Music videos and older iPods

There’s some confusion surrounding what you can and can’t do with music videos purchased from the iTunes Store. Need proof? Try this message from reader Greg Lewis:

I just bought Matchbox Twenty’s “How Far We’ve Come” as a music video from the iTunes Store. Will I be able to play it on my first-generation iPod nano? I know the video part won’t play, but will it transfer just the audio? Or can I convert the MPEG4 to a MP3 or AAC file?

Answers in order:

No.

No.

Well, yesss….

Let’s review what's possible with music videos and iPods.

If you have an iPod that doesn’t support video—such as the first- and second-generation iPod nano—you can’t copy a music video to it. The iPod will simply reject the video. This is true for both protected and unprotected (iTunes Plus) videos.

If you have an iPod that does support video, you can obviously copy these videos to the iPod. Once on the iPod you can enjoy it (or not, I suppose) in two ways. From the iPod’s main screen you can select Videos, press Center, choose Music videos, press Center, and there are your music videos. Choose one and press Center and the video and music play.

You can also play just the audio from the video. To do so, select Music in the iPod’s main screen, navigate to the video in a way that’s convenient for you (via Artists or Songs, for example), select the video, and press Center. A music Play screen appears and you’ll hear the video’s soundtrack but the video won’t show. Only videos that are tagged as Music Videos in iTunes are treated this way. If you’ve purchased a TV show or movie, you can’t use this music avenue to listen to its soundtrack.

Back to your particular issue. I threw a few extra s’s in there because there are ways to get that audio onto your iPod, but they’re clumsy at best. If you purchase a music video in iTunes Plus format (the video you cite isn’t in this format), you can strip the audio track from it and convert it to a form compatible with your iPod. I do this with QuickTime Pro thusly:

Open the video in QuickTime Pro, choose File -> Export, and in the resulting Save Exported File As dialog box, choose Sound to AIFF from the Export pop-up menu. The video’s soundtrack will be saved as a separate audio file that you can then import into iTunes and copy to your iPod. (You’re welcome to convert it from AIFF to something smaller—an AAC file, for example—as the file isn’t protected.)

For protected videos you’ll need to go the capture route. And by that I mean you’ll use a utility that is able to capture the audio coming from your Mac’s internal sound system. You can do this sort of thing with Rogue Amoeba’s $32 Audio Hijack Pro or Ambrosia Software’s $69 WireTap Studio. If you have Roxio’s $100 Toast Titanium 9, you can use its CD Spin Doctor to capture the Mac’s internal audio.

Once you’ve captured the audio as a separate file, bring it into iTunes and copy it to your iPod. Again, this is clumsy and I can’t think of a case where I wouldn’t just lay down 99-cents for the audio-only version of the song from the iTunes Store.

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