The Complete Guide to iPod, iPhone and Apple TV Video Conversion (Windows)
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The final type of content that many people will be converting involves home video content, either from a digital camcorder or older analog video tape.
DVD Home Movies
Naturally, if your home movies are on DVD, the conversion process for these is essentially the same as the process for commercial DVDs discussed at the beginning of this article. Tools such as Handbrake or Roxio Crunch can be useful at extracting this DVD content into a more usable format. While your own home movie DVDs will not likely be protected by CSS encryption, the normal layout of a DVD may make specific VOB files difficult to locate on the DVD, and longer content may even be split up into separate VOB files. Handbrake and MacTheRipper can both sort this out by ripping content based on title and chapter, saving you the trouble of having to wander through your VIDEO_TS folder for the right VOB file.
Digital Camcorder Home Movies
For converting movies from your digital camcorder, Windows Movie Maker is still the simplest tool. It comes bundled with Windows XP, and provides support for a wide variety of FireWire and even some USB digital camcorders.
Windows Movie Maker allows enough video editing capabilities for anybody looking to convert and edit home movies. Once the movie is edited and ready to be saved, simply select the “Save Movie” option from the “File” menu, and choose “My Computer” as the movie location.
The only significant limitation is its lack of output formats. As a Microsoft tool, almost all of its output formats use the Windows Media Video (WMV) codec, which is not directly compatible with the iPod or iTunes:
While the resulting WMV files can be passed to another conversion tool, it generally does not make much sense to compress the video to WMV and then convert it to another format due the nature of lossy compression. Fortunately, Windows Movie Maker does offer a raw uncompressed DV-AVI output setting. This will generally produce the best quality source for further conversion operations, although it will take up significantly more disk space:
The resulting AVI file can then be converted into an Apple-ready format using any of the conversion tools that we have previously discussed.
It should also be noted that some newer digital camcorders, particularly models that use internal hard drives or DVD media, actually now store videos in MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 format directly. When converting videos from these formats, the standalone conversion tools discussed earlier can easily be used in lieu of Windows Movie Maker, unless the advanced video editing features of Movie Maker are also desired.
VHS Home Movies
For older VHS video tapes, the conversion process will generally require a video capture device to digitize the analog signal from your VCR into your PC. There are numerous video capture cards and other devices that can be used for this purpose, and many FireWire-based digital camcorders can even be used as a bridge device simply by connecting the VCR output into the camcorder input, and then connecting the camcorder, via FireWire, into the PC.
Although many Windows-based tools exist for the conversion of captured video into MPEG-2, AVI, and other formats, at this time, there are not any notable Windows-based conversion tools for taking captured content directly into an Apple-ready format. As a result, the simplest way to do this is to use a video capture card and its related software to convert the video into a format such as DV-AVI, and then pass it to another conversion tool.
Windows Movie Maker, described above, can also be used for this task, using either a FireWire video camera as a bridge, or a dedicated video capture device.
Getting it all sorted out
Once your videos are converted and imported into your iTunes library, the next step is to tag and catalog them. This is particularly important for TV shows, which also require fields such as show name and other episode information to be completed before they will properly display in the “TV Shows” section on the iPod or Apple TV.
Our Complete Guide to Managing iTunes Videos provides detail on the best way to get your video content tagged, sorted, and synchronized properly to your portable device or Apple TV.
With Apple’s new line of consumer media devices, the number of options and conversion tools continues to evolve. We have already noticed some very significant changes in the number of products and tools available since the first fifth-generation iPod was released almost two years ago, and the newer devices such as the iPhone and Apple TV have created additional challenges for third-party software developers to keep up with the different resolutions and encoding formats that are now available.
This article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to every single possible tool available, but simply to provide some information on the more popular tools that are used for the various types of content and video conversion projects and provide some guidelines on the methods for obtaining the best results from these.
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