MKVMania: Converting TV Box Sets to MKV Episodes

by Damian on July 16, 2010 · 39 comments

in Guides

One common question I see asked is what is the best way to rip a TV Series Boxset. The biggest issue with TV Series Boxsets is that it is not particularly user friendly with episodes spanning across multiple discs. I have found that ripping each episode individually works the best, especially considering that most front ends have nice interfaces to manage TV shows. Almost a year ago I had documented several different ways to rip individual TV episodes, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to revisit the topic. Lets take a look at some of the popular software out there that can be used to create individual episodes, with a focus on mkv.

MakeMKV:

  • Tools – MakeMKV
  • Additional Resources – Writeup
  • Media Type: DVD, HD DVD, and Blu Ray
  • Output File: .mkv
  • Decrypter Needed: No (for DVDs/Blu Ray that MakeMKV cannot decrypt then Yes)
  • Encoding – No
  • Retain Original Video/Audio: Yes
  • Batch Mode: Yes
  • Cost – Free while in Beta, see here for beta license key
  • Comments: This is a great program that I use often to create MKVs from my Blu Ray / HD DVDs / SD DVDs. It is very easy to pick out the individual episodes versus other extras. There is no good way to determine which Title is which episode, so once the mkvs are created you will need to play back and determine which mkv is which episode. When other programs have not worked (some of my boxset tv shows EAC3To does not correctly pick up the individual episodes) MakeMKV has always come through. No encoding options available though, so if you want to encode use another program (or use MakeMKV to create an mkv and then encode the created mkv with another program)

From the screenshot below you can see there are 6 episodes  (the giveaways are the chapters and the file sizes). Simply put a check next to each Title you want to rip, specify your Output folder, click the MakeMKV icon, and away you go.

DVDFab

  • Tools – DVDFab
  • Additional Resources – MediaSmartServer Wiki I wrote
  • Media Type: DVD, HD DVD (DVDFab only), and Blu Ray (DVDFab only)
  • Output File: vob, mpeg, ts, mkv, avi, mp4, etc…
  • Decrypter Needed: No
  • Encoding – Yes
  • Retain Original Video/Audio: Yes
  • Batch Mode: No
  • Cost: Free trial, however to convert to mkv requires the “DVD to Mobile” or “Blu Ray to Mobile” feature (prices range from USD 30-USD 60 depending on the subscription selected)
  • Comments: This is probably the most comprehensive and feature rich program out there. However, the cost may scare away some people, especially if they have already paid for other software such as AnyDVD. If you already have AnyDVD I would recommend skipping DVDFab and using other free software available. With DVDFab you have the option to encode to various formats/profiles which may come in handy if you have different devices accessing the file (such as mobile, iPad, etc…)

Using the DVD to Mobile (to MKV) option you can select multiple episodes. The odd thing (and I don’t know why this happens) is that the same episode may show up multiple times. You can either select all titles that you think are episodes and sort out afterwards, or determine the exact episode per title and only select those (in the Tips & Tricks section at the bottom of this writeup)

You can select/edit multiple profiles to use when creating the mkv.

Similar to DVD to Mobile except for Blu Rays.

MKV Profile options for Blu Ray to MKV. You can either choose to encode or keep in its original format (i.e. Pas through / same as source)

Hankbrake:
  • Tools – Handbrake
  • Additional Resources – N/A
  • Media Type: DVD and Blu-ray
  • Output File: .mp4, .mkv
  • Decrypter Needed: Yes (such as AnyDVD)
  • Encoding – Yes
  • Retain Original Video: No /Audio: Yes
  • Cost – Free
  • Batch Mode: Yes
  • Comments: For encoding DVD TV boxsets this is my program of choice as it picks up all the episodes and has some preset profiles that come in handy.  An alternative if you want to encode would be to use a program like MakeMKV to create and mkv, and then run the mkv through handbrake.
  • UPDATE – Handbrake now works with Blu-rays, at the time I wrote this guide it did not

To get started, select the Source that Handbrake should use.

After Handbrake is done scanning the source, select the Title (i.e. episode) you want to encode

With the Title selected you can then select what container you want to use (MKV or MP4) and also select what Profile you want to use (you can choose any of the default profiles or create your own). I prefer to use the High Profile and leave the settings as is, but don’t be afraid to get creative!

Once everything is set click on the “Add to Queue” button which will add the encoding job to the Handbrake queue

You can either hit the “Encode” button to start the encoding process, or you can add additional jobs (keep adding to the Queue) and process multiple files.

As each job is processed a DOS prompt will appear showing the progress.

