Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Filling your iPod with Video


So you bought an iPod with video and are getting tired of buying $2 shows off of iTunes. You want to move some of your videos from VHS or the internet to your iPod for viewing? Well look no further. Here is a little post on how you can fill up those 30 or 60 gigabytes with whatever you like (within reason).


Before I begin, make sure that all video that you copy for your iPod is legal for you to be copying and that your use of it falls under fair usage. It is in your best interest to not share any video that you have converted that you did not create or that you do not have explicit permission to distribute from the original creator of the content.
There are several sources for video content that you can tap into.

from iTunes

Of course you can buy premium video from iTunes, but there are an increasing number of video podcasts that might be interesting to you and the nice part is that podcasts are free!

from Google Video

Google is amassing quite a collection of video on their site http://video.google.com. Now there are 2 types of videos on their site, free and premium. When you pull up a video, you will see a price if it is premium. If it is not, it should have a download button. Now I have noticed that not all videos have a iPod video choice for download, but a lot of them do. So all you need to do is select download for iPod video and press download. Then save it to your hard drive, then import the file into iTunes and sync it to your iPod. You can do this in a couple ways: Drag it from a folder into an iTunes playlist or go to the File menu and choose Add File (or Folder) to Library. This is the process to add any video to iTunes. But make sure the video is in iPod compatible format or you wont be able to sync it to your iPod.

from VHS

So you have a video on VHS and you want to transfer it to your iPod. You will need a little bit of hardware to make this work. You will need the following
  • A VCR
  • RCA Cables
  • A Capture Device
So you probably have the vcr and the cables, but what is a capture device? Well it is something that can take the analog signal from your VCR (coming over the RCA cables) and convert it to a digial format. I use my Sony Handycam DV camera for this task. I plug the av cables into the output of my VCR and then hook it up to my computer via firewire. Other devices that work are like this which take an analog signal and convert it to firewire. You can then capture the video using Windows movie maker or whatever software came with your device. After it is captured, edit it if need be and save it to your computer. It is at this point that it is ready to be converted to iPod format (unless your video software has an iPod setting, which mine does not). iPod video is a form of mpeg4, so your iPod will not play any wmv or avi files that windows movie maker spits out. See the section "Other Online Videos" below for how to transcode your movie files into something iPod friendly.

A note about Macrovision:
Macrovision is a technology that protects video content. If you are trying to capture a copyrighted movie from VHS, you will probably see it get really dark then light. This is copy protection. This probably means you are copying something that you shouldn't be copying.

from DVD

I am not going to tell you how to rip a DVD and put it on a iPod since one step in the process (the actual ripping part) has to decrypt the DVD. Decrypting the DVD is a violation of the Digital Mellenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and therefore not something I would recommend. Although there is good news on the horizon that Apple has been in talks with movie studios about including iPod versions of movies on Blu-ray discs when they become available. So you may get your movie on the iPod fix legally...eventually.

Other Online Videos

There is lots of video on the web, and it is in lots of different formats. avi, wmv, mov, mpg, etc. How can you take one and make it play on your iPod? Well there is a great little program called Videora iPod Converter that does just that. It takes the movie file (it handles many formats) and 'transcodes' it to iPod format, ready to be imported into iTunes and synced with your iPod. This is what you will need to do to any videos that you capture or create on your computer as well, since it is likely that they will be in a non mpeg4 format such as wmv.

If you know of other places to get quality content that is easily converted to iPod format, please let me know. Leave a comment here and share with others how to fill up their favorite little media device!

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