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 that 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.

Conclusion

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


  • B30

    I use Subler (instead of Meta X), works much better for me.

    • Milaan

      Yes Subler is great. I can recommend it too.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      Good suggestion, I’ll check it out. I kept searching Google for a metadata adding app a few months back and couldn’t find anything, but I’m glad there’s something else out there.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Our review of Subler is going live next week!

  • Milaan

    Well your “Complete Guide” is missing an very important chapter… Subtitles. And this is where things get ugly. Subtitles extracted with MakeMKV have the PGS/SUP Format and currently there is no software i know of for the Mac which can convert these subtitles to SRT Format which can be read by iTunes or the AppleTV.

    Well maybe you guys could add this chapter to the guide? Maybe you have a solution for the Mac users… I hope…

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      That’s a great point, but I really didn’t know how to work it out, so I didn’t include it just yet. There is one app that can show subtitles: VLC.

      • Milaan

        Yes, VLC can but as a Mac user i really want to import my videos to iTunes so i can watch it on my AppleTV or iPad.

    • MyKey

      Adding subtitles to your media is simple. I use iSubtitle. You can buy it from the App Store.
      iSubtitle aslo adds metadata, although it isn’t very good at it.
      The actual subtitle files can be downloaded easily from the interwebz.
      http://www.opensubtitles.org <– This is what I use primarily.

      For ripping subtitles from DVDs, I use to use DSubtitler. However I don't think it is still supported/works on OS X 10.8.

      My whole process is like this:

      -Get .mkv files.
      -Convert them with HandBreak (I use the preset for Apple TV 3rd Gen.)
      -Download subtitles from the web.
      -Use iSubtitle to add subtitles in English and Bulgarian as well as metadata.
      -Add to iTunes.
      -Watch on Apple TV with surround sound and subtitles. I also watch on my iPad and sometimes on my iPhone. Subtitles are available on all devices.

      Note: It's important to have both the surround and stereo track when you convert with HandBeak. If you leave only the surround, you won't be able to view the file on the iPad/iPhone. (Just use the Apple TV preset in HandBreak)

  • http://ryanparman.com Ryan Parman

    MetaX sucks. MetaZ is better. Subler is leaps and bounds better, faster, and more consistent.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      All right, I’ll be sure to investigate it much further.

    • Phillip Jacobs

      Ryan… You took the words out of my mouth. I couldn’t believe he’d be recommending metaX. crazy! :D

  • MMNW

    I have a few more tips for ripping BR discs:

    First, if you are using Time Machine, it helps a lot to either disable Time Machine altogether while ripping and converting, or – this is what I do – rip to a folder which is excluded from Time Machine backups (I created a Workshop directory within my Movies folder). Having Time Machine back up a 40GB file, which is essentially a copy of the disc you already have can be quiet time consuming.

    Second, if you own an older AppleTV, say take 2, you should use a different Preset in HandBrake. There’s one specially for older AppleTVs.

    Third, if you intend on watching your movie on a mobile device as well, consider encoding different versions. You can do so by encoding once in High or Normal profile and again in a mobile profile (there are profiles for different Apple and Android gadgets). Of course, rip to a different filename. You can teach iTunes to recognize both files as different versions of the same movie by setting the contendID meta Tag. I use Subler to do that, not sure about MetaX. Just set the contentID field of both files to the same number (you can use any number, but I advice on using something very large, so not to get conflicts with Apple set numbers). In addition set the HD-Flag of the HD file. Now, if you add both files to iTunes it will recognize them as one and show a little “SD-HD” symbol at the filename. If you sync with a mobile device, it will use the SD version, while playing HD versions on the Mac or AppleTV.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      Hah yes, the Time Machine thing. I started getting very irritated by it, but forgot to include the tip in this guide.

      As for those presets, I think it’s kind of pointless to rip a Blu-Ray disk at a resolution lower than what it is.

      That last tip is definitely great — you seem to have extensive knowledge of this field.

      • MMNW

        About ripping at lower resolutions, it depends on what you want to do and what your personal setup is. I have a couple of older AppleTVs around the house and I have only one BlueRay player. So, it makes sense for me to rip everything at 720p instead of 1080.

