Ask the iTunes Guy: Questions about video

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[Ask the iTunes Guy is a regular column in which we answer your questions on everything iTunes related. If there’s something you’d like to know, send an email to the iTunes Guy for consideration.]

Most of the Ask the iTunes Guy columns so far have covered music, and especially the confusing (and somewhat half-baked) iTunes Match. But iTunes handles more than just music: it manages ebooks, audiobooks, apps, and various types of videos. It’s time to dedicate a column to some of the many questions we’ve received about videos: movies, TV shows, and music videos.

Q: When I look at some TV series in the iTunes Store, I see that some shows say “HD: Includes 720p, 1080p.” How do I choose which version to download?

Some shows in HD give you the two options. You may want 1080p shows if you’re going to watch them on your TV set via the third-generation Apple TV ( ), but if have an older Apple TV or you want to sync videos to a non-retina iPad, say, you may want to get the 720p versions.

You can choose which versions to download in iTunes’ preferences. Choose iTunes -> Preferences, then click on the Store icon. Then choose one of the two options from the When Downloading High Definition Videos, Prefer pop-up menu. You may want to set the default at 1080p, but then only change it if you download something new specifically for a device that can’t handle that resolution. Or if you only sync to a device that only handles 720p—or you don’t want to use up the extra space for 1080p—set it to 720p.

This option lets you choose which resolution video files to download.

Q: I’ve got lots of DVDs that I’d like to add to my iTunes library. How do I go about doing this?

First off, the caveat: The MPAA and most media companies argue that you can’t legally copy or convert commercial DVDs for any reason. We (and others) think that, if you own a DVD, you should be able to override its copy protection to make a backup copy or to convert its content for viewing on other devices. Currently, the law isn’t entirely clear one way or the other. So our advice is: If you don’t own it, don’t do it. If you do own it, think before you rip.

Now, back to the question. DVD-ripping is too long to deal with in this column, but it’s a very common question we get, and Macworld has covered the topic many times. The easiest software to use is the free HandBrake. I recommend you read How to rip a DVD with HandBrake and (more recently) Create custom presets in HandBrake, both by executive editor Jonathan Seff.

Q: When I add videos to my iTunes library, they always end up in the Movies library in the iTunes source list. How can I make some of them go into TV Shows?

When you add a video that you’ve ripped from one of your DVDs to your iTunes library, for example, the software automatically sets its kind to Movie. You can change this by selecting the file, pressing Command-I, and clicking the Options tab. From the Media Kind pop-up menu, select either TV Show or Music Video, as appropriate.

The Media Kind menu lets you choose where your videos get filed in your iTunes library.

If you’re planning to rip an entire TV season from your DVD collection, you should consider a tagging utility that can look up information such as show name, episode titles, episode number, season number, and so on, and then add it to your files and change their media kind as well before adding them to iTunes. There are many such apps (which can also transcode video from one format to another), but Chris Marrin’s free Video Monkey ( ) and Jendrik Bertram’s $20 iFlicks are some good choices.

Movies stay in your Movies library, and TV shows in the TV Shows library, both of which are available from the iTunes Source list. Music Videos, however, are a bit different. They get filed in your Music library, together with other content from their artists. So if you rip music videos, make sure you fill in the Artist and Album tags so you can find them easily.

Q: Is there any way to create a Music Videos library?

No, the only thing I can suggest is that you create a smart playlist where Media Kind Is Music Video. As long as your music videos are tagged correctly (as explained above), they’ll all be grouped there.

Q: I recently tried to stream a movie from Apple to my new Apple TV, and the movie started streaming, but it took a long time before it was ready to view. We ended up going to bed because, when it was ready to watch, it was too late. Are there any tricks to know about getting videos faster on an Apple TV?

There are a couple of variables. First, your Internet connection may not be fast enough to stream and start watching right away. If that’s the case, you should start downloading a movie in the afternoon to make sure you can watch the whole movie in the evening.

Another problem I’ve encountered is that, at times, files just don’t get through the tubes quickly. When this happens with a rental, I go to the Settings section of the Apple TV interface, then the iTunes Store menu, and select Stop Loading. I then relaunch the download (by selecting Check For Rentals), and it often comes more quickly.

Also make sure your bandwidth isn’t being used for other things, like downloading large software updates.

As a last resort, you can try and reboot your modem and/or router to see if that improves the speed.

[Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about Macs, music, and more on his blog Kirkville. Twitter: @mcelhearn Kirk is the author of Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ.]

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