Shiny Discs to Digital Files

Yesterday I wrote a post about finally figuring out the correct settings to get the subtitle files that I wanted from Blu-Ray and DVD discs into the digital files I have stored on my media NAS and displayed properly in Plex. Today, I thought I would take a step back and go over the process of taking your shiny physical media disc, and turning it into a digital file that you can then consume and enjoy in whatever manner best suits your tastes.

First things first. The obligatory disclaimer… I do not endorse, condone, or encourage piracy. The steps explained in this post are for use on discs that you own retail copies of and want to make backups of in order to make viewing them more seamless and convenient.

Things You Need:

  • Blu-Ray drive (or DVD drive if you do not have Blu-Ray discs) in your PC
  • Blu-Ray (or DVD) discs to convert
  • MakeMKV
  • Handbrake
  • Lots of hard drive space!
  • (Recommended) VLC Media Player

The first thing you will need to do is download and install MakeMKV and Handbrake. Handbrake is free, but MakeMKV is not, though it does come with a 30 day free trial. If you do not like the software, there is no obligation. If I remember correctly, it was $50 when I purchased it about a year or so ago. It has been well worth the cost for me. MakeMKV is the software that will extract the movie from the disc, and Handbrake is used to compress the video file.

Why do we want to compress the file? Well, with Blu-Ray movies taking up 30-40 GB depending on length, uncompressed video files will chew up all your drive space in no time. Running the files through Handbrake on the High Priority preset will give us significantly smaller files sizes with no detectable quality loss (well, I can not detect any quality loss anyway. I only have 1080p, 60Hz TVs)

After you have the software downloaded and installed. open MakeMKV.


Insert your disc into the drive and give MakeMKV a minute to load up the disc.


Once the disc has loaded, the drive icon will change from a gray tint to a blue tint and it will display a Blu-Ray or DVD logo depending on what type of disc you inserted. At this point, click on the drive icon to “open” the disc. Opening the disc may take a few minutes. Once it does, you will see a list of all video files MakeMKV found on the disc.


For the purpose of this tutorial, we do not want to save every single video file, just the actual movie. Right click on the left pane and select the “Unselect All” option from the drop down. Then find the largest size file (that will generally be your main movie film) and select that one file. Then specify in the right pane under “Output folder” where you want the exported file to be saved.


Now we want to look at the audio and subtitle options. Click the small arrow just to the left of the movie file that we have selected.


You can set MakeMKV to only select specific audio and subtitle languages if you want. I have mine set to only select English audio and subtitles which you can see in the image above. Here is the tricky part, and it requires a little experimenting. You might see several different English subtitles listed. These different files can might be full subtitles for the entire movie, they might foreign language only scenes in the movie, or they might be commentary. I have even seen different subtitle files that are the same subtitles, just displayed in a different way. For example, one file might be just the subtitles in white, while another file might be the subtitles in white within a small black box. There is no easy way (that I know of, at least) to tell which file is which, you just have to test things out.

Once you have all of the files you want selected, and you have your output path entered, click the “MakeMKV” icon on the upper right and let the software work its magic. Once the process is complete, a pop-up will tell you that MakeMKV is done.


Click “OK” and open your file in any program that has the ability to display subtitle files. I recommend VLC Media Player. In VLC, select the “Subtitle” tab at the top of the screen and try the different subtitle files until you find the ones you want.


At this point, I usually go back to MakeMKV and deselect any subtitles that I do not want and start the process over so that I do not have to worry about getting the correct file in Handbrake. Once you are happy with your subtitle selection, then it is time to fire up Handbrake!


Once you have Handbrake open, select “Source” to choose the video file to import. Navigate to where ever you saved your video file and open it.



When you have the source file imported, then you want to designate your file output location. Under the “Destination” blank, type in the file path, or select “Browse” to navigate to where you want the file output.


At this point, I usually select the “High Profile” preset on the far right as that is usually sufficient for my needs. You also want to make sure that under “Output Settings” that you select MKV as the “Container” option. That is the setting that will leave your subtitle files intact and embedded in the file. Now we need to select the “Subtitles” tab on the left side of the screen.


If you only have one subtitle track to add, you can just click the “Add Track” button and the track will automatically import. If there is more than one track, you can click the drop down and select “Add All Remaining Tracks” to import everything at once.


No we should be ready to start compressing the file. Just click the green “Start” button at the top of the screen to kick the process off.


Depending on the source disc (Blu-Ray or DVD), the length of the video, and the performance of your system, compressing the files could take anywhere from about 15 minutes to several hours. Once the compression is finished, you should have a .mkv video file that VLC or Plex can play and recognize all your subtitle files. Easy as pie!

For those who prefer this tutorial in video format, please see the below YouTube video that I created as well.


If anyone has any questions or anything to contribute, please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s