Ripping Home Movies

Remember how I told you about Roku and Plex and all that wonderfulness?  Well we still use it and it’s still wonderful, but because Hollywood mega-millionaires are a bunch of poopheads, it can get way more complicated than it should be to utilize your own movies in this fashion.

Now, let me be clear: I when I say “your own movies” I mean movies that you have PURCHASED, LEGALLY, from a LEGAL and LEGITIMATE source.  Not movies that you have ‘borrowed’ to watch later, or rented and want to watch later, and most certainly not movies that you downloaded off some dodgy site.  It’s behavior like that which prompts Hollywood to do stinky things that make this difficult.

That being said, once you have legally purchased a movie, you are legally allowed to watch it however you want for your own use.  Me, myself, the way I like to do that is by ripping the movies onto my computer and watching them through Plex on my Roku.  It’s faster, easier, and more convenient than disks, not to mention that it prevents your disks from getting damaged, smudged or lost through use.  AND you can do it all without getting up from the couch.  Bonus!

Now, I’m not going to tell you how to install and use Plex.  There’s lots of good information on how to do that on their site,  The only other thing I will say about that is that the pay version is worth the money, but you don’t have to use the pay version to watch your own movies.

Ripping your movies, however, is quite another matter.  It can be QUITE the pain-in-the-tush as Hollywood is constantly trying to find new ways to stop pirating — and stop people from using the movies they bought legally.  It is SUCH a pain in the tush that I am fully aware that the following instructions will probably be too much pain and hassle for many readers.  And I must note, these instructions are for Windows only.  But if you are diligent and determined, read on.

First, you’re going to need a few things.  Some are free, some cost money.  Here’s a nice little list:
1.  A Blu-ray drive for your computer.  OK, you don’t actually NEED this, but it’s nice.  You don’t even need a blu-ray player for your TV if you watch all your disks through Plex and you have this.  But at the very least you’ll need a DVD drive for your computer.
2.  A large hard drive in your computer.  I would say at LEAST a terabyte, depending on how many movies you have, how many of those movies are Blu-ray, and what else you have stored on your drive.
3.  Good movie-watching software.  If you’re just using a DVD drive, I’m sure you already have what you need and you’re golden.  If you have a Blu-ray (from now on I’m gonna call it BD) drive, you might not have the software you need.  There are some free BD players out there, but when I was researching this over the weekend, none of them worked for the newest movies, which kind of makes sense, so I recommend getting a paid copy.  The one I ended up getting is PowerDVD 14 Ultra because it happened to be on sale and it had good reviews from what I saw.  Seems to work quite well.  You will probably have to upgrade your player software every few years, though, because Hollywood loves to change the ‘keys’ on their movies all the time, so players have to upgrade their codecs all the time, and I couldn’t find a player that gave you free updated codecs forever.
4.  Process Monitor from Microsoft.  There is a Resource Monitor already on your computer, but this works better for this particular project, and it’s free, so go for it.  You probably won’t need it for most movies.
5.  MakeMKV this software is completely free right now because it’s in beta, and for DVDs alone it will always be free.  However, if you are ripping BDs, you’ll eventually need to buy it.  When I bought it, it was only $50 and you could get updated codecs forever, so that’s a good deal.
6.  Handbrake.  This lovely piece of free software can technically do much of the same stuff MakeMKV can do, but I have found that MakeMKV is more reliably consistent for the initial rip and this is better for the next step.
7.  Lots of time.  Sorry, can’t link you to that one.

I’m just going to give basic information.  If you want to set defaults or tweak preferences (which will probably be a good idea in the long run), go for it, but you’ll have to figure that out yourself.

