When the video-capable fifth-generation iPod first shipped last year, Apple’s iTunes disappointed many users by lacking built-in tools to convert their existing videos to iPod-ready format. During those months, a handful of third-party solutions were required to encode video content for the iPod. We’ve covered several of them here for the Mac, but they’ve just become largely unnecessary for the casual user.

Why? Well, it’s not often that a small point revision to iTunes brings major new features, but iTunes 6.0.2 is an exception. It now handles video conversion to an iPod-compatible format, giving iPod owners access to the power of a key QuickTime Pro feature without the $29 cost.

As is typical for Apple, the added features are so subtly integrated that they may be difficult for some users to find. iLounge is here to help in this mini-tutorial.

Converting Video Clips with iTunes 6.0.2

iTunes 6.0.2 can make iPod-ready files from most QuickTime-compatible video formats, including MOV, MPEG, and MP4. The files are automatically converted to H.264-format video 320 pixels wide, and this setting cannot be customized within iTunes. To determine whether or not this is a satisfactory format choice for your usage habits, read our video formats tutorial here. Suffice to say that it’s perfectly good for iPod viewing, but on-TV or on-Mac/PC viewing is another story.

If you haven’t already, begin by adding your MOV, MPEG, or MP4 files to your iTunes Library either by using the “File → Add to Library…” menu item or by simply dragging them into your main iTunes Library window.

Then, highlight any videos you would like to convert. Multiple items can be selected at once by holding down “Shift” or “Control” (Mac: “Command”) while clicking on multiple items. Shift will select all files between two clicks, and Control/Command will select discrete individual items.

Then, right-click (Mac: Control-click) on one of the items you’ve selected, and select “Convert Selection for iPod.”

iTunes Right Click to Convert

Instantly, iTunes will begin work on your files. You can monitor its progress in two locations. First, the iTunes header will display the conversion progress through a single file:

 

iTunes Converting Status in Header

To see how far through your multiple-file selection iTunes has progressed, monitor the list made available under the “Converting Songs…” item that has appeared in your “Source” column:

 

iTunes Converting Status in Sidebar

When the conversion is complete, you will now have two files identically named, one of which is your original, and one of which is the new iPod-compatible version. How does one determine which file to delete? The new file may be either larger or smaller in size than the original, so don’t use this criteria. However, the “Kind” column for the new file will display “MPEG-4 video file,” and its “Date Added” will be more recent than the original. Remove the older file from your library.

What, technically, differentiates the files we’ve created? The easiest way to tell is to open them with QuickTime and view the video’s specifications:

 

Quicktime Pre-Conversion Info Window
Pre-Conversion

Quicktime Post-Conversion Info Window
Post-Conversion

What’s left to do? Simply synchronize your iPod and enjoy your video clips! If you have any problems converting video files, Apple has posted a test file with instructions here. Need help converting files with higher-quality settings? Use our previous tutorial instead. DVD conversion is discussed separately here.