How do I rip DVDs in a lossless format, and them watch them on my TV?

Several years ago, I ripped all my (thousands of) CDs in lossless format. At the time, the storage for all the files cost many hundreds of dollars, and spanned several hard disks. Today, I can store all that music on a single volume, and still have terabytes of free space. That brought up the obvious question:

I assumed there would be a web page (or hundreds of them, really) telling me exactly what I needed to know. If it's out there, I sure couldn't find it. To complicate things, I wanted to do this on my Mac, if at all possible.

Here's everything I've learned, to date, and the solution I've chosen.

Executive Summary

  1. Use MakeMKVto extract the content
  2. Name the file(s) using the rules
  3. Drop them on a file server running Plex
  4. View them using a Roku 2 XS with the Plex client


The first problem is getting the files off the physical media. There are a fistful of tools to do so, and most (all) of them were lacking in some way that was important to me.

Handbrake has too many options, and no consensus on what settings will leave the files in DVD-quality.

Mac DVD Ripper Pro did a nice job ripping, but the output was a stack of folders named VIDEO_TS, with no convenient way to play them on my TV.

RipIt and clones all fall over on a lot of my content.

MakeMKV extracts each track on the DVD into a Matroska container. This keeps your video, audio, and subtitles all in one file.

The Plex Media Server is a pretty astounding tool. The Media Manager integrates with several online databases, and more often than not does an excellent job matching your properly named video content and providing cover art, summaries, and other information.

One frustration is when it makes a mistake, it's very difficult to correct it. For example, I have a folder of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, and even with proper naming, it can't figure out what show it is, and I can't figure out how to tell it.


I was surprised to rediscover I had some movies that spanned multiple DVDs: Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago. After much thrashing, I discovered if you install 'mkvtoolnix' (I used brew), you can use the following command, obviously substituting your own file names:

mkvmerge -o merge.mkv t00_DR_ZHIVAGO.mkv +t01_DR_ZHIVAGO.mkv

Hope this helps someone. If you have tips, corrections, or questions, feel free to email 'steve' at this domain.

Updated 11/30/11 8:12 AM