How to get iTunes to sync other video formats to Apple TV

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iTunes sends the Apple TV a list of all the video files in its library and the Apple TV copies those it believes it can play. ATV then returns a list of files it can't play to iTunes, which displays a message. Apple TV is expecting .mov or .m4v files containing MPEG4 or H.264 video and AAC or MP3 audio streams. Other files will not be copied.

What does the Apple TV check?

My testing has shown that the Apple TV checks a .mov file to see that the first video track is MPEG4 or H.264 and the first audio track is AAC or MP3. .mov files may contain many tracks but these are ignored by the ATV.

So how does this help me?

If, like me, you've installed Perian on to your ATV but would like to manage all your video files through iTunes we can exploit the limited checking to create files, without transcoding, that contain a tiny H.264/AAC section and the full video in the format of your choice. ATV will happily accept these from iTunes and play them through the normal interface.

What do I need?

  1. An Apple TV
  2. Perian (or similar) installed on your Apple TV
  3. Quicktime Pro
  4. Video content in XVID or similar

Creating the 'blank' movie

Download this one, or create your own.

  • I created an image of solid black, 100 x 100 pixels and imported it into Quicktime Player using the open image sequence command with a duration of 1 second.
  • I then recorded silence into Quicktime Player by disconnecting my microphone.
  • Combine these two into one movie.
  • Export this movie into a .mov file using H.264 video and AAC audio. It should be a second long or less.
  • Lock this file in the Finder so you don't write over it by accident.

Use the blank movie to create syncable files

  • Open the blank movie
  • Open your XVID or similar file
  • Select all and copy
  • Switch to the blank movie
  • Select 'Add to Movie' from the edit menu
  • Optional: Open the "Movie Properties" window, select the blank video track, and alter its scaled size to match the main video track.
  • Save a copy of this movie, self contained, to your hard drive
  • Import the movie into iTunes
  • Change the title or other tags as appropriate
  • Sync with your Apple TV (Streaming will work too).

If everything has worked, once the sync has finished your new file should be available on the Apple TV under Movies or TV Shows and will play normally.

Apple TV

This is an applescript droplet that performs the above on one or more files. See talk for more info.

Apple TV Scripts

This is a collection of scripts that includes a re-worked version of Apple TV Fooler, as well as a script to automatically fix files which lose audio sync when playing back on the Apple TV and a script to re-encode input files as xvid+mp3 for really troublesome files. AppleTVScripts.rar