Select your Destination (click the Browse button)
  • Click the Start button
  • Sit back and relax. This could take one to several hours for a Blu-ray depending on your hardware configuration and how well the folks at Handbrake update the software and how well they add support for new hardware acceleration technologies (OpenCL, SSE, GPGPU hardware acceleration, etc.). I just ran a DVD through Handbrake and it only took seven minutes and never dipped below 400 frames per second). It was over before I got comfy in my easy chair. I’m impressed, it wasn’t that long ago that the same operation would take seven hours. By comparison, a Blu-ray runs at approximately 75 frames per second on my current system and can take 45 minutes to an hour and a half to complete. Rather impressive.
  • Note that your cooling fans will very likely engage at high speed, especially if you are using a laptop. This is normal because Handbrake will use all the compute power your system has.
  • You may run Handbrake at night, and queue multiple jobs so your system is available to you during the day (it can get a bit sluggish if you use your system while Handbrake is running.
  • You may be asked by the Handbrake installer to install VLC, this is normal and VLC an be very useful in checking your MKV files. Official VLC download site: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

Handbrake added the ability to output to h.265 (Wikipedia: High Efficiency Video Coding) instead of h.264 in December of 2014. This is exciting news because we can expect smaller file sizes at the same quality, potentially saving a huge amount of storage space. At this time the h.265 code is experimental quality so it might be a while before we can rely on it, but I’m hopeful that this will occur sooner rather than later. Also note that iPhone 6 already h.265 support built in (rumored to be enables for FaceTime video calls) so with Apple’s support, h.265 will probably mature sooner rather than later.

Handbrake Queue
  • To process multiple movies automatically, you can use Handbrake’s Queue feature and process as many movies as you wish unattended, once you start the process. I like to set up several movies in Handbrake, after extracting them with MakeMKV then run them through Handbrake at night while I’m asleep.
  • Turn off the energy saver or set it to be an hour longer than it should take to process the movies (Handbrake will stop running if you do not do this. At this time Handbrake is unable to tell the operating system that it needs to keep running by itself, this should be updated in a future version).
  • Click Source to select your source movie, this will be the .MKV file you created with MakeMKV
  • Click the desired Preset in Handbrake
  • Select your Destination (click the Browse button)
  • Click on Add to Queue
  • Go get the next movie, select the Preset and Add to Queue
  • Then when you are ready to get it going, click Start and go to bed (or whatever)
  • When you return in the morning the finished movies will be waiting for you.
  • Set your energy saver back to the correct setting.
  • Enjoy your movies.
iTunes
  • Adding movies to iTunes is super easy
  • Drag finished .M4V movies into an open iTunes Window to add your movies to iTunes
  • You are done!
  • So that you can see your movie in all the different iTunes movie views (tabs) I suggest that you:  Select Movie>Get Info>Genre (pick the genre you desire) and while you are there: click on Options>Media Kind and select “Movie” (this way you see the movies you imported in the same view in iTunes as all other movies, otherwise they will show up in Home Movies).
  • You may now delete the original MKV and M4V files, if you so desire. If you accumulate a significant number of them they can use up a substantial amount of disk space.

Hardware

You will need to purchase a Blu-ray drive because Macs don’t come with Blu-ray drives installed from the factory. Steve Jobs had made public statements about Blu-ray licensing being a huge problem but never said what the specific problem was. I personally think that Steve was looking to the far future, where we need to be and made one of his famous quantum leaps to launch us to the future, where Im sure that downloaded content, be it purchase, rentals or subscription based On-Demand content will comprise the majority of the market. Its a mystery to this day. If you have a Mac Pro you can use a normal Blu-ray drive and install it in one of the optical drive bays.

MacRumors follower Siva emailed Jobs about being disappointed that the recently revised Mac mini didn’t include a Blu-ray drive. To this, Steve Jobs replied: Blu-ray is looking more and more like one of the high end audio formats that appeared as the successor to the CD – like it will be beaten by Internet downloadable formats.

Siva responded that even though this may be true in the long run, he argued the medium term benefits were substantial, including high density backups and high quality video. He also argued that high-end video formats have had a much higher uptake and points out the lack of DRM was in part what made MP3 take off. Jobs’ final response, however, offered little hope:No, free, instant gratification and convenience (likely in that order) is what made the downloadable formats take off. And the downloadable movie business is rapidly moving to free (Hulu) or rentals (iTunes) so storing purchased movies or TV shows is not an issue.

I think you may be wrong – we may see a fast broad move to streamed free and rental content at sufficient quality (at least 720p) to win almost everyone over.

If you have an iMac or MacBook (Pro) with a slot load optical drive (or a new model with no optical drive at all) then I think the simplest solution is to get an external Blu-ray reader-writer like the one I purchased.
 
