Blu-ray playback on a Mac (How-to and tips -- using BootCamp)

Discussion in 'Windows, Linux & Others on the Mac' started by JadedRaverLA, Feb 5, 2009.

  1. JadedRaverLA macrumors member

    Sep 27, 2008
    A couple quick notes: this isn't some magical how-to on playing protected Blu-ray discs within OS X, as that's still not possible as of when I am writing this. But, given the number of questions here and on other forums regarding Blu-ray playback on Macs, I figured I'd put together a little review of my experiences and a how-to on playing back Blu-ray movies on a Mac running BootCamp.

    What you'll need:
    • A recent Intel-based MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, or Mac Pro (with nvidia or ATI graphics) -- MacBook, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini with Intel graphics may work though playback will be mainly handled by the CPU, potentially causing stuttering playback
    • A BD-ROM or BD-R/RE drive -- I purchased the recently released FastMac APP-6907 External Slimline USB 2.0 BD-ROM drive, which is a portable unit that can actually be powered entirely by a Mac notebook with 2 USB ports
    • Windows XP 32-bit or Vista 32 or 64-bit -- I use Vista Business Edition 64-bit for this review
    • Blu-ray playback software -- I use Cyberlink PowerDVD 8 Ultra, though any of the Windows playback solutions should work
    • OS X 10.5 Leopard install disc (for Bootcamp drivers) or downloaded bootcamp install for OS X 10.4 Tiger owners
    • A monitor connected to a VGA port or internal laptop display -- DVI connections will fail HDCP validation though Slysoft's AnyDVD HD software can bypass the HDCP requirement
    The drive (mini-review for those interested):
    The FastMac BD-ROM drive is a notebook-sized Panasonic (Matshita) UJ-120 drive in an external enclosure and an IDE-to-USB bridge. The drive itself is fully compatible with reading Blu-ray data under OS X 10.5 Leopard and Windows Vista, both of which support the UDF 2.50 file system. The drive is also compatible with reading and writing all manner of DVD and CD media under most any operating system. Packaged with the drive is a USB data cable, as well as two power cables: the first a standard AC-adapter which can power the drive when at home/work, and a special USB power adapter for use on the road. Using the USB power adapter requires two USB ports on your notebook, so this method will not work with the MacBook Air. Also, you cannot simply connect the drive and power cable to two ports of an unpowered USB hub, as their is not enough power flowing through such devices to power the drive.

    Portability aside, the drive isn't really anything to look at. It's a simple black box, only slightly larger than a Blu-ray disc in diameter and under an inch thick. There's a simple USB type-B port and power port on the back and no logos or writing on the casing. The front side is taken up almost completely by the Panasonic's bezel. This is a tray-loading drive so there is a small eject button on the front, though the eject functions within OS X and Windows work as well. There's a single light on the front as well that indicates either reading or writing, depending on the mode.

    The price of the drive is fantastic for a portable Blu-ray drive, but keep in mind that you will need to purchase Blu-ray playback software separately in order to make full use of the drive. If Apple releases an update allowing Blu-ray playback under OS X, you may be able to avoid buying additional software, but for now, you'll need to make use of a Windows playback solution. One last thing on the drive: though it is released by FastMac and is certainly advertised as "Mac compatible", the drive will work just fine on any Windows machine as well.


    Step 1: Install BootCamp and Windows
    First of all, if you aren't already using BootCamp to dual-boot Windows XP or Vista on your Mac, you'll need to do so. Running Windows within VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop will not work for Blu-ray playback. Full directions for installing BootCamp and a Windows can be found here. Be sure to follow all the directions completely, including installing the BootCamp drivers following the Windows installation.

