How to Rip a Blu-ray to Mac

While much of the world has embraced streaming, there are still many who have physical media. Perhaps they prefer the idea of owning the copy themselves and not having it pulled away due to a rights dispute, or perhaps they prefer the higher, consistent quality that physical media provides. Whatever the reason, you have physical media, but that’s just one copy. It might not be a bad idea to make a digital backup copy for yourself. Let’s walk you through the process of ripping a Blu-ray. If you want to know how to rip a DVD to Mac, stay tuned to the site for next week.

Before you begin (legally and ethically):

You should be aware of some caveats in this, mostly in the legality and ethics departments, so let’s get some things out of the way.

First know that I can only speak from the American perspective, so you should check your national and local rules regarding such practices. Also, I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice.

With all that said, under the current guidelines you are allowed to rip media and make digital backups so long as you keep the physical copies of the media (you can’t just rip them and them sell them off), the physical copies are legally yours (so no borrowing your friends movies and then giving them back), the copies can only be used by your household and not distributed, and you cannot break encryption to do this. This is where the sticking point is, especially for Blu-rays that have various forms of encryption. DVD’s vary depending on whose making them, but some companies like Viacom do include some measures on their copies of media, who other ones (especially for home movies) don’t have these in place.

However, this is an exception for accessibility purposes, though these tend to get re-laid out every few years by the Librarian of Congress. Generally speaking though encryption can be broken if it gets in the way of accessibility purposes. As an example, this could allow a blind user to rip a copy to run it through a tool to add better descriptions or get around having to navigate clunky controls of bad disc menus.

With all that said, it is the personal opinion of this author that there is no ethical issues with ripping physical media to make digital copies so long as you maintain the first three tenets (you keep the physical copies, those physical copies are yours, and you’re keeping those copies for your household’s use) to the best of your ability.

With that said, let’s talk about tools and software.

The Tools You’ll Need

First, you’re going to need something to read the discs, Macs have never officially supported Blu-rays anyway. So you’re going to need to get a Blu-ray reader. I personally use the LG WP50NB40 Ultra Slim Portable. It will read and write DVDs and Blu-rays, though if you only are using DVDs you can find a cheaper model than this.

Next, let’s talk software. You’ll need 3 pieces of software if you’re going to be ripping Blu-rays.

First, you’ll need to download Handbrake and VLC. Both are free. Handbrake is a program that will convert video files into different formats, but doesn’t have the ability to read DVDs out of the box. That’s where VLC comes in. VLC has the codecs for reading DVDs, and Handbrake can borrow those to do its work. The good news is one you install and run VLC at least once, you won’t have to use it again, though it is a solid video player.

If you’re ripping a Blu-ray player, then you’ll need to download an additional piece of software called MakeMKV. This is a paid program, but you can use it for free while it is in beta. This can read and rip files to the MKV format. While some players like VLC can play it, it’s not a format that all players support and has some limitations, so you’ll then take this MKV file and put it into Handbrake to convert into a more convenient format like MP4.

Note also that MakeMKV is not signed by Apple, so when you try to open it the first time it will give you a warning that the app can’t be verified and should be sent to the trash. To get around this, go to the Applications folder, right-click/Control-click on the MakeMKV app and hit “Open” in the menu that pops up. This will give you the same warning, but now give you the option to open the app. Or if you already opened the app and got that warning message, then you can go to System Preferences, hit the “Security and Privacy”, and at the bottom of the window, you should see a button asking if you want to run the MakeMKV app that didn’t run before. Hit that open button, and MakeMKV will open. You should only have to do this the first time you run the app, every time after you can launch the app normally.

Ripping a Blu-ray

1: Connect up your Blu-ray reader to your Mac and put in the Blu-ray disc into the reader.

2: Open MakeMKV and let it scan the disk.

MakeMKV scanning the disk

3: Once it has scanned, it should provide some information about the disk. Click the Blu-ray disc icon in the center of the screen (it should read “Open Blu-ray disc” when you hover over it).

MakeMKV in standby mode

4: Give it some more time to process the disc and discover its contents. You should see it listing its discoveries with titles and numbers.

MakeMKV is scanning through the titles to see what can be found.

5: Once its done, it should present a list of titles with things like their size and file names. This is the tricky part, as it may not always be clear which one is the file you’re looking for, especially if the description doesn’t have names. I have generally found that the file I want is almost always the largest one.

MakeMKV's Title Seclection screen, with the Commentary version selected.

6: Uncheck the boxes of the files that you do not want to rip off the disc, leaving checks only on the files you want.