 
 
 
 
Panasonic UJ-260 Bluray burner

Panasonic UJ-260 Bluray burner

Panasonic UJ-260 Blu-ray reader-writer in Archgon aluminum enclosure
I purchased a Panasonic (Matshita) UJ-260 Blu-ray tray load laptop drive, that is installed in a very slim, solid, aluminum external enclosure. It comes with a USB 2.0 cable but no power supply. It does not need a power supply because it was originally intended to be installed inside a laptop. The UJ-260 draws so little power that it can be powered up by the USB cable alone. The UJ-260 can read and write to CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs so its extremely versatile. In Blu-ray mode it can read/write up to 6X (six times normal speed) for normal data (but is limited to 2X read speed when reading a commercial movie, see Riplock for more info). (Panasonic me they did this so you would not have your Blu-ray movie viewing experience disturbed by the noise of a super fast drive spinning at full speed.) For its capabilities, portability and small size its quite a good deal, particularly for today’s very mobile lifestyle. The Panasonic UJ-260 is a a very nice piece of hardware, attractive, slim, lightweight and convenient. I like its brushed aluminum enclosure (made by Archgon), it somewhat matches the aluminum enclosure of my MacBook Pro, is strong (no seams or joints), and dent and scratch resistant. While not up to Apple’s standards for finish quality, its brushed surface looks like it will stand up to years of field service. My only observation is that the front and rear edges are close to being sharp and although its never cut me I have thought of running a bit of emory paper over the edges to make it feel less “edgy”.

This model features a black face (since its actually a tray loading laptop drive) and a white rear plate with a small Type B  (square) USB connector.

The supplied cable may look a bit odd to some folks. It looks like a normal USB cable but the end you plug into your laptop has a second USB connector with a thinner wire hanging off the end. You use the thick cable to plug into your computer and if for any reason your USB port does not have enough power to spin the drive up then you plug in the second cable to give it more juice. This is not a problem on Macs but if you use this drive on Windows or Linux based hardware, you will often run into this problem (so I recommend holding onto the cable, just in case).

At this time there were no slot-load Blu-ray drives available that would bolt into my MacBook Pro. There was one post I read about someone who found a slot-load Blu-ray drive, purchased it and found that the mounting holes did not line up. He resorted to disassembling the drive and swapping out the sheet metal with the drive in his exiting MacBook Pro. While this approach was easily within my abilities, I felt that it was unlikely that most of my readers would have the desire to to attempt this type of project so I went with an approach that would benefit and educate everyone. If you are a do it yourselfer then I’ve already given you all the information you to get you started. Enjoy your project and send me photos when you build yours so I can add it to this post.

Keep in mind that when making copies of your Blu-ray or DVD movies, the built in Riplock software will prevent the drive from transferring data any faster than 2x (between 9 and 10MBps on my system). This is not a defect but rather a way for the movie companies to try to make your life harder (see Riplock). If you think that you want to get full speed (this Panasonic UJ-260 Blu-ray drive is rated at 6X so it could move the data three times faster) and if the firmware patch for removing Riplock is still not available then I recommend you get a drive that you can unlock with aftermarket firmware. The UJ-260 is so new that it has not been unlocked at the time of this writing. For me, its great price, tiny size, low weight and solid one-piece aluminum shell greatly outweighed the Riplock limitation.

Another thing to keep in mind is that each manufacturer rtes its drive speed differently. Discs are spun at a constant angular velocity which means that its velocity starts slowly and increases gradually as the radius increases (in other words, it reads faster as it approches the outside of the disc). Some drives will be rated based on their average speed, some based on max speed, it depends on the manufacturer. So a 6X speed rating from one manufacturer might be 8X or 10X on a different manufacturer.

You also have to take into account if the drive is operating in PIO mode or DMA mode, PIO is a lot slower. The point is that its impossible to know the real speed you will get out of a drive, unless you want to do a lot of expensive research. Focus on getting a high quality drive, you get what you pay for and don’t worry as much about the pure speed. Sometimes the encryption method on the disc can slow you down unexpectedly (keep in mind that all the disc manufacturer has to do is to deliver a disc to you that runs reasonably reliable at 1X, anything above that is gravy).

If you are positive that you will never, ever need to burn a Blu-ray disc and only need to read Blu-ray discs then you can go with an older Panasonic Blu-ray reader, DVD CD Burner

Panasonic Blu-Ray Player Laptop External USB DVD RW Burner Drive

Its half the price of the Panasonic UJ-260 (above), it can’t burn DVDs and doesn’t have the latest technology, but did I mention that its half the price? If you are only reading Blu-ray discs and burning DVDs and CDs then this is potentially a nice choice. Since I already have the UJ-260, I will not be testing this unit because its an older ancestor to the UJ-260. Let me know what you think.

Blu-ray Movies

Whats the best place to purchase Blu-ray Movies? I like Amazon, they have amazing low prices, great service, no-hassle returns, free shipping and if you are an Amazon Prime member, like me, you get two day shipping for free.

Blank Blu-ray Discs

Once again I prefer Amazon (search: top rated BD-R Blu-ray blank discs on Amazon) for their low price on high quality products. I did note that there is a type of Blu-ray discs called LTH that are not getting good reviews across the Internet. LTH Blu-rya is a new formulation that results in a disk that might not be readable in older Blu-ray drives and there are people that are casting doubt on the ability of Blu-ray LTH discs to last for a reasonable amount of time. Some folks are stating that they only trust them to make backups of their movies, because they can always burn another disc. I disagree with that approach. Having been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of data backups in commercial datacenters over the past three decades, I’m particularly sensitive to backup strategies (having seen most of them fail when you need them). The problem with buying LTH discs that you know are prone to incompatibility or failure is that when you go to use one, and it fails to work, you can’t make another copy because you reached for it due to the original failing. I’d prefer to go with non-LTH technology and lower my risk of failure that way.

Great deals on Amazon, on high quality TDK Blu-ray BD-R blank discs and DVD-R; these discs are top quality at unbeatable prices.

