Format Battles: Getting Blu-ray into Avid

4 Jan

Need to get a Blu-ray Into Avid? Prepare for some pain.

In case you guys ever need to rip a Blu-Ray to bring into Avid, much less
 8 Blu-Rays, let me walk you through what I recently did. I found very little advice on the web, and most advice was directed at how to rip blu-rays to put on iPads or other devices (tsk tsk) rather than for professional use. It took a lot of heartache and experimentation to figure out this workflow, and WAY too many wasted hours, so I’ll be happy if this helps someone down the road.

I assume these are the 8 movies Barb had to rip. 😉

To preface this, let me just say that these were protected blu-rays I was ripping, but the final product has been used in an educational environment, and one of the movies was directed by the person I’m working for, so (not being a lawyer) I figure it’s fair use. The blu-rays were also all owned by myself and the director, so ripping them for “back ups” is still allowable I believe.

ANYWAY, my goal was to get the footage from the blu-ray to Avid as an .m4v file (god I wish I’d been able to track down an .mkv -> .mxf converter, but no luck). The hardware I used to rip was a LG Super Multi Blue drive hooked up to my Macbook Pro (which works for burning and ripping blu-rays on OSX, though not viewing), and the software I used was MakeMKV and Handbrake, in that order. Have a spacious hard drive handy, because this sucker will drain your space super fast.

1. MakeMKV

MakeMKV is pretty simple. It loads in the blu-ray, and you select the title you want to rip, which in pretty much every case is the largest file (usually around 20-35 GB). If there’s a second-largest-file, that’s usually the Director’s Commentary (which I learned the hard way).

Right-click and deselect all the titles except for the one you want, and go through that title unchecking anything unnecessary (subtitles, foreign languages). I learned to keep all of the audio options, as they sometimes came in useful when I got to the Handbrake stage and a particular track didn’t work right.

Hit go. 20-40 minutes later, you’ll have a spiffy .mkv file. If for some reason VLC or another player doesn’t recognize the .mkv file extension, go install Perianwhich will add some fancy new QT capabilities to your computer.

2. Handbrake

This was the killer step to figure out, since Handbrake has way more options than I’ve ever explored. I didn’t just want a shitty DVD replica this time to watch with low standards, I needed full HD quality that would look beautiful playing in Norris (and for any non-USC peeps that stumble across that, by “Norris” I mean a BIG MOVIE THEATER). My blu-ray rip-and-edit was going right back on blu-ray after it was edited, and I wanted no degradation.

Now, here’s the catch — the regular release of Handbrake at the time I did this could not effectively process Blu-ray audio. I’d bring it into Avid and it would stutter like crazy, whatever the settings. I think this has been fixed in the 1/2/12 release (0.9.5), but just in case, here’s what I had to do…

To get Handbrake to work, I had to download a nightly release of the program (basically a beta). I hadn’t heard of this before, but open source programs like this have tons of people working on it all the time, and there’s often a website where they post the most recent builds. It’s always updating, and there’s always the chance that something you need won’t be working correctly, but in this case, they had already mostly fixed the blu-ray problem. The other issue was that I had to update to OSX Lion to install it.

I won’t go insanely step-by-step as I assume most of you have used Handbrake before. I’m just going over the settings I used.

Video:
Format: MP4 file
Video Codec: MPEG-4 (FFmpeg)
Framerate: Same as source
Quality: Average bitrate: 5000 (this is where I really f-ed up originally. I used Constant Quality set to 1 and got pretty files that were sluggish and huge). If the video still looks crappy, you can bump it up to 10k.

Audio:
Track: English (AC3) usually worked
Codec: AAC (CoreAudio) also usually worked)
Mixdown: Dolby Pro Logic II
Bitrate: 192

I decided to rip the movies in Chapters from here, since Avid will throw up all over itself if you feed it a 2 hour HD clip. If I was feeling really ambitious, I’d go through the movies and mark down the exact timecode of the clips I needed, but that involved too much math to convert timecode to frames.

3. Avid

Finally, on to Avid. Media Composer 5.5.3, to be precise.

The biggest catch… you need to start a 720p project. Broke my heart, but that’s what had to be done. For some reason, the audio won’t pull down correctly in a 1080p project. No matter how I transcoded the files, the audio would always slip out of sync. Maybe there’s a setting in the Handbrake step that would fix this problem, but I wasn’t able to find it. So, 720p it is.

And yes, transcoding is a must, unfortunately. I tried linking via AMA, and was not surprised when the footage was sluggish and the audio awful. So if you too are ripping 8 blu-rays, set aside a day or two just for transcoding. I left it running overnight on two nights and that did it.

After you’ve got your 720p project all transcoded, you should be ready to rock.

4. Conclusion

Does all of this sound like a monstrous headache and an enormous time suck? Well, you’re right. It is. But the quality was good, and even at 720p it projected nicely. If you’re lazy though, and don’t mind breaking the law, often the files I got from a bittorrent site ingested more smoothly than the ones I ripped myself (though I still went through the Handbrake step to break them into chapters). Either way, plan to do a lot of prep work before you actually get down to editing!

Got an easier solution? Let me know!

To see Barb’s Directory information OR to tell her an easier solution, click here!
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