        About the SD/HD thingy. I can’t take credit for that, I think I read about it somewhere on the subler project site. For me it took some trial and error to work. You should tag the files identically, aside from the HD-Flag, and add them at the same time to iTunes (won’t work if they are already in there).
        I should specify, the contentID is usually where iTunes stores the store-catalogue number for downloaded content. So, its kind of a hack, but it works.

    • Denny

      Set up an external HD to store your blu ray m4v rips. Just option click when open iTunes to select the library you want to view the HD movies. 1.5 TB 2.5 inch notebook drives are available. I use the Toshiba from OWC with my MBP and it works like a charm.

  • Phillip Jacobs

    I like subler too but it’s not my favorite. My favorite is to use iVI first. If I don’t have luck with it (which is usually good 80%) then I give iDentify a try. I don’t even have metaX on my system cuz it sucks so bad – P.L.E.A.S.E.!!!

    But if I’m going to enter them myself (no automation) then I just use iSubtitle. I love the auto chapters, it pulls in sub-titles if necessary, the meta data is dead simple to enter, and the artwork will take a screenshot or it’s just a drag-n-drop away from being added. Works straight away with iTunes and my Apple TV.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      I saw iVI in the Mac App Store a few months back, but the problem with it is that it costs and free software is usually preferred.

      As for MetaX, why is everyone so much against it? I tried Subler earlier today and it kept crashing on my Lion machine — is it not Lion compatible or something?

      • B30

        @ Jacob

        Never had any crashing issues here (MacBook Pro, 10.7.3), but rather use Subler 0.14 not the newer (not so stable) 0.15beta3 version.

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  • Sigilist

    A generally good start for those who haven’t stepped in to BR ripping before. The additional steps presented by commenters were also helpful for variations of need. Nice to see a well done starter tut around here.

  • JP

    Whilst the makemkv route works there is one huge omission, 3D.

    I use dvdfab for mac for my blurays to rip and copy. Yes it is more expensive but at least it can do all blurays.

    Oh and another vote for ivi, my problem with metax is that it’s search just isn’t working for most.

  • Zonk

    DVDFab is now available for Mac & can also rip Blu-Ray discs (I think it also extracts subtitles). Most of your ripping needs could be achieved with the free version: http://www.dvdfab.com/hd-decrypter-for-mac.htm

  • Peter Dam

    Hi There – thank you a lot for this Guide :-D
    One question: if i skip the space-saving thing – and just want to se the film on my IMac – which software player do i need? (Thank you in advance)

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  • what?

    I’ve read the thread and I’m still wondering what steps you would need to take in order to back up your blu-ray discs to BD-R blank media? Can Handbrake transcode the ripped MKV files to a BDMV directory with m2ts files (so that the BDMV folder can be burned onto a blank BD-R for archival purposes and for playing in a stand-alone Blu-ray player)? Thanks for the info and great blog!

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      I’m not sure about putting the files back on a Blu-Ray disc because of the encryption required. Without the tools they use at the factory, it’s unlikely you will be able to duplicate that process. However, you could always keep the digital copy and stream it to your Apple TV rather than inserting the disc all the time.

  • Durgle

    How many gb or what settings would I need to keep the file in Handbrake to keep the high quality picture that the bluray produces? Can it rip to 1080P?

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      High profile is the best one that HandBrake has, though the file size is very large when finished. Normal, on the other hand, is nothing special but will still yield a nice video at a much smaller size.

      It’s best to use the MKV format when converting because that compression is much better and clearer than M4V or MP4.

  • Craig

    If I just want to store the BluRay rip on my NAS without converting it to an mp4 or something, will VLC play that?

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      VLC can play anything, but I’m not sure about that combination. I’d suggest trying it and letting us know how it goes.

  • Sandy

    What about Forced Subtitles?
    Adding subtitles the way its described here only adds the subtitles for the entire movie and not the selected parts that happen to be in a foreign language. A good example of that would be “The Da Vinci Code”. The movie is mostly in English but that are a scattered number of scenes that are in French. What about if you only want the burned in subtitles to appear during those scenes instead of the entire movie?

  • Seth

    I am trying to convert the mkv file to m4v. However, whenever I try to open the m4v file with quicktime or VLC they state that the file can not be read. Is there something different that I should try? Any help would be appreciated.

  • Kaleb

    I’m having trouble with handbrake, it seems to convert the file, but its not readable, and its still the same size. I used VLC to read the MKV file, and it works just fine. But when I try to use it after handbrake it gives me an error message. Any idea whats going on?