  • TDK 4x BD-R Media – 25GB – 25 Pack Spindle (These are the BD-R I buy for my own use and are labeled on the cakebox TDK Professional)
  • 100 JVC Taiyo Yuden 16X DVD-R 4.7GB Silver Thermal Lacquer (These are the DVD-R I buy for my own use, labeled on my cakebox JVC, For professional Use) Note – JVC purchased Taiyo Yuden in April, 2009. You may receive product in JVC outer packaging, but rest assured the media itself is exactly the same as you are accustomed to.
  • Amazon is the only place I know where I can buy these professional discs for a lot less what everyone else charges for regular consumer discs.

MID Code on BD-R Discs

Just when you thought everything made sense, you find out that the blank BD-R discs your purchased are not what you expected. Of course, they are labeled properly and you purchased them from a reputable seller, so they are not bootlegged discs (although I’m sure there are some of those floating around too). What I am talking about is legitimate substitution by the manufacturers themselves. Much like what happened with DVD-R and CD-R, manufacturers, are now outsourcing the manufacturing of blank BD-R discs to generic manufacturers in other countries. Generally speaking each blank BD-R has a manufacturer ID on it (MID code) for identification, so for the few folks that have software that can read this code (only Blu-ray burners can read BD-R MID codes), they can check the product they purchased and see if the code is the one that is expected.

Is this really such a big deal? Its seems not, I cannot verify that its a big problem, not as long as you purchase the top brands from reputable sellers. Sure, the top manufacturers substitute OEM discs while still using their original labels but I could not find a significant correlation between this substitution and increased failure rate. If you use cheap discs them you are using cheap discs, you get what you pay for.

Naturally there have been significant complaints documented on the Net, but it has been at the low end of the price spectrum. Since the top quality manufacturers offer the best return policies (also check with your retailer to see what their return policy is) then it stands to reason that if you are dissatisfied, you can get your money back. In my research, it seemed to be far more likely to be a problem with user error than with an actual disc quality issue.

HTL and LTH Blu-ray discs

This is very important to know: There are two different types of blank, recordable Blu-ray media, the original HTL type and a newer LTH type. HTL (High To Low) used to be more expensive to manufacture but works in all burners and players. In an effort to reduce costs, Blu-ray disc manufacturers (circa 2009) created a new BD-R disk, the BD-R LTH (Low to High). This approach allows a manufacturer to re-use their DVD-R manufacturing equipment, allegedly lowering their costs.

LTH discs allegedly use an organic dye that changes its reflectivity from low to high when “burned” by your laser. HTL BD-R type disks are exactly opposite, their reflectivity changes from High To Low, so it becomes instantly obvious that your Blu-ray hardware must be capable of reading these inverted bits on the disk, otherwise the disc in completely unreadable. Drives before 2009 are unlikely to be able to read LTH but sometimes a firmware update will add that ability. The second problem is that many users are reporting that their LTH BD-R discs are failing to work (be read back) after few months of storage.

Its speculated that the organic dyes in the LTH BD-R discs are prone to breaking down, like all organic material tends to do, and this causes the failures. The current rule of thumb is to avoid LTH BD-R discs if at all possible.

If a disc is not labeled as LTH, then its expected to mean that its an HTL BD-R disc, LTH discs always seem to be labeled BD-R LTH, so in theory you should be able to distinguish the difference. Amazon has a huge selection of HTL type BD-R discs to choose from, at reasonable prices.

Archival Grade BD-R Discs

Having gone through many exercises in futility over the past few decades trying to figure out which CD-R, then which DVD-R and now which BD-R is reliable enough for archival use. Each time I get involved in this subject I find that there is still tremendous debate, proof of reliability is still mostly hearsay, and that “scientific tests” do not impress me because  these optical products have not existed long enough to compare real world results to the “scientific test” results.

What are archival grade (BD-R) discs? Generally we mean that an archival grade disc will last as long as we need it to, certainly months and preferably years. Some folks express desire for an archival grade BD-R disc to last decades or even a century.

Having an expectation that long, is a bit naive. I understand that you don’t want to buy archival BD-R discs that might fail quickly, neither do I. And I also look for the discs with super long expected lifespans. However there are other issues to keep in mind. Will there be drives that can read these discs in 100 years? Or software to read them? Not likely. Even though we think that we are saving everything in a “standard” format now, that does not mean that it will be timeless.

Blu-ray do offer a hard coating, that are allegedly scratch resistant, but there isn’t a good way for us to test and verify if this is real or just marketing hype.

Wikipedia: Hard-coating technology

Since the Blu-ray Disc data layer is closer to the surface of the disc compared to the DVD standard, it was at first more vulnerable to scratches.[76] The first discs were housed in cartridges for protection, resembling Professional Discs introduced by Sony in 2003.

Using a cartridge would increase the price of an already expensive medium, so hard-coating of the pickup surface was chosen instead. TDK was the first company to develop a working scratch-protection coating for Blu-ray Discs. It was named Durabis. In addition, both Sony and Panasonic’s replication methods include proprietary hard-coat technologies. Sony’s rewritable media are spin-coated, using a scratch-resistant and antistatic coating. Verbatim’s recordable and rewritable Blu-ray Discs use their own proprietary technology, called Hard Coat.[77]

The Blu-ray Disc specification requires the testing of resistance to scratches by mechanical abrasion.[73] In contrast, DVD media are not required to be scratch-resistant, but since development of the technology, some companies, such as Verbatim, implemented hard-coating for more expensive lineups of recordable DVDs.