Ripbot264:

  • Tools – Ripbot264, AVISynth, ffdshow, Haali Media Splitter, Microsoft .Net Framework 3.5
  • Additional Resources – MediaSmartServer Wiki I wrote
  • Media Type: DVD, HD DVD, and Blu Ray
  • Output File: .mp4, .mkv, AVCHD
  • Decrypter Needed: Yes (such as AnyDVD)
  • Encoding – Yes
  • Retain Original Video: No /Audio: No (for HD Audio)
  • Batch Mode: Yes
  • Comments: For encoding Blu Ray/ HD DVDs this is the tool I prefer to use. However, the big drawback for me is that Ripbot264 does not allow you to retain the original HD Audio (i.e. DTSMA or TrueHD) so I end up using Ripbot264 to encode the video, HdBrStreamExtractor to extract the original HD Audio, and MKVMerge to remux everything back into an MKV. I find Ripbot264 does not work well for DVD TV Boxsets so I don’t use.

Click on “Add” when you first load Ripbot264 to add an encoding job.

Under “Video” click the “…” button. You will need to navigate to the folder where the Blu Ray / HD DVDs video files are stored. It doesn’t matter what file you choose, just pick one.

Once you pick a video file Ripbot264 will analyze the disc and show you all available playlists to choose from. In the screenshot below you can see the two episode playlists (each approx 42 minutes) , so choose one of those playlists and select “OK”.

After hitting “Ok” Ripbot264 will demux the audio/video streams. This should take about 5 minutes to complete.

Once demuxing has completed all the settings should be populated. You can choose what Profile you wan to use (I stick with High 4.0 HD). You can adjust the audio options and you can select what encoding mode you want to use (Constant Quality) or 2-Pass. I prefer to use CQ and set the CRF factor at 20 (the smaller the CRF factor the better the quality and the bigger the file size). I have found either 18 or 20 yields the best results. If you instead want to hit a target bitrate or filesize you would choose 2-Pass.

The one adjustment I like to make it to the Picture Properties. Click on the “Properties” button next to CRF. There are several different screens you can navigate through, but I usually only make changes to the first screen. I like to set Crop to “Automatically”  to remove the black bars if any and also lock the size in to 1920×1080.

Once all settings are where you like, hit the “Done” button which will take you back to the Welcome Ripbot264 screen. You can edit the current job, add a new job, or begin the encoding process.

Once the encoding begins you will see a progress monitor at the bottom of the screen. Depending on your chosen settings and PC specs, the process can take anywhere from an hour to 6+ hours.

Another EAC3To GUI:

  • Tools – Another EAC3To GUI, ffdshow, Haali Media Splitter, eac3to,MKVToolnix,Java,BDSup2Sub
  • Additional Resources – Writeup
  • Media Type: HD DVD, and Blu Ray
  • Output File: .mkv
  • Decrypter Needed: Yes (such as AnyDVD)
  • Encoding – No
  • Retain Original Video/Audio: Yes
  • Batch Mode: Yes
  • Cost – Free
  • Comments: This is another great program that I use often to create MKVs from my Blu Rays.  No encoding options available though, so if you want to encode use another program (or use MakeMKV to create an mkv and then encode the created mkv with another program). Another EAC3To GUI relies on EAC3To to gather the playlist. For whatever reason I have encountered a few issues with EAC3To where is doesn’t pull the correct playlists, so in a case like that using Another EAC3To GUI doesn’t work for me, and I switch over to MakeMKV.

Screenshot below showing the multiple playlists (you can choose one at a time and add to the batch to run all at once)

Tips & Tricks:

  • Always check the files you output once completed. Don’t assume the encode/rip went ok without confirming first, even if the same process/settings have worked in the past.
  • Blu Rays that are 1080i VC-1 I have found to be problematic. The best process I have found is to encode them (even if you don’t want to ) to h264.
  • Any process that involves encoding is going to take a lot longer and require more CPU (i.e. using handbrake, ripbot264) then just doing a rip/remux (MakeMKV, Clown_BD)
  • I find the best naming convention is to create a main folder with the show name, sub folders for each season, and then S##E## within each Season folder (i.e. Supernatutal -> Season 1 -> S01E01). You can then use a program called TV Rename to get the full names of each episode (see blog post here)
  • One item that is a PITA is figuring out exactly what episode you are ripping. What I usually do is play the dvd that I am ripping in a program like PowerDVD or WMP, go to the episode selection menu and select each episode. When the episode plays in the bottom right corner of PowerDVD it will tell me the title # of the episode, which I can then use as a cross reference when ripping/encoding as well as cross reference against TVDB. As last resort, you can always figure out what episode is what buy playing an episode from the actual disc and then playing back the created mkvs until you find the corresponding one.