7: You may also have a dropdown arrow under these files, which will give you options for selection the audio language, subtitles, and audio format. Unselecting these may help reduce the file size, but decide this for yourself. I typically only select the language I need it in and subtitles if necessary.
If you will need subtitles for your video, you may want to select and “forced only” subtitle options in the dropdown. Some video players will support the smart subtitles feature and only show subtitles when the option is enabled in that player, but not all do. Check your video player, or just select “forced only” if you want to embed the subtitles directly into the video.

8: Once you have all the files and options selected that you want, hit the “Make MKV” button in the top right hand corner of the window (it looks like a hard drive with a green arrow pointing down at it). If it asks you to make a directory because the one it’s creating doesn’t exist, hit “Yes”.

9: By the default it will make a folder with the movie/video’s name in your “Movies” folder on your Mac. You can see this to the left of the “Make MKV” button in the top right corner of the screen. You can change the path name either by typing it in the box, or hitting the “Browse” button to the right of the text box (looks like a small folder with a video camera on it).
Note that these Blu-ray files tend to be very big. A 2-hour movie for can take up 28 gigs. MakeMKV will check to see if you have enough space for it to save the video, though I have found it to be inaccurate at times, saying I don’t have enough space when I have 3 times the space it needs. Just double check your space needs if it warns you.

10: Wait for it to finish. Depending on the speed of your Mac and the size of the file, this may take a few minutes to several hours.

11: MakeMKV will throw the completed prompt when it is done ripping the video. Now in the location you set, there will be a .mkv file. While you’ll be able to play this video in some video players like VLC, this is not a widely supported format. In order to use it widely, you’ll want to convert it to a different format like MP4.

MakeMKV's completion box, which read "Copy complete. 1 titles (sic) saved"

12: To convert it, open HandBrake. When the app opens, it’ll ask you to select the video. Navigate to the MKV file that you created, and then hit “Open”.

13: Handbrake will scan through the file to locate all the chapters. When it is done, you’ll be able to select the options you want for encoding the video and audio. I’ll try to keep it simple and focus on the options you’ll most likely want or need.

14: First, in the top right corner of the HandBrake window should be a button that says “Show Presets”. This will give you any number of generic to specific options for ripping your video to be as compatible and best viewable on things like Amazon Fire tablets, Apple TV’s, iPads, PlayStations, Rokus, etc. If you know what device you’re going to be using it with, then you’ll probably want to select that preset. In my case, I typically go with the Apple TV options since I tend to be a primarily Apple house. That said, I’ve not had problems using it with my Roku or PlayStation, particularly when using my Plex Server.

HandBrake's Preset selection screen listing all the options for listing quick setting options for different devices.

Do pay attention to the resolution. If you’re ripping only a 1080 video, you’ll probably be best keeping it at 1080p and not upscaling it to 4K. Or if you have a 4K video you want to downscale to 1080p for compatibility or size purposes, you’ll want to set that here.

15: Back on the main screen, under the “Summary” tab, there are a few options here, but the one I will highlight is “Passthru Common Metadata” and “Web Optimized”. The first only appears on certain presets and formats, such as the Apple TV one. I’d leave this one on as it preserves some extra metadata that players can use for identifying the video later or for searching and organizing purposes. The Web Optimized one is for helping you stream the video across the network, which is useful if you’re using a media server.

Handbrake's Summary screen

16: Next is the “Video” tab. If you’ve already set your preset, then most of this is good. However, you may want to check the “Framerate” section, as most of the presets set this to either 30 or 60 fps. This is fine for a lot of things, but a lot of movies and TV shows play at 24-25 frames per second. So if the frame rate is set too high then you may notice characters moving a little too smoothly, quickly, or just things looking weird (what has been dubbed the “soap opera effect”. Fortunately the dropdown has presets for many of the most common presets, including marking NTSC film and TV (North America) and PAL video (Europe and Asia). However, the easiest thing I’ve found, if you don’t want to get into the weeds on that, is to select “Same as Source” from the top of the dropdown list.

HandBrake's video encoder and settings tab.

17: Next is the “Audio” tab, which is where you’ll set the audio track. If you’re wanting to choose an alternate audio track, such as audio descriptions or a different language, this is where you’ll select it.

HandBrake's Audio codec and setting tab.

18: Lastly is the “Subtitles” tab which, as you might expect, lets you add the subtitles track or burn it into the video if you’d prefer.

HandBrake's subtitle settings tab

19: There are numerous other options, but those are, I would argue, the most relevant ones for most people. Once you’re ready, give it a name and location to be saved to at the bottom of the screen.

20: Now, you can hit “Start” in the top toolbar to begin the conversion process. Give it time, and Handbrake will notify you when it is done. You now have you’re video file to do with as you wish.

Handbrake's Completed pop up. It reads, "Put down that cocktail... Your HandBrake queue is done!"

And there you have it, you now have a digital backup copy of your Blu-ray for your personal use.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at easyosx@live.com. You can also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen. Thanks!

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