Posted by: skyshab | June 16, 2009

Blu-ray! on my Hackintosh

BD_logo_blue

The latest update to my Hackintosh is a great addition to my HTPC experience: a Blu-ray drive!

I had a Best Buy Rewards coupon getting ready to expire, and looking at their website, I noticed they had the LG ‘Super Multi Blue’ Blu-ray drive on sale. I had been researching Blu-ray drives, and this one had the best reviews of the ones I had checked out. Using my rewards coupon, it only cost me $80 delivered. Sweet!

I received it in just a few days, and it installed in just a few minutes. Of course, the drive will not play Bly-ray movies in OS X, but luckily my EFI-X box dual boots into Windows 7. To do straight Blu-ray playback in Windows, you need very specific software. The most popular choice for Blu-ray playback seems to be Cyberlink’s PowerDVD Ultra. They are currently on version 9, but version 8 had BD capabilities as well. I picked up a copy of v8 on eBay for $25, and it was ‘digital delivery’ so I had it in a matter of minutes. I don’t really see myself ‘hanging out’ in Windows, even to play a BD, but it’s nice to have the option. I prefer to rip the disk, and then watch it in OS X. Plex does a great job playing back  BD rips, but for long term storage, Handbrake will take the 30+ GB files down to a more manageable 6-12GB, depending on the movie and the quality settings.

The process required to enjoy Blu-ray content on your Mac seems a little intimidating, but it really isn’t too bad once you do it a couple of times. Just be prepared to spend a little cash for the needed software! I was pointed in the right direction to getting this process figured out thanks to Cave Man’s post on the Plex forum, The Mac Users Guide To Blu-Ray Rips For Plex. Thanks Cave man! However, I have found a slightly different workflow that takes far less time, which I will outline in this post.

So, here’s what you’ll need to make this work:

~Windows. This can be a boot camp partition on your Mac, a separate Windows box, or an EFI-X volume. I haven’t heard of anyone doing this in a virtual environment, though it might be possible. I am running Windows 7 x64 RC1 on an EFI-X volume.

~Slysoft’s AnyDVD HD. Removes the copy protection from the disk and allows you to copy the files to your hard drive. This app is great, although damn expensive. About a hundred bucks+ with two years worth of ‘updates’. I was lucky enough to catch a great sale they were having, and nabbed it for ‘only’ $80 US. You can get it HERE.

~In some BDs, the movie is divided into multiple streams rather than just one. For these disks, you will need BDInfo to determine which playlist to use. This is a free app for Windows. Download it HERE.

~tsMuxer for Windows. This is a free app, that takes all the video and audio files from the BD, and creates a single uncompressed .m2ts file. Download it HERE.

~Handbrake. Another free app for converting and compressing video files. The latest svn build can passthru DTS audio streams. You can download the pre-compiled svn HERE, or get the official Handbrake release without the DTS passthru capabilities HERE. You will need a college degree in Handbrake-ology to really understand the minutiae of all the settings for this app, but you can get by with the presets.

~Plex. Free open-source media center application for accessing all your video and audio media, as well as online streaming content.  Get it HERE. OK, not specifically necessary for ripping BDs, but it does a great job at playing the .m2ts files. If you aren’t using Plex, you’re missing out.

That’s it for the software.

The first thing you want to do is figure out which file on the Blu-ray disk contains the main movie. Sometimes the movie will be contained in a single file, other times it is spread out amongst several files. In either case, there will be a playlist file stored on the disk which contains a ‘roadmap’ to the movie. Run BDInfo to discover which playlist file points to the movie.  To do this, just open BDInfo, and select the BD Disk as a source. It will run, and after a few seconds will tell you which playlist file you want. All you need to do is note the name of the file it returns. It may display several playlist files, but the one you want is the biggest one it displays.

The next step is to open that playlist file up in tsMuxer. You will need to have AnyDVD-HD running in the background to do the jedi-mind-trick on the disk. When you launch tsMuxer, it should default to the “Input” tab. This is really the only part of the app that you need to work in for this process. Just ignore everything else. Click the ‘add’ button to the right of the ‘Input files:’ box. You will be prompted to browse for the file. Open up the Blu-ray disk and look in the BDMV folder. Inside that, there will be another folder called ‘Playlist’. Select the playlist file in that folder that you noted when running BDInfo. TSMuxer will then display the files for the movie.

In the ‘Tracks’ box, you want to deselect everything except the H.264 video file and the DTS-HD or TRUE-HD audio track. With the audio track selected, you will see a checkbox to downconvert the audio track. If the original audio track is DTS-HD, the option will be to downcovert to DTS. If the original audio track is TRUE-HD, you will be able to downconvert to AC3. In any case, check that box.

Next, in the ‘Output’ box, select ‘M2TS Muxing’.  Then browse for where you want to write the file to. You will select the folder you want to mux to, but also need to manually name the file, as it does not auto-propagate.

The last step is to simply click the  ‘Start Muxing’ button on the bottom of the screen. It will do it’s thing, taking about a half hour to an hour, depending on the movie. When it is finished, you will wind up with a rather large .m2ts file. You can play this uncompressed file as it is in Plex, or proceed to the next step if you want to transcode it into a more manageable size for long term storage. My Windows volume is available on my desktop in OS X, so I am able to easily access the file for playback in Plex or for re-encoding in Handbrake. If you have a different set-up, you may need to transfer the file to the appropriate place to access from your Mac.