Using PowerDVD when you play an episode in the bottom right corner it should show the Title# of that episode

In Windows Media Player there will be sideways triangle next to the Title #. In the example below, the episode being played is Title 7.

Final Thoughts:

Once your episode mkvs have been created and named properly, you can now use your favorite Front End for a much better experience. Obviously the process is a little more involved then just ripping a movie. It is also not necessary to rip out each episode, but for me this provides the most rewarding experience and has the highest WAF. The best bet is to try a few different methods to find which one works best for your setup.

Screenshot of XBMC

Screenshot of Media Browser (Windows Media Center)





Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 39 comments }

Damian July 19, 2010 at 5:25 am

Just purchased Firefly Season 1 on Blu Ray. I used MakeMKV to create mkvs for each episode. The only way I could determine which episode was which was to play back each episode from the Blu Ray disc and then play all the created mkvs until I found the mkv that matched up with the episode. A little manual but you only need to watch the first few seconds to know which episode you have.

Wickchucker July 19, 2010 at 6:40 am

It is quite surprising that none of these software options have come out with an automatic episode identifying feature. For example, why can’t they query/scrape the TVDB or EPGuides sites when a TV boxset disc is inserted, much like how the CDDB is checked to get artist/album info for music cd’s? So many front-ends can scrape episode info, and there are several good programs devoted to TV show re-naming (i.e. The Renamer is my fav), why can’t ripping software do it? It’s maddening when ripping dozens of discs.

Damian July 19, 2010 at 7:08 am

@ Wickchucker,

It all comes down to is there software that can actually identify the episodes. For example, there are a lot of front ends that will scrape TVDB but they require the episodes to have specific naming (i.e. SxxExx). I don’t know if the actual disc has a way to identify each episode, there is an ID to identify the disc itself, but possibly not the episodes. It would definitely be nice though, I would think one option would be TVDB also having extra info (such as what disc title # and disc # for each episode) so then ripping scraping software could then reference.

spencer July 20, 2010 at 7:08 pm

so i downloaded makemkv and I’m ripping separate episodes off a futurama box set, problem is the episodes are about 1.12GB each is there some way to reduce size but still keep the quality good and still remain an mkv file? thanks.

Damian July 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm

@ spencer,

You can run those mkvs through Ripbot or Handbrake to encode. For Handbrake I would recommend using the High Profile setting

spencer July 21, 2010 at 2:40 pm

thanks, by the way if i do run them through what would the size be for an average 22 minute show?

Damian July 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I think a typical episode is probably about 1-1.5GB as is. Encoding you can probably get it down to between 300-500GB (just depends on settings)

MG July 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

@Damian

I agree that a program that could automatically rename the output files to the correct TVDB format would be a godsend. Wondering if that would be hard to create? MakeMKV does a pretty good job at creating the files in episode order, however does not have the ability to name the files. Has anyone every seen anything like that? Right now I use MakeMKV, go through the episodes to verify they are in order, then use a program like TV Ripper to batch rename the files. Seems like there should be enough ID information on the actual BluRay or DVD to create properly named and sequential files.

Damian July 22, 2010 at 1:07 pm

@ MG,

Part of the problem that I just found out is that the episodes as they are on the disk are not always in episode order. For example I just purchased Firefly Season 1 which is made up of 3 disks. On the first disk it turns out that episode 1, 4, 7, 9 were on that disk (where I would have expected 1-4). I think it all comes down to whether there is some sort of playlist that a ripping program can read that specifically linked up the episode with the file itself. Man would that be great if there was such a program!!!

MG July 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm

@ Damian

Yes sounds like alot TV shows have lazy mastering. Anyway, there must be a way to extract playlist order from the DVD? I assume that this is stored somewhere on the DVD?

Damian July 22, 2010 at 1:55 pm

@ MG,

You know I was thinking about this, and I wonder though playlist or not do DVDs even have the actual epsiode #? So TVDB has the episode name and corresponding number, but do the DVDs actually care what episode # the episode is? My guess to do it correctly you would have to match up the episode name (maybe stored somewhere on the disc) with the episode name from tvdb. Even better, what if you had a ripping software where you enter in the name of the tv show you are ripping. On one side it would list the actual episodes on the disc (assuming you can get the episode names) and then on the other side it would list out all episodes per tvdb. You match up one side to the other, press go, and the software does the rest. Of course this is just a thought, and I have zero programming skills lol

MG July 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm

@Damian

Yes that is exactly what is needed. Kind of a combination of MakeMKV and TV Renamer. My Programming experience began and ended with .BAT files, so hopefully someone else is interested in doing this. Especially Since TV Shows are sometimes much higher quality than movies.