A better strategy is to plan and budget to migrate and verify your data every ten years. I know its a hassle but that is what I think you need to do to have an archive that is usable.

Keep in mind that we are not dealing with art here, we don’t just shove it into a museum and stare at it for centuries. That model works great for paintings that are made with relatively stable materials and have been know to last hundreds of years under the best of circumstances. Data is infinitely more fragile than canvas and oil paint, it needs constant maintenance.

I also recommend having Four backups, not Three, as is commonly thought. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called in to perform a forensic recovery on data when a panicked customer went through three backups and then realized that there must be something terribly wrong.

Now, I tell them to make Four archival copies (or backups) preferably on different media. At this time, I hake three optical backups, two hard disk backups and a flash drive backup (oh, and I just added some backups to SD cards too)

Are you thinking that it sounds like a bit much? That is what my customers tell me when I say that it will cost them $20,000 or $30,000 or more to recover their data. You need to think about how much your data is worth to you now and in the future, and apply the time and resources appropriate to reasonably fulfill that projected need.

I still think that expecting a single optical disk to last 100 years is wishful thinking. I have right now, inexpensive CD-Rs that were burned in the early days (many years ago) that work just fine and have experienced coasters from major (expensive) brands. Its still very unpredictable how long a disc will last and exactly which problem you will run into when you try to read it decades later. I suspect that we really haven’t identified and perfected the quality control process to the point where we can unconditionally select discs that will actually last for decades apart from those that might last a few weeks or might not even burn at all. Nor can we be sure that disc burners are always doing their job perfectly.

Instead of starting and moderating a long debate on the archival qualities of BD-R discs, or spending $10,000 out of my pocket to purchase and test all the popular blank BD-R discs and burners currently available, I took a a different approach. Taking my time, I scoured every forum on the Net I could find, where users did a reasonably good job in communicating their experiences with different brands of BD-R discs. I usually don’t like doing this kind of research because what you usually get is a lot of whining from people who are generally unhappy and complain about everything, using the Net to vent their frustrations. There is also a preponderance of unqualified opinion from people who have not learned to properly use their computers and wind up with coasters (like allowing the screen saver to interrupt the burning process).

All that aside, I sifted through thousands of posts, filtering out the obvious noise and looked for patterns that might be useful to us.

What did I find? There were no surprises at all, the most expensive and most well known brands consistently did the best. Its seems that the old axiom “you get what you pay for” still holds true for archival quality BD-R discs.

I’ve listed the best brand of BD-R discs here, in order,but keep in mind that I’m relying on the law of averages, your experience will be specific to you so try just one or a few discs before committing to a large purchase. Using BD-R discs for archival purposes is very attractive because single layer BD-R discs can hold up 25 GB of data, dual layer BD-R discs can hold up to 50 GB of data. BD-R XL require drives that can burn them so do your research before you leap. (My Panasonic (Matshita) UJ-260 portable Blu-ray is a very reasonable priced hand carry-able Blu-ray burner that can handle BD-R XL 100 GB discs.)

Blu-ray BD-R XL 100 GB discs currently available:

 TDK Blu-ray Disc – BD-R XL 100GB 4X Speed 1 Pack Printable – Triple Layer

SONY Blu-Ray Disc – BD-R XL 100GB 4X – 1 Pack Printable for VIDEO – 2012

Sharp BD-R XL 100GB TRIPPLE LAYER 4x Speed Printable 1 Pack Blu-Ray Disc

Panasonic Blu-ray Disc – BD-R XL 100GB 4x Speed 1 Pack Printable – Triple Layer

Digistor 100GB 4X BD-R Media, White Inkjet Printable Surface (1 Pack) (BD-XL Compatible Drive Required)

MAM-A 100GB BD-R XL – 1-4x Blu-ray – White Inkjet Hub Printable

which are awesome for handling large projects or an entire film festival on one disc, but are past the point of being cost effective at today’s prices.

So which are archival quality BD-R discs? There are manufacturers that claim archival quality, and some that even guarantee a certain lifetime, but keep in mind that by the time you figure out that the disc failed, you wil not be able to make a claim and even if you can, all you’ll get back is a few bucks for a replacement disc, you data will be lost and you can’t put a price on that.

Today my opinion is that our best bet is to stick with the best know manufacturers and pay a bit extra for the possibility that they will last a lot longer than cheapie discs. If you don’t need archival quality BD-R discs then go with the top rated BD-R Blu-ray blank discs on Amazon, if  you do want or need archival quality then here is the list of best BD-R brands, in order, according to the wisdom of the masses (at least the masses that are online on the Net at the time of this writing.) (Remember to avoid LTH and to prefer hard coatings.)

TDK BD-R

Sony BD-R

Panasonic BD-R

Falcon Media BD-R

Mitsubishi Verbatim BD-R

Taiyo Yuden LTH BD-R on Amazon
NOTE: It appears that Taiyo Yuden single layer discs are all LTH now, their dual layer discs appear to be HTL (and some have TDK identifiers on them so the dual layer discs might actually be HTL made by TDK).

Ritek Ridata BD-R

Phillips BD-R

Optical Quantum BD-R

Miscellaneous Tips

Macgo Blu-ray Player and Macgo Mac Media Player

When I originally authored this post, Macgo had already released their Mac Blu-ray Player software (back in 2011), but its $59.95 (apparently on sale for $39.95) so it did not qualify for this post, in which I only looked at free software. However on the fifth of February of 2013, I received a press release that Macgo was now offering a new software, the Macgo Mac Media Player, for free.

