In addition to playing DVD and Blu-ray films and movies on your Mac, you may want to rip them - that is, copy them to your Mac to watch on another device, such as an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Here's how to rip a DVD or Blu-ray movie to your Mac.
LG Electronics' BP40NS20 Blu-ray drive
Ripping movies to your Mac is easy, provided you've got the right hardware and software tools. However, bear in mind that this is a bit of a legal grey area, so check our legal warning at the end for more info on where you stand.
We'll start with Blu-ray Discs: here's how to rip Blu-ray films to a Mac.
How to rip a Blu-ray film on a Mac
There are two ways of ripping a Blu-ray Disc to a Mac. The first method involves decrypting and copying the entire disc to an .iso disc image. This file will be the same size as the original Blu-ray: about 30GB to 40GB. We used Aurora Software’s Blu-ray Copy (free); a two-hour movie took about two hours to copy. To then play the copy, mount the disc image. In the Mac Blu-ray Player app, choose File > Open File and then select the BDMV file in the disc image. You can also open BDMV files with the VLC Media Player (free).
The second option is to make an MKV file. MKV is a file-container format that can hold video, audio, picture, and subtitle tracks in a single file. GuinpinSoft’s MakeMKV (free while in beta) is a good program for this task. It can decrypt a Blu-ray disc and save whatever parts you want in an MKV container.
The decryption process takes about half the duration of the movie; once it’s done, you’ll have an MKV file that you can play back with VLC or other software. If you want a smaller file size, you'll need to convert the MKV to a smaller file - in the same format, or in a different one, such as an iTunes-compatible MP4 – using a tool such as HandBrake, which we'll be using again in the DVD section below.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. In general, playing and ripping Blu-ray discs is fairly easy as long as you're willing to invest a little time and money.
How to rip a DVD on a Mac
Now let's go through the same process for a DVD. Once again there are two options when ripping a DVD. The first is to rip and convert the movie to MPEG4 format – something known as transcoding. This reduces the movie’s file size with a negligible loss of quality, and lets you transfer the movie to your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch via iTunes.
Alternatively, you can clone the DVD, which means you also backup the menu and extras. However, the clone could take over 9GB of disk space, and some discs use copy protection that block cloning.
Regardless of the route you take, you’ll need the libdvdcss system file. Once it’s downloaded, hold down Ctrl and click the file, then select Open. Click Open in the dialog box that appears, then follow the installation instructions.
Download and install HandBrake.
When you first run HandBrake you’ll need to hold down Ctrl and click its program icon, selecting Open from the menu that appears. Then select Open in the dialog box that appears.
Insert your DVD, then quit DVD Player if it starts. In the file browsing window that appears when HandBrake starts, select the DVD under the Devices list on the left-hand side and click Open. HandBrake will then scan the disc.
In the main HandBrake window, ensure MP4 File is selected in the dropdown list alongside the Format heading at the left. If you’re ripping solely for an iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch, click the Toggle Presets button on the toolbar and select the device from the list at the right – this will set the optimum quality and file size. Finally, click the Browse button next to the file location under the Destination header and choose a location to save the ripped movie to, then click the Start button on the toolbar.
If the ripped movie has strange audio or starts in the middle, see this Macworld Q&A.
To transfer the ripped file to your phone or tablet, open iTunes, then drag and drop the ripped movie file on top of it. Then attach your device, select it from the dropdown list at the top right, click on the Movies heading, and ensure Sync Movies has a check alongside it, and that your movie file beneath is checked too. Then click the Sync button.
Create a new folder named after the movie, then select the DVD disc under the Devices heading on the left. Drag and drop everything you see – likely to be one or two folders called VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS – to your new folder. If Finder appears to get jammed then, sorry, but the disc uses copy protection. Ripping is the best option but some commercial apps like RipIt (US$24.95) can clone even these discs.
Rename your folder, keeping the movie title but adding .dvdmedia to the end. If the folder is called Star Wars, then you’d rename the whole thing as Star Wars.dvdmedia. Once you do this, the folder will turn into a single file. It will also gain a DVD icon, and act like a DVD too – when double-clicked it will start playing in DVD Player. (If DVD Player doesn’t work or is unreliable, try opening it in VLC.)
Editor’s note: Most media companies argue that you can’t legally copy or convert commercial DVDs or Blu-rays and apply DRM. At the end of 2011 The UK government made it legal for us to make copies for personal use of our media, but that didn't mean it was legal for people to break the DRM that makes it difficult to rip DVDs. According to the government report: "The supply and use of equipment to circumvent technological measures is therefore illegal in UK and European law in recognition of the damage it can cause."
We (and others) think that, if you own a disc, you should be able to make a backup copy or to convert its content for viewing on other devices. The UK law suggests that we can make backup copies for personal use, but that doesn’t mean breaking the DRM is legal. Our advice is: if you don’t own it, don’t do it. If you do own it, think before you rip.