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Friday, January 11, 2008

Putting video on an iPod (if you're a Windows user)

Late last night I succeeded in finally putting every episode of Lost on my new iPod. And I didn't buy them through iTunes and load 'em on the iPod either: instead I chose to rip them straight from my DVD sets.

This took a lot of work. And when I was starting it off with Season 3, I wound up encoding most of those episodes, then found a much better way to do it and so I started the whole process all over again. But in the end, they were all done (and I might buy the Season 4 episodes over iTunes to add them to my iPod's inventory starting next month when Lost returns).

So how'd I do it, on a computer running Windows Vista? The first thing I did was use HandBrake, which is a free program for most platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux) that converts DVDs into iPod-portable MP4 files. You install HandBrake, load a DVD into it, and from there you can pick which individual episodes (or a single movie) you want to encode. If there are multiple episodes on a single DVD, you can batch encode each episode in a single session. I used the "iPod Low-Rez" preset, with Auto Crop and 2-Pass Encoding unchecked in the Video Settings menu, and the Lost episodes came out looking great!

HandBrake does have its problems though, and maybe it's just the fact that I'm doing this on my new Vista machine: every time I want to encode a new DVD, I have to actually re-install HandBrake. Otherwise it just keeps using the profile of the previous DVD for the new one (meaning you'll probably miss stuff getting encoded). But if you don't mind this minor hassle and want a free iPod video encoder that does a fantastic job, HandBrake is the way to go.

(But you'll also want to install AnyDVD - at least if you're using a Windows system - and have it running in the background. This is a codec that decrypts the DVD on the fly. Otherwise, HandBrake won't be able to do anything on most DVDs.)

After the episodes are ripped from the DVD and converted to MP4 files, you need to edit the metadata so that you can have them nicely organized on your iPod. There are many programs for Mac that do this admirably (Lostify seems to be among the best that I found) but if you're using Windows, there is an amazing dearth of metadata-editing utilities. The best one for Windows that I've found (so far) is Tagger. It lets you change just about everything on the metadata for your video files, including importing artwork. But if you use Tagger (and probably any other metadata software) to organize your episodic TV series, make sure that the Release Date field is in yyyy-mm-dd format, especially if these are files destined for loading on a newer iPod. Otherwise your episodes will probably be in reverse order or in no order at all (the Lost episodes from Season 3 were reversed when I first put them on my iPod, and unfortunately you can't edit the Release Date from iTunes: you need to use an external meta editor to fix this manually).

After doing all of this, it's just a matter of adding the episodes to your iTunes library, and then sending them to your iPod. So now I can watch Lost wherever I happen to be. Pretty cool, eh? :-)


Lee Shelton said...

Cool! But just how much time do you have on your hands? ;)

Chris Knight said...

That's the thing: I don't have nearly enough time. And yet I go to the effort to put all the Lost eps on an iPod in case I *do* have time?? Guess it's just the "geek" in me that drove me to do this :-P

Anonymous said...

One of the better windows apps to get you through that metadata nightmare, especially for TV shows is VideoTag at www.textzombie.com/videotag
It did a great job on my tv shows.