Macgo Free Mac Media Player Leads New Media Trends

Advertised as being able to play the most uncooperative video files on your Mac, I was intrigued, I downloaded it and fired it up. It really did play everything I had, including the .MKV files I make from various Blu-ray discs I owned. Everything played perfectly without a glitch. Impressive. I will do a comparison with it against Quicktime, VLC and Mplayer to see if there are any quality differences. I thought I noticed more noise than I had remembered in some of the older .MKV files but that could have been normal and requires a proper side-by-side analysis to render a fair opinion.

Then it struck me, I bet that what Macgo did was to create a “lite” version of their Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player, so I popped in a Blu-ray disc that I owned, and sure enough the software immediately recognized it but instead of playing it, it said that a paid upgrade from th elite version to the full version was required to play back Blu-ray discs in real time on my Mac. Now it all made sense.

I like the Macgo Mac Media Player, its clean, quick, played all the various video formats I had on hand, never glitches and has a full screen mode. I even like that its volume control seems to give a lot more volume on those odd movies will low volume levels.

Update: I finally broke down and purchased Mac Blu-ray Player from Macgo. It just works and it works well. I use it several times a week to watch movies directly off the Blu-ray disc and have never ever experienced a problem. This is the software that I now recommend to everyone.

I’m probably going to keep an eye on this one to see how it fits into our video workflow. Let me know if you find interesting ways to use this software, and what your overall experience with it is. Is it a keeper? Tell me why.

Macgo Free Mac Media Player Leads New Media Trends

Time Machine

  • I like to add the folder where my MKV and M4V (MPEG4) files are originally deposited because I really don’t need them to take up storage space on my backup drive. Since the movies all land in iTunes, they will get backed up thee anyway.
AntiVirus
  • I also don’t need to scan the MKV and M4V files because they were make directly from the DVD and Blu-ray discs I purchased so they can’t have viruses, so there is to need to waste time scanning them and I don’t want to waste any CPU power scanning the movie files as MakeMKV and Handbrake are running. You have to decide if this is appropriate for you.

Batch Jobs If you want to process a lot of discs:

  • Run one instance of MakeMKV for each optical drive you have, at the same time. Just select Make New MakeMKV Instance  from the MakeMKV menu and add each drive. MakeMKV is so efficient that it does not tax your system at all. this greatly speeds up the first part of the process.
  • Run MakeMKV during day, put all the .MKV files into one folder
  • Run HandBrake at night using the Add To Queue feature (it will process as many movies as you like, unattended. The cooling fans will come on since Handbrake requires full processing power, this is normal, so running it at night means you don’t have to listen to it, its also means that your machine won’t feel sluggish if you try to use it while running Handbrake at the same time.
  • Add one movie at a time to Handbrake, be sure to click on the desired preset then click on Add To Queue but do not start the processing yet. After all the movies are  added and you are ready to begin, then click the start button and go to sleep.
  • Turn off screen saver and set Energy Saver to never during this night time operation so the Handbrake job does not stop, just turn the screen brightness down to as low as you can tolerate it. Turn it back on when the batch is over.
  • If you want to work with DVDs, this exact procedure will work perfectly, and will be much faster than processing a Blu-ray disc.
Glitches
  • If you have problems emptying the trash then reboot your system and hold down the Option key before you empty the trash, to empty the .MKV files you no longer need. I found that when I experiment with all this software that invariably I’d leave a player or conversion utility open (with a movie file loaded) which would prevent the file from be deleted fro the Trash (rightfully so). If it still doesn’t work, launch the app you viewed the video in and quit it. Then empty the trash (holding the Option key down if necessary). The simplest way to see which app is keeping a file locked (and preventing it from being deleted) is to  use “What’s Keeping Me” by HamSoft Engineering to see which app you need to quit (to release your movie).If you see something like com.apple.qtserver is keeping the movie locked, then try launching and quitting Quicktime, which should solve the problem. If it still won’t delete then use the Quit and/or Kill buttons in “What’s Keeping Me” to shut down each app or process that is keeping the file locked, then empty the trash.
  • A basic issue that could be keeping you from emptying he trash is that these movie files are gigantic and automatic features such as Spotlight, Time Machine and Sophos (and other Anti-Virus) applications will keep the file locked (thus keeping it from being deleted). This is not usually a problem with normal sized files because they can be indexed, scanned and backed up reasonably quickly, but I found that I could create a couple hundred gigabytes of movies files very quickly while converting the library. It seems reasonable to add the folder you are using for your converted movies to the Exclusion list in Spotlight, Time Machine and Sophos, just to keep them from getting tied up in those processes. Since you are moving the files into iTunes, they will get indexed, scanned and backed up there. If you do anything different then you need to come up with your own working scheme.
  • If occasionally, the movie converted by Handbrake just will not play (nor is it recognized by Quicktime, VLC or MPlayer) then try turning your anti-virus software completely off and do it over again. Its not guaranteed that anti-virus software is the actual culprit (I’ve not proven it one way or another) so don’t stress about it unless you run into problems.
  • If MakeMKV works then suddenly stops working, you might have experienced a certificate revocation or that version of MakeMKV expired or the Beta key you used expired. Regardless of reason, just download the latest version from their website and get their latest Beta key (and enter it in to MakeMKV), everything should be fine until the next expiration period. This also ensures that you have the latest technology and bug fixes so its worth doing anyway.
  • The provided instructions worked for me at the time of this writing. Software changes, glitches arise, and your system may be different from mine, but the essence of what I wrote should work well for 99% of you. If it doesn’t then visit the respective forums and expect to put in quite a bit of time to research your issue.

