June 7, 2009 I published an article about ripping audio from Blu-ray discs. That was the last time I ripped audio from a Blu-ray. The whole process is nothing like ripping a CD and is not worth the effort for the most part. Even with new software programs that make it a bit easier to rip these discs, for the average Joe ripping Blu-ray audio is a disaster. Fortunately there is a technology that solves this whole Blu-ray ripping issue. It's called mShuttle and it puts an end to ripping Blu-ray audio discs. I saw mShuttle in action at the AES convention last year, but had not actuated used this technology until very recently. Now that I have personal experience with mShuttle I can honestly say that every Blu-ray audio disc should include mShuttle technology.
Ripping Versus Copying
Ripping: Blu-ray audio files stored on a physical disc are very cryptic in appearance. It's impossible to view a Blu-ray disc and see individual tracks that one could play in iTunes or simply copy to a desktop hard drive. Extracting these files requires ripping software. This software reads the very large Blu-ray files and extracts only the audio into either a single file or into separate files / tracks like an audio CD. Without this software the files on a Blu-ray disc are useless for anything but playback using the physical disc. This description is way oversimplifying the Blu-ray audio ripping process, but readers should get the minor point that ripping is different from copying described below.
Copying: In the context of computer audio copying is absolutely simple and requires no additional software. This is the classic copy-paste routine. Audio files are viewable just like spreadsheets and photos on a disc. Extracting the files from a disc is as easy as selecting the file, selecting copy, then selecting paste in another location. Blu-ray discs with mShuttle enable users to simply copy audio tracks from the Blu-ray disc using copy-paste clicking.
Blu-ray Audio At AES Convention
At the 2010 Audio Engineering Society convention at San Francisco's Mascone Center I spent some time talking to Grammy winning Recording Engineer Bill Schnee about the format for his upcoming Bravura Records high resolution 24/192 releases. Also present in this discussion was Stefan Bock, Managing Director and Founder of msm-studios in Munich, Germany. We discussed the possibility of downloads and releasing Bravura Records material on Blu-ray discs. At first I was against a physical format, especially Blu-ray based on my previous experience ripping Blu-ray audio. After talking to Stefan, whose studio produces Blu-ray discs with mShuttle, I started to see the light and was open to the possibility that Blu-ray may be the right format for Bravura's new releases. Bill Schnee has big plans for these releases that are far beyond those of us who already appreciate great sound and could use a download only. He is aiming for everyone who has a Blu-ray player because once they hear and see (video content) the Bravura albums they may be turned on to the wonders of great sound.
Following our discussion I attended a Blu-ray audio workshop titled The Challenge of Producing Blu-ray . Downloadable audio of this workshop is available for a fee from MobileTape's website (search for 10AES-W19). Stefan Bock was the Chair of the workshop and spent a considerable amount of time explaining Pure Audio Blu-ray and mShuttle. Pure Audio Blu-ray is wonderful for people who want to listen to physical Blu-ray audio discs without complicated menus and a consistent interface from disc to disc. The part I was most interested in was his explanation and demonstration of mShuttle.
mShuttle technology enables users to copy Blu-ray audio tracks from a Blu-ray disc to a music server or any computer with ease. No drawn-out complicated ripping process is required to get bit perfect high resolution audio from a Blu-ray disc. There are two ways to copy the audio tracks from an mShuttle enabled Blu-ray disc.
1. Standard Blu-ray Player Method
Using this method a standard Blu-ray player with at least Profile 2.0 is required. The Blu-ray player must be connected via Ethernet or WiFi to the user's home network. Once the Blu-ray disc with mShuttle is loaded into the player and the mShuttle button is selected the user, from any computer on the home network, uses a web browser such as Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome to navigate to the IP address of the Blu-ray player. This address is usually visible via the Blu-ray option menus. Once connected to the Blu-ray player the user enters the mShuttle web page where a click of the mouse initiates the copy process. It's incredibly simple.
2. Computer With Blu-ray Drive Method
The requirement to copy audio from an mShuttle enabled Blu-ray disc directly on a computer is simply a Blu-ray drive. The drive can be either internal or external. I use an external Blu-ray drive connected to my MacBook Pro via the FireWire 800 interface. It's actually an internal drive with an external housing, but that's a story for another day. The computer does not need any special ripping software and doesn't even need to be capable of playing Blu-ray discs. It only has to read the disc's data. There are two ways to access these audio files using a computer with a Blu-ray drive.
a. Browser - This method is somewhat similar to the standard Blu-ray player method in that the same web interface is used to copy files. The easier part about this method as opposed to the standard Blu-ray method is the user doesn't need to connect to the player over a home network. The user must browse the Blu-ray disc through Windows Explorer or OS X Finder and open a file named something like index.html. This launches the user's web browser and the identical interface as a standard Blu-ray player. From this interface it's a simple click for a whole album or a few clicks for individual tracks to begin copying to the user's location of choice.
b. Finder / Explorer - This is my preferred method of extracting Blu-ray audio from an mShuttle enabled disc. Once the Blu-ray disc is in the computer the user simply browses the disc using Windows Explorer or OS X Finder. Instead of seeking the index.html file, the user enters the folder containing the actual music files. Inside the folder each track is listed individually as well as a complete album zip file. Extracting the music is as easy as Copy-Paste. I simply select all the tracks and drag them to my Mac desktop. No ripping software involved. I have other Blu-ray audio discs but without mShuttle technology I haven't found a way to copy the audio tracks from the disc without the complicated ripping process.
2L & mShuttle In My System
I recently received the blu-ray disc Home from Ensemble 96 on the 2L label (2L-076-SABD). This Blu-ray disc contains mShuttle technology. I placed the disc into the Blu-ray drive connected to my MacBook Pro and started browsing. The content available via mShuttle is completely up to the artist, record label, etc… Ensemble 96 contained digital copies of the album in FLAC at 24/192 and 24/96, as well as WAV, and mp3 formats. Browsing the disc's folders I selected the FLAC files at 24/192 and simply dragged them to my desktop. Also contained on the Blu-ray disc is a huge 1958x1958 version of the album's cover and a very nice PDF with all the album details. The whole process is really beyond simple. If users can browse their hard drives for a photo they can browse an mShuttle enabled Blu-ray for high resolution audio.
After trying an mShuttle enabled Blu-ray disc I contacted Stefan and Bill and sent them this exact email.
"Hi Bill & Stefan - I finally got my hands on a Blu-ray with mShuttle. It's the Kind Ensemble 96 from 2L. I put the disc in my computer with a Blu-ray drive and was able to use the mShuttle web interface or copy the files directly. The process is incredibly easy. All music Blu-ray discs should use mShuttle. It's wonderful for those of use who want the 24/192 files for our music servers."
Over the last several months I've gone from A) Totally against physical media to B) Open to the possibility that it may be right for Bravura Records, to C) Every Blu-ray disc should use mShuttle and it's a great way for Bravura to release it music. Currently Blu-ray drives are available starting at $49 (internal) and $99 (USB External). Considering most of us have spent more than that amount on every other single item related to this hobby, there's no reason to complain. Go to NewEgg, find a drive, add to cart, and start copying high resolution Blu-ray audio the easy way.