When I first started ripping my Blu-Ray collection, I was using the workflow described in Cave Man’s awesome how-to-guide. The basic idea was to rip the movie off the disk in Windows, and then mux it using tsMuxer in OS X. After discovering this workflow I did a few side-by-side comparisons, and discovered that not only was it much shorter to do the entire process in Windows, but you actually wind up spending more time in Windows by doing the muxing on the Mac side. It’s great that tsMuxer is now available for OS X, but until there is also a Mac equivalent to AnyDVD available, it just doesn’t make sense to divide the workflow up between the two platforms. Here are a few examples of the times I got:

The Fall

Old Workflow
AnyDVD Rip in Windows: 39 mins
tsMuxer in OS X: 10 mins
total time: 49 mins

New Workflow
tsMuxer in Windows, straight from disk:
Total time: 30 mins

The Princess Bride

Old Workflow
AnyDVD Rip in Windows: 45 mins
tsMuxer in OS X: 13 mins
total time: 58 mins

New Workflow
tsMuxer in Windows, straight from disk:
Total time: 40 mins

National Treasure

Old Workflow
AnyDVD Rip in Windows: 56 mins
tsMuxer in OS X: 13 mins
total time: 69 mins

New Workflow
tsMuxer in Windows, straight from disk:
Total time: 39 mins

So, you can see how much faster it is to just mux it, without ripping it from the disk first.

If you are going to be storing a lot of movies on a hard drive, you will probably want to re-encode them in Handbrake. I am not going to get into all the ins and outs of re-encoding a Blu-ray rip in Handbrake in this post, as the settings will vary widely depending on your individual needs. I will however, mention a few pointers that may help.

First off, if you downloaded the SVN build that I linked to above or built your own, Handbrake can now do DTS pass-thru, though only in an MKV container.

Some suggestions for quality settings in Handbrake are 59% Constant Quality (Thanks Cave Man) or 5000 to 6000 ABR (Thanks poofyhairguy). But, like I said, YMMV, depending on the display which you will me viewing the movie on, the quality of the original movie, and of course your personal preferences.

In a future post, I will go more in-depth into Handbrake and do some comparisons. But for now, I suggest reading through the Handbrake forums to see what settings others are using for their settings.

Enjoy your Blu-ray HTPC experience!

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Responses

  1. Thanks dude! I’m going to try this out when I get a blu-ray drive.

  2. Hi Aargh-a-Knot,
    thank you very much for your “improved” instructions on making a bluray-rip on/for mac and plex. I also want to thank Caveman for his “how-to” but i rather do this in the plex-forum. You mentioned you haven’t heard of anyone doing this in a virtual environment – i can give additional infos on that (maybe it’s of interest to other readers – if i’m not too late): i use Win-XP with VirtualBox (Sun) and an internal LG-BR-Drive in an external USB-Case on my Alu-iMac (2.4 GHz, 4 GB RAM). All the needed software run flawless and the “USB-LG-Drive” can also used with XP on VirtualBox. Connected via Ethernet to a NAS (Samba) i’m able to rip Blurays and re-encode the movies to 720p (my LCD-Projector hasn’t a bigger resolution and to keep the amount of data down) directly to my movie-storage (NAS). With this “constellation” it needs a “little” more time for a ripped and encoded movie as you mentioned: approx 2-3 times longer 🙂 (eg.: The 5th Element – 2 hr Movie: “tsMuxing” on Windows about 120 mins, re-encoding to 720p (Handbrake – OS-X) about 7 (seven!!!) hours). But i’m able to use the Computer during the whole muxing and encoding – till now i didn’t have any errors or “hiccups”.
    Without Caveman and you i wouldn’t even think of it – but now i can enjoy a “movie-experience” which is simply awesome (even with the downsampling to 720p)!
    Thanks again to both of you – i really appreciate your time and effort!

    Regards,
    Mike P.

    PS: since yesterday i’m dealing with a little problem: i’ve tried to rip the 2. Season of King of Queens (as episodes) but get an error by tsMuxer: 254 – the m2ts-file already exists – which is true by the way (there are m2ts-files in the stream directory – but these files (ripped with AnyDVD-HD) can’t used with handbrake (“no valid source”) or with VLC and Plex (only sound – no movie). Am i overlooking something?

    • That’s really great info, thanks! The bluray ripping was the only thing making me need a full install of Windows rather than just a virtual one. I already have a separate install of windows7, so I have been looking into using that as a Virtual Machine. Good to know that bluray ripping will still work.

      Sorry, I’m not sure what the problem you’re having is…

  3. I must admit, the problem isn’t described very clear … and i figured it out by my self:
    actually there were 2 problems: 1) for any reason, tsMuxer has difficulties with the KoQ-Blurays – at least on my computer (that’s the “254-error”); 2) and this took some time to realise: KoQ use the vc-1 Interlaced Codec, which is – till now – not supported by VLC and/or Plex (only sound – no picture). There is a thread in the Plex-Forum (WVC1) where i added my “experience”. In short: my “solution” at this time is to get the BD with AnyDVD to disk and re-code the single episodes from vc-1(i) to h.264. This works, but needs an enormous amount of time (2 Frames per second!!! = for 22 minutes it takes 5-6 hours! – on my Virtual-Box-WinXP-environment).

    I hope anyway, the speed-difference with a virtual-machine is not too big for you – compared with your EFI-X-Box …

  4. I was wondering.. Does the LG SuperMultiBlue (CH08LS10) works as well on the OSX side?

    I mean.. for CD/DVD purpose ? (burning and reading?)

    Because I want to know if it was worth it to build my hackintosh with the LG already.. and go with a regular CD/DVD drive then add an BD Drive later.

  5. Great job.
    What about subtitles?


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