New Music Video Standard

Yes, I’ve changed again. I follow Apple’s lead. They believe in H.264, so I do too.

The main reason I was using MPEG4 instead of H.264 was an incorrect assumption that 720 x 400 (16:9) was only iPod compatible if the file was MPEG4. I believe I would have tested this resolution with H.264 in the past–I always test–and would have found it incompatible, so I went with MPEG4 instead. Well, I’ve just done another test with four videos and lo and behold, it worked. This means that they upgraded the standard or that my earlier testing was poor. Either possibility is reasonable.

So what does this boil down to? Music videos are now specified as follows:

  • H.264 @ 1500kbps, 640 x 480 (4:3), 720 x 400 (16:9)
  • AAC @ 128kbps

If the source is a video file from an enhanced CD or the web, I don’t get fancy: I open in QuickTime Player and export to iPod. If it’s letterboxed (bane of the video collector’s life), I use MPEG Streamclip to achieve the same result, only I also crop the margins off (QuickTime Player can’t easily do this).

If the source is DVD, Handbrake is of course employed. I start with the iPod High Rez setting, then add 2-pass and greyscale (if appropriate). For audio, you can actually convert 5.1 to Dolby ProLogic II and the iPod will support it. Of course, you’ll only hear the stereo on an iPod, but this is good for using on both iPod and Apple TV, which might be connected to equipment that can support it. It does make a difference and is quite nice to listen to.

Handbrake 0.9.1’s new enhanced chaptering facility, where you can now name the chapters, is a great excuse to rerip video, and I especially like to rip long-form video such as concerts, Enigma’s A Posteriori DVD, Lemon Jelly’s ’64-’95 DVD, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture, etc. with the proper chapter markers. Strangely, the Touch, where I play music video the most, does not display the chapter names. If you tap the screen while a video is playing, it will say Chapter X of X, but doesn’t display the name. Apple has been notified.

Don’t muck with the advanced settings. They’re very good for tweaking video intended for the Apple TV or computer, as these devices are tolerant, but I’ve found that changing the slightest setting will prevent the video from transferring to an iPod (see my earlier post on this matter). You have to stick with stock-standard iPod settings to guarantee compatibility.

So I’m going to start ripping my music video again. The amount of work this entails is made palatable by remembering that I’ve got a number that don’t work with the new iPods and of course, my favourite, the chaptering excuse!


4 Responses to New Music Video Standard

  1. tunegardener says:

    You might simply have widescreen turned off and thus 16:9 content fills the screen vertically and both sides get cut off. On the iPod, go to Video > Settings > TV Screen. “Standard” means cropping to 4:3. “Widescreen” means you’ll see the whole image with black bars at top and bottom.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Hey i have a question…i’d greatly appriciate your help. Uhm i have been trying to upload movies now…for days! But the problem is the dimensions of the movies when viewed in my i pod classic is too big. Part f the frames gets cut. How do you think i should resolve this? i’ve tried toying with the image size but it didn’t help….

  3. tunegardener says:

    For DIVX, you’ll need the codec, which you can get from here: I don’t have any real experience with DIVX files, but the AVIs I’ve come across in the past usually submitted gracefully to iPod conversion through QuickTime Player. If QT Player can’t handle it, MPEG Streamclip is my next destination, as it’s a bit more nuts and bolts. It’s good with video from Windows sources as well. It’s freeware. You could also upgrade to VisualHub.

    Don’t worry too much about file size. Compatibility is king. Video takes up so much room already that you can’t hope to keep it all on your iPod unless you have a 160Gb Classic. You’ll just have to rotate it. I do have a 160Gb Classic which is only half-full, including all my music videos, so I can store it all, but for my Touch, I have a smart playlist that gives me the last 5Gb of both music and music video that have been added to the library. On top of this, I have another smart playlist that ensures that I have all the music videos longer than 10 minutes on there as well.

    I hope that helps.

  4. James C says:

    You cover off nicely on every possibility except the one which I have the most problems with. I have a large number of .avi or .divx files which I’d like to convert to H.264 but have varying results converting with a reasonable file size. I use iSquint for this, with custom settings applied, but I’d love to know your opinion on the best way to make this work.

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