Playing Blu-ray Movies On Your Mac

How do I play Blu-ray movies on my Mac? That question should not exist for Mac users, after all it was Apple that though its invention of Quicktime brought video (movie) playback to desktop computers. Yes folks it true, before Apple you could not play honest to goodness video on home computers.

Microsoft was even found guilty of stealing the source code from Apple when Microsoft came out with its video playback platform a year later. True it was the company that Microsoft purchased for its video technology that was the one that was accused of perpetrating the original crime, but its exactly the same thing that Microsoft did when they stole DOS from its actual creator and demonstrated it falsely to IBM as their own work. (Yes, after the fact Bill Gates paid the actual developer, a non-Microsoft employee $5,000 for the [DOS] software but he failed to disclose that he had already “sold” the independent developer’s operating system to IBM and that it was actually worth millions per year. Today that would be considered major fraud, industrial espionage and theft.

But I digress. The current problem is that Microsoft set up some bizarre deal with Sony for Blu-ray licensing and Sony is making it near impossible for Apple to buy a license for all its users, so we don’t have built-in Blu-ray playback yet.

So how do I play back Blu-ray movies on my Mac today? First you need a Blu-ray drive. Blu-ray discs have tiny pits that are so small that you need a tiny laser beam to be able to read the microscopic zeros and ones; it just cannot be done with the  red laser found in DVD players, believe it or not, the wavelength of the red beam is too wide to fit into the tiny Blu-ray pits. The tiny pits are necessary because HD movies requires files that are five to ten times larger than DVD movies.

The solution? Use a laser with a tiny wavelength, a blue laser. A 405 nanometer blue laser to be precise, hence the name Blu-ray.

Blu-ray drives have two lasers, one red and one blue, it switches automatically between the two as needed, depending on the disk that you insert into the player. You can actually see the two lasers in my Panasonic UJ-260 Bluray and DVD player/burner because its actually a tray mounted laptop style drive and when the tray pops out the laser head pops out with it.

It used to require the purchase of expensive software to play back movies on your Mac. Although the software was less expensive than Windows Blu-ray playback software, we just want to watch the movies we already purchased on the drives we already paid for, Sony already got their pint of blood for each of those purchases, we don’t feel its right to have to pay them again.

Note: Microsoft Windows does not come with built-in movie Blu-ray playback software, no OS does due to licensing issues. Yes, I know that the media loves to quote Microsoft’s blog as saying that they support Blu-ray movie playback but it honestly doesn’t and the blog never actually comes out and says so.1 It was an erroneous assumption on the part of lazy media writers that just keeps getting repeated. Specifically: “…Media Center, including DVD playback (in Media Center, not in Media Player), broadcast TV recording and playback (DBV-T/S, ISDB-S/T, DMBH, and ATSC), and VOB file playback.” i.e., the Microsoft Media Center Pack does not include codecs for Blu-ray playback. At least Tom’sHardware2 corrected their blindly following the pack and misstating the fallacy that Windows can play back Blu-ray movies natively, when in reality it cannot. 

The simplest thing is to install a pair of files on your Mac that unlock Blu-ray playback then use any player software that knows how to read these files, at the moment only VLC 2.05 or higher can do this but I expect that to change in the future. Its really rather simple to get VLC to play Blu-ray movies on your Mac, just download the two files, drop each file in the two different folders they belong in, insert a Blu-ray movie into your Blu-ray player and launch VLC (quit it if it was already running, then relaunch it) then just open the Blu-ray disc from within VLC and open the Blu-ray movie and it will play on your Mac. That is how easy it is to watch Blu-ray movies on our Mac, its free, easy and I’m glad we have that ability, finally.

http://vlc-bluray.whoknowsmy.name

Be aware that the Blu-ray industry has infected Blu-ray discs with a particularly nasty form of copy protection which can revoke the encryption keys of your software. yes, that’s right, the MPAA now has a method to deactivate your movies, the ones that you paid for with your hard earned money. Yes, they whine about movies being licensed and not “sold” so they try to justify their draconian methods. The reality is that they don’t license movie viewing. If they did they would replace your discs when they fail to play properly any more. Do they do this? No, they don’t. So they aren’t in actual practice licensing the movie, in actual practice they are selling it, not licensing it. (So of course we should be legally be able to do anything we want with the discs that we actually own.)

What to do if VLC stops playing Blu-ray movies? There are two things to try, first download a fresh copy of the Blu-ray files you installed from http://vlc-bluray.whoknowsmy.name but if that doesn’t work (given enough time it probably will) then fire up MakeMKV and Handbrake and make a legitimate backup copy of the disc that you own.

Update: VLC has not updated the two files that are needed for Blu-ray playback since 2012 and no movies that I have purchased since then have worked, so VLC is essentially unusable now as Blu-ray movie playback software. Thats a shame because it could have been the premier free Blu-ray playback software in the world.

