For many users, you may have a need to make a digital copy of a DVD or Blu-ray to view on your system. Viewing can be done remotely if you make a DLNA Server, as I covered in the article ‘Home Streaming Server’.
The problem with making a digital copy from most discs is that they incorporate some form of protection. Using a special program, the protection can usually be bypassed and the digital copy can be made.
NOTE: The use of the software is not meant to promote illegal copying of discs. The use is strictly for making a digital copy of a disc that you own. Also, do not share the digital copies as this is illegal as well.
The installation of the software is needed to be used to convert the data from the DVD or Blu-Ray to a digital file on the system you are using.
NOTE: The system with ‘makemkv’ needs a connection to the Internet. When each new disc is scanned by ‘makemkv’ it will download a file for bypassing the disc encryption.
If you plan on converting a Blu-Ray disc, then you need a Blu-Ray player or burner. A Blu-Ray player or burner can also convert DVDs as well. A DVD player or burner can only convert DVD discs and not Blu-Ray discs.
To start, update your system with the command:
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y
Next, we need to install dependency packages:
sudo apt install software-properties-common apt-transport-https -y
It is most likely that the packages are already installed.
For the main software package, we will install a PPA source for the most up-to-date version of ‘makemkv’.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:heyarje/makemkv-beta -y
Right now, the ‘makemkv’ software is in a beta stage and is free to use.
Once the PPA is installed, the package list should be automatically updated. If the files are not updated, use the command:
sudo apt update
The newest package list should be retrieved form the PPA to allow for installation of the newest available files.
Now, the software can be installed:
sudo apt install makemkv-oss makemkv-bin -y
The software should now be installed.
Registering the Software
Once ‘makemkv’ is installed, start the app. Go to ‘Help’ on the top menu and select ‘Register’. A window should appear that asks for a registration key or for you to purchase a key. During the Beta program, the software is free and you can get a key at the website ‘https://forum.makemkv.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1053’. Once entered, click the ‘OK’ button in the lower-right corner of the window. You should be prompted to restart the ‘makemkv’ app.
The software should now be temporarily registered so you are not limited to the number of days you are allowed to use the software. Of course, the temporary key only allows a set number of days anyway, but it may be more than you are normally allowed.
Converting a DVD
Place a DVD in your player or burner that you wish to convert. You should see something similar to Figure 1. In the case of Figure 1, I have inserted a DVD of the anime ‘White Snake’ into the drive. For my system, I have a DVD drive and a Blu-Ray drive. I can change the ‘Source’ at the top-left if the default selection is not correct.
The information in the right pane shows information for the Drive, Firmware and Disc. I cannot yet select the areas that I want to convert until I have ‘makemkv’ scan the disc and get more information. Click on the central icon of the Disc Drive to begin the process.
My system took about 30 seconds to scan the disc and the results are shown in Figure 2.
You can see that the first Title Track contains 18 Chapters and consists of 4.4 GB. Title 1 should be what I need to convert the main movie. Uncheck any tracks that you do not want to convert and click on the drive icon under ‘Make MKV’ in the top-right after you specify the output folder. Unless you are low on space, the default folder should be adequate. If the folder does not exist, you should be prompted if you want the folder made.
NOTE: The default output is to the ‘Videos’ folder in your Home folder. A sub-folder is created with the name of the DVD disc label. Also, if you are unsure of the Track to convert, place the disk in a regular Blu-ray or DVD player and play the movie on your TV. There should be an option to see more information and it will show you the Track number.
Check your space before you convert. The output ‘mkv’ file is not compressed at all.
Depending on your system hardware, the process could a while. Some Titles on the DVDs may be of varying size. My system took about 12 minutes to convert the 4.4 GB DVD Title. The file actually came out to 4.7 GB after the conversion.
After the video file has been created, you may want to use another program, such as Handbrake, to convert the file format to use compression, so the file is smaller.
The file should contain all audio if there are multiple language tracks as well as all subtitle languages.
We’ll look later in the option of removing them while we compress the file to save space. We can remove unneeded audio tracks and subtitles while we convert the file with ‘makemkv’, but we’ll look at that in the ‘Converting a Blu-Ray’ section next.
Converting a Blu-Ray
The conversion of a Blu-Ray disc is nearly the same as a DVD disc. The main difference is the time it takes to convert the disc and the space it takes up on your storage media.
A DVD only supports a pixel width of 720 pixels (720p) and a height of 480 pixels. A Blu-Ray has a width of 1920 pixels and a height of 1080 pixels (1080p).
The DVD supports a total of 345,600 pixels and a Blu-Ray supports 2,073,600 pixels. The 1080p resolution is considered Full HD (FHD).
NOTE: Regular High Definition (HD) is actually a width of 1280 pixels and a height of 720 pixels. This is a little less than FHD. DVD Resolution is less than HD. If you have a TV or monitor that is FHD or better, you really should be using Blu-Ray quality video (1080p). For a comparison, VHS tapes are 480p, DVDs are 720p, Blu-Ray discs are 1080p and 4K Blu-Ray discs are 2160p. Theaters are using equipment that support 4320p (7680×4320 pixels).
As you can see with the higher resolution, a Blu-Ray disc will take longer. Blu-Ray discs also contain a higher quality audio track. There can be multiple tracks as well. One for standard stereo, Surround sound, Dolby Atmos and others. These extra tracks can cause an increase in file size.
If I insert a Blu-Ray, the main screen for ‘makemkv’ is still very similar, see Figure 3. Once I click on the Blu-Ray icon in the center of the window, I get Figure 4.
If I select an arrow next to the Title with 16 chapters, I can see everything that is included with the Title as shown in Figure 5. Here, I can remove the selection of the items I do not want in the video. For example, I can remove the audio for the Japanese language. I can also remove other types of the audio track, but I’ll leave them. I can remove the subtitle files I do not want. Once you have made your selections, click the ‘Make MKV’ icon in the top-right corner.
The conversion for this movie took about 24 minutes and ended up being 32.8 GB.
If you want the video file to be smaller, you need to pass it through Handbrake. To install Handbrake, do the following:
sudo apt install libdvd-pkg
– You will be prompted to confirm if you want the file to be updated when there is an update
sudo apt dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg
sudo apt install handbrake
The libdvd-pkg is a script that installs ‘libdvdcss’, which allows programs like VLC and Handbrake to read protected DVD discs.
Open Handbrake and then select to ‘Open Source’. Choose your output file that was created with ‘makemkv’. On the ‘Summary’ tab, select the option for either ‘MP4’ or ‘MKV’ output. Make any changes you need, but on the ‘Video’ tab, select ‘H.264’ or ‘H.265’. Select ‘Constant Framerate’. On the ‘Audio’ tab, check that only the audio tracks you want included. Finally, check the ‘Subtitles’ tab and only include the subtitles you wish. There is an option to ‘burn’ the subtitles into the video, this may not be necessary. Set your output folder and filename, then click ‘Start Encoding’.
One file I created with ‘makemkv’ was 27.3 GB and ended up being 3 GB.
By compressing your files using either ‘H.264’ or ‘H.265’ compression, you can save a lot of space on your storage media. It may take some time to perform all of these tasks for a single movie, but it can be worth it.
For movie buffs, this process can be very handy. As I had said before, placing these movies on a DLNA server can be beneficial in a home for a streaming system. Streaming movies and shows on the Internet is fast and simple when your movie is available. Converting home movies could also be helpful.
Keep these conversion methods in mind when you want to make a digital copy of a disc you own.