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Liberate Your Memories: Home Movies on Your Apple TV

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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.

7 Responses to “Liberate Your Memories: Home Movies on Your Apple TV”

  1. I’m thinking of buying an Apple TV. All of my HD home movies were downloaded to iMovie on my Mac Book initially from my HD Video Camera Hard Drive. Right now I do not have a good way to play my HD home movies since I can’t burn HD DVDs. Will I be able to play my home movies in HD via Apple TV or will it be in a degraded video quallity? Thanks for the help.

  2. Hi Weldon – great article – and I’ve already downloaded HandBrake and MetaX!

    From your experience – what Tags in MetaX produce the best results for browsing your movies as episodes in a TV Show on your Apple TV?

    I ‘m not seeing the Episode Title – just “Home Movies” and “Home Movies” – what info do you put in Title, Show, Season, Episode ID etc in MetaX.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Jeff Zylstra

    Thanks for the great article and fantastic suggestions. I particularly like the idea of organizing home videos as a tv series. Perfect!

    Over the holidays I began the laborious project of cataloging my family’s miniDV memories onto my Mac for the purpose of doing exactly as you have described. What a great use for our under-utilized Apple TV! In the process of importing all of the footage, my Sony miniDV camera died — with only five tapes left! So now I am in the market for a new video camera. With keeping a Mac-friendly, Apple TV-based collection being my primary objective, could you suggest a new video camera? HD or SD? MPEG or AVCHD or H.264? Tapes or tapeless? Any advice would be appreciated.

  4. Weldon Dodd

    iMovie ’08 has better support for HDD camcorders. You can find a list of tested camcorders here… – that may be the simplest method, but iLife 08 costs money. MPEG Streamclip can help you convert the mepg2 files, but you might try the development snapshot of Handbrake. The support for other input files is new, but Handbrake’s preset for AppleTV will give you the best picture with the smallest file sizes.

  5. Lee Webb

    What can I use for storing my home movies other than iMovie? My movies are in mpeg2 format (HDD camcorder). What format do they need to be converted to to work in iTunes/Apple TV?

    FYI, I’ve had too many problems with iMovie. The last time I tried to connect the camcorder, iMovie refused to see it. I don’t really have a need or desire to edit my home movies, so what else can I use?

    Can I literally drag and drop from the Cam and then convert the file format?