Wickchucker July 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

There must be a unique ID of sorts on each disc. What is needed is a database of every show ever released on DVD box set and a corresponding listing of contents on those box sets, searchable by disc ID number. Pulling from that sort of DB would also help alleviate naming issues with special features and disc extras that are always a pain to get scraped correctly in xbmc or yamj too. The TVDB is great, but focuses on TV shows as they aired, not on their box sets/dvd releases.

MG July 22, 2010 at 3:24 pm

True, I guess people are used to DVR’ing live TV and creating their episodes that way. Either way, my current workflow is:

1. Use MakeMKV for each disc in the series (Currently doing my Curb your Enthusiasm collection).
2. Use a Batch renamer to change the output file that Makemkv makes (title00.mkv usually) to something like S01E01.mkv
3. Use TvRename to change the filenames to something better, matchup episodes with TVDB, download thumbnails, etc..

Anyone have a better idea?

Damian July 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm

@ MG,

My process is similar:

1) Same as you
2) Determine actual episode number and name manually (just S##E##.mkv) using one of the methods listed in the Tips & Tricks
3) Copy individual S##E##.mkv files to my server. Metabrowser automatically monitors for new files on my server, so when I copy over to my server Metabrowser renames right away.

Fox July 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Question: I have a box set where on the DVD the episodes are in one big file impossible to rip individually. Whats the best way of going about ripping it and putting them back into individual episodes instead of 1 big file.

Damian July 25, 2010 at 5:12 pm

@ Fox,

So when you run with MakeMKV only one big episode shows? If so one solution would be to use MakeMKV, get your one big mkv, and then use mkvmerge to split the mkv into multiple pieces (so for example, watch the big mkv, write down the time positions when a new episode starts, and then in mkvmerge use those time splits to break up the mkvs). You could also use a tool like VirtualDub which is a little more friendly for splitting a video file but the output I think is AVI

Fox July 31, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Could you give me an idea of how to split up the video in mkvmerg, ive never worked with mkvmerg so im sort of lost.

Damian August 1, 2010 at 6:00 am

@ Fox,

It is a very basic function in MKVmerge, so you don’t have a lot of flexibility in what you can do. Go to the Global tab, check off “Enable Splitting”. You can then split by timecode or size. So if you want to split an mkv by a certain time, you would enter in the timecode where you want the split to occur. You have to proess for the entire mkv though (so you cannot say I want to only split between 10 minutes and 20 minutes, you would have to set it to split every 10 minutes)

abc August 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm

does anybody have any experiance with ripping cartoons? when it gets ripped it is interlaced.

Damian August 4, 2010 at 6:52 pm

For cartoons I end up encoding with handbrake. Under Video Filters I set Detelecine and Decomb to Default (or just use High Profile). This takes care of the interlaced issue

abc August 11, 2010 at 3:26 pm

thanks Damian, but i still have 1 problem. I ripped some south park episodes and basically when i put it in full screen it doesn’t quite go side to side, the video file itself has black on the sides, so obviously on a bigger scale such as watching on a tv its more noticeable. any suggestions? here’s a picture to show you what i mean: http://s811.photobucket.com/albums/zz31/sbhas/?action=view&current=Untitled.jpg

Damian August 13, 2010 at 7:25 am

@ abc,

Are you encoding or keeping as the original? If encoding you would want to use the crop feature to have the black bars removed

knight January 3, 2011 at 1:12 am

Today when i ripped both south park the 13 season and my ugly americans dvd with makemkv, both of witch are 16×9, i noticed the shows all have a thin green line on the right of the screen before and after they have been encoded with hand brake and ive yet t get rid of them. any sugestions?

Damian January 3, 2011 at 8:38 am

That is odd. What player/software are you using for playback (maybe it is a software issue and not the file itself)?

Kevin March 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I was going to try MakeMKV.

Is the quality of the MKV file exactly the same as the original DVD? I’m sorry for being a noob, but I’d just leave as the original DVD if any quality is lost.

Thanks

Jim March 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Yes, the quality is the same as the original. Generally, MakeMKV does not touch the actual video or audio data – it simply puts it into an MKV container.

Also, MakeMVK for DVDs is free. The paid version is only for HD-DVDs and BluRays.

Damian March 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Well, actually MakeMKV for DVDs and BluRays/HD DVDs is all free while in beta

Jim March 15, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Or until April :
http://www.makemkv.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1053

Either way, I think they have promised that the DVD rips will remain free.