Another approach is to use MakeMKV (you gotta love those guys at MakeMKV, they totally rock!) to stream the Blu-ray movie to VLC or any other app that can accept a Blu-ray stream. Simple and easy. Since MakeMKV is constantly updated to be able to perform its primary job, it stands to reason that this method could provide a more reliable method to watch Blu-ray movies on your Mac.The best feature? Its free!

MakeMKV: Starting from version 1.4.9 MakeMKV supports direct video streaming. Currently this feature is highly experimental. Direct streaming enables instant playback of blu-ray and DVD discs without converting them to MKV first – while less interesting for DVD it is quite usable for blu-ray since it enables blu-ray playback on Linux and Mac OS X directly from optical disc. Here is the list of known problems:

  • Not all seamless branches are not processed correctly – you may get short AV glitch at each branch location. That includes DVD layer break. Most blu-ray discs do not use seamless branching.
  • Some discs may fail to work at all due to mastering format

Otherwise this feature works and is usable – after opening the disc go to file menu and select “Stream”. Next, launch your favorite video player that is capable of playing http streams with blu-ray codecs (examples are VLC and QT with Perian) and open the url http://localhost:51000/stream/title0.ts – you should see the first title. You may examine all titles and available formats by navigating to http://localhost:51000/ . MakeMKV contains built-in web server that is accessible over local network so you may launch MakeMKV on one computer and watch video on another – you’ll have to change “localhost” in URL to a computer name or IP address.

Interesting Tidbits of Information

OpenCL

The OpenCL aware version of Handbrake is currently under development (at the time of this writing), despite only being prototyped on Windows, it should help provide some acceleration on all platforms once it reaches production quality (OpenCL is a cross platform, open framework). Interviews with Handbrake developers on the web, seem to infer that only certain routines will be ported to OpenCL, but for us encoding junkies, this is great news. Why? because OpenCL is supported by the discrete graphics chips found in all recent Macs, this allows any functions that are passed to OpenCL to be greatly accelerated by the graphics chip. This means a free increase in speed for everyone. Unfortunately the Handbrake team is only working on moving a minimal amount to OpenCL, that they feel is useful and a practical use for hardware based GPU acceleration. Hopefully once they gain experience and see how great GPU acceleration can be, they will look for other opportunities to move other routines to the GPU.

I check the Handbrake download site occasionally to see when the latest Beta version with OpenCL becomes available for Macs.

Handbrake OpenCL and normal (non-OpenCL enabled) Nightly versions can be found here: https://build.handbrake.fr/view/All/

HandBrake actually dies out for a while when its original creator suddenly stopped development work and cut off all communications in 2003. The source code was stuck in the repository and could not be updated without his credentials to authenticate access. Three years later two independent developers were both working on adding Apple iPod video support to HandBrake and decided to collaborate, so it was Apple’s iDevices which breathed life into HandBrake and made possible the excellent program that we have today. Than you Apple as well as Rodney Hester and Chris Long.

HEVC H.265

The next generation video standard looks to be h.265, via the HEVC encoding method, which promises a 50% reduction in file size at the same quality as today or double the quality at the same file size. This will be awesome to get HD content downloaded quicker via the Internet to your computer or iPhone, and use fifty percent less storage space on your device. It will also be useful for next generation HD content such as 4k (or 8k) which have humungous file sizes.

I’m sure that once a functional library gets written for HEVC h.265 that the good folks at Handbrake and libav will incorporate it into their software. I intend to re-encode all my video to HEVC h.265 as soon as possible, in order to see just how much disk space this new method actually saves me. I’ll tell you all about it once I get started.

Over at libav the guys are already submitting patches to ass HEVC h.265 functionality, but its a bit early foe me to test right now. The standard is not yet ratified so its best for us to wait for stable code to be released (preferably through Handbrake).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Video_Coding

QPxTool
  • QPxTool looks to be a fascinating way to test the DVDs and now the Blu-ray discs that you burn for performance.
  • Why do we care about performance? because ever since the very first burnable CD drives appeared in the market, there has been vigorous debate that various brands of discs have better or worse ability to produce discs that actually work.
  • The next argument is that some burned discs don’t last very long, even if it appears that the disc burned properly.
  • QPxTool offers that promise to run quality tests on discs (only discs that you burn, it will not run on commercial discs) and it also displays the MID code for the disc.
  • MID code is the manufacturer’s identifying letter/number combination. It would surprise most people that most discs are not make by the company who appears on the wrapper. Disc manufacturing is often outsourced, and the outsourcing changes from time to time, so you never know what you are getting. It would be great to be sure.
  • QPxTool is available as open source software in the form of source code that you have to compile yourself. I downloaded it and attempted to compile it, excited to unlock some of the mysteries surrounding the fallibility of burned discs, but unfortunately I could not get it to compile without errors. After much thorough troubleshooting, I am now awaiting support at the official QPxTool forum.

VLC for Mac OS X

This is the standalone player to view video that Quicktime player can’t play. I recommend that everyone have VLC installed because its a great supplement to Quicktime.

Download VLC Player for Mac OS X here at the official site

VLC plug-in for Safari

This plug-in brings VLC’s power to your web browser, which is a good supplement to the existing Quicktime and other video plug-ins you may already have in Safari.

