A Guide To Playing Blu-rays On Ubuntu Linux

Today tis a happy day.  A noble day.  A day for dancing and chivalry.  We shall deck the courtyard in the finest tapestries, fill the cups with the finest wine, deck the halls with beautiful women, and grunt like men. All shall hear me roar “In your face Blu-ray!”  Interested now?  I thought so.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Required Components
    1. VLC
    2. MakeMKV
    3. playBluRay
    4. mkv-rename
  3. Methods
    1. Ripping
    2. Virtual Machines
    3. External BluRay Player
    4. Live Streaming
    5. Digital Downloads
  4. Ripping Programs
  5. Video Tips Round Up

Enter The Matrix

DRM or not, Blu-ray support on Linux is something you will never hear with enthusiasm.  Babies will cry, cats will screech, and mountain slides will commence over tiny imaginary villages.   I have searched and searched over many a  years, for a smooth as butter, solid as steel solution.  Today, I can happily announce that is possible, and a matter of fact, using XBMC to avoid the desktop.  How you say?  

It’s Only a Model…

4924391+_208fbb1c986d3f1495cefeddf255c3ac Please Note: My full and undying thanks goes to Jeff Bower.  His methods and explanations are absolutely superb on this subject.  While I had a few kinks, his advice and steps regarding Blu-ray playback are invaluable.  You can find his Google+ page here, as well as his site here.  This guide was made possible using his great findings.


Required Components

Over of components

Overview of components (The bottom of this article has the full source links list)

Installation Notes:

MakeMKV Installing this application for Linux isn’t exactly straight forward per se’, nor is it very hard to do for average usesrs.  The static forum post describes each command what you need to do to get things working.  If you choose to stick with a certain version of MakeMKV, be sure to apply the beta key located here. Thankfully Steve Bower has a nice and convenient PPA for this.  Once his PPA is added, two simple commands will get you up and running

sudo apt-get install makemkv-install
sudo makemkv-install latest

The second command will fetch the latest installer, and build it for you.  If you fancy the full script, head on over to Steve’s site for more.


Installing playBluray is quite simple.  While I wasn’t able to locate the original posting of this tool, thankfully there is still one lurking around from Steve.  for installation, follow these steps

tar -xzvf playBluRay.tar.gz
cd playBluRay
sudo cp playBluRay.sh /usr/bin

Now, the playBluRay.sh requires you to have MakeMKV installed, so please keep that in mind.  The default script will use “title 0” of a Blu-ray disc, so if you have  few movies (I have plenty) that run title 1 or title 2 etc., be sure to change that in the script by copying it and modify the title number at the end.  There is a modified version that accepts title arguments from Steve, but I am working our some kinks before linking to the updated script.


This tool is absolutely fantastic for TV Shows.  The easiest way is to install it through the repo, and following commands:

sudo apt-get install mkv-rename

That’s all there is to the installation.  You can use “-d” for a directory change.  The syntax for using the “mkv-rename” command is as follows:

mkv-rename [option] [optional series name]

Below is an example on renaming a fresh directory of The Big Bang Theory:

cd "Big Bang Theory"
cd "Season 5"
mkv-rename -tv "Big  Bang Theory"

The above set of commands will assume your files under season 5 are sequential, and rename the directories in a very clean fashion.  You can explore other options in the original post here.



Method 1 – Ripping

The common, go to method for quite some time has been ripping the Blu-ray to a digital file, typically an MKV format using MakeMKV, and alternative file shrinking/transcoding with Handbrake.  While this is a very viable option for many, this method takes up the most storage, and also the most time.  Having to wait hours on average for a transcode to occur vs. instant play is one aspect that has always made this a tiresome exercise. In any case, head on over the the MakeMKV forums for the steps to install the Linux beta.  You will have to make use of tar and have to compile from source.   Now, some awesome folks have created PPAs for this if you are Ubuntu, one of which is located here.  If you wish to keep using the software past the Beta, you will need to enter the beta key.  The beta usually lasts 30 days, with the software costing 50 USD.  Trust me, it is well worth it. If you wish to compress your movies, I would suggest you install handbrake. which the team supports Ubuntu under a PPA repository.  You should be able to cut your 20-30 GB movie to 4-6 GB without a lot of noticeable loss for most people.   More on that can be found under my corresponding 30 Days of Linux post.


