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adding movies to itunesAfter setting his Mac to automatically import downloaded music to iTunes How To Automatically Import Downloaded Music To iTunes [Mac] How To Automatically Import Downloaded Music To iTunes [Mac] Read More , my friend asked me whether a similar method could be used for adding movies to iTunes. He wanted to customize his system so that after he clicks the download link, he doesn’t have to do anything and the movies will automatically find their way to his iPod, ready to accompany him on his long trips.

I told him that the basic setup is the same, but we would need to find a way to automatically convert the movies before adding them to iTunes as not all movie formats are supported by iDevices.


A few experiments later, I found two ways to achieve the goal: the easy way and the geeky way. I’m still struggling with the scripts and command lines within the geeky way, but the easy way is easy enough for anybody to do. If you want to try, here are the steps to do it.

Setting Up The Download Location

The first step is setting up all related applications – like browsers, torrent clients and download managers – to save downloaded movies to a specific folder. Let’s name the folder “To Be Converted” or something similar. Later on, we will set up the automation to convert every movie file inside this folder to iPod-friendly format and send them to iTunes.

As discussed in the previous article How To Automatically Import Downloaded Music To iTunes [Mac] How To Automatically Import Downloaded Music To iTunes [Mac] Read More , setting a specific download location for specific type of files could be done easily in Transmission by setting up a group.

adding movies to itunes

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However, please make sure to set Transmission to keep incomplete downloads in a separate location so that the system will only convert complete movies.

how to convert movies to itunes

For applications with no download filter feature, we can use “Folder Action” (or other housekeeping apps) to monitor download folders and move every movie file to the “To Be Converted” folder.

To do that, open Automator and choose “Folder Action“.

how to convert movies to itunes

Set Folder Action to monitor the “Downloads” folder (or any other location where you usually save your downloads). Then drag and drop “Filter Finder Items” action from the library and set it to filter every movie file. Add another action to move the filtered items.

how to convert movies to itunes

Finally, save the Folder Action by going to the “File – Save” menu.

converting movies to itunes

Setting Up Automatic Movie Conversion

After making sure that all future downloaded movies will go to one folder, it’s time to set up the automatic movie conversion.

We are going to use Automator one more time. Create another Folder Action and set it to monitor the “To Be Converted” folder.

Drag and drop the “Export Movies” action from the library.

converting movies to itunes

Choose “iPod” for the file format and “Automatically Add to iTunes” as the destination folder. If you want to keep your hard drive from bloating, it’s also possible to delete the original movie file after the conversion process is done.

adding movies to itunes

Save the Folder Action and the automation system is done.

Looking At Another Possibility

I’ve tested the whole setup and everything worked fine. However, there are several things that you should be aware of.

First, the system relies on QuickTime for the conversion, so it will only work for a few specific video formats. From my experiments, the system will not convert WMV and FLV, but has no problem with AVI, MOV, and MP4.

Second, even though the conversion time depends on the length of the movie and the power of the machine, it’s slower compared to Handbrake.

So why not use Handbrake instead? It supports more video formats and does everything faster. The answer is simply because you can’t automate the conversion process using Handbrake, at least not with the GUI version. But there’s hope. Automation is possible using HandbrakeCLI. This is the command line version of Handbrake and – as the name suggests – everything is executed using the command line.

I’m currently trying to make sense of all the commands and to apply them. I’ll definitely be back with a more powerful setup. Meanwhile, I think this easy version of automation will do just fine for normal usage.

As always, thoughts and opinions are welcomed via the comments below.

  1. thurana
    August 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Hi, thanks for the link. Still trying to get a grasp at using HandBrake CLI in the real world.

    Regarding the "Export Movies" workflow you asked, I haven't found any way to automatically tag the movies as TV series. You have to do it manually.

  2. fellowweb
    August 19, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    In fact, there seems to be a difference between the QuickTime's Automator action "Export Movies" and using the "Save As" dialogue of QuickTime Player.

    Whereas the latter was able to to convert FLVs (also when scripted with AppleScript like tried with this script: http://pastie.org/private/y7zw... the Automator action repeatedly failed.

    Maybe the Automator action cannot access Perian's codec libraries but QT itself can for conversion purposes. Just a guess though.

  3. fellowweb
    August 19, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    This is awesome and exactly what I was looking for last night! Thanks very much!

    One remark: QuickTime was in fact able to convert (at least) FLVs in my case. I guess this is due to Perian (and Flip4Mac) being installed.

    Regarding the "Export Movies" workflow: Are you aware of a way to make sure the movies converted get added to iTunes not as a movie but filed in a separate group of TV series?

    E.g. I'd like to use this script to download YouTube FLVs and to add them all under the "YouTube videos" as a TV series category. Then they're nicely categorized and I can specificly define this category do be synchronized with my iPhone. Else all would be mixed up with the regular movies. Does that make sense?

    Regarding HandBrake CLI: In their wiki they describe how one can use their presets. The example there looks pretty straight forward: https://trac.handbrake.fr/wiki...

  4. fellowweb
    August 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Regarding my first (yet unapproved comment): Whereas QT could perfectly export a test FLV when I tried it manually (not in Automator but with the QT GUI), I don't get it to work in Automator. The script always stops with the error message "not enough movie data is available".

    However, I'm not very experienced with Automator (and Hazel, which I use instead of folder actions) so it might also be my fault.

  5. fellowweb
    August 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Regarding my first (yet unapproved comment): Whereas QT could perfectly export a test FLV when I tried it manually (not in Automator but with the QT GUI), I don't get it to work in Automator. The script always stops with the error message "not enough movie data is available".

    However, I'm not very experienced with Automator (and Hazel, which I use instead of folder actions) so it might also be my fault.

    • fellowweb
      August 19, 2010 at 3:13 pm

      In fact, there seems to be a difference between the QuickTime's Automator action "Export Movies" and using the "Save As" dialogue of QuickTime Player.

      Whereas the latter was able to to convert FLVs (also when scripted with AppleScript like tried with this script: http://pastie.org/private/y7zwlf8i28deuek2qab5qq), the Automator action repeatedly failed.

      Maybe the Automator action cannot access Perian's codec libraries but QT itself can for conversion purposes. Just a guess though.

      • Anonymous
        August 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm

        Hi, sorry for the late reply. Everything's working fine on my side. What Quicktime version do you have in your system? Mine has Perian and both QT 7 and X (don't know which one does the job though)

  6. Aibek
    August 19, 2010 at 11:46 am

    handy!

  7. fellowweb
    August 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

    This is awesome and exactly what I was looking for last night! Thanks very much!

    One remark: QuickTime was in fact able to convert (at least) FLVs in my case. I guess this is due to Perian (and Flip4Mac) being installed.

    Regarding the "Export Movies" workflow: Are you aware of a way to make sure the movies converted get added to iTunes not as a movie but filed in a separate group of TV series?

    E.g. I'd like to use this script to download YouTube FLVs and to add them all under the "YouTube videos" as a TV series category. Then they're nicely categorized and I can specificly define this category do be synchronized with my iPhone. Else all would be mixed up with the regular movies. Does that make sense?

    Regarding HandBrake CLI: In their wiki they describe how one can use their presets. The example there looks pretty straight forward: https://trac.handbrake.fr/wiki/CLIGuide#presets

    • Anonymous
      August 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm

      Hi, thanks for the link. Still trying to get a grasp at using HandBrake CLI in the real world.

      Regarding the "Export Movies" workflow you asked, I haven't found any way to automatically tag the movies as TV series. You have to do it manually.

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