If you want to enjoy full high-definition 1080p videos, Blu-ray discs are the only possible option at present. However, to watch Blu-ray movies, you will need to invest in a Blu-ray drive on your PC or player for your TV, and definitely some surround sound speakers. As far as the equipment is concerned, it is a one-time investment, since you wont be upgrading that often. However, Blu-ray titles are not cheap and depending on the release date or the popularity of the movie, you could be spending thousands on each one of them. You can borrow them from friends (that is, if they have what you want to watch), but eventually you have to return them. Well, why not simply copy them to your hard drive and watch them over-and-over again or whenever you want to?
Blu-ray may be the best quality movie format available ever, but it also carries with it more copy protection than DVDs, which limits you to play it only on your PC, or BD player provided the region code matches. We show you how you can easily bypass this copy protection, rip your favourite Blu-ray flicks and store them on your hard drive to watch them endlessly and anywhere. You will not need to have your own BD player or BD ROM for playing the ripped movies. And best of all, the movies are full HD 1080p and you have the choice of including subtitles and chapters.
Copy protection on Blu-rays needs to be bypassed (Image: Getty images)
Ripping Blu-ray titles to keep a backup of your original discs is a good idea, but sharing the rips are actually considered illegal because you are breaking the copy protection on the disc. Keeping the legal issues aside, decrypting protected content is not as simple as copy-paste. It involves a few utilities that can do it for you. There are several such CD, DVD and BD rippers available online and while some are free, others are paid versions. In order to rip a BD or DVD for free, you would need two utilities—one to help bypass the protection and the other to convert the Blu-ray into a single file on the hard drive. We show you how you can do it at home using a few utilities—some free and some paid. We shall show you three simple options on how you can rip a Blu-ray movie.
Option 1: Completely free, but totally time and space consuming
This option points to the use of two freeware utilities, but it involves a lot of time and the disk space needed is enormous. For this method, you will need two utilities—MakeMKV from ‘www.makemkv.com’ and HandBrake from ‘www.handbrake.fr’. MakeMKV is a simple one-click transcoder that can convert an encrypted disc (DVD or BD) into an MKV file. The file is large and completely uncompressed. It stores the files into a single MKV format or container file that has the ability to store multiple audio tracks and preserve chapters too. The final file is equal to the original M2TS file itself and can be anywhere between 24GB to 50GB, or even more depending on the movie time and quality. This file needs to be further compressed into a smaller size, but ensuring the quality is more-or-less the same as the original. This compression procedure is handled well using the free utility called HandBrake. It is an open source GPL-licensed multi-platform and multi-threaded video transcoder.
Use MakeMKV to decrypt and dump the movie
After you have installed the two utilities, simply insert the Blu-ray movie into the BD ROM and run MakeMKV. The utility will detect the inserted disc and give out the details of the type, label and protection involved on the disc. Just hit the Blu-ray to HDD icon on the main window and relax. MakeMKV will automatically list out the tracks and chapters on the Blu-ray and save them on your hard drive as individual MKV files. The utility will bypass the encryption and store the MKV file on the hard drive. You need to define the location of the file output using the preferences section. This is a large uncompressed file stored on the disc with all the information stored within. The time taken will purely depend upon the speed of the PC and the Blu-ray ROM. You can estimate around 1.5 hours to 2 hours as an average. Now we need to compress it.
Use Handbrake to convert the dumped MKV file into a smaller sized file
MakeMKV has done its job and you can close the utility. Start up HandBrake, click on the source button and choose the file(s) you created using MakeMKV. You actually need not do anything after this as the utility is pretty set for functioning ahead of this. In any case, you can tweak the settings as per your choice. Choose the chapters you want to convert and select the container as MKV. Next, choose the presets as ‘Normal’ from the right side. Then let the video size (resolution) be as original (1920 x 1080). Lastly, you can choose to insert subtitles and select the audio track as per your choice. Once ready, hit the Start icon and let HandBrake transcoder your movie. This can take a while and expect around 2 hours on an average. In our tests, we ripped a 1 hour 37 minute animation movie to uncompressed 32GB MKV file in 1 hour 42 minutes using MakeMKV and then later into a compressed 3.5GB MKV file using Handbrake in another 2 hours. The whole process of ripping a single Blu-ray disc takes an average 4–5 hours even on a fast enough PC. We used a test rig that comprised an Intel Core i7 2600K CPU clocked at 3.4GHz, 8GB of RAM, AMD Radeon HD6870 and a 250GB SATA6 SSD. The Blu-ray drive used was a Buffalo 6x Portable USB 2.0.
Option 2: Part free, part paid utility. Less time and lower space needed
This is a fairly simple and straightforward process and does not involve the initial dumping of the decrypted disc on the hard drive. Therefore, we can do away with the MakeMKV section above. For this step, you will need a protection bypassing utility called AnyDVD. Download the utility from ‘www.slysoft.com’. It is a 21-day trial utility and you can opt for the full version for around Rs 4,000. All you need to do is install AnyDVD and keep it running in the system tray—no settings required. AnyDVD works in the background to automatically and transparently enable read access of the contents of a movie DVD or Blu-ray as soon as it is inserted into the drive.
AnyDVD will bypass any encryption or copy protection on DVDs and Blu-ray discs
You can then use any utility to rip or copy the discs. Once AnyDVD is running in the background, you can use HandBrake and set the source as the Bly-Ray disc itself. The rest of the settings can be tweaked as per your choice. This procedure cuts down almost half the time as compared to option 1. Instead of HandBrake, you can also use another free utility called Freemake video converter, which can be downloaded from ‘www.freemake.com’. Select the source by clicking on the +Video icon, then select the MKV file format preset from the list of scrollable preset icons on the bottom. On the next screen, choose HD1080p. you then have the options to further tweak the MKV preset with respect to frame size and audio/video codecs. Finally, choose the destination folder and click convert.
FreeMake is a free utility to convert the Blu-ray into a compressed MKV
Option 3: The easiest, but a fully paid version
The third option involves just a single utility that can handle the encryption portion by default. This utility is DVDFab Blu-ray ripper from ‘www.dvdfab.com’. It costs around Rs 3,600, which might seem expensive, but is a one-time investment to high-quality movie ripping. It has loads of other features under its belt. It can handle 3D movies and takes the advantage of Nvidia CUDA and Intel Quick Sync to speed up the transcoding process.
DVDFab is an all-in-one utility for decrypting and transcoding
Each of the above options gives you the choice to convert the rips into smaller sized files or lower resolution movies. Head to the options of the respective transcoding utility and choose to limit the output file size or downscale the resolution. For example, you could convert your Full HD 1080p movies into 720p or 480p videos to cut down the final output file by a massive amount or keep the resolution the same and limit the output file size. However, on the contrary, you would end up losing the original high quality of the movie. You can later choose to store multiple movies on a single DVD or a pen drive too. Additionally, these options mentioned here can be performed using DVDs and also pre-ripped movies and videos.
Finally, a full HD 1080p Blu-ray movie ripped to the hard drive
Now that you have a few methods listed here to rip a Blu-ray movie into a single MKV file, you can go ahead and rip your whole collection of HD movies to store on your hard drive or NAS. Share them with your friends or carry along your collection on your holiday. You won’t need to tag along your Blu-ray drive or player anymore.