So, first, make sure all your hardware is installed and is in good working order.  Done?  Good.  Let’s get going.
1.  Put the disk into the drive and close the drive.  OK, that’s really stupidly obvious, but hey, this is America, so….
2.  Open MakeMKV.  It should automatically read what’s in the drive and give you basic info (like title) and have a big pic of a disk in a drive on the left.
Click that picture.  That will open the disk in a good fashion and figure out what’s on it.  This will, after a few seconds, bring up a whole list of files, at which point my first reaction was, ‘oh crap!  How do I know which one to use?’  Well often, especially for DVDs, it’s easy.  Just pick the Title that’s the largest, preferably with the most chapters.  (To unselect everything, right-click near the check boxes on the left and choose unselect all, then select the file you want).  If, however, you have a number of huge Titles that are all around the same size with the same number of chapters, you have run into a disk that Hollywood is especially afraid of being pirated so they have done some tricksy stuff to it.  You lucky duck.  There’s still some things you can do to figure it out, though.
a.  First, click on each of the largest files and look at the Title Information on the right.  Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it will tell you the language that title is in and some won’t be English, so you’ll know they are not the right ones.  Did that work for you?  Dang, never works for me either, but it was worth a shot.  On to the next try.
b.  OK, this is the really fun part (that was sarcastic).  BD disks have a files on them with .mpls extensions.  Those are playlists.  They are what the player pulls up to know what order all the little video files (.m2ts files) need to be played in.  Hollywood does that to make disks harder to copy.  But people have been getting around that, so with some newer movies they have taken to making multiple *.mpls files on a disk (which show up as Titles in MakeMKV)  so if you pick the wrong one, you might have bits of the movie in the wrong order or completely missing.  Annoying?  You betcha!  Frozen, for instance, had 3 .mpls files.  That’s not so bad, really.  Mockingjay part 1 had over 500 — and they varied from disk to disk, depending on where you bought the disk.  Figuring out what the right .mpls file is is now a pain, but it’s possible.  This is where ProcMon and the player come in.
c.  First, close MakeMKV and pull up ProcMon.  This monitors processes on your machine.  What we specifically want to do is monitor the processes that read stuff on your disk drive while you’re playing the movie, so we can see which files are opened and in what order.  I would put a few filters on before I got started, just so your eyes don’t bug out.  So click on ‘Filter’ from the menu bar, then ‘Filter…’ from the menu.  The ones I have are specifically:
‘Process Name’ (chosen from the first drop down) ‘is’ ‘PowerDVDMovie.exe’ (that last part will depend on what software is reading/playing the movie).
Click Add, then go to the top again and choose
‘Path’ ‘begins with’ ‘F:’ (where F: is the name of my BD drive.  Use your own drive letter).  Click Add.  Then,
‘Path’ ‘ends with’ ‘.m2ts
Then click OK.  (and I would save these filters for future use.)
d.  Open your BD watching software and open the movie.  Get past the trailers and warnings and all that stuff to the menu (this will already make ProcMon go crazy).  Now, get ready to take notes.  Ready?  Hit play.
e.  ProcMon will start going crazy now with all the reads from the BD.  Write down the .m2ts file name that popped up after you hit play.  Put your movie player into fast forward (faster than the lowest, but not TOO fast, because you don’t want to miss a file).  Now you have 2 choices.  You can closely monitor ProcMon and write down the new .m2ts files in order every time they change, or you can go have dinner or something and then come back when the movie is done and scroll through the full monitor dump and write down all the .m2ts files in order.  Both are painful, time-consuming processes, but at least you get a choice. 🙂
f.  Once you have that list, you have ANOTHER fun task in front of you, wheeeee!  Close your movie viewer program and ProcMon and open MakeMKV again.  Click the disk drive graphic again and bring up the full evil list of titles.  Right-click the list and unselect all.  Now, single click on the top potential title.  Look to the right under Title information.  See that list of numbers labeled ‘Segment map?’  That is the list of video files (m2ts files) that that particular playlist (mpls file) plays, in order.  Only one of the gajillion Titles will have all the correct files in the correct order (the correct order is that list you wrote down from ProcMon).  You need to look at the Title information for each Title until you find the one with the Segment map that matches your list.  Once you find that one, click the checkbox next to it on the left.  Make sure your Output folder (upper right) and Name are the way you want them and click the ‘MakeMKV’ button (with the green arrow) in the upper right.  Hooray!  You’re ripping your movie!  This can take a while with BD, 45 minutes to an hour on my machine.
3.  (Yes we’re only on step 3.)  Once MakeMKV completes the initial rip, technically, you can stop.  BUT the initial MKV files from a BD are typically 22-28 GB huge.  This will eat up a 1 TB drive fairly quickly if you have a lot of BD movies.  So I used to convert the MKV files to mp4 files, which are much smaller.  But then I came to realize that the PGS files (closed captions) on BDs are simply not compatible with mp4 files.  I could ‘burn in’ the closed captions, but that makes them permanent and not everyone likes closed captions.  I have, until now, ignored them and just turned the volume way up.  But, rejoice!  A lovely person on the MakeMKV forums taught me that you can not only use Handbrake to turn the large MKV file into an mp4, but you can turn the MKV file into a SMALLER MKV file.  I had always avoided that feature (uh…MKV to MKV seemed kind of pointless) because I didn’t know it made the file so much smaller.  But now I know, and it’s wonderful, except for the fact that I have to re-rip all my movies. :b  ANYWAY, here’s how to do this step:
a.  Open Handbrake & make sure it’s up-to-date.
b.  Click on ‘Source’ (upper left) and choose ‘File’ from the menu.
c.  Make sure the Preset (on the right) is ‘high profile,’ the Output Settings container is MKV, and the Destination file path is where you want the file to be.  Also, make sure if you are using Plex that you follow their movie naming schema (found here) to optimize how it uses your movie files.
d.  IF you want closed captions available, click on the subtitles tab and from there, click Add Track, then choose Add New Track from the menu.  Generally it will automatically choose the first English PGS file, which is fine, though you can add others if you want.   Make sure ‘Forced Only’ and ‘Burn In’ are UNchecked.
e.  Click Start.
Now, if you thought the initial ripping took a long time, guess what!  This takes even longer!  On my computer it usually takes 2-3 hours per movie.

But once this is done, you’re done.  Hooray!  You’ve made your movie accessible on your computer or your Roku (through Plex) without the disk!

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