If you own an Apple TV, you're probably frustrated by the fact that most videos you download from various parts of the Web aren't compatible with it. If they were, it would be a mere matter of seconds between the time you finished the download and sat down to watch the video in your lounge room.
There is a way around the hassle of constantly converting videos, though, with a bit of software and trickery. We take you through the steps to automating the conversion process and show you how to fix video metadata in iTunes, which is infamous for not allowing you to change the video kind from movie to TV show or music video if you acquired the media from anywhere but the iTunes Store.
Here's what we'll do:
- Define a download folder for your videos.
- Monitor this folder for new videos and convert them to an Apple TV-friendly format as soon as OS X sees new files in the folder.
- Automate the process of adding the file to iTunes.
- Make sure the original files are thrown out to prevent wasting disk space.
- Change the video type, show name, and add season and episode numbers and titles.
Thanks to Automator, this becomes a really nice and easy process. Automator is probably one of OS X's most underrated applications.
1. Get the QuickTime Compression Library for Automator
When I first discovered Automator after switching to the Mac a few years ago, I was (shamefully) giddy with excitement, which I suppose isn't totally unexpected. I went on a downloading splurge over at Apple's Automator Actions download section and discovered the QuickTime Compression Actions file that would serve me well several years later. You can get it here, and poke around the other files in the section while you're at it.
Install the files so the actions are ready for use.
2. Create a New Automator File
Open Automator and start a blank workflow. Save it somewhere you'll remember.
If you're not familiar with Automator, you should take some time to get to know it so you don't get tripped up during the tutorial by a lack of familiarity. I don't think I've missed anything that'll make it hard for a beginner to follow along, but I always recommend fiddling with the software for a bit just in case!
3. Get Selected Finder Items
Since we'll be saving this as a folder action, the first step needs to be Get Selected Finder Items. You can find this under the Files & Folders menu in the Library pane to the left.
4. Get Folder Contents
The next step is to tell the workflow to grab the contents of the folder (the folder being the selected finder item in the first step). You can find this action under the same Files & Folders menu.
5. Filter Finder Items
Now, we'll need to filter out files that are already in a friendly format. No need to waste time converting files that are already good to go! Under the Files & Folders menu, insert the Filter Finder Items action.
The “Whose:” section specifies the filter. Select “Name Extension” and “Contains” under the first two menus, and then time m4v in the empty text area.
Now click on the “+” button next to the text field, and repeat those last steps, but add mp4 instead of m4v.
6. Compress With QuickTime
Under the Movies menu in the Library pane, select “Compress QuickTime Using Most Recent Settings” and, under “Choose directory for converted files,” select a location for the Apple TV compatible movies.
7. Get Specified Finder Items
Now, from the Files & Folders action menu, insert Get Specified Finder Items into your workflow. In the action pane, click the “Add” button and find the folder you've specified for the converted movies.
Now go and grab Get Folder Contents, the same as in step four, and place it after the Get Specified Finder Items action.
8. Add Any File to iTunes
Under the Movies library menu, add the Add Any File to iTunes action. This will take the contents of the specified folder—your converted files—and throw them into your iTunes Library. You'll need to ensure that iTunes is set up to copy files when they are added to your library so this folder can be safely emptied into the trash later.
9. Create the Drop Box Folder
Create the Drop Box folder you intend to use to put raw, unconverted movies in—if you want you can always add an alias on the desktop or in the dock to make it easy to drop things in.
10. Send the Redundant Files to the Trash
This is obviously optional if you want to keep the videos in their original format for some reason, or keep the converted files that were created before iTunes made copies in its own folders, but I recommend it as a nice and easy way to prevent your hard drive from filling up too quickly.
Add the Get Specified Finder Items and, using the “Add” button, find both your original drop box folder and the converted files folder.
Then add the Get Folder Contents action, just like we did earlier, and finally, throw in Move Finder Items to Trash which is in the Files & Folder menu as well.
11. Save as plug-in
Go to the File menu and select “Save as plug-in.” Give the action a name, and under “Plug-in for,” select Folder Actions. Under Attached to Folder, select your drop box.
12. Set Up QuickTime Conversion Parameters
Since the workflow grabs the last used conversion parameters from QuickTime, before you run this you'll need to go and convert a test file with your desired settings. There is an Apple TV conversion preset, so if you don't want to customize anything to your personal tastes I suggest using this one. If you do convert anything else via QuickTime for other reasons, remember that you'll have to run a test file using Apple TV parameters before converting videos again.
This works fine for me because I only ever convert videos so they can be viewed from the Apple TV, but it may not be very convenient if you work with video from QuickTime frequently.
13. Set Metadata Correctly
So now you have some cleanly converted files in your iTunes library. My biggest pet peeve is seeing these appear under the “Movies” section; I like them to be found under TV Shows, correctly organized by season and episode number, with the correct episode name.
Grab Set Video Kind of Selected from Doug's Applescripts for iTunes, and install it as per the provided instructions. Now, head to iTunes and select a video. If you've imported several episodes of a television show and all episodes are in order and in the same season (say you have episodes 1 through 5 from season 3), you can select them all so that you don't have to set the details one by one.
Now go to the AppleScript menu in iTunes and choose Set Video Kind of Selected. Specify the video as a TV Show under Video Kind, and add the show's name. If you have selected just one video, set its season number and episode number. If you've got multiple episodes, set the season number, then under episode number, type in the number of the first episode in the selection (episode 1 using our example). The script will automatically add the rest of the episode numbers.
Flick down to the TV Shows section of iTunes. Go into the series listing, and right click the first episode, click Get Info and flick over to the Video tab. Here you can add the Episode ID—the name of the episode. The other details should be filled in. If you're really anal about metadata, you can add the episode description as well, which will show up on your Apple TV. Now, you can simply rinse and repeat for the rest of the videos you added.