Tasting the Forbidden Fruit: Blu-ray on the Mac

Despite lack of official support, you can use Blu-ray on the Mac(s aapl). It just takes a few more steps than on a Windows (s msft) machine, and it depends on your hardware. For internal solutions, you’ll have to have a Mac Pro, but external drives will let you add Blu-ray abilities to any OS X computer. Along with some help from third-party software.

For the hardware side of things, Other World Computing has a variety of Blu-ray solutions for all Macs, as well as instructional videos on how to upgrade your Mac Pro with a new Blu-ray burner. Once you’ve got that part taken care of, you’ll need special software to make use of your new drive.

Burn High Definition Blu-ray Content

With more cameras supporting HD video, the desire to burn that content on a format that supports HD playback is increasingly important. Toast Titanium has had the ability to burn to Blu-ray discs since Toast 7.  Version 10 supports Blu-ray through a $20 plugin.  It works especially well with high-def videos created on your iPhone, Flip or other HD video cameras.  Just drag and drop your raw video files into a new Blu-ray video project and click the big red burn button. Be warned, the process can take quite some time to complete depending on your source format. If you opt to purchase Toast with your Blu-ray burner from OWC, you may want to check out its step-by-step account of how to burn your high-def video.  Toast developer Roxio also has a video tutorial of the process on its site.

Rip Blu-ray Content to Your Hard Drive

When it comes to getting the raw content of a Blu-ray disc onto your hard drive, Pavtube Blu-ray Ripper is about as good as it gets. Using the “Full Disc Copy” feature, you can preserve the Blu-ray’s original file structure.  The process is straightforward. Insert the Blu-ray disc, click on the “Full Disc Copy” button, and select a folder to copy to.  While Pavtube Blu-ray Ripper also supports conversion to popular device formats, I find that getting the raw Blu-ray files onto my hard drive, then using another tool like Handbrake to convert the file to the format I want is easier. Using the latest release of Handbrake which can now read Blu-ray file structures, and has an updated template that supports the latest Apple TV yields noticeably better results. Pavtube Blu-ray Ripper is on sale at the company’s site through Jan. 10, 2011 if you choose this option.

Play Blu-ray Movies on Your Mac

This is where it all starts to fall apart. Direct playback of Blu-ray content from the disc directly to a player is the real forbidden fruit. Leaving aside that Steve Jobs has changed Apple’s status regarding Blu-ray support from “Bag of Hurt” to “Mafia,” one would think that an independent developer would have stepped up sometime in the last two years to fill the gap.

You can work around this limitation by streaming a movie from a Blu-ray disc using MakeMKV and  then open the networked stream in VLC.  This trick may come in handy if you want to watch a Blu-ray movie on your MacBook Air using your Blu-ray drive in your Mac Pro.  The interesting part is that VLC can play the raw MPEG-2 Transport Stream files (.m2ts extension) after they have been ripped to the hard drive as outlined above, but can’t find the files on the disc itself.

Actually watching Blu-ray movies is my last priority when using the format on my Mac. Backing up or archiving content, or transferring my digital memories into a format I can easily share with friends and relatives are much more relevant. If I want to watch a movie, I’ll use Netflix (s nflx) or iTunes, which is probably why Blu-ray never officially made it to the Mac to begin with.

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