Today, instead of rambling, I’m going to write a guide. That’s right, we’re going to learn! What will we be learning about?
...You’ve read the title, you should know already.
The text in the purple boxes is not necessary to know to follow the guide, but the information there is nonetheless relevant and interesting,
so unless you're in a big hurry, it won't hurt to read through that, as well.
So, you’ve just bought a shiny new Blu-Ray, and you’ve decided that it’d be really cool to make a digital copy of it to store on your computer. Perhaps
you just want to back-up your physical media, perhaps you want all your movies, digital and physical, in the same, easily-accessible place. Either way,
you can’t just copy the file off the disc and paste it into a folder, it usually won’t work. This is where MakeMKV
comes to the rescue. But (especially in Europe) the discs often come with excess audio and subtitle tracks that you may not really care for, but that still
take up space, so it’d be nice to get rid of them. Or maybe the video’s interlaced. Or maybe you want to really efficiently save space, and thus encode it
with a different codec or bitrate. Whatever the case may be, ffmpeg will be our tool of choice. As we’ll soon find out,
subtitles on Blu-Ray discs can be tricky to extract or edit. For that, and any other subtitle-related thing, we’re going to use
SubtitleTools. Lastly, for any issues with sound that we may experience, there’s Audacity.
MakeMKV is unfortunately not FOSS, but it has a 30 day trial period, which is more than enough to rip a decent-sized Blu-Ray collection. Also,
the trial refers only to Blu-Rays; DVDs can be ripped as long as you want. Ffmpeg, Subtitle Edit and Audacity are all Free and Open-Source. In
regards to operating systems, MakeMKV, ffmpeg and Audacity have native Linux and Windows versions. SubtitleTools is Windows-only, but you can run
it on Linux without any problems using Wine. You’ll also need a Blu-Ray optical drive, obviously.
Once you have the disc in the drive, open MakeMKV and click on the drive icon. It’ll begin parsing the contents of the drive. If you haven’t yet activated
the software, once you press the button it’ll ask if you want to activate the trial period. Simply say yes and let it do its thing.
Once the disc has been read, you’ll be presented with a few titles to choose from. The biggest one is likely to be the movie proper, which is what you
want. The others can be things like trailers and other extra material. Once you’ve selected what you want to rip (you can select multiple files, of
course, it’ll just make the ripping take longer), hit the “Save selected files” button on the side and the process will begin.
If you look at the screenshot, you’ll notice that there are two titles (pieces of media) with the size 30.2 GB. If you were to rip both, you’d see that
they’re almost identical. The only difference is that the one that doesn’t have “X chapters” in the title does not include chapters (duh), and it has
no subtitle tracks. So you should choose the version appropriate for you, whether you care about subtitles and/or chapters. Another note is that you may
notice some things missing. If your disc has special features, for example, they may be absent from this menu. The reason for that is that, by default,
MakeMKV ignores any titles shorter than 2 minutes. This has the effect of ignoring the 10-20 second background videos for the selection menu or the
pre-movie disclaimers, which you most likely don’t care for, but it can sometimes skip things you do want to rip, as well. To change that, go to View →
Preferences → Video and change the Minimum title length (seconds) to something more appropriate. Then simply close the application and start it again,
so that you get to parse the content again.
After the program finished doing its thing, you can view the results in the output folder. By default, it’ll be a new folder with the movie’s name, in
your home directory. If all you’re concerned with is a playable file, then you’re pretty much set! But that’s like ripping a CD and not bothering to
properly tag the files with titles, covers, composers, etc., so if you want it to be nice and neat like that, you’ll want to keep reading the guide.
In the examples above, I was ripping the movie called Spirited Away. The end file has the following attributes:
- 1 video track
- 6 audio tracks (6.1 Japanese, Stereo Japanese, 5.1 Finnish, Stereo Finnish, 5.1 Swedish, 5.1 Danish)
- 3 subtitle tracks (Finnish, Swedish, Danish)
I don’t care for the Finnish or Danish language alternatives, yet they take up 4.9 GB of space, which I’d rather be saving. This isn’t the only movie I
have, and several of them having these useless tracks can add up rather quickly. At the same time, the file is missing any English language alternatives,
which I do want to have. To get the undesirables out and the desirables in, we’re going to use ffmpeg. It is a command-line tool, meaning it has no
graphical interface, but it is nonetheless easy to use. If you’ve never used a terminal before, read the primer below.
Upon downloading/installing ffmpeg, you’ll get three programs to use. The first is ffmpeg, which we’ll be using to do most of the work. The second is
ffprobe, which we’ll use to inspect the files, check what tracks they have, what format they’re in, and such. The third is ffplay, which is a simple
tool to play files. I won’t bother with that one, since I can just use VLC for that.
So, the file I got out of MakeMKV is called Spirited Away_t00.mkv. That’s a bit of a mouthful, so to make my work easier, I’m going to rename it to
away.mkv. To begin with, let’s use ffprobe to check exactly what is in the file.
Here is the entire output of the above command. It is quite lengthy, so I've put the stuff that we actually care about in bold letters.