Unfortunately, Blu-ray discs aren't supported by default in our favourite media centre application, XBMC. Sure, you can rip Blu-rays, but that takes forever, and you want to watch it now. Here's how to can enable Blu-ray playback in XBMC.
Apart from a few approved Windows programs, like PowerDVD, there aren't a lot of options for playing Blu-ray out of the box on a PC. No one has written any open-source software that can play back Blu-ray movies, nor is there any software library capable of decoding the DRM encryption on-the-fly yet. However, previously mentioned DVD-ripping application MakeMKV does have a few advanced features that, coupled with an XBMC plug-in, can give you a pretty close experience on any operating system. Here's how to set it all up.
Step 1: Install MakeMKV
Click on the image for a closer look.
If you haven't yet done so, you'll need to install MakeMKV on your system first. On Windows, this is very easy: just download the installation package from MakeMKV's web site and install it as you would any other program. (Windows users, you can now skip to step 2.) On Linux, you'll have to compile it yourself, but it's really not that difficult. First, open up a Terminal window and make sure you have all the prerequisites installed. Type this command into the Terminal and hit Enter:
sudo apt-get install build-essential libc6-dev libssl-dev libgl1-mesa-dev libqt4-dev
Once everything finishes installing, download the two packages on this forum post and unzip them anywhere you like. Then, in your Terminal window, cd into the source package (the folder ending with oss by typing cd into the Terminal and dragging the folder into the Terminal. Hit Enter and then type in this line of code:
make -f makefile.linux
Hit enter and let that run for a little bit. It'll take a few minutes, so be patient, but once it's done, type this line to install it:
sudo make -f makefile.linux install
Repeat this process (starting with the cd command) for the other folder (the one who's filename ends in bin and MakeMKV will be completely installed on your system.
Step 2: Install and Tweak the BluRay Plug-in for XBMC
Next, you'll need to install the BluRay plugin for XBMC. Download the zip file linked on that page and install it to XBMC's video plugins folder. This could be in a few different places — on Linux, it's most likely in ~/.xbmc/plugins/video, which you can access by going to your home folder, showing hidden files (by going to View > Show Hidden Files) and double-clicking on the .xbmc folder.
On Windows, it will either be in your AppData folder (C:UsersWhitson GordonAppDataRoamingXBMCpluginsvideo, where Whitson Gordon is your username) or XBMC's program folder (wherever you installed XBMC, most likely C:Program FilesXBMCpluginsvideo).
After extracting the BluRay folder to this location, you may have to tweak a few other settings. First, if you're on Windows, disable User Account Control by hitting the Start Menu and typing "User Account Control" into the search box. Click on "Change User Account Control Settings" and drag the slider down to "Never Notify". If you're watching Blu-rays at your computer screen with a mouse and keyboard, this step isn't necessary, but if you're using a remote control, you'll need to disable this so you don't get a popup every time you try to play a disc. (Make sure you know the risks of disabling Account Control settings.)
Now open up XBMC and go to your video plugins menu. Its location will differ on every skin, but on the default skin it will be under Video > Video Plugins > BluRay. If you're a Windows user, go to the bottom of the menu and choose Settings. Hit MakeMKV location and find your makemkvcon.exe file on your system — it'll be where you installed MakeMKV (C:Program FilesMakeMKVmakemkvcon.exe by default). Hit OK. Linux users should be fine with the default settings.
Step 3: Play Your Disc
Now, whenever you want to play a Blu-ray disc, just go back to your Video Plugins in XBMC, hit BluRay, and choose Play Disc at the top of the menu (Videos > Plugins > BluRay > Play Disc). You'll see the following window as your computer starts to decode the disc:
You won't need to wait until the progress bar reaches 100 per cent; it should only take 60 seconds or so before your movie automatically starts playing. It certainly isn't ideal, but it's pretty remarkable how close it is to regular playback. It's probably the best we're going to have for awhile, and it's certainly better than waiting a half hour or more to rip the disc to your computer (and then have to delete it later on if you don't want it). I've noticed it get a little choppy for a minute if you pause it or mess with XBMC at all, but it's a small price to pay to consolidate another one of your devices into your HTPC.
Got any other favourite plug-ins that fix XBMC's annoyances or shortcomings? Let us know in the comments.