Included digital copies are still the exception rather than the norm in the Blu-ray world. Lame. You'd like to rip those discs for playback elsewhere, right? But there is something you should know first.
And that is this: Ripping Blu-ray discs sucks. Hard. It takes forever, eats up a ton of hard drive space, and for all practical purposes requires software that isn't free. It's like trying to rip a DVD in 1999: computers still have a long way to go before this is easy.
But just because it's hard doesn't mean it's impossible, and once your system is set up it's something you can start before you go to bed and have finished for you in the morning. Here we've outlined exactly what you need to rip your 1080p Blu-ray discs (the ones you own, of course) and then convert the video into a more manageable file size for watching on a computer, phone, game console or PMP. Because hey, you own this movie, and you should be able to watch it on whatever device you want.
But you'll have to earn that right. Let's start this painful process, shall we?
What's you'll need:
• A Windows PC (the Blu-ray ripping process is, at the moment, Mac-unfriendly. I used Windows 7 Beta 64-bit and all the following software is Windows-only)
• AnyDVD HD (free fully-functional 21-day trial, $80 to keep) for ripping and decrypting BD discs
• tsMuxeR (free) for muxing (may not be necessary)
• A Blu-ray drive (I used OWC's new Mercury Pro multi-interface external)
• A ton of free hard drive space (80GB or so to be safe)
• A decent understanding of how video codecs and containers work (Matt's Giz Explains has everything you need)
How it Works
AnyDVD HD is a driver that sits in the background, which automatically removes the AACS or BD+ security lock and the region code from any BD disc you load, allowing it to be ripped. The video on most Blu-ray discs is encoded in the MPEG4 AVC format in .m2ts files, so it will need to be transcoded from AVC to something else (like an H.264 MP4 file) for playback on other devices. MPEG4 AVC doesn't have wide support in all of the best video transcoders we alread love, like Handbrake. This makes finding a free and easy transcoding solution a little tougher, but thankfully RipBot264 seems competent.
You can then either transcode directly from the disc, or go the route I took and rip the disc to your hard drive before running it through the transcoder, which reduces the chance for errors. Give both a shot to find what's easiest.
Rip Your BD Disc
Again, if you want to try transcoding directly from the disc at the sacrifice of speed or the chance of corruption, you can skip this part (except for step 1) and go to step 4.
1. First up, download and install all the necessary software: AnyDVD HD and RipBot264, which also requires .NET Framework 2.0, the avisynth and ffdshow codec packs, and the Haali media splitter. (All links lead to their Videohelp.com pages, a fantastic resource). These codecs, nicely enough, should give AVC decoding capabilities system wide, so apps like VLC and Windows Media Player should be able to play them without problems.
2. Fire up AnyDVD if it's not running yet, and from the fox icon in the system tray, choose "Rip Video DVD to Harddisk." Choose a save point where there's a healthy 40-50GB free and start it a-rippin'. It'll probably take around an hour.
3. When it's done, open up the BDMV/STREAMS directory and try to play the largest .m2ts in VLC or WMP. It should play fine with sound, but if anything's fishy, you may want to try re-loading RipBot264's required codecs or trying another AVC codec like CoreCodec's CoreAVC. This is more paid software, but like AnyDVD, it comes with a free trial period. You need to be able to see and hear an .m2ts file normally during playback before you proceed.
Transcode Your Rip
Now, the fun part.
4. Open up RipBot264. When you try to run RipBot264 the first time, it may say you haven't installed ffdshow even if you have. If this is the case, open the RipBot264.ini file in Notepad and change "CheckRequiredSoftware=1" to "CheckRequiredSoftware=0" and save it.
5. Click "Add" and select the largest *.m2ts file found in your ripped BD disc's BDMV/STREAMS folder. RipBot will then analyze it and find the various programs available to encode—you want the one that matches the runtime of your movie, and not one of the special features. RipBot will chew on this file for a long time, and hopefully when it's done, will present you with this dialog:
6. If RipBot throws an error of any kind here, first make sure you've got a bunch of HD breathing room on the volume you're using.
If errors still come up, you may have to mux your rip. To put that in English: Blu-ray discs have a lot of different files on them representing several different audio and video streams. The process of joining all of these disparate elements into a single stream (usually a .ts file) is called multiplexing, or muxing, and its necessary to do before transcoding. RipBot264 can do this on its own, but it has problems with certain discs. So if any of the above fails, download tsMuxeR, select the biggest .2mts file in the BDMV/STREAM folder in your rip or on your disc, choose the appropriate language, and hit "Start Muxing." You can then add the resulting .ts file to RipBot264 as the source.
7. Now you can choose how you want to convert the video. RipBot gives you presets for Apple TV, iPod or iPhone, PSP or a high-res file which can then be re-burned to a new BD disc. I chose the iPod/iPhone level.
8. Click "Properties"—here you can fine tune the output size of your video (I chose a nice 640x360 file) and preview it before you begin. MAKE SURE you preview your choices using the "Preview Script" button, because you don't want to sit through the eternity of transcoding only to find that your dimensions are messed up and everything is in the wrong aspect ratio.
9. If all looks and sounds good, press OK, then "Start" and watch as your system transcodes the massive 1080p AVC stream into a new MP4 file. On my 2.53GHz Macbook Pro, it averages around 20fps, which is actually slower than real time playback. Yuck. So you'll want to set this and forget it.
10. Wake up the next morning, have your coffee, and check your output file. It should play beautifully in your media player of choice, and look crisp as a kettle chip. My 640x360 encode of the Dark Knight was around an even 1GB in the end, which is not bad at all. Copy it to your device of choice and enjoy.
As you can see, this process is a bitch. It takes an hour to rip the disc, another hour and change for all the software to read your rip and get ready, then an amount of time equal to or even longer than the movie itself to transcode it, depending on your system. So hey, movie studios: how about making digital copies standard features on your BD discs so we don't have to go through this, mmkay?
Note to Mac Users
While the BD-ripping world is largely a Windows one, you may want to fiddle around with DumpHD, a ripping tool written in Java that supposedly works with OS X. I couldn't get it to work, but you can read more here to try for yourself.
If you manage to rip your BD disc, you'll then have to find an AVC converter that works with OS X. Most of these are paid and I haven't used any, but they exist. If anyone has had luck with a particular tool, let us know.
This method was tested and worked perfectly for me, but if you're a video jockey and know of any additional software or methods that I didn't cover that may help, PLEASE tell us about it in the comments. The knowledge dropped in the comments of these Saturday how-tos are a huge help to everyone, so please be constructive and provide links to other tools you've had success with. Have a good weekend everyone!