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Automating your iTunes video (somewhat)

I tweeted a while back that I was working on some scripts which would help automate the process of batch-importing .avi video files in iTunes for use on my Apple TV. Some folks asked how they could set it up for themselves.

At the time, I was using a couple of Automator scripts, which were triggered by folder actions. They worked, but not very well, so I never posted them online.

Since then, however, I’ve found a much simpler way of converting & importing using an Elgato Turbo.264 HD dongle and a copy of VideoDrive.

Elgato Turbo.264 HD

Elgato Turbo.264 HD

The Turbo.264 HD is a small USB dongle, with accompanying Mac software, which you plug into your Mac. Converting video is as simple as dragging a video file into the window and clicking the Start button.

The main benefit of using this device over standard software-based encoders is that the hardware dongle handles all of the encoding at a very high speed. This means less time spent encoding. In my own experience, an hour-long TV show would take approximately 15 minutes to encode.

Initially, I didn’t have many good things to say about this product. 90% of the videos I encoded with it resulted in out-of-sync audio, or poor quality video. Luckily, before I got to return the device, a software update came out for it, which has vastly improved the device’s performance. So, I decided to keep it!


VideoDrive UI

The VideoDrive app for Mac looks like just another video conversion tool, but in fact has quite a few bells and whistles which lend itself to what I was trying to accomplish - namely metadata lookup, folder organisation, and iTunes importing.

To import a video, simply drag the file onto the VideoDrive icon and it will be added to the queue. Depending on your setttings, the app will begin conversion immediately, or begin at a pre-determined interval. There are also “hot folder” options which are basically folder actions which launch the app when a new video is added to that folder.

Once started, VideoDrive searches IMDB for relevant metadata & cover art. It then prompts the user to accept, modify or reject this information before proceeding with conversion.

VideoDrive also allows integration with the Turbo.264 HD software, which speeds up conversion, as mentioned earlier. Once converted, VideoDrive can move/copy the new video file to another location before adding it to iTunes. This is particularly useful, as I store all of my video on a network drive - VideoDrive converts the files locally on my machine, then moves the converted files onto the NAS, before adding them to my iTunes library.


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