I can mostly recommend the software except for some HD-DVDs that were a problem. BluRays have been perfect for me.

Damian March 16, 2011 at 3:30 am

The issue with HD DVDs is that MakeMKV does not remove the pulldown flag. For some this causes problems with playback as not removing the pulldown flag results in the mkv being read as 1080i. I prefer to use Clown_BD + mkvmerge which does remove the pulldown flag so you get the proper 1080p (i.e. 23.976)

hellerbrewing August 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm

It seems that the My Movies database would have all the information needed to cross reference episode # with the position on the disc. As users rip TV shows, they are mapping the episodes to the specific location and that information gets uploaded to the database. The Disc ID is even stored alongside it.

http://www.mymovies.dk/media/VideoTutorials/TV%20Episode%20Mapping/TV%20Episode%20Mapping.html

Someone should take advantage of this in their software, or better yet, My Movies should incorporate this functionality into the ripping side of their software!

Damian August 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Hey Steve,

Yeah, I haven’t checked to see how far along they had gotten since it is all user driven. I think this had been discussed for TVDB but the issue is there may be different versions of a disc, so the chapters may not line up.

I do agree though, since the info is embedded within the My movies servers they should definitely leverage this on the ripping side. It would have made life a lot easier for me!

Kevin October 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

As an avid My Movies user; and as someone who has used the feature mentioned quite a bit (I’ve mapped a few hundred TV episodes myself). I’ll just comment that unfortunately this doesn’t seem to work as well as one would hope. For one, rarely do I find a DVD where the TV episode is already mapped; to do so manually is tedious, when it is present in the database, sometimes it’s wrong, and then more frustratingly it just plain doesn’t work sometimes even when the DVD is mapped appropriately (from a post I put on the forums awhile back, I’m told that some DVD’s are “stubborn”… though I’m not sure what that means). But if all this could get ‘fixed’, YES, would be awesome for someone to leverage.

Damian October 16, 2011 at 11:17 am

Agreed. It really is only as good as the users since it is reliant on them to enter in the correct information. The one concern I always had is what if there are different editions of a TV Show DVD with different episode orders, that could cause an issue if not careful.

I just end up sticking with my old school method of cross reference against TVDB, as tedious as it can be, it is almost 100% reliable (unless someone decides to change the info after the fact which drives me nuts!!!)

Randy October 16, 2011 at 7:52 am

Nice write-up. Handbrake does BluRays just fine. Not sure if this changed since you did your writeup. A big benefit because RipBot takes 10x as long to encode the same file it seems. For me, Handbrake takes 1-2 hours for a BluRay to a phone/tablet quality MKV whereas RipBot takes 10+ hours. If you have found a quicker way to quickly push an HD-DVD to mkv and re-encode down to the smaller size for portable devices, would love to hear about it.

Damian October 16, 2011 at 8:32 am

Hi Randy,

I thought I had updated this guide to mention Handbrake worked with Blu-ray, but looks like I never saved it :-(. Sorry about that, I have updated now.

As far as Handbrake vs. Ripbot, I use Handbrake on my Blu-ray movies when I want to create a mobile m4v for my tablets. For my Blu-ray TV Shows I still use Ripbot264. The main reason is I get the best resulting mkv with the 4.0 profile in Ripbot264 (I am sure I could try to mimic the exact settings in handbrake but I haven’t looked into that yet).

As far as the difference in time, something must be wrong, or you must be using a different profile in Ripbot264 (possibly 2-Pass) that is not allowing you to do an Apples to Apples comparison with Handbrake. For example, I just finished using Ripbot264 on my Season 6 Supernatural Blu-ray boxset. I used the 4.0 Progessive profile, CQ=20, original audio. For each 42 minute episode it took between 40-50 minutes. This is in line with the same time it takes for handbrake. I think the only drawback with handbrake and Blu-rays is that it does not support Blu-ray subtitles (someone please correct me if I am wrong).

For HD DVDs to a mobile format I still think that MakeMKV or Clown_BD (to rip the main movie) and then throwing into Handbrake is probably the best option.

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions.

Cheers
Damian

etrin August 18, 2012 at 8:47 am

Well I finally got around to ripping some series and I have only tried Handbrake so far. I am curious about one thing.
If you just add the series to the queue and say start, what type of rip is this?
At first this is all I did and the rip was perfect. I then looked at the guide here and you are talking about encoding and I said whoops I am missing something.
This was on DVD rips of the big bang theory. I have some blu ray series and I will also try ripbot in the future.

Damian August 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Handbrake encodes (i.e. you do not keep the original lossless quality)

Ralph November 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm

you can set to RF 0 and it will encode but will be lossless.

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