    • B Clark

      I’m having the same problem. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Bob Hartnett

    I have some BD-R from weddings I produced. I need to rip a few of them and then edit them on my Mac using Priemere Pro 6. I do not need chapters, and their are no subtitles. I only want to get the video at HD quality and drop it to a timeline for editing a separate video. Any suggestions on what to use to rip and how to get it formatted properly?

  • Mike Evans

    Hey Jordan, I bought the off-brand Blu Ray player from Amazon like the one you have (I used the link you provided in “The Cheap Route” section under the picture and text). It arrived and as soon as I plugged it into my USB on my mac tower, it shut my computer off. My computer would not turn back on, so I unplugged it, plugged it back in, and then my computer turned on.

    But immediately the fan started blowing smoke out the back of my tower, and there was a horrible burning smell. So I turned it off. After testing my surge protector, wall electrical outlets, cables, and using another computer to test all the external hardware that was connected to my computer, everything worked fine except my keyboard did not work.

    I decided to turn my computer back on. This time there was no smoke or burning, and everything so far seems to work fine, but obviously something got fried in there. Anyway, I was wondering if you had any idea what it was? I do not dare try the Blu Ray player again. You probably shouldn’t be recommending people buy it anymore. Hopefully Amazon gives me my money back and then I can buy a new keyboard with it.

  • Mike Evans

    So I bought the off-brand Blu Ray player from Amazon like the one you have (I used the link you provided in “The Cheap Route” section under the picture and text). It arrived and as soon as I plugged it into my USB on my mac tower, it shut my computer off. My computer would not turn back on, so I unplugged it, plugged it back in, and then my computer turned on.
    But immediately the fan started blowing smoke out the back of my tower, and there was a horrible burning smell. So I turned it off. After testing my surge protector, wall electrical outlets, cables, and using another computer to test all the external hardware that was connected to my computer, everything worked fine except my keyboard did not work.
    I decided to turn my computer back on. This time there was no smoke or burning, and everything so far seems to work fine, but obviously something got fried in there. Anyway, I was wondering if you had any idea what it was? I do not dare try the Blu Ray player again. You probably shouldn’t be recommending people buy it anymore. Hopefully Amazon gives me my money back and then I can buy a new keyboard with it.

  • voiceman32

    I’m trying to rip a 3D blu ray. How do I get it to be side by side so I can watch it on my 3D TV? Does anyone have a tutorial on that? Also is there a free blu ray software to watch the blu ray on my Mac?

  • Nuggi

    First of all, thank you VERY much for a good guide on getting started with Blu-ray ripping on a Mac. It got me started, and just wanted to add some information with regards to subtitles.

    My rip process is as follows:
    1. Rip with MakeMKV for Mac. I usually choose only the original audio track, and no subtitles as I add them later. I bought a Blu-ray read/write with USB3, and it takes from 15-25min, depending on the film. File size around 25-35GB.
    2, Compress MKV-file with Handbrake. I choose the “High profile” from the presets, and in the Audio tab, I make sure that the 2nd track is AC3 / ffmpeg, although I have yet to try this on a surround system. This takes approx. 3 hours – not sure if this can be reduced e.g. w/hardware acceleration. File size around 5-10GB.
    3. Open the M4V-file in iSubtitle. I download the subtitles from http://www.subscene.com and just add the srt’s I want to the movie. When done, I use \File\Save which creates an updated M4V-file with the subtitles. This step is instantaneous.
    4. I add the M4V to iTunes. So far, I’ve only tested this on iTunes as my TV is still in transit from a recent move. But on iTunes, this works perfectly – the movie is in HD quality, and I can select any of the added subtitles.

    Good luck to all !

  • David

    Just a quick question, is it possible to do this through a standard blu ray player rather than a stand alone drive? and also is it possible to do it through a hdmi cable rather than usb?

  • chris Robot

    Please update and replace MetaX with MetaZ. It’s actively being supported and works much better.

  • Adam

    I’m interested in retaining as much of the original BluRay quality as possible. I’m pretty familiar with hand brake, but does first ripping to an MKV file retain the original quality? (I’m ok with huge files).

    Also, can you keep the DTS-HD audio when doing this? Thanks!

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