How To Rip Blu-Rays on a Mac: The Complete Guide

In this day and age, everyone wants high-definiton content, and that means they either have to download the new 1080p video from iTunes or watch some Blu-Rays on their HDTV. Sadly, Macs still don’t sport Blu-Ray drives and probably never will, so why bother? Well, if you’ve already invested in lots of Blu-Ray films and TV shows, then it’s really not worth re-purchasing all your content on iTunes just to have it on your computer at the same resolution. I mean, there really should be a solution for this sort of thing.

And there is — sort of. You see, film producers decided that they would offer digital copies of their films with the physical copies. The only problem with this great idea is that many films do not include it and almost every TV show I know doesn’t, leaving the majority of what you own tied to your television and not playable on your Mac or Apple TV. Instead of fretting about this and going off to re-purcahse all your content on iTunes so that you can watch it on your iOS devices, Mac computers, and Apple TV, maybe you should consider ripping your Blu-Ray content. It’s not that hard to do actually, and I’m going to give you a full walkthrough, so join me after the break for some insight on getting all your high-definition content on your Mac.

Please take note that you will need at least 40 GB — maybe more — of hard disk space in order to rip a Blu-Ray film. If you don’t, then consider purchasing an external hard drive with more storage space.

Purchasing an External Blu-Ray Drive

The first thing you’re going to need for ripping a Blu-Ray is obviously a drive to read the disc, since Macs don’t have one. There are many external options out there that range in price from $60 to over $300 (there are even internal ones for those of you who wish to take it upon themselves to disassemble their Mac, but I’m not going over those here). While the cheaper ones do seem to hold up quite well and are much more desirable to the budget folk, the more elegant solutions, like a Firewire LaCie drive, are claimed to be more reliable.

The Cheap Route

This is the budget solution to ripping Blu-Rays on a Mac

First, let’s take a look at the cheapest way for you to get all your HD content on your Mac. I just purchased a really nice little off-brand solution from Amazon that had great ratings and looked simple and reliable. Sure, it’s not “certified” by anyone, but I don’t really feel like paying over $300 for a drive just for a small project.

This drive that I purchased is pictured above and costs $60 plus tax from Amazon. It’s simple, has one button, and is really the only thing I needed to get started transferring my Blu-Rays to my MacBook Pro’s hard drive.

Learn more about the Blu-Ray USB External Player DVDRW on Amazon. It’s also available in black if you dislike white.

The Luxury Route

The ridiculously expensive LaCie Blu-Ray reader and burner

If you want to go with something fancy that has the LaCie brand name on it, then you can spend $315 for their d2 12x Blu-Ray drive that works with both Firewire and USB. But do be warned that most of the reviews claim the price is far above what it should be for such a disc drive; most reviews recommend not buying it.

One nice thing about LaCie’s drive is that you can burn Blu-Rays as well, which may prove to be useful for some people, but it still looks pretty overpriced to me.

Learn more about the LaCie d2 Blu-Ray 12x drive on Amazon.

Download a Few Tools

Now that you’ve purchased a Blu-Ray drive, you’re going to need a few tools in order to decrypt the data on your discs. For the Mac, there’s really only one solution and while it does work very well, it is a shareware and you’ll have to purchase it after the 30-day trial period. It’s $50, which is nearly the same price as a cheap Blu-Ray drive, but you can always just rip all your discs during the evaluation period. You can find MakeMKV here. It’s not a very large download, so it should only take a few minutes. (Please note that even though this app is still in beta, it seems to perform well and has no issues.)

Secondly, if you don’t already have Handbrake, then you’ll need to download the latest version over here before proceeding. In case you didn’t know, Handbrake is a video conversion tool that can be used to rip DVDs. However, it doesn’t have the correct tools to rip Blu-Rays, so we’re going to use MakeMKV to save an MKV of the file and then just convert it to something we can play on our Mac.

Optionally, you may want to get MetaX if you’re going to be ripping a lot of films or TV shows because it’s a speedy way of adding the metadata to them before they get added to iTunes. I use it all the time and it works great.

