If you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, watching video can be a challenge. Sure, it’s easy if you purchase all your TV shows and movies through iTunes or stream them with Netflix, but what about all your other movies and TV shows? The ones you’ve ripped, recorded via an Elgato EyeTV device, or obtained through, um, other means?
DVD rippers like Handbrake can convert your DVDs to an iTunes-friendly MP4 file, but it isn’t always a sure bet. Movies I’ve ripped in Handbrake don’t always work perfectly on all my devices. They might play fine on my Apple TV but be choppy on my Mac, or vice versa. And even if they do work smoothly, what about the cover art and metadata? There’s little worse than staring at an iTunes window full of missing cover art. Subler is a popular metadata editor, but it can be a bear to use and has known issues with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Who wants to go through so much trouble just to watch a movie?
That’s where iFlicks ($19.99) comes in. Simply drag and drop your movies and TV shows into iFlicks and it does the rest, wrapping them in an Apple-friendly format, automatically pulling in art and metadata, and importing the videos into iTunes. You can add several at once, which is handy if you’re digitizing your entire library.
I’ve been using iFlicks for months, and it’s nearly flawless. For any video encoded in H.264, which is the Apple-preferred video codec, conversion is fast and simple, taking only a couple of minutes even for high-definition videos. Most MKV and FLV video files, as well as most Handbrake-ripped discs, are encoded this way. For these, I use the default “iTunes compatible” preset, which doesn’t alter the video quality, instead merely wrapping the content in an Apple-friendly format.
For videos not encoded in H.264, like many AVI files, the process can take longer. For these, I often have to use the Universal preset, which uses the Perian QuickTime plug-in to re-encode the video to the standard definition resolution of 720 x 576 (Perian is no longer being updated, but an iFlicks update is due soon to remove its necessity — see “QuickTime Format Extender Perian to Cease Development,” 16 May 2012.) Fortunately, high-definition videos not encoded in H.264 are few and far between.
A tricky aspect of video conversion is subtitled content, but iFlicks has no problem handling subtitles. If you have a subtitle file (they usually have a .srt file extension) in the same directory as the video, iFlicks adds it automatically. You can then enable subtitles in the video as usual: in iTunes, you can click the word bubble while watching a video, and on the Apple TV, by holding the center button on the remote while watching a video.
How does iFlicks recognize your video? Automatically, based on the video’s file name, and it does a terrific job of finding the right metadata. iFlicks uses themovidedb.org and TheTVDB.com for its information. I dropped a brand-new episode of a TV show into iFlicks, and it automatically recognized the episode and even pulled in the cover art for the current season. If iFlicks doesn’t get it quite right, it allows you to edit the metadata manually by double clicking on the video in the main window.
But what if your video is already in iTunes? No problem, iFlicks comes with a Services menu accessible from within iTunes. You can either update the existing metadata or re-encode problematic videos without leaving iTunes.
iFlicks is the easiest method I’ve found to create iTunes-friendly video files. It takes the headache out of digitizing your video collection, and even makes your collection beautiful to look at. iFlicks is worth every bit of its $19.99 price, though it has gone on sale for as low as $2. If you want to organize your movie collection in iTunes, iFlicks is a must have.
Unless otherwise noted, this article is copyright © 2013 TidBITS Publishing, Inc.Published in TidBITS on 2013-01-10.
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