    Tips on running Windows under BootCamp:
    1. If you're on a unibody MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air, update the trackpad firmware and driver using Apple update. Then, disable the "one-finger" options within the Trackpad tab of the BootCamp control panel within Windows. Without doing this, the trackpad in Windows is nearly impossible to use effectively.
    2. Disable Wireless-A support in the network driver under Windows. For whatever reason, the Wireless-A band of the Broadcom wireless networking device causes garbled sound from the Realtek HD audio device for a few seconds every minute or so. To do this, open up the Windows control panel, and open device manage, click the + next to network adapters, and double click the Broadcom device listed there. In the new window that opens, click on the advanced tab, and scroll down to the "disable bands" option. Finally changethe value box to the option "Disable 802.11a". That's it. You'll lose the ability to connect to Wireless-A networks under Windows but your sound will actually play back correctly.
    Step 2: Connect drive and install drivers
    If its not already connected, you can now connect your FastMac (or other brand) BD-ROM drove to the machine or USB hub. Also connect whichever power connection you will be using. Windows will automatically find and install the necessary drivers, and ask you to reboot.

    Reboot your machine and hold the "option" button when the grey boot screen first appears to allow you to choose the OS to boot from. Select Windows and XP or Vista should boot normally.

    Step 4: Install Blu-ray Playback software
    Once you're back into Windows, install PowerDVD Ultra or whichever alternative Blu-ray playback solution you will be using. Although the FastMac drive does not include playback software, many drives do include OEM versions of Blu-ray playback software that you can use within Windows.

    Tip on keeping Aero glass enabled when using PowerDVD 8 (Note: No longer needed on PowerDVD 9):

    • If you are using a Mac with a series 8 or 9 Nvidia graphics chipset, you can also keep Windows Aero Glass enabled on Vista systems when PowerDVD is playing back a Blu-ray disc. This is especially nice if you have a multi-monitor setup. To do this, go to your Start menu, and type "Regedit" (without the quotes) into the search box. Hit enter and the Windows Registry Editor will open. In the left pane, navigate to HKLM\SOFTWARE\Cyberlink\PowerDVD8). In the right pane you'll see a cryptic group of options. Double click "UI_AskAero" and change the Vale Data from 0 to 1, and press OK. Now do the same for "UseNVDWMOn". Restart PowerDVD, and Aero Glass will remain enabled!
    Step 5: Enjoy!
    At this point, you'll have fully functioning Blu-ray playback on your Mac... sadly only within Windows, but still nice. The only issue is that most Macs lack HDCP support, and the newer unibody notebooks that support HDCP don't seem to support it correctly with the Apple mini-DisplayPort to DVI adapter, at least within Windows. This means if you cannot connect a monitor using a digital connection. You can easily use an internal notebook screen or a monitor connected via VGA or an analog video adapter, but if you need to connect via DVI (or HDMI using an adapter) you will need to purchase and install Slysoft's AnyDVD HD software which can bypass the HDCP requirement.

    My experience:
    Using a MacBook Pro (late 2008 unibody) with Intel T9400 processor, 4GB RAM, 512MB Nvidia 9600M, and Vista Business 64-bit, connected to a Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP monitor, I can easily play back Blu-ray movies at full resolution on the external monitor while keeping Aero Glass on and being able to run a number of applications on the notebook's internal display. My CPU meter shows a minor workload (25-35% across both cores) while playing back Blu-ray titles (varies by codec) using the new Nvidia notebook drivers.

    Obviously, systems with slower CPUs or GPUs not capable of offloading as much of the playback work may not perform as admirably, but, having to boot into Windows aside, the experience is as good as can be expected from playing back Blu-ray movies on a computer.

    Anyway, I hope this helps others who can't wait on Apple or a third party developer to (hopefully soon -- SL?) bring full Blu-ray playback to OS X.
  2. MVApple macrumors 6502a

    Jul 18, 2008
    Hey Jaded, thank you very much for putting up this guide. I actually already know all of this because I looked into it but I would have found this very useful a few months back. I know several people will search for this and find it useful in the future.

    As far as HDCP, I heard that Nvidia released drivers for laptops. If I'm not mistaken, HDCP first needs to happen with a physical chip on the GPU. Does not Apple use the same exact chips as other manufacturers? Meaning that the macbooks are physically able to do HDCP but is shut off through software?

    Is is possible then to activate HDCP by using other graphic card drivers? The slysoft is an interesting solution, but it's quite pricy at $130 USD.
  3. JadedRaverLA thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 27, 2008
    No problem... glad to be of help to anyone interested.