Download VLC Plug-In for Safari on Mac OS X here at the official site

Linux VLC Software for Blu-ray DVD Ripping, Conversion and Viewing

Get VLC for Debian GNU/Linux
Get VLC for Ubuntu
Get VLC for Mint
Get VLC for openSUSE
Get VLC for Gentoo Linux
Get VLC for Fedora
Get VLC for Arch Linux
Get VLC for Slackware Linux
Get VLC for Mandriva Linux
Get VLC for ALT Linux

VLC for UNIX and UNIX-Like OS

Get VLC for FreeBSD
Get VLC for NetBSD
Get VLC for OpenBSD
Get VLC for Solaris
Get VLC for Android
Get VLC for QNX
Get VLC for Syllable
Get VLC for OS/2
QPxTool for GNU/Linux
debianpackages.debian.org/unstable/otherosfs/qpxtool
gentooQPxTool-0.7.0 is already in portage
SlackWare 13.0qpxtool-0.7.1_002-i686-1_SL130.txz
SlackWare64 13.0qpxtool-0.7.1_002-x86_64-1_SL130.txz
SlackWare 12.2 (built with QT 4.4.2)qpxtool-0.7.1_002-i686-1_SL122.tgz
Debian (sid)qpxtool_0.7.0-1_i386.deb
Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic)qpxtool_0.7.1_002-1_i386.deb
OpenSUSE 11.2qpxtool-lib-0.7.1_002-1.i586.rpm
qpxtool-0.7.1_002-1.i586.rpm
qpxtool-gui-0.7.1_002-1.i586.rpm
qpxtool-devel-0.7.1_002-1.i586.rpm

Handbrake for GNU/Linux

Handbrake for Ubuntu

Handbrake source code for Linux

Handbrake Supported Input Sources:

Handbrake can process most common multimeida files and any DVD or Bluray sources that do not contain any kind of copy protection.

Handbrake Outputs:

  • File Containers: MP4 (M4V) and MKV
  • Video Encoders: H.264 (x264), MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 (libav), or Theora (libtheora)
  • Audio Encoders: AAC, CoreAudio AAC/HE-AAC (OS X Only), MP3, Flac, AC3, or Vorbis.
  • Audio Passthru: AC-3, DTS, DTS-HD, AAC and MP3 tracks

ffmpeg for GNU/Linux

ffmpeg is an amazingly powerful tool for converting video from one format to another. Personally I prefer Handbrake which is based on ffmpeg and libav, so you get the best of both without having to do double the work. Try Handbrake first and see what I mean. It just works.

git clone git://source.ffmpeg.org/ffmpeg.git ffmpeg

Libav for Linux

Libav is one of the two engines (libraries) that powers Handbrake and many other video transcoding applications (the other is x264). Its a rival to ffmpeg and is believed to be better in many ways. For Linux users or those that want to use command line tools, this would be an excellent choice.

DistributionPackage Information URLVersion Tracked
Debianhttp://packages.qa.debian.org/liba/libav.htmlRelease Branches
Gentoohttp://packages.gentoo.org/package/media-video/libavRelease Branches, git master
Ubuntuhttps://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/libavRelease Branches
Open Embeddedhttp://cgit.openembedded.net/cgit.cgi/openembedded/tree/recipes/libavgit master

RipLock

Certificate Revocation

From the MakeMKV website: You’ve just experienced a fascinating “feature” of AACS called certificate revocation. Every Blu-ray disc contains a file that has a list of keys known to be used by “unauthorized” software. This list has a version number. The moment you insert the disc into your drive, the drive checks if the list is newer than the one it knows about, and if it is, the drive re-flashes itself (updates firmware [or other non-volatile memory -Dr Bob]). Total Recall has AACS v35 – the moment you’ve inserted the disc into the drive all versions of MakeMKV earlier than 1.7.8 permanently stopped working with this drive.This revocation process happens the moment you insert the disc into drive – MakeMKV or any other software is out of the picture.

Don’t freak out. If for any reason the certificate in your copy of MakeMKV is revoked, just download the latest version (and or Beta key, you might have to try both) and everything will be hunky dory once more.

Windows

AnyDVD for Windows is a good program, is highly touted and is the one that I see referenced most of the time in the online forums. but costs $158 for a lifetime key. Both MakeMKV and Handbrake are free and yield fantastic results, with quality that I cannot distinguish from the original movie.

HD-DVD

If you still have HD-DVD discs, then this guide is not for you, in fact you have big problems because that format was never an international standard and was abandoned completely when Blu-ray received standards approval. In my previous blogs, I warned against investing any money in HD-DVD because it was backed by Microsoft, was a cheap trick to re-use existing DVD stamping machines and really didn’t have the capacity that we now know we need in order to store 3D content, multiple versions, extras, etc. HD-DVD was not upgradable because it was an attempt to stretch out a dead end technology, DVD.

References

Amazon has a huge assortment of Blu-ray drives in stock at great prices, from laptop sized portable drives to full size “internal” drives, there is plenty to choose from for everyone, including the geeky folks that like to install firmware updates to deal with region codes and Riplock.

Thank you for your support, Please don’t forget to visit the sponsors of my site, like Snorg TeesThe Tire Rack, New Egg, and others, before each shopping session (via the ads on the right hand side of this page) they have excellent products at great prices. Visiting my sponsors ensures that I can stay on the air to answer your questions and bring you the honest and true insight into the consumer electronics industry, so please visit them first whenever you start your shopping, it really helps me out and does not cost you a single penny extra.

Dr Bob

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Tire Rack- Revolutionizing Tire Buying

  1. Making Windows Media Center available in Windows 8 []
  2. Windows 8: Clarifying Codecs, Compiling, And Compatibility []

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