My Current Method for Ripping DVDs and Blu-rays

Submitted by charm on Sun, 09/12/2021 - 17:11
Things were starting to get crowded because of all the DVDs

How it started

Over many years I've amassed a large collection of DVDs and Blu-rays. I started collecting DVDs a bit more seriously around the time Rogers Cable in Canada decided to switch from an analog to a digital signal. When I first started collected DVDs I found a program called transcode that was capable of ripping the main DVD file and creating an AVI file. At the time I still used a 19" LACIE CRT monitor as a television, so 1080p wasn't even on my radar. Years past and my collection grew. I eventually found Handbrake, one of the best open source software programs for ripping DVD media. I learned a bit more about KODI as a media centre for organizing media, and this sparked my interest in buying more DVDs. When Blu-ray and HD-DVD came out I didn't pay either much attention. High resolution video still wasn't on my radar, DVDs were good enough for me. Eventually I ended up buying a Blu-ray drive and started buying DVDs, but didn't have a way to rip them for our media centre. Then I found MakeMKV.

MakeMKV is also free, however I believe it's worth dropping $75 to the author for a permanent key. MakeMKV requires you re-register a new "free" key every month, paying the author $75 avoids this uninstall/reactivate process. I've also found the author is constantly updating it, and all updates to this point have been very smooth. The one down side to MakeMKV is that it's not quite as simple to install as Handbrake (for new Linux users). MakeMKV can rip DVDs or Blu-rays. The advantage of MakeMKV is that what you get is as close to the raw media as possible, but that's also its disadvantage - resulting files can be huge. Some of the Blu-ray discs I've ripped with MakeMKV have resulted in files that are 35GB+.

Why I like physical media over streaming

Ripping your own media is convenient because you can have all your own media at your fingertips. Some people love streaming, and while our family has a Netflix subscription, I still like having my own physical media. Having my own physical media means that when I discover something new I can go back and re-rip the media resulting in better files. A few years ago I was meeting with some friends for an Ubuntu Loco. One of the friends and I got talking and it turned out both of us were backing up our media. I mentioned that I wish Handbrake could add subtitles, and he made me aware that it already could (thanks Jeff). Just a couple of weeks ago I noticed Handbrake can also add chapter titles. While most DVDs don't come with inserts outlining all the chapter titles, there are some titles that do!

You might think "why waste time adding chapter titles?" To be honest, at the moment I feel like they're a pretty big burden, but I've also just finished adding chapter titles for 4 of 6 seasons of a show with each episode of a show with up to 35 chapter titles. It can be a monumental task. But when I have a movie playing in KODI and bring up the chapter titles they look a lot better than the default Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.

When I use Handbrake and when I use MakeMKV

Normally I will default to Handbrake for DVDs since it rips and encodes on the fly, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell what's a TV show episode and what's an extra feature. When this happens I use MakeMKV to rip the television show DVD first because I'm not adding any meta-data to the show file. Then I'll use Handbrake to encode the file after I've checked it out to make sure it matches up with the episode I expect. This method is a lot more time consuming, but it means I don't introduce extras where a show should be.

When I know I don't want to add a lot of meta-data, but have a large amount of DVDs to rip (for example, very old movies) I'll use MakeMKV to create large files, then dump them on our KODI server when I use the command-line version of Handbrake to compress the media. I did this for the longest time, but that changed when the power on my main desktop workstation exceeded our media centre. Now it makes more sense for me to use Handbrake on my workstation and transfer the files to our media server. I don't have a lot of space on my workstation, and much of that is taken up testing out games on Steam, so media centre files don't sit long on my workstation. I normally try to transfer them off right away because I need every bit of space on my workstation possible and if I get lazy I sometimes forget to transfer the files and end up deleting the files and creating double the work.

Storing Physical media

We live in an apartment and there came a point where it no longer really made sense to keep DVD cases. I had a couple of 6 foot bookcases full of DVDs in our living room. It was convenient to pull out DVDs, but I really disliked the tall bookshelves, it made our small apartment feel even smaller. I found some 250 DVD binder/holders for $9.99 each and bought several to hold DVDs. I also kept DVD/Blu-ray covers by storing them in a few boxes similar to shoe boxes.

Each binder holds 250 DVD/BD discs
Each binder holds 250 DVD/BD discs