By the title you make think this is going to be a post about the time I ate Taco Bell and the hours that followed Well, as much as I would love to share “ripping” stories, this post will be about a different sort of ripping. I just received my Lord Of The Ring (LOTR) Blu-ray Extended Edition boxset, and as usual the first thing I do when I purchase a new Blu-ray disc is rip it to my Windows Home Server. Well, the LOTR boxset presented a bit of a challenge because each movie is split out onto two discs. The easy solution would be to just rip each disc individually, but I would rather have one clean rip per movie, especially since this would guarantee the best compatibility amongst the various playback software/hardware that I use and test. Merging two discs into one rip shouldn’t be difficult with the software that is available, but unfortunately I encountered some complications that turned a simple rip into a weekend project. Let’s take a look at what is involved and where things went screwy!
Step 1: Ripping The Disc:
The first thing I should mention, I do all my ripping/editing on my desktop PC, and then move the final product over to my Windows Home Server for storage/streaming. You will need to rip each disc to your hard drive and can just follow whatever your preferred method is. I prefer to rip to a Blu-ray folder structure using AnyDVD + Clown_BD, but really you can use any method you like whether it be folder rips, ISOs, or mkv (you can read here about the variety of mkv methods).
Additional notes – you will need a decent amount of free hard disk drive space (approx 120GB per movie) since each disc will be approximately 30GB (so 30GB x 2) plus the final merged copy will be approximately 60GB. Obviously the two 30GB files can be deleted once done
Step 2: Merging Chapters (optional):
This step is completely optional. If you want to maintain chapters you will need to do so manually. If you use Clown_BD you will be left with a chapters.txt file as part of the temp files. Make sure you move the txt file from the first disc before you rip the second disc as I believe Clown_BD will simply overwrite the first chapters.txt file. Below is the temp files generated by Clown_BD, I had renamed the chapters.txt file from the first disc before ripping the second disc.
Next up (and I don’t know if there is an easier way) you will need to manually edit the Chapters.txt file doing a little math. The problem is that the Chapters file for each disc starts at 0:00 obviously. This is fine for part one of the movie, but you will need the chapter times for part two to be adjusted to start after the part one ending. To do this I simply whipped out excel, typed in all the chapter times, and did some math to figure out what the part two chapter times would look like. Once done just save a master chapter.txt file to use later on.
Step 3: Merging the Two Discs:
With both discs ripped and the merged chapters.txt file created the final step (hopefully) is to merge the two discs together. Since I want to merge into a Blu-ray folder structure I decided to use tsMuxeR. Under the Input tab click on the “add” button and navigate to the m2ts file for the first disc (should be under BDMV -> STREAM) . Next click the “join” button and navigate to the m2ts file for the second disc. If you joined properly the second disc m2ts should have a “++” in front of it. Under “Output” select “Blu-ray disk”.
Now go to the “Blu-ray” tab, choose “Custom chapters list” and copy in your merged chapter timestamps
Finally click the “Start muxing” button which will create a newly merged Blu-ray folder structure combining both discs.
You can accomplish the same thing for mkvs using mkvmerge. Under the Input tab add the first disc mkv (or individual files) by clicking the “add” button. Click the “append” button to add the files from the second disc.
To add the merged chapters go to the “Global” tab and under “Chapters” browse to the merged chapters text file.
Click “Start muxing” and soon enough you will have a merged mkv.
Step 4: When Things Go Wrong, Fixing A/V Sync Issues:
If everything went well you should have a perfect merged movie. Once the merge is done you want to play back the movie to make sure there are no issues. In particular make sure you play back clips from what would have been the first and second disc. In a majority of cases you should now be done. Unfortunately, with LOTR when you get to the second disc portion you will have terrible A/V sync issues (maybe about a 2-3 second delay from when lips start moving until you actually hear the words). It turns out the culprit is there is about a 3-5 seconds of blank video at the end of each first disc. When merged this blank video pushes the video on the second part of the merged disc ahead of the audio. The solution is to trim out this blank video and fortunately Slysoft forum member Maltese has determined what the appropriate timecodes to trim per movie are (see here for his original post). For discs where there are A/V sync issues such as LOTR you will actually need to do this step before you merge the discs together in step 3.
Go back into tsMuxeR and add the first disc. Make sure output is set to “Blu-ray disk”. Next go to the “Split&Cut“ tab, check “Enable cutting” and set the End timecode. Click the “Start muxing” button to begin the process. Here are the timecodes Maltese came up with for each movie:
- LOTR – The Fellowship Of The Rings – 6338 seconds
- LOTR – The Two Towers – 6396 seconds
- LOTR – The Return Of The King – 7656 seconds
Once done follow the steps in Step 3 to merge the newly trimmed Disc One with Disc Two.
A similar trimming can be done for mkvs with mkvmerge. For step by step instructions, see Yraen’s post here.
Step 5: A Nasty WHS/Hardware Bug?
For most people getting through the 4 steps should get you a nice merged movie ready for playback without worries of juggling multiple discs. Of course though as always happens to me, I ran into another snafu. As I mentioned earlier I do all my ripping/video processing on my Windows 7 desktop PC, and once done I then copy over to my Windows Home Server. When I went to copy over one of the merged LOTR movies within 20 minutes the transfer speed would start to slow dramatically, and then I would get a message that the operation could not complete due to insufficient resources. I tried several more times, same problem. During the attempted transfer my Windows Home Server was being brought to a crawl. Accessing content from my media players was taking forever, and I noticed that one of my drives (most likely the one being written to) was heating up dramatically. Since it wasn’t working over the network, I decided to copy the LOTR to an external hard drive, connect that hard drive directly to WHS and do the transfer from there. 15 minutes in to the transfer same issue, failure due to insufficient resources. I have never had an issue transferring files over, but each LOTR movie was approx 60GB, much larger then the typical 15-35GB movies I have.
Ready to throw in the towel I decided to make one last attempt. This time however I decided to go back to my trusty tsMuxer and split the movie into two parts (30GB each). I then copied each part over to my Windows Homes Server without issue, and then proceeded to use tsMuxeR once again to re-merge the files. Finally success! Well, since then I did some research and found that other Windows Home Server users had encountered the same error related to the transfer of larger filesizes. Some thought the issue was related to faulty hardware (possibly insufficient RAM) while others had to use a different software (such as TeraCopy) to successfully do the transfer. Either way this little bug/issue I ran in to was the final kick in the groin for what turned out to be a weekend project!!
Update – on the last LOTR movie I decided to do the tsMuxeR merge in Step 3 directly to my Windows Home Server instead of doing to my Windows 7 desktop, and it succeeded without issue. So the only time I encountered the issue was when I tried copying the actual 60GB file over.
- These steps (specifically the timecodes) are specific to the Blu-ray Extended edition. The merging process itself however would apply to any instance where you wanted to merge multiple files.
- Several people I have spoken to have noted that they did not encountered the a/v sync issues when merging using eac3to. I did not test this but it leaves two possibilities. (1) using mkvmerge or tsMuxeR is causing the initial audio delay that requires the trimming or (2) it is an issue with specific discs. I have the US version of the discs with others have confirmed the same issue. The folks I have spoken to so far who haven’t encountered a/v sync issues have the EU version. I already know there are some differences between the US and EU version, such as forced subtitles which are burned in on the US version but a separate subtitle track on the EU version.