    As for HDCP, it "should" work. The latest machines (starting with the late 08 notebooks) officially support HDCP, but for whatever reason using the DVI dongle within Windows, the system fails PowerDVD HDCP authentication.

    It would be interesting to see if the new 24" LED CDs that connect directly through mini-DP pass HDCP authentication within Windows. That would help in trying to figure out the cause of the problem. There's just so many things that can go wrong within the HDCP chain that it's difficult to isolate. It could be a hardware issue (DVI dongle unable to pass HDCP), a video card driver issue, a handshake issue with my particular monitor, or a bug within the PowerDVD program.

    Definitely the Slysoft solution is expensive, and not ideal (over $200 just in software to get AnyDVD HD and PowertDVD Ultra). It was worth it for me... it wouldn't be to most people though. If you have a non-Apple monitor that has a VGA input, that would be the FAR better solution for now as analog signals don't require HDCP for playback. For those who DO have an ACD, though, the situation isn't good. The 20", 23", and 30" ACDs do not support HDCP, so even if the issue was resolved on the system, you would still need AnyDVD HD.

    Apple is right... Blu-ray is a "bag of hurt"... on their machines. ;) If/when they finally add playback support to OS X, I think there's going to be a huge backlash from their users who find out that their systems and monitors simply aren't compatible.
  4. MVApple macrumors 6502a

    Jul 18, 2008
    Hey jaded,

    Lots of good information there. I didn't know HDCP was so complicated. I really thought that either your monitor and video card accept it or not. Now I'm curious if the 24" led cinema display supports HDCP.

    Mostly, I wanted to connect my MBP+USB attached blu-ray to a tv. At this point, I think a stand alone player would be the best way to go for the tv. I'm still interested in buying Power DVD though. Do you by any chance know if Power DVD is going to release a new software release anytime soon? I'd hate to buy version 9 and have version 10 come out 2 months later.

    Another question, do you know if you can get the benefits of TrueHD over a nice pair of headphones through a MBP?

    And you bring up an excellent point about blu-ray not working for many people, or would it? For example, the older macbook pro's, did they simply have the HDCP disabled or was it not in the MBP at all? My understanding is that HDCP is a physical chip, but I may be wrong.

    I can definately see a lot of people being mad over this. Heck, the 15" MBP now has an option for a slightly faster processor and people are getting mad its too soon to update.
  5. JadedRaverLA thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 27, 2008
    HDCP is a disaster. Most high-end installers connected everything via component video cables for a number of years after HDMI came out just to avoid all the various handshaking issues presented by HDCP. Unfortunately, we're stuck with it, and things in the home theatre realm have gotten better, but on computers its still a mess. You need a graphics card and monitor that are compatible, plus you video card drivers and your software player have to be compatible.

    Dealing with Blu-ray on PCs has been awful over the last couple of years. Even when everything "should" work, a graphics driver update or a PowerDVD update quite often suddenly killed previously working systems.

    A standalone player (or a PS3) is definitely a FAR simpler solution, and tends to present far fewer issues. Once you're invested in Blu-ray, however, you tend to want to be able to watch those discs you OWN on all your equipment. For example, my main reason for getting the hardware and software to play Blu-ray on my MBP, is for when I'm traveling. And, for that, this solution works well enough.

    And you bring up an excellent point about blu-ray not working for many people, or would it? For example, the older macbook pro's, did they simply have the HDCP disabled or was it not in the MBP at all? My understanding is that HDCP is a physical chip, but I may be wrong.

    As for the "benefits" of TrueHD over headphones... in theory, yes you can get lossless (albeit only 2-channel) audio over headphones, but I doubt you could hear the benefit in 2-channel mode on most movies -- unless you have some insanely great headphones.

    A certain percentage of people will always be upset. I guess that can't be avoided. But, Blu-ray's restrictions necessitating HDCP over digital connections will likely anger the majority of Apple consumers -- and with good reason. Adding HDCP support to the older line of ACDs would have been a truly trivial cost (and one which all other manufacturers were paying). The fact that Apple just ignored the need for so long is pretty disappointing.
  6. MVApple macrumors 6502a

    Jul 18, 2008
    Jaded thanks again for your response. Have you converted any of your movies to another format yet? I have a second computer that I've been using to convert movies to a matroska container, but it does require work. I've been using boxee to play them back and once they are on my computer it's nice to view them, especially when sometimes I just want to watch a few scenes of my favorite movie.

