HOW-TO: Play "movies" on an iPod Photo

videos on an ipod

We picked up an iPod Photo the other day, and most observers have asked us "Can that thing play movies?" The short answer is no, only music and photos-but the longer answer is "sorta, but not really anything worth calling a movie". In this week's how-to we'll show you how to "play" a movie on an iPod Photo by exporting frames of a movie, importing them to the iPod and playing them manually by click-wheeling through thousands of images, or even viewing 3d views of objects. Pointless? Yes. Will a lot of people try this and put movie trailers and porn on their iPod Photo? You betcha, and as always, we're here to help.

Getting started

All you'll need for this is QuickTime Pro, iTunes, and an iPod photo— the same instructions work on both the Mac and PC side. For our examples we're going to show both the PC and the Mac steps.

Getting a movie
Just about any QuickTime movie will do, for our example we're going to use the Star Wars trailer for Episode III. We found one here via You can right click (PC) or control click (Mac) to download the movie to your local system.

i am your father

Once downloaded, open the movie in QuickTime. You might have other applications that can export sound and frames, if so, feel free to use those.


Exporting the sound

First, we're going to export the sound. Once exported we'll add it to the iPod Photo so we can listen to the sound track as we play the movie.


On a PC, with the movie open, click File > Export. Choose Movie to WAV, click options and choose. 44kHz, 16 bit, Stereo.


On a Mac, with the movie open, click File > Export. Choose Movie to AIFF, click options and choose the same settings.

Import the sound in to iTunes, you can export them to the iPod now, or later, it doesn't really matter.

If you don't want to try and export the sound and try to sync it as you play, that's fine too. H. M. Warner said it best—"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?".

Exporting the movie to an image sequence
Now that the sound is out of the movie, it's time to export each frame. The frame rate of the movie we downloaded was 15 frames per second, we'll export the same in QuickTime


On a PC, with the movie open, click File > Export. Choose JPEG, type 15 for frames per second and click options. We select medium for quality, but feel free to experiment.


On a Mac, with the movie open, click File > Export. Choose Export Image Sequence and also select the same options as we did in the PC example.


We exported these to a new folder to keep them all tidy and one spot.

When you're finished, the 1 minute, 47 second movie exports to 1,616 frames (107 frames x 15.1 frames per second = 1,616). This might take awhile, so set it to export and get comfy.


On a Mac QuickTime gave us 1,626...


...and on a PC 1,616 not sure why, but there it is.

Transferring the photo sequence to the iPod photo
Now that we have 1,616 photos, we'll use the new feature(s) in iTunes to sync the photos over the iPod photo.


On a PC, click Edit > Preferences > iPod, choose Photos and click "Choose folder". Select the folder you saved all the images to from QuickTime.


On a Mac, click iTunes > Preferences > iPod, same deal.


Once selected, you'll see the total number of photos that will be imported. iTunes will now convert (optimize) the images before they're sent over to the iPod Photo. Once completed, they'll then be sent over, again, this might take awhile.


Playing the "movie" on the iPod Photo

After the photos are synced over to the iPod Photo, disconnect the iPod from the dock, to listen to the sound while you play the movie, click Music > Songs > Episode_III_Teaser_Trailer and press play. To start the movie click Menu > Menu > Photos > Photo Library > the iPod photo will spin up and display the thumbnails, depending on where the soundtrack is, or where you want to start playing, click wheel to a photo and press the center button, as it plays quickly spin your finger around the wheel to get a "movie-like" playback.


With practice you can play clips of movies and for the most part it looks as you'd expect, kinda crummy. So, what does it look like to play "movies" on the iPod photo?

Click here to watch a video of us, well, playing a video (Windows Media, WMV)

...and click here to watch a QuickTime version (MOV).

Some bad news...
It seems on both a Mac and PC the photos (frames) do not import in order, it's likely a weird modification date or something else, we went in manually and removed some photos, re-synced and that works (sometimes). If anyone has any suggestions on why this would happen, or ideas, please let us know.

Other uses...
A simple but very cool version of this is to create "VR" objects or 3D views of an object and import them to the iPod. On example, is an iPod on an iPod that the folks over at Griffin made an sent along to us. To make your own, just take a few photos of an object at different rotations around the object and import them in the same way as we did with the movie frames.


Click here

to view (QuickTime, MOV).

And the killer use...
We didn't have time to document the best use of this simple trick, but we'll be working on it shortly—which is of course to export the Wizard of Oz and play it along with the Dark Side of the Moon.


If you don't know what we're talking about, follow the yellow brick road here.

Okay—really playing movies...
Now that being said, the screens on the iPod are quite nice and if real movie playback was possible, it wouldn't be that bad at all— we're hoping that Apple considers it, but if they don't there are tons of alternatives. And of course if you'd really like to play movies on a portable device, you can hold off on that $500 iPod photo purchase and pick up an Archos, Creative Zen or about dozen other choices. But hey, there's nothing like doing an old fashion trick on a new shiny iPod. We like the Creative Zen Portable Media Center for what it's worth.

Phillip Torrone can be reached via his personal site,