Method 2 – Virtual Machines

This is one such method that I do not suggest.  As many know, graphical application performance under a virtual machine is never optimal, at least for me.  You can bump up the CPU count, Video Memory, and install the Guest Additions for Virtual Box, but I doubt playback will be to your liking.  If you do in fact get satisfiable playback on a virtual machine, please let me know and I will add tips here. The main drawback, is that even on Windows, there are really only two big players in this sphere, PowerDVD and ArcSoft Total Media.  Others are ok, but I’ve found the best playability with those two.  To be honest, the PlayBluray method below, functions far smoother and consistently for titles that have workable decryption for steaming.  Also, as yet to be tested, is using programs over wine and how that will affect performance.  I do have 2 paid programs for Windows, so I will test that out soon and update this section.


Method 3 – Using an External Blu-ray Player

The last method here is playing the BluRay using an external player.  While this is quite easy, you do cut out function of your PC while it is playing, and only is applicable if that device has HDMI out to your monitor’s HDMI in.


Method 4 – Using Integrated Playback Within Linux

Another method, one which I use now, is to integrate MakeMKV with VLC in a seamless fashion.  What essentially happens, is makemkv calls a conversion of the inserted BluRay disc, and then uses its streaming function to cast the video using the UPnP protocol over VLC.  Most titles I own work effortlessly, but some can encounter streaming issues.

To stream the disc, open up MakeMKV, and open the Blu-ray disc.  MakeMKV will examine the contents and show you the titles that can be examined.  At thsi point, click the streaming icon on the top action bar.  You will be given a localhost address and IP address that you can use with VLC or any media application that allows streaming video from a network location.  To open any title you wish to stream, perform the following:

From VLC “Open Network Location”


From the Terminal

vlc http://localhost:51000/stream/title0.ts

You can change the title each time to play different parts of the Blu-ray disc.  This is is applicable mainly for you to watch other titles which contain items like the Special Features sections.  Usually the main movie is either title0 or title1.  MakeMKV will show you the file sizes of the titles, with the largest 1-2 being the main feature you want to stream.


Integrated playback using playBluray

Playing Blu-rays on the fly is quite easy with the playBluray script.  After you have followed the installation guide above, all it takes is a simple “playBluray” from the command line to kick off the movie.  You’ll notice about a 10-15 second delay for MakeMKV to queue up the steam.  If you do have issues with playing a title, try a different title than the default 0, by modifying the tail end of the script’s contents:

# Tell VLC to play the first title of the disc.
${VLCPATH}vlc http://localhost:51000/stream/title0.ts

You may find some luck with title 1 for a handful of movies.  Now, this method does not work with every movie, and it is not always new movies that it does not work with.  Many of the titles that would not play for me, were AACS V9, the type of encryption used to “secure” the discs contents.  Also, but sure to load this script into XBMC via Advanced Launcher for a quick 1-2 punch to play your favorite flicks.


Method 5 – Digital Downloads

The other known method to experience Blu-ray quality is by choosing a digtial download service.  Below is an informative chart that should help you.

1-15-2014 09-49-00 AM



Ripping movies, in almost any case is the surefire way to make backups of your Blu-rays and to play them back as well.  If you do however, want to play some on the fly, there are several methods available, but the easiest I have found to date, is using the playBluray script.  The search for consistent Blu-ray playback continues on, but don’t give up hope just yet!  It was done with DVD, and it can be done again.   Although, soon many folks may start renting and buying digitally, but I think that is a far ways off for mass adoption.

The hestitation on my part, for not adoption full digital use, is mainly due to the fine print of how you exactly “own” the film you buy (relevant article by Danny Sulivan).  Some services retain the right to remove the movie for special circumstances.   If a service would provide and option to download the film to my PC and even if I could just use their player client to view it, that is a small step forward.  I believe Amazon’s cloud player does this, but has no native Linux client.  Also, most of these digital purchases do not contain the special features of the movie, which is another downside.

Till next time,




About professorkaos64


Posted on 20140105, in How-To, Multimedia, Tips and Tricks, Video Reel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Thanks , I’ve just been searching for information approximately this topic
    for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve discovered till now.
    But, what in regards to the conclusion? Are you certain concerning the supply?

    • professorkaos64

      The uncertainty lies mainly in we are not guaranteed that we “own” those digital purchases. There are clauses they may be removed under certain circumstances. However, times are changing very fast and things like this should improve.

  1. Pingback: Video Reel – A Visual Guide To Playing Blu-ray Discs on Linux | The Linux Cauldron

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