Converting High Definition Movies to Watch on Mac/PC

NOTE: I have since written a newer article that makes it MUCH easier to do just about everything, making use of MakeMKV. The new article: Ripping Movies from Blu-Ray, HD-DVD and DVD, Getting them onto Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, etc. &mdash I am leaving this article up for historical purposes, though, as there is some good information in here still...

This article will help you to convert HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies to QuickTime compatible files so you can watch them in high definition in iTunes, Front Row, or QuickTime Player. The guide will also help you to be able to convert the videos into other formats so you can preserve the surround sound and the highest picture quality.

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD Logos

Converting the HD-DVD or Blu-Ray

1. Copy FEATURE_1.EVO and FEATURE_2.EVO to hard drive by decrypting them using AnyDVD, DVDFab HD Decrypter, or some other decrypter. Some DVDs use different naming schemes, but the files you need are the two largest 'EVO' files.

NOTE: I have only been able to work on HD-DVDs, so Some of the steps here don't work (or only partially work) with Blu-Ray, but I hope you can find some inspiration for getting your blu-ray files to work with Quicktime, if you so desire. Google can help you find how to get the blu-ray files ready for demuxing/conversion. Soon I will get myself an external Blu-Ray drive and start tinkering around with Blu-Ray movies... but for now I'm happy simply working on HD-DVD.

NOTE 2: I simply used the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive, as I found one cheap locally (through Craigslist), and it works via USB 2.0. It's also quite compact! If you do so with Windows XP, you'll need to load a driver to enable support for the UDF 2.5 file format HD-DVDs and Blu-Ray discs use.

2. Mux (Actually, 'demux') the EVO files into an .mkv (1080p) video track and AC3 audio track using eac3to (first you'll need to run eac3to with just the 1.EVO+2.EVO to see which tracks the audio/video are on).

2a. cmd line> eac3to C:\Folder\FEATURE_1.EVO+C:\Folder\FEATURE_2.EVO

(This will show you which tracks are which; usually, you'll use track 2 (for the 1080p video track), and track 4 (for the E-AC3 or TrueHD English surround audio track); also, some DVDs use a different name than "FEATURE_X").

2b. cmd line> eac3to Y:\Folder\FEATURE_1.EVO+Y:\Folder\FEATURE_2.EVO 2: Y:\Folder\Filename.mkv 4: Y:\Folder\Filename-audio.ac3 -libav

This process will take between 10-30 minutes if you have a newer dual-core Intel Mac. Note that I converted the surround track to AC3—I do this to save space. If you want the utmost quality in the surround, you can convert the audio file to .flac, which preserves the quality, but produces a much larger file. To do this, just replace .ac3 with .flac.

Note: If you use EVOdemux for this step instead of eac3to, then make sure your .evo files follow the "feature_1.evo" "feature_2.evo" naming scheme, or EVOdemux will become confused!

3. Convert the 1080p .mkv to a 720p .mp4 stream using MeGUI and AviSynth (three steps)

3b. Open MeGUI and create an AviSynth script by clicking Tools>AviSynth script creator.
-Set Video Input to your 1080p .mkv file
-Resize it to the size you want (in my case, for smooth playback on even older Macs, 1280x720, which is 720p)
-Crop it using Auto Crop if you so desire (I do)
-Click Save and save it as "Filename.avs"

3c. Convert the video to an H.264 stream.
-For the "Video profile," choose "PD-AppleTV," then click on "Config"
-In the Config window, set the Bitrate to 2200 (Leave it on Automated 2pass for best quality/speed ratio) and click okay.*
-Click "Enqueue" in the Video encoding section of the MeGUI window
-Click on the Queue tab
-Click Start to start the render

This part will likely take between 4-12 hours if you have a fast dual-core Intel Mac... so don't plan on doing a ton of things on the Mac during this time. I leave my Mac to do this overnight, because I typically sleep during that time! Also, you might want to do this part on a new PC, or using Boot Camp, as multi-core processor support is lacking in Parallels as of 9/2008, causing a significant slowdown during this stage of the conversion.

*If you want to compress the file at 1080p, or if you want the best HD quality, especially for newer movies, choose a much higher bitrate, maybe in the 5000-10000 range...

5. Re-mux the files together into a 720p .mkv file.

I use a program called "mkvmerge GUI" to re-mux the files (it's part of the "mkvtoolnix" package). Just drag the files (.mkv and .ac3 or .flac) into the Source pane and type in a new name for the final .mkv file, then start muxing. You can also use the muxer built into MeGUI if you'd like.

6. Open the file in QuickTime (requires Perian to be installed).

Warning! Once you open the file, wait until the playback bar at the bottom (to the right of 00:00:00) fills up, or else playback will be choppy—Perian takes a while to load the whole video in memory.

7. (OPTIONAL) Convert the File to a QuickTime movie for faster opening.

You can make the file open much quicker by simply following the directions in step 6, then choosing File>Export... in QuickTime with the following settings:

• Export: Movie to MPEG-4
• Click Options... and set the following:
⁃ (in the Video tab) Video Format: Pass through
⁃ (in the Audio tab) Data Rate: 192 kbps (for great quality stereo)

Note that if you do this, you will remove the 5.1 surround track from the file... but the advantage is that your file will open a heck of a lot faster in Quicktime!

Notes on PLAYBACK of HD Video Files

After doing a ton of research on playing back HD video files on a Mac in various formats, I have found that the most diverse and stable application for viewing .mkv and other videos (especially of sizes larger than 720p, up to 1080p) with minimal effort is Plex, which is based on the XBMC (Xbox Media Center) program. It will play VC-1 encoded videos, WMV, x264, MP4, etc., and way smoother than Quicktime. Perian is helpful in getting Quicktime Player to play specific formats, but is sometimes buggy. VLC and MPlayer OS X are both pretty good media players, but not all formats are supported, and I've found them both to be buggy apps at times.

Concluding Notes

  • Steps 1-5 require a Windows PC. I used Parallels running Windows XP on my Mac, and allotted 1.5 GB of RAM to the virtual machine. It would likely take less time if I had a quad-core PC sitting next to me, but I don't.
  • As of May 2008, I can't get Perian to pass through the AC3 surround signal, and supposedly this is a problem with Quicktime.
  • This method allows you to enjoy the videos in Front Row and iTunes (as well as other QuickTime-compatible applications) as well.
  • If you'd like to add metadata and a cover image to your video (especially for use in iTunes, so you can browse by cover), you can use a program such as MetaX.
  • Google is your friend - if you can't figure out how to do something, try Googling your questions - Doom9's forums are also very helpful!
  • If you have any questions, or an addition that may be helpful to this guide, please send me an email!