    On a side note, I haven't seen any mini-display to component adapters. I wonder if we will see this? I wonder if such an adapter came out if we could then output to 1080p and skip HDCP. The only negative I can think of is that you couldn't get HD audio this way, but then again, on the MBP's there is no way to get HD audio anyway.


    In regards to the new 24" LED cinema display, I found this

    Basically, the answer is yes, the mini-display port and and the new cinema display both support HDCP. So you can watch blu-ray movies on that nice cinema display in windows.
  7. JadedRaverLA thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 27, 2008
    I've played around with it a bit under Windows. It's so much work, though, that it just seems easier to reboot into Windows and play the Blu-ray disc natively. I have over 200 Blu-rays, though, and definitely don't have the space to store all those backups on my MBP, so I can see how others might find the idea appealing, but it doesn't really work for me.

    My understanding of the DP spec is that you can send out analog signals in VGA format only... so you would essentially need a mini-DP-to-VGA adapter, and then a VGA-to-component signal converter. You could conceivably combine those two devices into one cable/adapter, but it wouldn't be a "simple" adapter, and likely would cost considerably more than the existing Apple cable adapters. :mad: Also, if anyone ever decides to use the ICT (image constraint token) on Blu-ray movies (supposedly not going to happen till 2011/2012), you would be limited to 1/4 resolution using ANY analog output.

    And, yeah, obviously you couldn't get any of the lossless audio formats this way, but given the design of the MBP (and other Apple machines) you can't get that anyway, so not a deal-breaker.

    Personally, I just want a simple mini-DP to DP adapter. I use a Dell 2408WFP monitor that has a DP input, and I'm hoping that not having a DVI conversion in the chain would solve my HDCP issues -- and remove that ugly adapter from my desktop. AnyDVD HD works for now, but assuming an OS X playback solution comes out at some point, I'd MUCH rather be able to playback movies without rebooting into Windows.
  8. Beam42 macrumors newbie

    Mar 9, 2009
    I'm an Ozy.

  9. MVApple macrumors 6502a

    Jul 18, 2008
    Bless your heart jaded. The first time I skipped through your post and I completely missed your tip on the garbled sound in windows. This has been one of my biggest pet peeves when booting into bootcamp.

    I searched the internet and the ony solution I found was to completely turn off wireless and lose internet access or when playing a game use vista anti-lag. Vista anti-lag seemed to work in games but no where else.

    Anyways, no more garbled sound and I have internet! Finally.

    I'm curious, when did you come across this fix? I didn't find it a few months ago when I was searching for a solution.

    On a side note, when I downloaded the new software for the trackpad it gave me nothing but grief. Basically what happened was that everytime I tried to play team fortress my computer would crash. Other people were having the same problem. I'm almost afraid to even install it though, but do you think enabling one finger as you said would keep the computer from crashing?
  10. JadedRaverLA thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 27, 2008
    Thanks. And I love the phrase "neurotic proprietary stubbornness" -- quite apt.

    I'm not entirely sure where I found that trick, but I remember it took awhile back when I was putting the guide together.

    I'd tried the Anti-lag solution and it had worked decently well on games, but when I was getting Blu-ray up and running it didn't help at all. Some more looking and I found the tip that disabling wireless entirely solved the issue, and I believe one of the commenters on that solution mentioned that simply disabling Wiress-A band worked for them. I wish I'd bookmarked wherever that was, as that is a great tip -- and whoever figured it out really deserves the praise.

    I doubt it. The trackpad issues within Windows REALLY need to be addressed by Apple. Mine was essentially non-functional before the update, and only marginally functional (using the settings I posted) after. Others, of course, had their trackpads rendered nearly useless BY the update. It's a lose/lose. But, if the updated driver is causing the crashes within Team Fortress then I can't imagine that setting fixing it. Better to just avoid the update until a truly working driver comes along (hopefully in the new BootCamp 3.0 that will ship with Snow Leopard).

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