Start Transferring

This is what MakeMKV should look like when a disc has been detected

So, now that you have your Blu-Ray drive and ripping tools, I’ll guide you through the process of transferring an entire Blu-Ray film onto your hard drive and then importing in into iTunes for syncing with your favorite iOS devices.

  1. First, insert the Blu-Ray disc into your external drive and wait for your Mac to recognize it. In order to make sure it detects the disc, just look for it on your desktop or open up Finder and look under the “Devices” category in the sidebar to the left.
  2. If the disc has been detected, then open up MakeMKV and make sure the drive with that disc in it is selected before proceeding. If it’s not, then just click the drop-down menu and click the correct drive. Once you’ve done this, click that big button with the green arrow on it to begin scanning the disc.
  3. Scanning should take about two or three minutes, depending on the content. Once it’s finished, you’ll be presented with a screen┬áthat shows a bunch of checked titles. You need to scroll to the right and find what title is the largest file size and has the most chapters. When you’ve found it, deselect all the others and double click that one.
  4. When you’re in the information for that title, you may see a lot of subtitle and/or multi-language options. (An example would be here where Sherlock Holmes has a lot of different options, but the film may vary.) You can just deselect the languages that you don’t plan on hearing using and do the same with the subtitles. Make sure that the two top audio boxes are checked to ensure that all the sound comes out nicely.
  5. Before starting the transfer, you may want to change the location that MakeMKV is saving the file and this can be done simply by clicking the little blue folder icon to the left of the “Make MKV” button and selecting the place of storage.
  6. Now that you’ve got all the other stuff sorted out, go ahead and click the “Make MKV” button in the top right corner to begin the transfer. This won’t take a lot of CPU or RAM resources, but it will slow your disk down — which pretty much means the computer is going to be useless until it’s finished. For me, it took an average of an hour and a half to complete the transfer, but it depends on the speed of your Blu-Ray drive and hard drive as well.

Convert the Video

Handbrake's audio tab

Since you’ve completed the transfer of the Blu-Ray disc, you’ll now need to convert it into something much more space-saving — how about 4 GB instead of 40 GB? This is a fairly simple process that can be accomplished using Handbrake.

  1. The first thing you need to do is open up Handbrake and navigate to the location that you saved the MKV file. When you’ve found it, select it and click the “Open” button. Handbrake should then load it up using the default preset.
  2. All you need to do next is go to the “Audio” tab and select track 1 for the audio instead of track 0. This is because it usually sounds better than the other, but if your audio isn’t as good as you had hoped for, then just reprocess the video using the first track instead.
  3. Lastly, make sure the location you’re saving this video is correct and click the green “Start” button to begin. In my experience, this took about two hours for one two-hour film, but it will vary depending on your computer’s specs.

If you’d like the video to look the best it possibly can, then use the “High Profile” preset instead of the normal one. (You may have to press the “Toggle Presets” button in the upper right corner of the app to bring them up.) I will warn you though, this will take a considerably longer amount of time than the former and will yield a much larger file as well.

Add Some Metadata and Import

The main screen in MetaX

The last thing you’ll want to do before importing your video into iTunes is add some metadata to it. This will tell iTunes the title of the video, the studio that made it, and more. All you have to do to add metadata is start up MetaX and follow these steps:

I recommend naming the file something close to the name of the film or TV show episode for this to work well.

  1. Go to the MetaX menu and click Preferences, then go to the iTunes tab and check the “Enable iTunes plugin” box as well as the “Send to iTunes after writing” option in order to automatically import the video.
  2. Open the video file by pressing the “Open” button in the top left corner, navigating to the video, selecting it, and clicking “Open”.
  3. MetaX will search for some tags and display them in the pane to the left. You can click one to explore what it contains and double click it to apply it to the video. Once you’re finished, just click the red “Write & Share” button and let it write the tags.


My small iTunes movie library that will soon be expanded

There you have it! Hopefully this has provided much insight on how you should go about ripping a Blu-Ray disc. I wish you luck with your endeavors and do let us know if you have a suggestion that we should include in this tutorial.

Blu-Ray disc icon via dunedhel