For years, iTunes has provided a complete, one-stop solution for the migration of digital audio from the original media source (CD) to the iPod. In fact, one of Apple’s early slogans for its digital audio software was “Rip. Mix. Burn.,” a succinct catch phrase indicative of the simplicity that iTunes created.
Unfortunately, with the introduction of the fifth-generation iPod – the first that can play back various types of video – Apple doesn’t make it equally easy to prepare iPod-ready content. If you’re accustomed to the elegance of “Rip. Mix. Burn.,” you’ll find that the analogous tag line for the importing of video is more like:
“Find Software. Rip. Wait. Find Software. Encode. Wait. Sleep. Wake Up. Enjoy… Maybe.”
Why? iTunes 6 doesn’t offer video conversion. Instead, you’ll need to find and learn to use software that doesn’t come in the box. Second, video conversion is generally a very time-consuming process, regardless of the software used. In this article, iLounge aims to remedy the former issue, though you’ll likely find that the latter issue will remain until you buy a new computer or piece of hardware optimized for video encoding.
Editor’s Note 1-17-06: The recently-released iTunes 6.0.2 does include video conversion to iPod format, rendering this article much less relevant for most casual users. However, this article remains authoritative and useful for users desiring more control over the video formats used. Read in detail about iTunes 6.0.2’s video conversion features here.
Today, iLounge has launched three tutorials to help you convert your videos to an iPod-viewable format. This piece deals with conversion of video files already on your computer. Another piece discusses conversion of DVDs – ones you are legally entitled to rip. And the last piece looks at the technicalities of the iPod’s video capabilities to help you make educated choices when you’re ready to convert videos or DVDs. It’s easy to just pick the iPod’s native 320×240 resolution and either H.264 or MPEG-4 encoding, but this last tutorial will explain why you might not want to do this. A separate article on PC video encoding and more will go up shortly.
Converting Existing Digital Video Files:
If we had published this tutorial immediately after the release of the iPod, we would not have been happy with what we had to say. At the time, very few pieces of video conversion software were available, and the most prominent – Apple’s own QuickTime Pro 7 ($29) – was extraordinarily slow at converting video, and significantly more expensive than we would have preferred.
Today, we have many more options to discuss, which happen to be cheaper, faster, more versatile, and, in some cases, easier to use than Apple’s QuickTime Pro. Four of them, in fact, are free.
The application icons in the graphic below are clickable links to their respective websites. Each option (save QuickTime Pro) is available for download and at least some period of trial use. If you don’t want to go with our recommended option (Podner), we encourage you to give each program a try, as you may find that one works better than the others for your existing video content, your computer, and your personal preference. Read on for a quick overview of each application’s abilities, and how to use them.