converting video to iPod format

 the following method can be used to convert most types of video files into iPod compatible video.  this isn’t the only way – there are many programs out there that do the same job; some may be better, some worse.  i chose this method because i already use VLC Media Player – it is probably the best free video player available because it plays virtually all file types.  there is a great thread at iLounge that lists many other applications and methods for ripping and converting various types of video on Mac and PC.  in fact, the method outlined below is based on the instructions i found in that thread which were for an outdated version of VLC Media Player, and the iPod video specifications at the bottom of the page were also sourced from the same thread – credit and much thanks to the original posters.

the thread can be found here.

download VLC Media Player here.

Converting Mac formats (.mov, .m4v, .mp4) for iPod: 

1.  open iTunes.  from the ‘File’ menu, choose ‘Add File to Library…’ and add the video to your library.  if it is a Mac file, it should show up, and will have a video icon beside the title.

2.  right-click on the video in your library, and choose ‘Convert Selection for iPod’ from the dropdown menu.  it will now say ‘Converting Songs…’ in the source list.  this may take a few minutes.

3.  when it’s finished, a new copy of the video will appear in your playlist that will be in .m4v format.  the new file will be stored in your iTunes Music folder or wherever you have instructed it to put newly converted files in your ‘Preferences’.  you can check the location by right-clicking on the file in your library and choosing ‘Get Info’ from the dropdown menu.  it will tell you the file’s location at the bottom of the ‘Summary’ tab.  you can now delete the old file from your library (and from your computer, if you wish).

4.  drag the video from the library onto your iPod in the ‘Source’ list on the left, just like you would with any other music file (if your iPod doesn’t automatically update with your library, that is). 

Converting Windows and other formats (.avi, .wmv, .mpg, .mpeg, .flv etc):

1.  open VLC Media Player.

2.  from the ‘File’ menu, choose ‘Open File…’.  (don’t select the first option, ‘Quick Open File…’).

3.  click ‘Browse’ and select the video you want to convert to iPod format.  double-clicking on the file or clicking ‘Open’ will close that window and return you to the previous one.  you’ll notice that the selected video will now appear in the ‘Open’ box.

4.  under ‘Advanced options’, tick [check] the box next to ‘Stream/Save’ and click the ‘Settings…’ button.

5.  a new window will open.  under ‘Outputs’, put a tick in the box next to ‘File’ and click ‘Browse’.  you have to decide where to save your finished file.  by default, it will show you the same location as the original file.  you can save it there, or browse to a new location.  type a new ‘File name’ into the box and make sure you add .mov at the end so your computer will identify the file as a Quicktime movie.  then click ‘Save’.  you’ll return to the previous window, and the new target file name will be in the appropriate box.

6.  under ‘Encapsulation method’, choose ‘MOV’.

7.  under ‘Transcoding options’, tick the box next to ‘Video codec’ and choose ‘h264’ from the pulldown menu.  choose a ‘Bitrate’ from the pulldown menu not exceeding 768.  the higher the bitrate, the better quality the final video will be.  most videos are encoded at 512. 

8.  next to this is a pulldown menu where you can adjust the ‘Scale’ of the conversion.  if the original video has a large resolution, you may want to scale it down to a smaller size before you convert it.  choosing ‘0.5’ is a safe option if the video is large, otherwise leave it at ‘1’ – remember, an iPod screen isn’t very big, so the resolution doesn’t have to be too great.

9.  tick the box next to ‘Audio codec’ and choose ‘mp4a’ from the pulldown menu.  choose ‘128’ from the ‘Bitrate’ pulldown menu.

10.  click ‘OK’ to close that window, and return to the previous one.

11.  click ‘OK’ again to close that window, and return to the main VLC Media Player.  it will automatically start “playing” your file, but no sound or video will play.  let it play through entirely, and avoid using your computer too much in the meantime in case it affects the encoding process.  the time this takes varies, and can take up to twice as long as the duration of the original video.

12.  when it stops, you can close VLC, and find the completed file on your computer.  play it through to make sure it encoded properly.

the only problem with using VLC is that it’s hard to adjust the resolution accurately when converting videos.  there is only the pulldown ‘Scale’ menu discussed in point 8 where you can make the converted video the same, half, or double the size of the original (with increments in between).  if your new converted video doesn’t work on your iPod, it may be that the resolution is too big.  you may need to convert the video again using iTunes and the Converting Mac formats method above.  while there are many programs out there that will convert videos to the correct resolution, some may have problems with certain file types – .avi files are a specific annoyance, with many conversions having audio and video that is horribly out of sync.

iPod video specifications:

H.264 video

File formats: .m4v, .mp4 and .mov
Video: Up to 768 Kbps, 320 x 240 pixels, 30 frames per second, Baseline Profile up to Level 1.3
Audio: AAC-LC up to 160 Kbps, 48 KHz, stereo audio

MPEG-4 video

File formats: .m4v, .mp4 and .mov
Video: Up to 2.5 Mbps, 480 x 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile
Audio: AAC-LC up to 160 Kbps, 48 KHz, stereo audio

note:  for widescreen, maximum resolution is 320 x 176 and extra widescreen is 736 x 313 = 2.35:1

i would appreciate feedback on this page.  please let me know if these methods are successful for you, or if any corrections or improvements could be made.

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