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Batch tagging your iTunes videos the easy way

Sang Tang

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

If we applied Shakespeare's logic to today's digital age, then it would also mean that watching mis-tagged or untagged videos on your Apple device (be it a Mac, iPhone, iPod or Apple TV) would be just as enjoyable. Okay, you got me, they'd probably be just as good. But this doesn't mean you're excused from tagging your videos appropriately.

First, a bit of background. The vast majority of videos purchased from the iTunes store, as well as "digital copy" (iPod/iPhone pre-formatted videos that are sometimes included on DVDs and Blu-Ray discs), will come pre-tagged. So, the situation for those in this camp (myself included) is peachy, especially when using an Apple TV. Your videos show up on the screen screen with proper titles, season and episode numbers, actors, and descriptions. Just the way Steve likes 'em.

But what if you already own the DVD and want a version for your iTunes library? For those of you with the time and patience to rip an MPEG-4 version (and believe me, this takes some patience, especially if you use H.264 encoding) of your favorite videos, a HandBrake-MetaX martini make tagging your videos a bit more of a pleasurable experience - as if it wasn't fun enough already.

A bit about both apps: HandBrake is an open source app that takes DVDs and a variety of other video files and converts them into a host of formats -- among them MPEG-4 versions suitable for playback on iPods, Apple TV and the iPhone. It's an app you'd use, say, if you wanted to rip a DVD into your iTunes library. MetaX, on the other hand, is a meta-data tagging app capable of batch tagging MPEG-4 as well as QuickTime videos.

One of the cool things about MetaX is its integration with tagChimp and And this provides a good starting point for setting up your MetaX preferences. Enabling data from these two sources will pass on information (cover art, summaries, and the like) from them to their destination files. While tagChimp alone may be more than adequate for the job for many, Amazon will act like that special restroom cleaner for getting to those "hard to reach places." You know, the movies that nobody remembers or cares enough to tag, but that Amazon happens to carry.

While HandBrake isn't hooked into MetaX by default, enabling the feature is simple. Just go into HandBrake's preferences and check mark "Send to MetaX." When established, successfully converted videos will be passed onto MetaX.

In my case, I'm going to be ripping an episode of Arrested Development entitled "Pier Pressure." One of the features of MetaX (via preferences) is that it can automatically begin a lookup based on the file name. As a result, I find it a good practice to name the file (or make sure it's already named correctly) accordingly - be it the name of a movie or episode. In my case, I'm going to use the episode name, "Pier Pressure," as my file name.

After half an hour, HandBrake has completed the conversion process, and the file is now in the hands of MetaX. One of the options (available in MetaX's preferences) to make this an even more hands-off process is to automatically export the file to iTunes after tagging has been completed.

So, I'm presented with two tagging options to choose from. After going through both of them, I decide on the second one. In addition to nicer cover art, it has more extensive information about the cast, air date, and episode description. After clicking on "Write tags," the rest, as they say, is history.

Sure, you could leave the video as is and have it show up as "ARRESTED_D2_S1_E10." The content on the video would look no different. But why not go the extra mile and let a rose be a rose. Whether viewing the video iTunes or on my Apple TV, everything just "looks nicer." And the universe is in balance again.

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