The word is out that QuickTime 7.1 includes a not-so-obvious new feature—an Export to Apple TV option. Cool, yes? Yesss … but it’s no speed demon.
Like the Export to iPod option that preceded it, this is one slow process. On my 2.66GHz Dual-Core Mac Pro I invoked the option on a 1 hour and 22 minute, 720×432, 1.51GB MPEG-4 movie and QuickTime chewed on it for almost exactly two hours. The resulting .m4v (H.264) file had the same resolution as the original, a slightly lower data rate (2,430kbps versus the original’s 2,574kbps), and a similarly slightly smaller file size (1.42GB as compared to 1.51GB).
A lower-resolution 22 minute, 320×240 TV show fared a bit better, taking just that same 22 minutes to convert via the Apple TV export option. Similar to the movie I tried, the use of H.264 reduced the data rate (from 1,135kbps to 905kbps). The file was also slimmed from 185MB to 147MB (though the conversion from 48kHz audio to 44.1kHz contributed to this slimming).
Beta 5 of Techspansion’s terrific $23.32 Visual Hub video converter, which sports an Apple TV export option, also turned in real-time encoding results with a 320×240 MPEG-4 movie—taking just over two hours to convert a nearly two-hour movie.
Regrettably, Apple doesn’t currently support converting video to the Apple TV standard within iTunes as it does for converting video to an iPod-compatible standard. (What, you haven’t seen that option? Just select an unprotected video and choose Advanced: Convert Selection for iPod. If the video is already iPod-compatible, iTunes will tell you so. Otherwise, it will attempt to convert it.)
Granted, iTunes would likely use the same engine as QuickTime Player Pro to do the job so I wouldn’t look for any speed gains, but having in-iTunes conversion offers a couple of distinct advantages. The first is that you needn’t pay $30 for the Pro version of QuickTime, which allows you to use the export feature. And the other is that you can manage your movies completely within a single application. If Apple TV is going to be configured within iTunes, it only makes sense that converting movies for it should be too.