Liberate Your Memories: Home Movies on Your Apple TV

I adore my Apple TV. Really, I absolutely would not want to give it up. My love affair with the Apple TV began when it gave me access to my entire (50+ GB) music collection on my “big” sound system. Then there’s the little things like the family pictures that float by while the music is playing. I love how I can listen to any music from my library that my heart desires and I get to see all the pictures that would otherwise be sitting in some dusty book somewhere.

Liberate Your Memories

Just like those pictures that I maybe wouldn’t take the time to look through otherwise, I’ve decided to start converting some of our home movies to play on the Apple TV. One of the big problems with the movie footage we have on tapes or in iMovie is that we never watch it. Getting our home movies on to the Apple TV means that we actually get to enjoy reliving some of those memories together.

The first step is to get the video into a format that will play on the Apple TV. If your home movies are in iMovie, then it’s a simple matter to export or share to iTunes. I would recommend VisualHub, but Techspansion shuttered their doors just earlier this week (literally, the day I started to write this post — I’m still not over it). If your movies are already on DVD, Handbrake will convert them for you. Also, the latest development snapshot of Handbrake will accept multiple file formats (not just DVD) for input so it can take the place of VisualHub in many cases. Targeting Apple TV is a matter of selecting the appropriate preset and clicking start. MPEG Streamclip is another tool that can help convert video from one format to another. QuickTime Pro also has some limited options for converting video.

Once you have video in the correct format, you just need to provide some extra information about your videos so that iTunes can properly identify them to your Apple TV.

Tagging the Past

One of the keys to get full enjoyment out of my Apple TV is the killer program MetaX. This little gem allows you to set and manipulate all the meta-data for iTunes media files including cover art. What I do (and this is the really clever part) is to set all my movies as episodes of a TV Show named “Home Movies.”

What’s cool about this is that all my Home Movies appear together in the Apple TV menus under TV Shows : Home Movies. I can further organize them by year (using “Season”) and I can write down who appears in the movie in the “Artist” and “Actors” sections. “Description” and “Date” are obvious and make browsing the movies on the Apple TV convenient. MetaX also allows you to grab a frame from the video and set that as the cover art for your home movie as well. MetaX is donationware, free to download and use, but please consider donating something via PayPal.

Personal Media Bliss

So now I have all these home movies that otherwise would never have seen the light of a display all organized in iTunes and synced to my Apple TV. They are all together, sorted by date, include information about what’s happening and who’s in the movie, and display a frame (that I picked) to represent the cover art. Most importantly, all those old home movies are finally being watched and enjoyed, which I’m pretty sure is what we all had in mind when we filmed the event in the first place.

Good luck with liberating your own memories and media files. If you have any other ideas, particularly for tagging, please share your tips and tricks in the comments.